KISStorian finds no BOWIE, no KISS

ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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KISSorian’s ode to LEMMY & GARY RICHRATH

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.

GRI 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 Live_You_Get_What_You_Play_ForGary 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 Lemmy copyother 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!

Animalize Wembley ’84

IMAG0249I bought this bootleg in London in 1986 and its a live recording from Wembley Arena December 14th, 1984. Fairly grim sound at moments but earphones on and the volume up helps quite a bit (duh). All n’ all they sound tight and Animalize spastic good. My bro and I refer to the speed at which they played on the Animalize tour as “habitrail mode” because it’s as if they had been set loose in a new habitat, running up and down ramps etc. like revved up guinea pigs on a mission to make the best of their ‘environment’. Both Gene & Paul are in strong throat though and singing with considerable gusto. Highlights include the intro with English Police sirens going off, a spirited “Detroit Rock City” as the opener, a Gene growl during “Cold Gin” that recalls the real Demon circa ’77 and a jaw-dropping (albeit shortish) version of “Whole Lotta Love” worth hunting down people.  I don’t think Paul has ever sung it better. As the song ends, Paul screams out jubilantly ‘SEE YA TOMORROW!” It’s very rock & roll.

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