So true …From Ziggys lightning bolt live backdrop logo adopted by ‘the Ace’, to Bowie’s face paint, to Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson‘s over-driven Les Paul, early DB is a glowing strand in KISS’s DNA, both visually and musically. Bowie made being ‘out there’ cool and KISS got the message.
At least a couple KISS fans (me and my brother) were introduced to Ziggy & KISS on the very same day. In fact it was back to back in real-time when our whole family tuned in for the ABC Friday Night At The Movies special feature ‘Heroes Of Rock & Roll’ hosted by Jeff Bridges. Still have the VHS …it’s a whirlwind tour that takes us from the inception in the 50’s to 1979, when it aired. It has the coolest segue I have ever seen in my life … Ziggy pointing to the rafters with a peace sign, grimacing at the end of a hairy live version “Ziggy Stardust” when the scene cuts to Gene Simmons breathing fire as the riff to “Rockin’ In The USA” off Alive II kicks in. It may have been that very moment that I realized ‘I Wanna Rock’ (thanks Dee).
KISS has overtly tipped the collective glam rock chapeaus Bowie’s way at least a couple times over the years (if the unabashed commitment to theatrics wasn’t a big enough dot to connect).
Paul’s singing (and the band’s overall delivery) on the original 1973 demo of “Strutter” is Bowie all the way. Stanley cops a whiney, quasi-British, Ziggy vibe on the “She gets her waa-aay, like a child” doubled vocal line, going intentionally out of phase to create what me and my bro have always called ‘the Bowie effect!!’. This early demo by the furry four reveals Ziggy was one of their Gods, no question. Just check Gene and Paul’s Tweets when the news hit of Bowie’s passing yesterday.
Another homage is Gene’s “Hey man …” lyric leads-ins on the verses of “The Street ‘Giveth & The Street ‘Taketh Away” off Hot In The Shade, shamelessly knocking off Bowie’s ultra-cool “Suffragette City” verse hook lock, stock & barrel.
The most obvious parallel for me though is Bowie’s pre-occupation with fantasy and ultimate decision to really go for it by creating Ziggy, just as the boys did with the Spaceman (Ziggy take a bow), the Catman, the Demon and the Starchild (uh .. Stardust). His focus was always on creating a new image of himself and on pushing boundries, forcing audiences to either except or reject (him).
Ironically, it’s long been joked by Gene that, had KISS been shorter or skinnier, they would have dressed in semi-drag like the New York Dolls, or Bowie as was en vogue at time. Their early photo sessions without face paint show a bunch of ‘lovely lads’ looking a little fey for, say, Detroit or Terre Haute where the KISS Army started. But even when they put the make up on Paul dabbled with adrogyny, playing the role like Jagger, or Bowie being Ziggy.
With the rock news of the past few weeks, my KISS-vision has been gaining clarity …KISS is a bastard step child of, Alice aside, both waves of the British Invasion: from the first with the Beatles, Kinks & Who to the second with Ziggy, Lemmy, Zep, Slade & Sabbath. Without Bolan, The Who & The Beatles, there’s no Bowie. Without Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, there’s no Alice Cooper. Without Alice or Bolan, there’s no Bowie. It’s fuzzy rock math but any way you slice it, without Ziggy, there’s probably no KISS as we know them.
RIP David Bowie, the atomic punk …he came and met us, he blew our minds.