How Aerosmith Avoided the Sophomore Jinx With ‘Get Your Wings’
It didn’t exactly make them household names, but their 1973 debut album gave Aerosmith a solid foundation to build on. When they reconvened in the studio to record the follow-up, they were faced with every young act’s trickiest challenge: avoiding the sophomore jinx.
They gave it a pretty good shot with Get Your Wings, released March 1, 1974. Although the album wasn’t a huge hit at the time, peaking at No. 74 on the charts and only going gold by the following spring, it proved a definite portend of things to come for the band. The track listing was stacked with future Aerosmith concert favorites like “Same Old Song and Dance,” “Lord of the Thighs” and their cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’.” Just as important was their connection with new producer Jack Douglas, whose presence behind the boards was a crucial factor in some of their most critically and commercially successful records.
Like a lot of young bands faced with recording their second album, Aerosmith had a relative shortage of material when they entered the studio for Get Your Wings in December of 1973. They coped with it using a variety of methods, including reaching back to the past (“Woman of the World” dated from Steven Tyler‘s days with the New York band Chain Reaction), recording a cover (“Train Kept A-Rollin'” was first cut by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951), and partaking in the time-honored tradition of squeezing out one last song in order to pad out a record (“Lord of the Thighs” was the result of a last-minute writing session).
On paper, it sounds like a patchwork affair, but Get Your Wings holds together. If Aerosmith’s debut laid down the template for the band’s sound, then the follow-up filled it in, with Douglas’ production striking a balance between polish and grit while augmenting the group with a battery of session ringers, including the Brecker Brothers on horns and guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, who were brought in to shore up songs where Joe Perry and/or Brad Whitford were indisposed.
“Joe hadn’t yet developed into the player he is today. He’s up in the big leagues now but back in those days the stuff was more simplistic,” Wagner later explained. “Obviously for some reason he wasn’t there to do it and I never really questioned it. At the time I was living at the Plaza Hotel in NYC just waiting for the phone to ring … Jack called me up at like 10:00 in the evening and I went in and did it and that was it.”
With all the elements in place, the stage was set for Aerosmith to take the world by storm — and although it might have missed its sales target, Get Your Wings proved prophetically titled: The band started soaring with its third LP, Toys in the Attic, released just over a year later on April 8, 1975, and although the flight hasn’t always been smooth, it’s still going strong.
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