Kings and Queens

Song Review by

By Aerosmith's fifth record, the strain of rock stardom and the pressure to follow their four previous rock-solid albums was beginning to show on 1977's Draw the Line. "Kings and Queens" stood out as one the more focused, if slightly bombastic tracks, hearkening back to the group's first classic power ballad, "Dream On." The vibe is one of a gothic-flavored epic, perhaps a conscious effort to recreate the feel of Led Zeppelin's then-hugely successful "Stairway to Heaven," though singer Steven Tyler claims, "I've always had a fancy to do songs about anarchy and the church and government." The verses are textured with picking, high acoustic guitars and a deliberate plodding beat, as Tyler sets the scene: "Kings and queens and guillotines/Taking lives denied/Starch and parchment laid the laws/When bishops took the ride/Only to deceive." As big, distorted guitars come in, the tempo kicks up while a screeching Hitchcockian synth note hammers away in the background, the band rocking out. The pace is maintained through the next verse as Tyler sings, "Sneer of death, fear only loss of pride/Living other centuries/Déjà vu or what you please/Followers true to all who do or die," the tempo dramatically slowing for the lines, "Screams of no reply/They died." Tyler explains, "This one was just about how people died from holy wars because of their beliefs or non-beliefs." The arrangement at this point becomes grandiose, an orchestration of synth strings, chunking guitars, piano, and short guitar bursts which descends into a vamp on a wistful bass progression. Tyler repeats the last lines with overdubbed screams soaring in the background, the track fading to elaborate drum fills. "Kings and Queens" is an ambitious, if perhaps slightly overwrought undertaking, one that in retrospect was everything the then-emerging punk scene was a reaction against. Perhaps limited as an intellectual pursuit; however, the song is undeniable in its visceral sweep and distinctively passionate performance.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Draw the Line 1977 Columbia 4:55
Aerosmith's Greatest Hits 1980 Columbia 3:49
Pandora's Box 1991 Legacy / Aerosmith / Columbia 5:33
No Image 1994 Sony Music Distribution 4:55
Aerosmith's Greatest Hits 1973-1988 2001 Columbia 3:48
Aerosmith's Greatest Hits 1973-1988/Classics Live! 2001 Sony Music Distribution 4:46
The Broadcast Archives 2008 The Broadcast Archive 5:17