Livin’ on the Edge, written by Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Mark Hudson, was released in 1993 as the first single from the band’s commercially successful Aerosmith‘s album Get a Grip. According to the band’s autobiography Walk This Way,this single was inspired by the Los Angeles riots of 1992.
The song is one of Aerosmith’s most successful attempts at tackling social issues. It reflects on the sorry state of the world (“There’s something wrong with the world today”), religion (“We’re seeing things in a different way and God knows it ain’t his”), racism (“If you can judge a wise man by the color of his skin”), among other things. However, the lyrics in the song also suggest that the world is still worth living in (“We could tell ’em no, or we could let it go, but I would rather be a-hangin’ on”). The lyrics also contain a reference to the Yardbirds song, Mister You’re a Better Man Than I (Aerosmith had previously recorded a version of a song popularized by the Yardbirds, “Train Kept A-Rollin’“).
The music video for Livin’ on the Edge is notable for a number of things, including depicting vandalism, theft (notably grand theft auto), joyriding, airbag crashing, unprotected sex, and violence among school-aged youth, cross-dressing teachers, a naked Steven Tyler holding a zipper by his crotch with half his body painted black (to give the effect he pulled down a zipper, unzipping his body) and lead guitarist Joe Perry playing a lead guitar solo in front of an oncoming train. Directed by Marty Callner, the video was praised for its groundbreaking theatrical scenes and special effects. The video featured acting by Edward Furlong.