"Living on the Edge" was a 1993 single by Aerosmith, off of their album Get a Grip. I have also seen the song entitled "Livin' on the Edge", but I will skip that orthographical modification.
If you bear with me, I will talk a little bit about my personal history and the history of music at the turn of the 1990s. I remember being about ten years old, and riding in a car through Tacoma, and the freeway being jammed because Aerosmith was having a show at the Tacoma Dome. Being an impressionable child, I had heard throughout my early years the many rumors about what heavy metal was about, and "Aerosmith", with their misspelled name, seemed like one of those darkly sinister heavy metal groups that I associated with drugs and Satanism and who knows what else.
A few years later, I had grown up and so had the world of rock music. Despite all the controversies surrounding heavy metal in the 1980s, it was upended and made obsolete by something seemingly much less shocking- grunge and alternative music. Many of the figures associated with grunge, such as Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, explicitly rejected the overblown trappings of the rock star. And yet, grunge and alternative also seemed to connect with listeners in a more direct, personal way than heavy metal could, and made many of the hard rock or heavy metal bands of the 1980s seem oddly quaint.
And all of this is the environment in which Aerosmith released "Get a Grip", and its centerpiece, the 6:20 "Living on the Edge". The album was the first album for Aerosmith since 1989, and it was a great commercial success. Although such a thing is speculation, it also seems to have some influence of the grunge and alternative movement, especially in "Living on the Edge", which addresses (or at least attempts to address) social issues.
If you can judge a wise man, by the color of his skin
Than mister, you're a better man than I
Which either means that Steve Tyler
disapproves of racism, or just thinks that he lacks the qualifications to be a racist. The song is somewhat short on the specifics of what "Livin' on the Edge" entails, and most of the specifics of this are shown in the video, which features (intermixed with Aerosmith playing in a cartoonish mock-up of a junkyard
) the adventures of a fresh faced
youngster who brings a pistol
to school, joyrides in a stolen car, and flirts with his transvestite
teacher. And so on.
That is, there really isn't much social relevance in the song. There really isn't much content in the song, since it mostly just consists of the chorus repeated. Much of the content, such as it is, comes about in the video, although whether it is commentary or just titillating is a big question. I personally think it is just the second.
Overall, it is a good song in form--- because whatever else we think about Aerosmith, they certainly know the mechanics of putting together a song, and a video. But for a six minute magnum opus, there really isn't much addressed in the song. I think this song was a way to cash in on the changing trends of the grunge years, but that it fails at really connecting with the concerns of listeners. Like much of what Aerosmith did, there is much sparkle, but little substance.