I would like to start the new year with a serous tip of the black ‘Firehouse’ helmets in remembrance of two rock soldiers who passed away in 2015; Lemmy Kilmister of MOTORHEAD & Gary Richrath of REO SPEEDWAGON. I can’t help but see KISS connections to both legends because, well … that’s what you do when you are a KISStorian.
I wanna start with Gary. I picked up the guitar because I wanted to be Gary Richrath on the cover of their double-live opus, You Get What You Play For. I am from the Midwest and Speedwagon, before they sold out (and Gary left the band), were in many ways the band that bridged the gap between 60’s folk to 70’s rock with tunes like Gary’s “Golden Country”. Speedwagon was ‘a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll’, somewhere between Skynyrd, Steve Miller, The Eagles and Seger but, with Richrath overdrive, could rival Nugent, Joe Perry, Neal Schon or Ace at any given moment. Plus, their image early on was wide scoped: quasi hippie-dippy, certainly ‘jammy’ and, above all, guitar-driven with Gary leading the charge on his Sun & Tobacco Burst Les Pauls. He always ripped, like Ace. Even if you didn’t dig the tune you could look forward to the solo. Richrath knew that; he was a closer. He had a singular tone, almost a precursor to Boston’s, and certainly akin to Ace’s on hits like “Roll with The Changes”. Blues based, hairy rock leads, no effects. Same gear as Ace too by and large. I’ve never heard Ace speak of Gary, maybe it’s time? Gary was classic mainstream radio rock competition and so similar to Ace in approach that it’s frankly mind boggling.
On to Lemmy, a larger more domineering rock presence to be sure… Gene, minus the booze n’ drug, may have modeled himself on Lemmy given his predilection for women, strippers and anything breathing / willing. Gene knew that Lemmy was the only real dude in LA and I imagine their respective black books had some overlap(?). But, to the music ….Gene’s classic growl / scowl vocal is probably closer to Lemmy than any other singer on earth (though on “Two Timer” I hear shades of the late, great Louis Armstrong), Gene always had an ear on England, from Slade to The Who … no fucking way he overlooked Motorhead, Lemmy’s delivery or Motorhead’s defiant stance and unwitting formula. And, obvious but rarely addressed, Gene’s semi-distorted bass tone, and guitar player attack, are closer to Lemmys’ than anyone else I can think of also …especially live, just listen to anything live from Alive II on. Notably, Motorhead never played with KISS; Gene may have known it would have been their ‘Kiss of Death’.
Over the years Lemmy provided a convenient stereo-type for the likes of Simmons to mimic. Now it’s time for KISS to cover “Ace of Spades” w/ Ace on guitar and Gene on lead vocal … or for Gene to guest in that capacity on Ace’s forth-coming ‘covers’ record?
Happy 2016 KISStorians!