KISStorian finds no BOWIE, no KISS


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).

dzPaul’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).

imagesIronically, 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.






KISS early American punk?


Creem Magazine unmasked ’74

From the Encyclopedia Britannica: PUNK, also known as punk rock, aggressive form of rock music that coalesced into an international (though predominantly Anglo-American) aesthetic / movement in 1975–80. Often politicized and full of vital energy beneath a sarcastic, hostile facade, punk spread as an ideology and an esthetic approach, becoming an archetype of teen rebellion and alienation”

Maybe rock history has it (relatively) wrong? No doubt staunch critics of KISS (IE ‘music critics’) will scoff at the suggestion that KISS were originally essentially a punk act. If so, perhaps the most influential one of all time, just a few years too early and simply too singular to be part of the traditional discussion.

Suspend your disbelief, the proof is in the pudding. Like the punks and every movement in rock, KISS created their own thing, their own look and their own sound. Both gravitated to shock value and, like the punks, KISS had zero shame, eventually drawing you in with their sheer will, devotion and spectacle.

Sure, if they ever were punk, they didn’t remain it for long and, sure, they were far from political, although the assertion that they wanted to “Rock & Roll All Nite & Party Everyday” left little for the establishment to condone or moms to embrace. And, yeah. of course they ultimately totally sold out in a way that is perhaps the very anti-thesis of a punk ethos that demands failure by definition. It was Johnny Lydon who summed up punk fatalism most succinctly in the Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” with the ever-enduring refrain” no future, no future, no future for you”.

Perhaps we miss the analogy just because KISS became way too successful to be remembered as punks? I submit that they may have been classified as something slightly other than classic rock had they folded in 1975 before ALIVE! saved them. Decked out originally in black leather, studs and white face, the bands presentation was as raw as a fist fight and far from glam or glamorous.

I came upon this surprisingly reasonable revelation the other evening while re-watching KISS’s 1974 performance on ABC In Concert w/ Dick Clark. 

So cool. When Criss screams “Your days are sown with madness!” at the end of “BLACK DIAMOND” you realize KISS meant it and, as it turned out, were reflecting something that would soon have parents all over America puzzled. Worth noting that it takes only Frehley’s first frenetic solo on the opening number for chicks to stand up and the party is on. 

You had to be there, but somehow KISS were the band stateside to mega-articulate “fuck what the adults are telling you” to a generation waiting for something to happen. 

KISSOLOGY Vol. 1.documents the heady times well, especially with the Paul & Gene commentary feature punched. It was the wild west back then and it is well-known the band and their crew acted like devil-may-care renegades as openers both on and off stage. Refusing to tone it down, KISS were bounced off tour after tour by pissed-off headliners for feathers ruffled and bruised egos. KISS took no prisoners save the audience. The early live footage speaks for itself Youtubers, KISS were freaks on a mission and like punk, KISS aimed to kick your teeth in one way or another.


did you see the opening band dude?

Musically speaking, early KISS (esp. the first two ‘offerings’) was darker and considerably slower than the general attack that punk ‘musicians’ hurled over the pond a few years later. Start with tunes like “PARASITE”, “BLACK DIAMOND”, “DEUCE”, “WATCHIN’ YOU”, “100,000 YEARS”, “GOIN’ BLIND”, “STRANGE WAYS”, “HOTTER THAN HELL”, “STRUTTER” and “SHE” for a keen snapshot of their no frills urgent ballsy attitude rock & roll.

Don’t buy the usual pundits backwash folks: KISS really could play, no way it would have worked if they didn’t rock man. Check the tapes: it was happening.

It may be Ace Frehley’s “COLD GIN” that supports the argument best —- a tune about getting drunk just to keep warm and ‘keeping it together’ (lol.). Way ahead of its time and certainly an honest blue-collar concern. That’s what Ace and Peter Criss brought to the band; legit fast-trigger, gang-tested attitude from the streets of the Bronx & Brooklyn. But, for business acumen, Gene & Paul might have been the biggest punks in town. No needles, no violence, but more attitude than anyone in their way.

Just think about it: you would have to be punk of sorts to be in KISS at its inception. Making any sense? KISS as an Americana precursor to punk? It’s not that far-fetched my friends. Hell, look at the crowd on the back of KISS’s 1975 deal sealer ALIVE!….half the people in the crowd look like they are in The Ramones (or relatives of the Hanson brothers from Slapshot).


I Wanna Be Sedated & Party Every Day

Described early on as ripoffs of everything from the New York Dolls to Alice Cooper to Humble Pie to Free to Slade to Led Zep to Cream to The Faces to The Who to Sabbath to Ziggy to Hendrix meets the Beatles but, make no mistake, KISS were punks at heart.

Alienation? KISS were aliens.

Teen rebellion? Check.

An aesthetic? Um (gulp)….yeah.

Hostile facade? Hell yeah!

Ideology? Keep It Simple Stupid.

Aggressive? What was your daughter’s name again?