Since we've had the Great Beatles Revival with the release (re-release, that is) of their CDs recently, the time seems ripe for a Great Kiss Revival with the release of Sonic Boom and their Alive 35 concert tour. Thus, I've decided to do a little series about my favorite band of all-time (not the greatest band of all-time--that's The Who, in my book) and why I love them so much, warts and all...
PART A: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
It might surprise you that I didn’t like Kiss at first. In fact, I was rather repulsed by them when I first saw the Alive! album on the record shelves at the store, thus I was guilty of judging books by covers. I also have vague memories of hearing “Rock And Roll All Nite” on the radio and not being terribly impressed by it. For better or worse, you can thank a schoolmate of mine named Steve Highley for truly getting me into the Hottest Band in The World. When I was in 6th grade at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Raytown, we had a semi-weekly music class taught by a real sweet lady with the rather unfortunate name of Miss Rash, and often we students would bring in records from home for her to play on that government-issue single-speaker school record player. A girl brought in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” one day, and Miss Rash was so impressed with the harmonies and different musical changes in the song that she later had the lyrics printed off and divided the class up into groups to sing the various parts of the song, and it was great fun (even though the subject of the tune was murder, but we won't talk about that...)
I also remember bringing in my Elton John albums quite a bit during that time, and on a bright spring day in April or May of ’76, Steve Highley brought in his copy of Kiss' Alive! The jaundiced look on Miss Rash’s face when she saw the album cover was priceless, but bless her heart, she reluctantly played a few tracks from the record, one of which was “Cold Gin”, complete with Paul Stanley’s between-song patter about “…there’s a lot of you people out there that like to drink vodka and orange juice!” which even Miss Rash got a kick out of. I remember really liking the song a lot, and started re-thinking my original stance on this band. Before I forget, if you’re out there, Miss Rash—thank you for indulging us in class. And Mr. Highley, thanks for bringing Alive! in—you have no idea what you two unwittinlgy spawned!
A few weeks later in early June, I nabbed my own copy of Alive! and played the living shit out of it from the get-go on my cheapo General Electric record player, In spite of its crappy needle that skipped like a stone across a pond. “Deuce”, “Firehouse”, “Parasite”, “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Black Diamond” quickly became favorites of mine—well, really almost every song did—and Peter Criss’ drum solo during “100,000 Years” was the bitchinest one I’d ever heard up to that point. I also grabbed up the first three Kiss studio albums—Kiss, Hotter Than Hell and Dressed To Kill—but was rather disappointed with how flat they sounded compared with the live monster they had out, which might explain why I was reluctant to pick up the latest Kiss album, Destroyer, right away, in spite of its awesome cover painting by artist Ken Kelly. A little trivia for you: Ken Kelly—who also did the Love Gun cover—is a cousin of Frank Frazetta, who drew those cool early Molly Hatchet album covers.
Anyway, sometime in early July of ’76, my family took a road trip to northern Mississippi to visit relatives, and one of my female cousins (who, sadly, is no longer with us—rest in peace, Denise) played this Ronco or K-Tel 8-track tape of current hits (Rock Explosion or some such title) with “Shout It Out Loud” on it. Upon hearing it, I said, “Who’s that singing? That’s pretty good.” I couldn’t believe my ears when she told me it was Kiss—I was stunned at how slick they sounded compared with those first three studio albums—and I was like “Wow!” As soon as we got back to town, I bought Destroyer and instantly fell in love with “Detroit Rock City” in addition to “Shout”, both of which would easily make my Top 100 Songs of All-Time list, if I ever get around to compiling one. Kiss was pretty much all I listened to that Bicentennial summer, and it killed me that I couldn’t attend the Kiss concert at Municipal Auditorium that month, but I was only 12 and had no one who would take me anyway. I would have to wait three long years before my first Kiss concert…
Meantime, I took to Kiss like an arsonist to a burning building. Before long, I was snapping up every magazine I could find at 7-Eleven that had articles about the band. I remember one of my first misconceptions about Kiss was they wore the make-up all the time—not just on-stage! I even bought Kiss sheet music books—never mind that I can’t read sheet music to save my soul. I started junior high that fall, and was ever so proud of my first Kiss t-shirt—back in the days when you had to buy the shirt and the iron-on separately. Between that and my Kiss belt buckle, I took a lot of shit from people at school who chanted the “Kiss sucks!” mantra at me constantly. To all those douche-bags I now say (in the words of the late Redd Foxx), “I hope your dog dies!”
Much more to come about Kiss in the coming days/weeks—whether you like it or not!