I was very saddened to learn of the death of former Kiss guitarist Mark St. John on Thursday of a cerebral hemorrhage. Mark had the proverbial "cup of coffee" with the band, playing on only one album (1984's Animalize). I always thought of him as sort of the George Lazenby of Rock 'N' Roll (that's the actor who played James Bond in just one .007 film, in between Sean Connery and Roger Moore).
I'd like to point out here that I just wrote more about Mark's death above than Kiss did on their very own super-duper official website—they could only manage two predictable and very bland sentences. Way to go, Gene and Paul...
St. John (nee Norton) replaced Vinnie Vincent after the 1983-84 Lick It Up tour, and had problems almost from the get-go. Apparently he clashed with Simmons and Stanley in musical terms, and then he came down with the rare medical condition Reiter's Syndrome which caused his wrists to swell up and limited his ability to play guitar. The band brought in Bruce Kulick to fill in for him on tour on an interim basis, but St. John was only able to perform at three shows (and only completed one of those) before Kulick was made a permanent member of the band. It's hard to gauge how good a guitar player Mark really was since his tenure with the band was so brief—he was no Ace Frehley, but then again he was light years better than Vinnie Vincent—and he sure didn't suck on Animalize, either. You certainly hear more of him on that album than Gene Simmons, who too busy off in La La Land making movies to give a rat's spleen about making records at that time (Paul Stanley and Jean Beauvior of the Plasmatics played most of his bass parts). I've read more than one account where Simmons basically fucked St. John over after he left the band too, refusing to help pay for his medical bills and such. You're a real peach, Gene...I don't suppose you could at least spare Mark one of your Kiss caskets now, could you?
Mark St. John was one of two members of Kiss who never wore their trademark make-up (his replacement Bruce Kulick being the other), and ironically he wound up working with drummer Peter Criss in another band in the '90s. Beyond that, I really don't know all that much about him—a case of "we hardly knew ya" in Rock 'N' Roll, you might say.
Rest in peace, Mark.