KISStorian’s 10 worst KISS songs

Behold, the ying ‘n yang of KISS; the clunkers that have become the KISS Army’s crosses to bear. Sure, there are others that deserve mention but these each have enduring cringe-worthy moments that are hard to shake. I spared the boyz their solo efforts out of respect for all that is humane. What are your ten worst?

“LONELY IS THE HUNTER” (Animailze)  I too get a cold KISS reading (ha-ha, ooh-yeah!). So you’re my one and only AND lonely is the hunter?

“NO, NO, NO” (Crazy Nights)  ‘Nuff KISS stuff said …please stand down, Demon.

“BANG BANG YOU” (Crazy Nights)  Paul plays the KISS villain where loves a crime, like this KISS chorus.

“MY WAY” (Crazy Nights)  See, again, in the KISS danger zone (IE with Nevison behind the board) it’s a fucking jagged edge we climb people.

“CADILLAC DREAMS” (Hot In The Shade)  A cool KISS concept but a lousy KISS ride.

“KING OF HEARTS ” (Hot In The Shade)  I do get KISS happy feet in the verses like with most Stanley numbers but this chorus is a bridge to far.

“TOUGH LOVE” (Revenge) “KISS hot-line, hello? I’m sorry …you were calling Dr. Strangelove or Dr. Feelgood?”

“EVERY TIME I LOOK AT YOU” (Revenge)  To me this is KISS Kryptonite and with it, no powers.

“YOU WANTED THE BEST” (Psycho Circus)  An Ill-conceived farce of a KISS song only just saved by Ace’s guitar.

“NEVER ENOUGH” (Sonic Boom)  A very good KISS album without this damning ode to, of all posers, Poison.

 

 

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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 reviews NOTHIN’ TO LOSE: The Making of KISS

NothinToLoseBetter late than never …I just finished reading Nothin’ To Lose: The Making of KISS (1972 – 1975) and want to congratulate Ken Sharp as well as Gene & Paul for transporting us back in time for one helluva rock & roll party!! …the early days of KISS. Not only is it a telling chronicle of the core dynamic of the original KISS line-up but one of the best books ever compiled on the concert & radio promotion business in the 70’s. With so many grass-roots stories and quotes from other rockers on the circuit with KISS at the time, I reckon it’s a book any rock fan would dig and hereby KISStorically proclaim it an essential rock classic!

KISS74.94As a KISS fan, it has completely re-invigorated my passion for the band as well as my respect for what it took for them to make it. It was an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ proposition; sink or swim. KISS stood tall, undaunted by bad press, poor radio reception, luke-warm record sales. continuous logistical touring nightmares ‘n snafus and ultimately Warner Brothers’ lack of love in supporting the band. As Paul might concur: “Don’t mean shit, I don’t care!” because that was KISS’s attitude. They had fans, with them the rest didn’t matter. A volunteer army was amassing in the jean-clad smokey high school hallways of the Midwest. The word was getting out …”YOU GOTTA SEE KISS!”

KISS-image-kiss-36780664-500-363Behind the scenes though it’s clear the first KISS Army was the bands initial road crew. Those guys deserve to be knighted by The Elder, and this book does that, finally. It’s riveting stuff and you get it all from every perspective: nuggets from the band, the crew, the promoters, the management, the radio guys, the label suits, the producers, the engineers, and even just plain old friends of the band.

This rich tapestry of reflection is also refreshingly candid by KISS standards. This book is not a PR statement, it’s a historical document. As one surveys KISStory from 2016, bloated as it may feel at times, there is no denying that in the early days they were “The Hottest Band In All The Land!” As you peel through the pages you find yourself going into the void and ‘reelin in the years in a van with the band, deciding you were ‘it’ because you had nothin’ to lose. This book proves why we are talking about them today: KISS was irresistible.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!