CRAZY NIGHTS 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”.

 

 

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’.

 

Eric Carr saved KISS

cropped-scan0027-3.jpgMany KISStorians argue that Vinnie Vincent saved KISS but, any you way you slice it, it was ERIC CARR who saved KISS. The ride he took manning the drum fort on behalf of The KISS ARMY proves Carr was a true ‘Rock Soldier’ and, as The Elder would no doubt agree,  indeed ‘worthy of the fellowship’.

And as much as he gave it his all for KISS and their fans when playing live, Carr’s studio work is what makes him “King Of The Mountain” as savior of the band. Shit, take any track off Creatures Of The Night —  It’s Bonham meets the Demon & The Starchild and it sounds invincible! Even when KISS went soft rock on Crazy Nights, Carr remained heavy. He also wrote, sang, played bass, and made arrangement contributions on KISS material throughout his tenure with the band.

Even when the KISS experience soured for Carr personally, he never let it affect his level of devotion to the fans. He never, ever sucked. He was a pros pro and, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys on the planet.  His only fault may have been that his heart was a big as his bass drum and he wore it on his sleeve. So be it, amen Eric.

Anyway, I moved recently and found this:  my angry letter to Rolling Stone for ignoring his career.  I  share it with you on the Anniversary of his passing to give thanks to Eric for hanging tough when everyone else was jumping ship, Vincent included.

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Trunk gets Punked

tumblr_nzu0pvkbgi1sqa46ho1_500I just listened to Eddie’s rant about KISS manager / mogul Doc McGhee cancelling for Trunk’s show last-minute compliments of Metalfavs and left this unprecedentedly long comment  sharing my take on the YouTube.  And I don’t mean to pile on ‘cuz I do love Eddie; we all do. But, as Elton once said ” It’s a sad, sad situation. And it’s getting more and more absurd. It’s sad, so sad. Why can’t we talk it over?”

“as a long time music biz guy, the issue Eddie is having is that, as much as I am a fan of both he and KISS, Eddie wants it both ways. He gets to interact with artist as a media player and also wants to be friends with everyone in the band, and them all to allow whatever he says (on air).

By becoming an Ace & Peter mouth piece he broke showbiz protocol by getting as they say “too close to the artist”. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship without that, but Eddie needs more apparently? He has to be the #1 Kiss fan of all-time (and literally may be) but thinks that allows him to act differently than other media members do with artists, at least most successful ones.

Asking Paul to talk things out, and airing that out every chance he gets, is beyond the pale. Also, sharing Gene’s candid admissions on the subject is again a breach of that long-established understanding between artist and media. Same as with promoters. Grudges are bad business as a rule and space is at a premium. Ever heard the phrase “Are we on the record or off the record Eddie?”. That line, with Eddie, is blurred, and a bit embarrassing.

I can understand why Eddie feels he can do this because he was also in the real-deal actual record biz once as well as his being a long (suffering) supporter of all things KISS behind the scenes. But, I gotta tell ya, it’s not insane at all — It’s called showbiz and the first rule you learn coming up is know your role, who the star is and take only what you graciously get. But, to be fair, in KISStoric terms and others, Eddie’s had a charmed life it’s clear and has ‘Great Expectations’ by & large.

Eddie wonder’s aloud “what distorted information” Paul is acting on. He even regrets not knowing what is going on in Paul’s head day-to-day and yet has amnesia about dozens of interviews with Ace and Peter in which he has continually taken (their) sides and (worse) called in to question both Paul & Gene’s ethics.

I don’t want to sound like a KISStoric cynic but my guess is Doc was gonna cancel all along because he, and everyone in the KISS camp, knew Eddie was on a quest — damn it, he was gonna ask Doc “dude, man …what’s Paul’s issue with me man?”.

Goes to show there’s no business like showbiz! Nicely played Doc; Eddie’s been Stumped and now he’s been Punked!

FREHLEY shares true ‘Origins’ @ HOB Chicago

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Since the dawn of civilization people have made pilgrimages to pay homage to their Gods and gather with the tribe. That is the feeling before, during and after an Ace Frehley concert. You’re back in the ‘New York Groove’ and in your rock & roll happy place (space) with Ace at the controls.

Such was the case a couple of weeks back when Ace made an earthly appearance at House of Blues here in Chicago. Night orbits with Ace over the years in the Chi have been bumpy rides at times (Avalon, Cubby Bear, China Club, Dome Room) but I am happy to report that Ace’s head, band, and space are in a great trajectory at present, no matter how semi-dazed & confused the captain may be from the excesses of rock & roll.

What struck me about this show is that Ace really did take a deep dive into his true ‘Origins’ by choosing to do the stuff I think he is most comfortable playing, perhaps enjoys most. It was basically a few key Frehley solo cuts, a couple covers off the newbie ‘Origins’, several non-Ace KISS tunes and then of course the core Frehley-penned KISS classics delivered with renewed zest & love. A set of KISStoric Ace ‘feel goods’.

ace_hob52016’s stellar incarnation of ‘the Ace Frehley Band’ may in fact be Ace’s best live line-up ever. The addition of rock cosmonaut Chris Wyse on bass is nothing short of an Ace masterstroke. (Great bass solo Chris!) With Wyse’s well-honed hammer, drummer Scot Coogan‘s old school pocket, guitarist Richie Scarlet‘s razor rhythm attack and Frehley running the Les Paul warp drive, the band delivered cool grooves, cosmically faithful renderings and good vibrations all the way from Jendell!

A Tip of the Chicago Firehouse hats to hometown boy Coogan for kicking ass on every level required to do Ace proud. I get the sense now several years in that Scot may be the band leader in a sense. If  he’s not, he’s certainly the a heart & soul Rock Soldier that the KISS Army  need thank for his considerable tour of duty.

ace_hob2There were some fun moments during the show too. A couple of times we caught Ace watching co-guitarist Scarlet and being amused by the ‘Emperor of Rock’s’ mega antics stage left. For one thing, Scarlet has discovered a new move in which he whips his guitar with his scarf instead of picking it LOL.. During “Rock Soldiers”, Ace noticed ironically that his “old buddy Richie” was now rocking out stage right at the perfect time for Frehley to point at Scarlet when he sang the song’s lyric “and Satan on my right” laughing after he did so. Richie also took the liberty, while visiting the ‘windy city’, of dedicating “Bad Boys Are Comings” off Trouble Walkin’ to “Mr. Alfonso Capone”.

img_4857Early in the show, like four songs in, Ace wandered back to the kit between songs and was talking to drummer Scot Coogan when people starting yelling “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!”. Eventually Frehley returned to the mic and said calmly “hey …I didn’t go anywhere?”

img_4821For the intro to “Shock Me” Ace inquired “Who do you thinks gonna win? ….Hillary or Trump?”  He paused for comic effect and then said ‘”Who Fucking Cares!!! … nothing would SHOCK ME!!!”

At one point Ace asked us, very subdued, “Is it loud enough? …. yeah? … why not make it louder?” He then brought us all on back home, back to ’74, when he shared a revelation of sorts before going in to “Parasite”. Oh what a cool moment it was when Ace informed us that he had written the song about “this girl that used to follow KISS around from city to city” and oh to meet that girl with the ‘Parasite Eyes’.

Ace is one of the few rock icon who has never changed his true stripes or sold out. Masked, unmasked, loaded, sober or otherwise, Frehley is a ‘National Treasure’. To me Ace is the American personification of Jimmy Page meets Keith Richards. When it comes to KISStory, you can never count Ace out, no matter what hand he’s holding.

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KISS Milwaukee Magical Mystery Tour

A splendid time was guaranteed for all …always has been KISSs charge: to deliver the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ and bang for the buck, even when it wasn’t in the budget you know?

Step right up to KISS’s ongoing 40-year, often magical mystery tour of mother earth, circa 2016. Yes,  roll up for the Freedom To Rock Tour, it’s an invitation.  KISS are a visual treat but they have now also become, like it or not, a downright heartwarming rock & roll celebration and they gave a lot of renewed love to the presentation of this show, on every level.

Beyond the amazing lighting, lasers, screen graphics, smoke & bombs, it was the best sound I have ever heard at an in-door KISS show, but we were directly next to the sound board (on purpose).  They were not as loud as usual, and that worked as far as I’m concerned. Everything was distinct, damn right warm in fact. It was a rich sound.

A quick, but needed, tip of the Firehouse hat to MVP Tommy Thayer for having now settled in so nicely in to his Spaceman boots. I thought he really brought more of his own feel than ever before to the signature Ace solos and let it all hang out for the majesty of rock. His tone, timing and vibe were really nice and, along with Eric Singer, the two have become the bedrock of KISS in ways that Ace & Peter once were. To me, after last night, they are KISS, not impostors as once feared. I guess I’m back in the New York Groove after all?

Anyway, I’m still digesting some of the cool new wrinkles and the many magic KISStoric moments from last nights show but here are some pix from The Bradley Center in Milwaukee !

The amplifiers start to hum …the carnival has just begun …you’re in the Psycho Circus!

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KISStorian podcast #1 w/ PHAT KISS

PhatKissMy first podcast is with Jon Baumann (aka Stan Pauley) of Chicago’s PHAT KISS to talk amps, ramps, tramps, inception and food, now live on SPREAKER!  Join the Phat fray with Stan and the lads! PHAT KISS on Facebook IMG_3845