Aerosmith was a band on the brink of self-destruction when they set up in an old convent to record their next album in 1977. But despite the tension, drug abuse and general bad behavior, they managed to lay down a few great tunes, including “Kings And Queens“. Let’s dig into this Aerosmith classic.

If you enjoyed this episode on Aerosmith, check out this previous show on their classic track “Seasons Of Wither”:

“Kings And Queens” (Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Steven Tyler, Brad Whitford and Jack Douglas) Copyright 1977 Daksel Music Corp. and Song And Dance Music Co. All rights administered by Unichappel Music, Inc.


Welcome, jesters, minstrels, and Knights of the Round Table. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and on this episode, we’ll be traveling back through the mists of history to the time of “Kings And Queens” with Aerosmith.

Aerosmith and I have one small thing in common: I was born in New Hampshire and grew up in Massachusetts– and you could say the same thing for Aerosmith. The band members met around Lake Sunapee, a vacation area in New Hampshire where families from the Boston area, and as far away as from New York, would vacation for the summer. In the 1960’s, with all the teenagers in town just looking for something to do, the area became a place where a half-decent band could get steady gigs during the summer, and that’s where Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, and Steven Tyler met. They eventually moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and over time, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford joined the band, and that became the classic lineup of Aerosmith.

By 1977, Aerosmith was one of the biggest rock bands in the country. The days of struggling to make it, sharing a house together, and scrounging up enough cash just to get by– those days were over, but success brought with it a whole bunch of other problems, especially the drugs.

When Aerosmith began work on what would be their new album, the situation was not great. From the start, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, and Brad Whitford had spent a month prior doing some pre-production, working up new material and some ideas. But Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were nowhere to be found. They never showed up.

Looking to try something different, to get out from the traditional studio into a different environment, the band rented an estate in New York, an isolated place in the mountains on 100 acres with a half mile long driveway. It was called The Cenacle. Built in the 1920s, it had been most recently used as a convent.

Tom, Brad, Joey, along with producer Jack Douglas, moved into the house, and eventually Joe and Steven showed up separately, and promptly disappeared into their rooms and didn’t come down for days. For the recording, Jack Douglas set up each band member in a different space in the house; Joey’s drums were set up in the chapel. Joe Perry’s guitar was recorded in a big walk-in fireplace, and Steven Tyler’s vocal booth was on the second floor. But not a lot of work was getting done. The days were spent shooting guns, driving their cars around the area at dangerous speeds, and just getting loaded. Cocaine and heroin were the drugs of choice.

The fractures were clear. Joey Tom and Brad, who did more than their share of partying, would still be able to pull it together enough in the evenings to work on recording, but Joe and Steven would rarely show up. Joe Perry was clearly dopesick. He’d work for a couple of hours and then disappear back to his room for days at a time. In later years, Joe Perry would describe this period as “we were drug addicts dabbling in music, rather than musicians dabbling in drugs”.

After six long weeks of recording at The Cenacle, the album was still unfinished, but the band packed up and headed home. On the way back to Boston, Joey Kramer crashed his Ferrari doing 135 on the highway, and shortly after Joe Perry crashed his Corvette. That’s what life was like for Aerosmith in the late seventies, like a series of car wrecks.

They would eventually finish the album at the record plant in between gigs. One of the songs that they worked on at the Cenacle and would finish later was “Kings And Queens”.

Now, most of the classic Aerosmith songs were written by Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, but “Kings And Queens” was written by Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer. Later, Steven Tyler and Jack Douglas would come up with the lyrics together. So all five of them share writing credit. But it was really Whitford, Hamilton and Kramer that put the music together back at The Cenacle when Steven and Joe were nowhere to be found– Joe Perry is barely on the track at all.

So, let’s get into the song. It begins with the main riff: classic guitar, bass and drums.

Build into the first verse.

First, let’s look at Steven Tyler’s vocals here. I think he sounds great on this song. Some of his best work is when he’s singing lyrics that are on the darker side. He’s really able to nail that eerie, foreboding mood here.

This song doesn’t have a traditional song structure. There’s no chorus really. And this next line is one of the few times he actually uses the song title. It comes around at the end, but there it’s buried in the mix. This is the only time “Kings And Queens” is up-front in the mix.

Let’s take a listen to some of the other things going on in this track. The bass part couldn’t be more simple. It doesn’t sound like much on its own, but when you combine that with the drums, guitars and other parts, it creates the essential foundation for the feel of the song. Other bass players wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to gussy up their part. But Tom Hamilton surrenders his ego for the benefit of the song. And as we’ll hear later on, he gets his moment to shine.

Besides the guitar, bass and drums, there’s some other instruments here too. Most interesting, I think, is the banjo, played by Paul Prestopino.

Now, one instrument I don’t associate with medieval England is the banjo, but they really make it work here. For those of you already familiar with this song, I wonder how many of you noticed the banjo before?

And notice they’ve added harmony vocals here.

Another instrument in the mix is a mandolin, played by producer Jack Douglas. It’s a little harder to hear in the mix, but you can kind of pick it out. Listen to the channel on the right.

At this point, the main riff returns and this time, they’ve added a screeching guitar part on top of it. It’s reminiscent of that classic soundtrack to the movie “Psycho”.

In concert, Joe Perry would play that part. I’m not sure who plays it on the recording. And if you listen closely, it sounds to me like Steven Tyler is also singing that note.

Check out this great drum fill by Joey Kramer. As the drum fill reaches a crescendo, a new element is added, a string section. The chord changes are also a little different.

In this next verse, let’s hear what one of Brad Whitford’s guitars is doing under this.

And if we take the guitars and the bass out of the mix, you can hear a little more clearly what the string section is doing.

Brad Whitford doubles Tyler’s vocal line there.

I love the way that guitar slides up into that riff.

That little pinging sound there, that’s Brad Whitford’s guitar. He’s doing some nice stuff that’s deep in the mix here. Let’s listen to some of that.

And now, here’s where things get even more interesting. Almost a little bit of Prog Rock, Aerosmith-style. I love this section.

The song breaks for an interlude that features the bass and a piano, which is an instrument we haven’t heard up until this point. Let’s just listen to Tom Hamilton’s bass part.

Now let’s go back and listen to the piano part. It’s Steven Tyler playing the piano here. Notice how it’s recorded. The high notes played with the right hand are in the right channel. The low notes played with the left hand are in the left channel.

You can hear how the low notes on the piano are duplicating exactly what the bass guitar is doing. By doubling those up, it really punches up both parts. They’re stronger together than each part playing individually. Let’s listen to the finished mix here.

Then the whole band comes in for a very ethereal solo section. Now, Joe Perry is lauded as the guitar hero in Aerosmith, but Brad Whitford is always overlooked and underrated. He may be overshadowed by Joe Perry’s rock stardom, but Whitford is every bit an equally talented player. It’s Whitford who takes the solo on this song. And it’s a great one.

Brad Whitford. That’s a great solo. It’s an interesting guitar sound too. A notched EQ tone. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s probably using a wah-wah pedal in a fixed position to get that tone. Something that David Bowie’s guitarist Mick Ronson used to do all the time. It’s what they call a “cocked wah” tone coming out of the guitar solo.

The band plays this cool little passage leading into the next section. After the guitar solo, we enter the final section of the song where Steven Tyler sings kind of a vocal round as the band churns away underneath.

And let’s take a closer look at the arrangement here, especially the layers of guitars. Here are the drums, vocals and at least two guitar tracks panned left and right.

And then we have these guitar tracks layered on top. Let’s bring everything back into the mix.

Aerosmith – “Kings And Queens”.

Steven Tyler said “the band comes up with the licks and then the music talks to me and tells me what it’s about.This one was just about how many people died from holy wars because of their beliefs or non-beliefs. With that one, my brain was back with the knights of the roundtable and all that.”

Well, thanks for joining me for this epic journey into a great song. We’ll be back in two weeks with another episode. Be sure to join me on Facebook, just look for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, where you can keep up with what’s happening on the show. And if you’d like to leave a review or a comment on the show, head over to Podchaser is the best place to leave your feedback. Of course, all our past episodes are available there and on our website,

We are also just one of a bunch of amazing podcasts on the Pantheon Podcast Network. Whatever music you’re into, there’s more great podcasts for you on Pantheon, so check them out.

As I head back into my castle and pull up the drawbridge behind me, I’ll leave you with one last look at “Kings And Queens” by Aerosmith.

If you’re anything like me, after listening to a deep dive like this, you’ll want to hear the whole song again. So go buy the album or the CD, or the MP3 files and support the music you love.



Lake Sunapee

Pantheon Podcast Network


Psycho (Movie)

Record Plant

By the time Aerosmith recorded their 2nd album, they had refined their sound, improved their songwriting chops, and Steven Tyler had found his authentic voice.  “Seasons Of Wither” is one of the moodiest tracks Aerosmith ever committed to vinyl.  Still sounds every bit as great today.

“Seasons Of Wither” (Steven Tyler) Copyright 1977 Music Of Stage Three and Song & Dance