With Aerosmith touring and all the pre-tour talk about playing the Toys in the Attic album live, I wanted to try to nail down what gear Joe Perry and Brad Whitford were using on Toys. Well, good luck: This one has been tough to track down.
Toys was released in April 1975, and while there’s a decent amount of info about what Aerosmith used in 1975, that appears to be post-Toys (that info will be in the next post). Ergo we have to look at 1974 to get the some of the skinny on Toys.
According to user Nitebob on thegearpage.net, who apparently worked with Aerosmith in some capacity right around that time, guitars on that album were: Joe – Les Paul Custom, two Strats and Tele; Brad – “mostly” a goldtop Les Paul (unsure whether humbuckers or P90s). I’d bet that Brad used a few more guitars because just like Joe, he likes to mix it up.
In a 1979 interview, Joe said this: “I used Gibsons and a ’65 Tele on Toys In The Attic.” He said the Tele was modded: “I changed the pickups and got the shielding together. It’s not that those Bill Lawrence pickups are so much louder, it’s just that they’re so clean – you can boost the shit out of them.
“I have Bill Lawrence pickups on every guitar. I used to use DiMarzio pickups and in fact I think I did an endorsement for them recently. DiMarzio let me down sound-wise, however, so what can I say? I still use their pickups in a few axes: They have a distinctive sound, but Bill’s are more versatile.”
He may not have been remembering correctly there about the Lawrences as that album have been before Aerosmith hooked up big-time with Bill Lawrence (he was a consultant to them in 1979, though they used his pickups earlier than that). On the other hand, he might be right – not to doubt Joe, but famous guitarists frequently mis-remember about gear. According to the aforementioned Nitebob, Joe and Brad “started using Bill’s pickups in 1978, after Bootleg.”
Again, this is trying to see the puzzle picture with very few pieces.
Nitebob had no idea about the amps, but from a 1974-era vid (see below), it looks like Marshalls were used live. (Is Brad playing through Ampegs?)
Can it be assumed that Marshalls (and Ampegs?) were also used in the studio for Toys? Maybe. Marshalls were popular, but so was using little Fender amps. Who knows.
There’s also the following info about Brad’s gear, posted on this site. Not sure where it’s from originally, but seems solid and confirms some of the above.
When first playing with Aerosmith, Brad used an old Marshall 100-watt amp and a Les Paul. The guitar’s neck finally gave up the ghost, but not before Brad recorded with it on the group’s first self-titled album. This guitar was replaced with another Les Paul. For Get Your Wings , Brad used the Les Paul, as well as a 1960 red double-cutaway one-pickup Les Paul Jr. After Aerosmith had it’s Marshall gear stolen, Whitford switched to Ampeg V-4s. “All Marshalls are so different and the really early ones were much better. Then they started changing little by little.” Shortly after the band’s financial footing became more stable, Brad bought a 1957 gold-top Les Paul with a Bigsby tailpiece for $1,000.
Re: effects during this time, it’s tough to say. The only semi-hard info I found was this, from Nitebob: “The Colorsound Overdriver (of Jeff Beck fame) was big with Joe and Brad.”
In a recent interview on the Aerosmith website, Brad said this about recording Toys: “There was more experimentation on that album. We recorded it at The Record Plant in New York. I remember setting up amplifiers in these hallways and 14th floor staircases to get echo from.”
Train Kept A Rollin’, Midnight Special TV Show, 1974