Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Top 10 Kiss Blunders of All-Time--Part 1 of 2

You wanted the fuck-ups—you got the fuck-ups!  As I've previously noted on this here blog, Kiss is my favorite band on Earth in this hemisphere, but they aren't above a little reproach now and then.  The Hottest Band In The World has made its fair share of missteps over the past 35 years or so, and in best "They can't do that to our pledges—only WE can do that to our pledges" tradition, please allow a true Kiss fan to lampoon those times when those Gotham Ghouls went astray...

10) Creatures Of The Night album cover  In one of this band’s most innocuous yet curious moves, their 1982 comeback album Creatures Of The Night has been issued with two different cover photos, neither of which featured the actual lead guitarist who played on the record.  Upon its initial release, COTN’s original cover featured the beautifully spooky shot of the band’s faces in full make-up over a dark blue backdrop with their eyes glowing brightly á la the "I Love It Loud" video.  It’s unclear to this day who actually played lead guitar on COTN—depending on who you ask, Vinnie Vincent played a little on it (and did co-write three tracks), Bruce Kulick’s brother Bob played on a few tracks, and heaven knows, Eddie Van Halen may have dropped in for a session or two.  But what is clear is that neither Ace Frehley (whose face adorns the original cover) nor Bruce Kulick played a note on this record, which makes the 1985 re-issue of the album with a new cover photo featuring Bruce and the band without make-up (and not looking very Creature-like, either) a total mystery.  In addition to the new front cover, the cool original back cover featuring a lightning-streaked dark sky was replaced by someone's leather-clad butt (Gene's or Paul's, I presume).  They also remixed a couple songs in places and even flip-flopped two tracks in the batting order ("Saint & Sinner" and "Killer") for reasons unknown.  Order was eventually restored (literally and figuratively) in 1997 when PolyGram released the Kiss remasters, and COTN reverted back to its original cover, track lineup and sound mix.

9) Vinnie Vincent  Ol’ "Ankh Head" was a pretty decent songwriter ("I Love It Loud", "I Still Love You", "Lick It Up" and "Young And Wasted" were all co-written by him), and he also co-wrote for other groups like The Bangles, but he was a very average guitar player, at best, and a megalomaniac to boot, thus his tenure with Kiss was a short one.  V.V. was a stop-gap replacement for Ace Frehley for the ill-fated Creatures Of The Night tour—even I wasn’t aware that Ace had left the band until literally the night of a Kiss concert at Municipal Auditorium on March 1, 1983.  My reaction to him was not unlike that of most Kiss fans: "Who the fuck is this guy?"  Unlike the way AC/DC fans took to Brian Johnson almost immediately after replacing the late Bon Scott, Kiss fans didn’t embrace Vincent at all (probably because Ace was still very much alive), and Vinnie did nothing to make us forget our favorite Space Man/Plumber.  His guitar solos were weak and all sounded the same, and he looked (for the lack of a better term) kinda faggy, both with and without make-up.  True, Paul Stanley has made a career out of gender-bending to a degree, but he looks a lot cooler doing it and has far more charisma.  Vinnie also let his own ego get the best of him, expecting the band to treat him as an equal, even though he was basically a hired hand who had yet to earn his stripes, and he eventually got the heave in ‘84.  Gene Simmons even tried to make peace with the guy and throw him a bone by recording a couple of V.V.’s songs for 1992’s Revenge album, and Vinnie managed to piss all over that venture too.  Vinnie Vincent had all sorts of potential, but was his own worst enemy.

8) The Kiss caskets  Of all the merchandizing Kiss has done over the years—everything from posters to t-shirts to dolls to condoms to pinball machines—the most crass offering of all has to be the Kiss caskets that have been on the market about five years or so now.  Yes folks, for about $3,000, you can go to your final reward in style and line Gene Simmons’ bank account at the same time!  For those of you who opt for cremation, I’m sure they have Kiss urns available as well.  "Death, I hear you calling…"

7) Asylum-era wardrobe  It’s a mystery what the band was thinking when they wore such gaudy outfits on-stage and in the videos for the 1985 Asylum album.  We’re talking loud day-glo colors, sequins, boas, evening gloves, the works—it was as if Kiss had raided Phyllis Diller’s closet!  Even Gene Simmons expresses complete dismay looking back on the subject:  "I looked like a drag queen…"  It’s too bad that the tacky wardrobe choices (and hideous album cover) overshadowed what I think was a damn good record.

6) Gene’s acting career  After Kiss took off the make-up in 1983, Gene Simmons could no longer fall back on his alter-ego demon persona, so to compensate for it, his insatiable ego got the best of him and he answered the call of Hollywood and became a serious actor in movies and on TV—much to the band’s detriment.  It was at this point that Kiss became a hobby for Gene, and he basically phoned things in musically for quite a while, particularly on 1984’s Animalize, where Paul Stanley practically carried the band on his shoulders, producing the record himself and playing some of Gene’s bass parts in addition to his usual roles.  They even imported Jean Beavoir of The Plasmatics to do some of the bass work, and the songs that Gene did manage to contribute to that album were all pretty half-assed, at best.  This is not to say Gene was a bad actor—he was actually quite good, especially in Runaway with Tom Selleck and in his guest appearances on TV shows like "Miami Vice" and HBO’s "The Hitchhiker", and he even got blown up by Rutger Hauer in Wanted-Dead or Alive—but it was obvious his head was elsewhere when it came to the band.  This pattern continued off-and-on through the rest of the ‘80s, with Gene diluting himself even further by also running his own record company, signing and producing other bands like Keel, EZO and Giuffria on top of the movie stuff until Stanley finally got in Gene’s face and told him to knock off the extracurricular stuff in the early ‘90s.

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