Jack Douglas has worked on so much incredible music over the years! We’re back once again to talk to him about producing two Aerosmith smash hits, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion”!
About Jack Douglas
Jack got his start in music as a folk musician and songwriter. He moved to England for a while playing in different bands before coming back to New York to attend the Institute of Audio Research. He was a member of the first graduating class!
His first professional gig was as a janitor at the Record Plant in New York. He worked his way up to the desk as an engineer and participated in projects by Miles Davis, The James Gang, Alice Cooper, and of course Cheap Trick, who he got signed to their first record deal! Jack also had the amazing opportunity to engineer John Lennon’s Imagine album in 1971 as well. He would continue to work with Lennon until the day he passed.
As a staff engineer at Record Plant in New York City Jack worked with countless incredible artists, including but not limited to Patti Smith, Blue Öyster Cult, The New York Dolls, and perhaps most notably, Aerosmith.
Jack engineered and produced 4 of Aerosmith’s 6 records in the ’70s, including Get Your Wings (1974), Toys in the Attic (1975), Rocks (1976), and Draw the Line (1977). All of these incredible albums are multi-platinum!
“Walk This Way”
Who came up with the drum part?
There’s been some debate over the years as to which Aerosmith member came up with the main drum bit. Both Steven Tyler, who does play drums, and Joey Kramer take credit for it! Jack was able to shed some light on the topic for us.
As he tells it, Tyler sat down first to bang out an unpolished version of the beat. Kramer then took over and added all of the finesse and groove that we hear on the record. So really, it was both of them! It was a proper collaborative effort as a band.
“Walk This Way” is the second single from 1975’s Toys in the Attic.
After its release in August 1975, the song peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was part of a string of successful hits for the band in that era.
“Walk This Way” not only helped break Aerosmith into the mainstream in the ’70s, it also rejuvenated the band’s career in the ’80s when it was covered by Run–D.M.C. The hip hop cover was incredibly influential on its own it for creating the subgenre “rap rock.”
Just this year, the track was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
The idea for “Walk This Way” started at sound check in 1974.
Aerosmith was opening for The Guess Who in Hawaii, December 1974. Guitarist Joe Perry was “fooling around with riffs and thinking about The Meters”—a band fellow guitarist Jeff Beck had showed him.
Enjoying “[The Meters’] riffy New Orleans funk,” he asked Joey Kramer “to lay down something flat with a groove on the drums.” The guitar riff to what would become “Walk This Way” just “came off [Perry’s] hands.”
What’s going on with the bass line?
The iconic bass line we hear on “Sweet Emotion” is a combination of instruments. Engineer Jay Messina played bass marimba alongside Tom Hamilton’s bass guitar to fill it out and give it the incredible groove we hear!
Interestingly, the shaker we hear with it is Steven Tyler shaking a packet of sugar in place of maracas, which weren’t available.
“Sweet Emotion” is the first single from Toys in the Attic.
Released in May 1975, the song peaked at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Aerosmith’s first breakthrough single and their first Top 40 hit.
The day it hit #36 on the U.S. chart in July 1975, Aerosmith booked a gig in Central Park called the Schaefer Music Festival. The song and subsequently Toys in the Attic were so successful that the band decided to ride the momentum and re-release one of their first singles: 1973’s “Dream On.”
“Dream On” initially charted at #59. The re-released version went on to hit #6! It was the highest chart performance for the band in the ’70s.
“Sweet Emotion” remains successful in the to this day, having sold over three million digital downloads.
Toys in the Attic is Aerosmith’s most commercially successful album.
With amazing singles like “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” it’s easy to see how the album would be a huge success. Even the title track itself is part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,” alongside Run-D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way”!