This Rock Star Inspired Aerosmith’s ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’

For better and for worse, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” became one of the most famous hits that classic rock band Aerosmith released in the 1980s. Interestingly, this controversial song was inspired by a 1980s rock star. This raises the question: How did this rock star react to the song?

Aerosmith in front of a blue wall
Aerosmith | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Joe Perry said this Aerosmith song originally sounded like a bad Van Halen track

Aerosmith is a very libidinous band. Like many of their songs, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” from the album Permanent Vacation is about sex. However, Ultimate Classic Rock reports Joe Perry said he wasn’t satisfied with the original version of the track because it sounded like a bad version of a song by another famous hard rock band. 

“They played me a backwards guitar loop that sounded like a boogie blues harmonica and Steven [Tyler] began singing ‘Cruisin’ for the ladies, da-dap da-dap… cruisin’ for the ladies’ and asked me what I thought,” Perry recalled. “The first words out of my mouth were, ‘I think that really sucks. It sounds like a bad Van Halen cast-off they wouldn’t even put on the worst record of their enemy.'” An encounter between Tyler and another rock star would change the song forever.

Steven Tyler wearing a scarf
Steven Tyler | WireImage for KAABOO Del Mar via imageSPACE

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The inspiration behind ‘Dude (Looks like a Lady)’

According to Perry, Tyler “sheepishly admitted that he had mistaken blonde mullet-topped Vince Neil of the band Mötley Crüe for a hot chick from behind… and started to sing ‘Dude looks like a lady.’ I lit up and said, ‘Now THAT’S a hit song title!’” According to Mental Floss, Tyler mistook Neil for a woman because of his long, bleach blonde hair.

Neil found the whole incident funny. He even discussed it in Tattoos & Tequila, his autobiography. It’s interesting to think Neil influenced Tyler’s songwriting through his hair, not his music.

Vince Neil at a table
Vince Neil | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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How the world reacted to ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’

“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. It did pretty well, even though it didn’t reach the top 10 like other Aerosmith songs such as “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” or “Dream On.” According to Loudersound, Perry’s prediction that the song would become a hit proved correct.

“Everything on that record was definitely a step up from [the album] Done With Mirrors,” Perry opined. “But that particular song did well and people still love it today when we play live. It still makes the cut when we play live, and that says a lot.”

Joe Perry with a guitar
Joe Perry | Ron Pownall/Corbis via Getty Images

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In addition, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” appeared in a famous scene of the 1990s Robin Williams comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Despite its prominence, Vox reports the song has come under fire for transphobia in recent years. Perry was correct that “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” would become a hit — but it hasn’t aged as well as other Aerosmith songs.