Aerosmith: ‘Get Your Wings’

Released on March 1, 1974 (Columbia Records)
Back in the seventies when I first started venturing a bit out of the nest, every day seemed like a new adventure. To say that growing up during the decade (and the first half of the one to follow) was amazing would be putting it very mildly. But even with experiencing firsthand the greatness of such incredible pop culture things like Star Wars, Pong, Evel Knievel action figures and accessories, Happy Days, skateboards, banana seat bikes, and more… the best part hands down was the music.
Much like Marc Bolan of T.Rex, I danced myself out of the womb and from teething on the wonderful music of rock and roll’s early generations right into the wild seventies’ wide open gender bending, mind twisting sounds of glitter, glam, punk, and  bubblegum. I was weaned on the most diverse blend of music that any impressionable child could hope to digest. While my parents held me up to see over the edge of the nest, rock and roll pushed me out forcing me to have to get my own wings. Rock and roll like Alice Cooper, David Bowie, KISS, Deep Purple, The Sweet, and that most raw of seventies rock bands, Aerosmith.
Now imagine if you will a world devoid of the existence of Aerosmith. It’s pretty much also a world without Mötley Crüe, without Guns N’ Roses, without a few important bands of the eighties and beyond. Throughout the existence of each and every band inspired by them, Aerosmith have been there, not so much lurking as growing and staying a legendary step ahead. For every charting rock song or platinum album, news reel creating antics, and moments living to bad boy excess by those other bands, Aerosmith can offer up a dozen more moments that prompted those bands to even wanna be half that cool way before half of ’em even knew what sex, drugs, and rock and roll even was.  
As was the case with most rock acts in the seventies, touring was the key to building a fanbase and increasing record sales and much like fellow future legends KISS, Aerosmith put asses in seats well before putting copies of their albums in the hands of most rock fans. Yeah, that third album set off the first explosion that would become the legendary fire of Aerosmith but the band’s first album (featuring classic “Dream On”) and 1974 follow up Get Your Wings contained every bit as much rock and roll stagger and swagger as any Aerosmith album to come despite mild initial sales.
Recorded the tail end of 1973 at the Record Plant in New York City and given to the world on March 1, 1974, Get Your Wings is fueled with more boogie woogie sex, soul, and blues rock than probably should have been allowed on two sides of shiny, slippery wax. From the opening guitar riff of classic “Same Old Song and Dance” to the lead and final power note of “Pandora’s Box”, Get Your Wings is everything a classic Aerosmith album should be — sexy, groovy, dirty, sensual, ugly, fun, and of course ballsy and rockin’. The mark of a great album is that when you hear its songs on the radio or in the background somewhere, in your head, you immediately think of the next song on the record and aside from the original Aerosmith‘s Greatest Hits album, this is the one from those Boston badboys that does that to me the most. Heck, it even has my two fave all-time Aerosmith tunes on it!
For those of you who have seen the movie Dazed and Confused, that was my junior high life in the seventies complete with the rock and roll and much like co-lead character Randall “Pink” Floyd, music like Aerosmith were the “top priority of the summer” not to mention all the other seasons. Man, it’s hard to think what those days would have been like had we not been able to “get yourself a cooler, lay yourself low” a la the opening lines of kickoff track “Same Old Song and Dance”, a tune so teen infectious that is not only typifies the average American male teen rock fan of that period, but many of the male pop fans as well.  As the first single released from Get Your Wings, it may not have made much of a splash when it was released nearly three weeks after the album came out but over time has found a home in concert, on rock radio, and in the souls of fans. Truth be told, if fans had their way, they’d more than likely wanna toss back a cold one to the album version which rocks nearly a full minute longer than the barely three minute single version.
“Lord of the Thighs” kicks off with a good ol’ Joey Kramer kick not too far removed from the down the road opening thump of “Walk This Way” and is filled with that nasty, funky groove the band is said to have lifted right out of James Brown‘s brand new bag. Yeah, try not tapping and bobbing during the lead break. It’s white boy funk in tribute to what every long-haired American male was sniffin’ around for and Aerosmith were more than willing to drop the soundtrack. A soundtrack preview of things to come on huge future albums like personal fave Draw The Line but in 1974, it was still new and the world was still a bit clueless on the coolness yet to come.
Displaying a more “serious” side, “Spaced” is one of the first hints that Aerosmith‘s boogie woogie even possessed many sides  and the second being romp “Woman of the World”, a very period American cock rock tune filled with blues and shades of southern soul much like other legendary acts from the Northern United States like Grand Funk Railroad and Ted Nugent. The closing moments of the album’s longest tune leads up to one of the greatest album sides in rock and roll history.
Blasting off like a dirty first cousin of Janis Joplin‘s “Move Over”, “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” quickly drops the beat before building back up into a quick stomp boogie that reeks of all-out Aerosmith sex and sleaze. Yeah, maybe for those bad boys, it was the “same ol’ shit” but first time I heard this one, it was like a pleasantly violent smack across the face and it would be a minute before I got it completely. Totally struttin’ music and heck, I can even remember a few years after this album came out, fast steppin’ down the way blasting this off my raccoon-tail decorated boom box. Yeah, I was that bad lonely school boy thinkin’ “too bad can’t get me none of that” as I walked past the girlies trying to act otherwise. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t fool the first one but man it was fun and exciting trying.
One thing is for certain, Aerosmith can for sure cover a tune and make it their own while still staying respectful true to the original version and their take on the Yardbirds‘ take of the 1951 Tiny Bradshaw blues shuffle track “Train Kept A-Rollin'” has not only become the most copied version of the song but also how that old blues tune has made it into mainstream music. An edited edition of the tune, an Aerosmith live staple since their early club days, was tossed out as the third single from Get Your Wings but it’s the full album version that ripped me a new one the first time I heard it on the radio. Starting off with the slower studio portion, less than halfway through, the band pause and the “live” second half kicks in with fast building drums and audience noise before just totally blowing up into pretty much the entire song all over again yet much faster, edgier, and ass kicking.  Despite all the accolades heaped towards huge live albums like KISSAlive! and Frampton Comes Alive, this three or so minutes at the tail end of this album track just might be the most powerful “live” recorded musical moment of the seventies. Many fans knock it for being a full blown mock up of the versions played live by Jimmy Page bands The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin but the difference being that, while Page was known to take old blues songs and rewrite them and pass them off as his own, Aerosmith took old blues songs and paid respects by making them their own yet always giving credit where credit was due. Funny that people slang Greta Van Fleet for simply doing to Zeppelin what Zeppelin kind of did to early blues artist but hey, that’s a whole other rock discussion. The point here is… Aerosmith took this now classic tune and respectfully rocked the eff out it.
For anyone who ever accused Aerosmith of selling out in the ’80s and jumping on the power ballad bandwagon, all I have to say to you is “wake the fuck up and open your ears to early Aerosmith.” Yeah, they may not have been the first but songs like my fave Aerosmith track “Seasons of Wither” are as much a precursor to power ballads as anything before or since. This gorgeous, haunt of a tune starts off slow and eerie as the remnants of the previous track’s fading audience is replaced by the sound of swirling wind conjuring up visions of cold, dark winter. It’s one of those songs that can mean so many things depending on the ear listening. End of days, end of warmth, and in the reported case of the tune, end of relationships, all under the idea of a change in season. It’s also an amazing blend of darkness and melody with incredible hook-filled breaks and Aerosmith are one of the few rock bands that can get away with it so easily.
Also often accused of being a Rolling Stones knock-off, Aerosmith finish off Get Your Wings with the very Stones sounding “Pandora’s Box” delivering a swanky grind of a tune reminiscent of something of a “Gimme Shelter” / “Brown Sugar” blend but cooked up it’s own addictive kind of way. Yeah, the Stones are well known for turning the blues into sex driven, drug livin’ “blooze” but once again Tyler, Perry, and company prove that they were more than just a big lipped singer clone sharing a bit of powder and a groupie with a shaky legged, low hanging guitar partner. Aerosmith made a life out of paying respect to their influences while creating their own magic. Besides, if you ask Steven Tyler, Aerosmith snorted enough cocaine back in the day to make  statues of both Mick (Jagger) and Keith (Richards) the size of the Statue of Liberty. Not sure how important that is on the scoreboard but yeah, can’t argue that Aerosmith ingested some killer influences and blew ’em back out in a whole fresh updated way.
Aerosmith would full hit stride the next year with breakthrough album Toys In The Attic but truth be told, the two records leading up to the band getting over the hump were just as vital and musically badass as those that followed in the catalog. For fans who fell in love with the band during their second incredibly run in the ’80s, all I can say is if you wanna REALLY experience the true raw sleazy rock and roll of Aerosmith, I would urge you to check out those early first couple of albums if you haven’t already done so. So maybe you won’t get that same vibe as I did back in the seventies listening with my buds while sneaking a few cold cans of Schlitz and sharing a pack of Marlboro reds while glossing over the latest copy of Creem magazine and contemplating the days to come but sound wise, the raw, dirty, sexiness remains. It even sounds good with whatever your grown up addiction might be these days. For me, it’s a cup of coffee and my wife with our feet up and strumming along on an old acoustic. Sometimes it’s lights out reminiscing music and yes, sometimes it’s still just great “git down to binnes” music… Whatever your thing is, do it and trust me, Aerosmith will sound good with it.
Track List:
01. Same Old Song and Dance
02. Lord of the Thighs
03. Spaced
04. Woman of the World
05. S.O.S. (Too Bad)
06. Train Kept A-Rollin’
07. Seasons of Wither
08. Pandora’s Box
Band Members:
Steven Tyler – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica, percussion
Joe Perry – rhythm guitar, 12 string guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, backing vocals, lead guitars on track (4, 8)
Brad Whitford – rhythm guitar, lead guitar on track (2, 3, 5, 7)
Tom Hamilton – bass
Joey Kramer – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Additional Musicians:
Steve Hunter – lead guitar (on opening half of 6)
Dick Wagner – lead guitar (1 and on live half of 6)
Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone (1, 8)
Randy Brecker – trumpet (1)
Stan Bronstein – baritone saxophone (1, 8)
Jon Pearson – trombone (1)
Ray Colcord – keyboards (3)
Produced by Jack Douglas and Ray Colcord
Engineered by Jack Douglas, Jay Messina and Rod O’Brien
Quadrophone remix supervision: Jack Douglas
Executive producer: Bob Ezrin
Remastering producer: Don DeVito
Remastering engineer: Vic Anesini
Quadrophone remix engineer: Jay Messina
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, March 2019