Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford has discussed his feelings around the hiring of ‘ghost guitarists’ Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on the band’s second album, 1974’s Get Your Wings.
Whitford and Joe Perry are interviewed in the new issue of Guitar World, which celebrates the first 50 years of Aerosmith’s tumultuous-yet-remarkable career and was asked about the band’s second album sessions.
As Whitford outlines in the piece, the session players, best known for their roles with Alice Cooper, were brought by producer Jack Douglas in to add a little fretboard flair to certain tracks, with Steve Hunter’s solo on Train Kept A-Rollin becoming the stuff of legend.
“It was Jack who had the difficult task of breaking the news to Joe and me, and of course, that went down like a lead balloon,” says Whitford.
“At first you fight, and you're a little bit angry, and then you get sad to where you're like really bummed out that you can't do it. And the thing was that we’d done some good stuff and could play good stuff, but the tracks required some real finesse, you know?
“But I mean... listen to Train Kept A-Rollin today, those are some fucking genius rock leads. That was some great stuff and probably some of the stuff that they were most proud of out of anything they'd done. That solo is blistering.”
Whitford clarifies that Hunter also played on S.O.S. (Too Bad) (“fucking incredibly beautifully”) and says Same Old Song and Dance “was Dick, too” and – in a direct contradiction of popular myth (or, at least, Wikipedia) he notes, “I don’t think I made it onto Lord of the Thighs, either.”
Despite his initial anger, Whitford says that Hunter’s involvement made him a better player.
“I had the unique pleasure of being in the studio when Steve came in to cut the ’Train solo,” says Whitford.
“I listen back to it even today, and it's still a lesson on guitar. Since then, Steve has had so much influence on me as a player because his playing is very much up my alley. I continue to learn some of the nuances in his playing. And Dick was a bit more like Joe, so it worked out very well.”
It’s not the Alice Cooper duo’s only notable cameo on another artists’ material, either. Around the same time, Hunter and Wagner were also brought in to reinvigorate Lou Reed’s solo material – a move that resulted in one of the most underrated two-guitar solos of the '70s.
Hunter’s influence continued to reverberate throughout rock more than a decade later, as the guitarist’s ‘Hunter Burst’ Les Paul copy later passed into the hands of Slash, becoming “the seed of his Les Paul addiction”.
To read Whitford’s full interview, in which he talks more about the Hunter sessions, his chemistry with Joe Perry and the “emotional bruises” of 50 years of Aerosmith – in all their flawed and fantastical glory – pick up issue 571 of Guitar World.