Listen and weep — these have gotta be the best 9 or 10 hours of non-member-biased, KISS-related content available to mankind. Given the fact that it’s from non-KISS Army members (though they each have their favorite tunes & albums), it’s one helluva long overdue reality check for KISSdom.
In these podcasts, Zack & Kallie, our intrepid young sister / brother team of scholars, attempt to make sense of KISStory by taking deep-dives with each of the four original band members autobiographies, in the order released, and with hilarious results. For those who can’t hack it, you officially have no sense of humor.
Gene often says the root premise of rock & roll is that “nothing is sacred” … well, hear his words ‘n take heed ‘cuz DYSTOPIAN DANCE PARTY is full of cheeky, rock & roll irreverence and yet it appears no lobsters were harmed in their making.
ACE FREHLEY – 1978 — The crucible salvo that defined Ace’s sound for all of his future KISS & solo offerings and that served as the ‘shot over the bow’ that woke KISS fans to the fact that Ace was even cooler than we had thought ….if you don’t like “Rip It Out”, ‘What’s On Your Mind?” …I hope you suffer!
ANOMALY – 2009 — A transcendent Ace album that, although a little light on song count, takes us out of the KISS stratosphere completely in terms of message and style with Frehley left turns “A Little Below The Angels”, “Change The World” and ‘It’s A Great Life”. Buttressed by several cool rockers, the best perhaps being “Foxy & Free” and the brooding explosion that is “Pain In The Neck”, Anomaly is a celestial unveiling.
TROUBLE WALKIN’ – 1989 — A great back-to-basics rock record that was a kick in the teeth to anyone who thought Ace was “down & out” after Second Sighting, Trouble Walkin’ finally tapped the rock solid promise of his original ‘Comet line-up by (re)enlisting ‘Rock Soldiers’ Richie Scarlet on guitar & Anton Fig on drums. “Shot Full of Rock” says it all when Ace opines … “Ain’t got time for posers!”.
FREHLEY’S COMET – 1987 — A state-of-the-art Eddie Kramer produced 80’s rock tomb and a key moment in KISStory, the debut of ‘The Comet’ hailed the return of a made-over Ace with a competitive record and cache that inadvertently restored some credibility to the slightly faded KISS brand.
SPACE INVADER – 2014 — A return to hard rock form for Ace in response in part to those thrown off by the evolved scope of Anomaly, Space Invader takes us again off planet to a rendezvous on Mars and other spacey guitar-a-thon revelations like the title cut. Had the production been as stellar as other Ace passages, Space Invader might have eclipsed them all cuz tunes like “Gimme A Feelin'” and “What Every Girl Wants” kick so much universal ass.
ORIGINS, Vol. 1 – 2016 — A bitchin’ ‘Space Ace’ time machine that takes us back to the bands & tunes that sealed Frehley’s rock & roll fate, ultimately sending smoking Les Paul‘s skyward for all to see. Although a collection of covers, it also includes a couple hot re-workings of classic Frehley-penned KISS numbers in “Parasite” and “Cold Gin”, both still staples today whether seeing the Ace Frehley Band or the new KISS.
LIVE + 1 – 1988 — Although it’s in essence an EP, and only includes one studio newbie in the (seriously shoulda been a single!) “Words Are Not Enough”, Live +1 is a great snapshot of ‘Frehley’s Comet’ live that includes an awesome drum solo by Anton Fig. Recorded at The Aragon Ballroom here in Chicago, I was lucky enough to attend, remember the excitement Ace and the band generated and feel it’s captured well here.
SECOND SIGHTING – 1988 — A near-miss by Ace in terms of material & focus on what would turn out to be the ‘Comet’s swan song, Second Sighting has it’s fun moments and great Ace sluggers like “Insane” but ultimately left us wondering if ‘the Comet’ was might burn up on re-entry if they continued on this trajectory.
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 the subsequent Criss/Frehley ‘Bad Boys Of Rock Tour’ pairing had similarly dark forecasts for both the Cat & Spacemen.
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. Anguished 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 ‘Mr. Excitement’ 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?