KISStorian’s CRAZY NIGHT in UTICA ’88

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”.

 

 

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KISS – Heaven, Hell or Houston?

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’.

 

KISStorian ranks KISS’s ‘unmasked’ studio albums

KISS_LickItUp-costumes2Helmets tight KISS Army …I sat and looked at the album covers, accessing the part of my brain that governs KISS related decisions to figure out which album I really wanted to listen to most, and 2nd most, and so on and so forth. A short blog piece on a Herculean task. Please forgive me.

LICK IT UP > back on the streets  …hey, hey have you read the news? this album is as good as Creatures of The Night and is the make-over that saved the KISS brand.

ASYLUM > alive n’ kickin’ …guh-guh, guh-guh, guh-guh, guh-guh get the message sugar: Asylum is Kulick/Carr KISS hitting their best 80’s stride.

ANIMALIZE > once bitten, twice shy …Stanley’s triumph in fret-frenzied St. Johns wood; had Simmons given a damn, or Vincent remained on-board, Animalize might have been as good as LIU.

REVENGE > cult of personality …KISS was cool again but I’de give the album higher marks were it not for Stanleys somewhat labored contributions under the rose w/ Ezrin.

HOT IN THE SHADE > these happy days are yours and mine …KISS lighten up to become almost human with “Forever” and a fun album.

CRAZY NIGHTS > desperate, but not serious …KISS buffed to 80’s money-shot oblivion by the grace of Nevison’s hand. 

CARNIVAL OF SOULS > return to sender …unmasked KISS fade to black with a grungy dirge.

 

 

 

 

KISStorian’s 5 best BRUCE KULICK KISS solos

As acropped-scan0014-51.jpg matter of fate, unfortunately Bruce Kulick is slightly land-locked in the 80’s because he had to wear so many fret-defying hats in KISS‘s post make-up, hair band phase. But Bruce is a guilty pleasure with no bad after taste who has done some excellent guitar work with KISS and beyond, especially on his solo disc BK3. But, as it relates to our furry fab four, these are this KISStorians’ top 5 of all time:

“HELL OR HIGH WATER”  – You get sizzle & steak on this ripping solo from Kulick. The high point is the Hendrix-infused long high bend that is, to me, the hottest shit he’s ever laid down. Say what you will about the production on Crazy Nights, in some ways it’s Bruce’s most succinct and dialed in 80’s sound. It’s consistent through-out and one of the most pleasing elements of the album. The fade out riffage is hot also. It reminds me a lot of his brother Bob to be honest and, by all accounts, this take is the Demon’s favorite Kulick shred on tape. Ripping Kulick.

“TEARS ARE FALLING” – Off the semi-screechy Asylum opus from ’85, Bruce’s solo here is A1, top-notch, super-melodic and ends on a searing jam of high notes that removes bras at Paul’s request (yeah, he produced it). The harmony guitar line is so cool — instantly singable, hooky, and a big part of the tunes appeal. Pure melodic 80’s Kulick.

“KING OF THE MOUNTAIN” – Also off Asylum, the Kulick solo here, and the extended outro jam out, is hairy and yet slick thanks to what seems like a long leash from Paul. Bruce managed to do some sweet Van Halenesque tapping and yet infuse the blues into his playing like the classics Clapton, Page, Beck, Hendrix and, dare I say, the original ‘Spaceman’ Ace Frehley. Majestic Kulick.

“FOREVER” – Though slightly saccharine for this KISStorian’s tastes as a number, Bruce really shines on an acoustic solo that elevates the song nicely (if not the entire Hot In The Shade album). I don’t think it could be improved on (though who wouldn’t love hearing the electric version he apparently did that ended left on the cutting room floor in favor of the keen radio-friendly approach). I am especially fond of the descending phrase at the end of the figure.  It’s so tasty a solo in fact that it is, musically speaking, a legitimately KISStoric highlight/moment. Classy Kulick.

“I WALK ALONE” – Bruce’s swan song on Carnival of Souls, and his only lead vocal with the lads, “I Walk Alone” is down right epic and recalls the guitar work of Queen’s Brian May. You can really feel the love on this track, perhaps more than any other KISS/Kulick effort. It’s a great song that is somehow in KISS’s wheel house and yet a little farther reaching in scope. If God Gave Rock & Roll to You and I, the fact that “I Walk Alone” made the record is a miracle of Biblical proportions; must have been the 8th Day? Amen. Epic Kulick.

through the past darkly with 80’s KISS

AtNight1Me and my bro Rich were talking about Paul’s recent rather disparaging comments about Gene’s material in the 80’s. I can’t argue with his assertion that Gene was mailing it in here and there in terms of material and over all effort in the unmasked 80’s. It’s a pity Gene was so distracted after removing the facial facade because he simply contributed less tunes than Stanley with very few truly great tracks and certainly no workable singles …..but clunkers? The true measure of the quality of material is how it holds up today. Let’s see:

LICK IT UP – I can no fault with either the Starchild or Demon’s offerings on this mega rock opus that may be the best hard rock record of 1983, period.

ANIMALIZE – Some will roll there eyes here ‘cuz this album is so land-locked in the 80’s it’s hard to have any perspective on it that isn’t absurd but the only Gene cut here that really wears on me is “Lonely Is The Hunter” (even though it’s got the best guitar work on the record compliments of Bruce Kulick behind the scenes).  I would say Paul’s “I’ve Had Enough” is a bit of a dog in on the LP also.  “Burn Bitch Burn” may be a low point for Gene in terms of lyrics but I gotta say people, it rocks. Score: 1 to 1.

cropped-scan0009-83.jpgASYLUM – Pretty cool album. but I’ve always hated “Trial By Fire” because it’s just so shitty, save the fun bridge which does makes one want to do the Demon head and tail wag a bit.  “I’m Alive” is also a bit too much: we may enjoy it, but I would say it’s borderline at best. Score: 2 to 2.

CRAZY NIGHTS – Again, Gene’s output here is weak, but in terms of truly walking the plank, this is Paul’s baby and “My Way” and “Bang, Bang, You” are sub-par KISS cuts no matter how much gloss was added by Nevison. That said, they are over shadowed by the grim reality of Gene’s god-awful “No, No. No”….mercy.  Score: Paul 4, Gene 3.

HOT IN THE SHADE – Welcome to the jungle people, it’s thick in here with KISS near hits n’ misses but the two pigs that really stand out to me today, as they did upon first listen, are “Cadillac Dreams” (Bruce, you we’re so right!) and desperate abomination that was “Read My Body”. The rest is survivable though the chorus of “Love You To Hate Me” and irksome but I’ll let it slide lol.. Score: Paul 5, Gene 4

SMASHES, THRASHES & HITS – Then of course we have the Stanley womanizers  “Let’s Put The X In Sex” and “Rock Hard” but both tunes are catchy enough to escape banishment here I think. Since Gene contributed nothing here it’s hard to dock points. He was the only one of the two punching in at the office apparently.

In conclusion, sure Gene was AWOL and brought little to the table ‘unmasked’ that stands out today (save “Hell of High Water” and maybe “The Street Giveth” (Tommy Thayer take a bow)) but in the Demons wanderlust absence the Starchild birthed his own collection of 80’s muts.  That said, I cut him slack and offer a tip of the hat because did what had to do to get us all through the 80s, though a tad darkly at times.