It was January 22nd, 1988 and a cold day in hell, save the KISS / Ted Nugent concert.
I was in college in upstate New York and somehow I had convinced my pal Doug to drive up from Phili to meet me for the show. He wasn’t, and still isn’t, even a fan really. Rather, just another casualty of the KISS Army fervor. He really deserves a commemorative badge of some sort as a civilian. Poor guy. It wasn’t his first or last KISS-related sortee.
We were literally 2nd & 3rd in line for the general admission show respectively and stood in the cold for what must have been at least 5 hours, braving bone chilling stupidity.
The guy first in line didn’t make it: he had been sipping Cold Gin (no bullshit!) from a bottle all afternoon, we even had a couple swigs! At one point he ran out so we saved his spot while he ran to get more. Anyway, right before they opened the doors of the Utica Memorial Auditorium, he was carted off drunk as the police station was literally directly across the street. They may have been watching him all day? We felt for him but the night was still young, and now we were first in line!
I have very little other recollections from the show beyond our cherry front row, dead center seats and our surprise ‘moment of clarity’ with Ted Nugent: We had rolled a number (or two) prior, stuffed’em in our socks and waited till the lights when down and Ted graced us with his edgy presence. An instant after partaking, we realized that we were way too close to Ted. He was on to us. He was just the cat to call us out over the mic to make some publicity, continuing his famed war against “anyone who wants to get mellow” as outlined on the Double Live Gonzo LP. We looked at each other wide-eyed and immediately snuffed it out in deference to the ‘Motor City Mad Man’.
Flash forward 10 years or so and I am working a show at Otto’s in DeKalb, IL with Ted and he asks if he can borrow a car. The promoter offers up my Jeep (WTF?!) and I say, concerned: “Where are you headed? …do know where you are at?”
Ted replied: “Of course I know where I am ….I’m the Motor City Madman, headed for Rockford kiddies!” As I walked him to my car I said: “hey Ted …fair warning, I’m a KISS fan ….you may wanna dial back the volume a bit before you turn the ignition?!”
Ted glanced at me with a rye grin ….“it never ends”.
Who better than KISS to round out a 40-year catalog with no less than 5 songs with HELL in the title. Indeed with KISS, even “Heaven’s On Fire”. Like a lotta rock, KISS bleeds biblical references, consider offerings like “‘Thou Shalt Not”, “On The 8th Day”, “Unholy” and “God Gave Rock & Roll To You”. KISStorian ranks KISS’s journey ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’.
HOTTER THAN HELL — Street-wise Stanley burns ya like the mid-day sun … KISS’s industrially murky “Cross Town Traffic” has one of the best outros in rock history with the duel-panned Frehley solos wailing out on the fade … Yes, HTH is as close to KISS HEAVEN as HELL gets, rivaling ACDC’s “Highway To Hell” as the best rock cut with HELL in the title, all-time. The groove on the live version on Alive is KISS at it’s very best …rip rip, rip & destroy!!!
ROCK & ROLL HELL — Gene seems to think it’s his destiny, whether he wrote it or not, and sings RR HELL like he owns it, perhaps because he really did want out of the KISS biz circa ’82. Certainly Ace left to save his soul, leaving Dr. Love to contemplate who was Saint and who the Sinner. One could argue that Creatures of The Night marks the Demon’s final serious salvo …soon he would wander the wastelands, no longer Lord.
I’LL FIGHT HELL TO HOLD YOU — Pure 80’s super-Paul travels to the brink to be bye your side in this diabolically good Crazy Nights cut…There was never a video made for HELL TO HOLD YOU, but one can easily visualize it’s cinematic MTV potential appeal …I see Paul braving heavy terrain, high winds, torrential rains, eventually reaching the mountain top, searching for the lost Xanadu. The Starchild has our backs.
HELL OR HIGH WATER — Gene’s best cut off Crazy Nights and my favorite Bruce Kulick rock hunt, HELL OR HIGH WATER may be the only Simmons song in which he admits having his feelings hurt. But nobody puts Gene in the corner, he let’s you know in the festive, feel good doo-wop bridge ….”Baby don’t doubt it, ain’t no doubt about it” …considering he’s willing to brave HIGH WATER potentially, I find it down right heart-warming that the ‘Man of 1,000 Faces’ considers facing HELL to boot if need be.
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL — Gene’s put you in purgatory, and he’s so hungry… ‘SOMEWHERE’ somehow worked on Hot In The Shade but the lyrics are so cheap novel cliche Simmons, and the hook so KISS sleepy, that it made us all long for days of yore when Gene was a Demon, not the ‘Albatross’.
It was back in the winter of ’94, there’s a reason I remember it well …it was Ace at The Avalon and he was slippin’ & slidin’ on a “Rocket Ride” to hell.
I left the show seriously concerned about Ace. Believe me, at the time it seemed there was no way that KISS would ever re-unite. In hindsight, it’s possible their doing so may have saved Ace’s life.
Reports from Ace’s booze-soaked ‘Just For Fun Tour‘ must have had Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley starting to think ..”it’s now or never”, Especially so when intel on next years Criss/Frehley ‘Bad Boys Of Rock Tour’ pairing had similarly dark forecasts for the Cat & Spacemen alike.
But whose kidding who? Whether Gene & Paul had always known they would reunite at some point or not, both Ace & Peter’s camps we’re aiming at the same reunion Yahtzee. As it turns out, the perilous road bender worked, forcing KISS’s hand. one way and another.
Anyway, by the time Ace finally hit the stage an hour late, The Avalon was a scene of KISStoric anguish. It was f’ing freezing outside, but it was hotter than hell in the club as the low ceilings in the over-packed room drove the temperature up. As folks got restless, pre-show chants of “Fuck You!” bubbled up, rivaling the fading “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!!” flurries as Rock Soldiers started to suspect Ace was ‘around the corner at the liquor store” (or worse).
We later found out from the Avalon booking agent that Ace had had to be carried up the Avalon’s long backstage stairs by a couple of guys. Rumor is Ace’s ‘team’ couldn’t find him and didn’t realize that he had been passed out in the back of their Ryder truck. parked right outside on Sheffield. Had they not found him, he may have frozen to death.
After the opening tune, “Rip It Out”, Ace stumbled to the mic bewildered and said, no bullshit, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it”. He was partly referring to how hot it must have been on stage but, given the situation, it was a ‘loaded’ statement.
Again people started cheering and jeering Ace simultaneously: cries came out from all over …’We Love You Ace!” …”You Can Do It Ace!” …as well as “Fuck You Ace!”. It was as close to a KISS Army mutiny as I have ever seen.
KISStory tells us that although Frehley has ‘Trouble Walkin’ , he usually lands on his feet. In this case, he gets bye with a little help from his friends because, had the original four not come to terms a couple years later, I fear Ace’s may have taken a rough trajectory post ’94. But perhaps it is as the Spaceman himself suggests in the tune “Immortal Pleasures” off Space Invader: he’s always been “protected by the powers”.
Maybe the Talisman are real?
Many KISStorians argue that Vinnie Vincent saved KISS but, any you way you slice it, it was ERIC CARR who saved KISS. The ride he took manning the drum fort on behalf of The KISS ARMY proves Carr was a true ‘Rock Soldier’ and, as The Elder would no doubt agree, indeed ‘worthy of the fellowship’.
And as much as he gave it his all for KISS and their fans when playing live, Carr’s studio work is what makes him “King Of The Mountain” as savior of the band. Shit, take any track off Creatures Of The Night — It’s Bonham meets the Demon & The Starchild and it sounds invincible! Even when KISS went soft rock on Crazy Nights, Carr remained heavy. He also wrote, sang, played bass, and made arrangement contributions on KISS material throughout his tenure with the band.
Even when the KISS experience soured for Carr personally, he never let it affect his level of devotion to the fans. He never, ever sucked. He was a pros pro and, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys on the planet. His only fault may have been that his heart was a big as his bass drum and he wore it on his sleeve. So be it, amen Eric.
Anyway, I moved recently and found this: my angry letter to Rolling Stone for ignoring his career. I share it with you on the Anniversary of his passing to give thanks to Eric for hanging tough when everyone else was jumping ship, Vincent included.
I just listened to Eddie’s rant about KISS manager / mogul Doc McGhee cancelling for Trunk’s show last-minute compliments of Metalfavs and left this unprecedentedly long comment sharing my take on the YouTube. And I don’t mean to pile on ‘cuz I do love Eddie; we all do. But, as Elton once said ” It’s a sad, sad situation. And it’s getting more and more absurd. It’s sad, so sad. Why can’t we talk it over?”
“as a long time music biz guy, the issue Eddie is having is that, as much as I am a fan of both he and KISS, Eddie wants it both ways. He gets to interact with artist as a media player and also wants to be friends with everyone in the band, and them all to allow whatever he says (on air).
By becoming an Ace & Peter mouth piece he broke showbiz protocol by getting as they say “too close to the artist”. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship without that, but Eddie needs more apparently? He has to be the #1 Kiss fan of all-time (and literally may be) but thinks that allows him to act differently than other media members do with artists, at least most successful ones.
Asking Paul to talk things out, and airing that out every chance he gets, is beyond the pale. Also, sharing Gene’s candid admissions on the subject is again a breach of that long-established understanding between artist and media. Same as with promoters. Grudges are bad business as a rule and space is at a premium. Ever heard the phrase “Are we on the record or off the record Eddie?”. That line, with Eddie, is blurred, and a bit embarrassing.
I can understand why Eddie feels he can do this because he was also in the real-deal actual record biz once as well as his being a long (suffering) supporter of all things KISS behind the scenes. But, I gotta tell ya, it’s not insane at all — It’s called showbiz and the first rule you learn coming up is know your role, who the star is and take only what you graciously get. But, to be fair, in KISStoric terms and others, Eddie’s had a charmed life it’s clear and has ‘Great Expectations’ by & large.
Eddie wonder’s aloud “what distorted information” Paul is acting on. He even regrets not knowing what is going on in Paul’s head day-to-day and yet has amnesia about dozens of interviews with Ace and Peter in which he has continually taken (their) sides and (worse) called in to question both Paul & Gene’s ethics.
I don’t want to sound like a KISStoric cynic but my guess is Doc was gonna cancel all along because he, and everyone in the KISS camp, knew Eddie was on a quest — damn it, he was gonna ask Doc “dude, man …what’s Paul’s issue with me man?”.
Goes to show there’s no business like showbiz! Nicely played Doc; Eddie’s been Stumped and now he’s been Punked!
Halloween never hurt so good! Talk about HEAVY, these guys rock KISS out like no one I have ever seen. They bring their own flavor, some unique arrangements, and some bitchin’ lead guitar. In fact, PHAT KISS is so good they don’t even need an Ace Frehley. It’s KISS as a power trio with the accent on power.!