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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KISStorian ranks the ‘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.

 

 

 

 

KISStoric time travel now possible!

KISS Time Machine4Sources close to KISStorian.com are reporting that Abner Devereaux is back to his old tricks and has been working feverishly on a machine in which he will be able to travel back in KISStory!! Long exiled for his transgressions at Magic Mountain, it is now feared that he may make good on his promise to “derail this Psycho Circus whatever it takes”. I hereby implore the KISStoric Galactic Council as well as our friends at KISS Army Alpha Minor (and all their affiliates) to hear ‘n take heed of this very real ‘Abner Alert’. I have a few coordinates of my own I wouldn’t mind punching into Abner’s fantastic machine:

kiss-portrait-1977-photo-GCJanuary ??, 1973 > Oh to time traveler back to the first time all four original KISS founders jammed together when Ace Frehley auditioned for the band.  Imagine hearing “Deuce” with Bob Kulick on lead and watching a spaced Frehley, in two different colored sneakers, walk over nonchalantly and plug-in mid-song to the dismay of Gene & Paul. “Sorry curly” Ace was reported to have said when rebuffed by the even-then domineering Simmons. In No Regrets Ace admits he chugged a couple tall boys before venturing in to try out for the role of “guitarist with flash and balls”.  Good thing Abner has been unable thus far to intervene via his time machine and introduce a Bob Kulick clone with long hair for it may alter KISStory forever …AWK!!

o_kiss-live-1983-san-francisco-creatures-tour-cd-r-7774April 3rd, 1983 > Ah, the last date of KISS’s ’10th Anniversary Tour’ in support of Creatures Of The Night with the new line-up and, most notably, no Ace Frehley on lead (despite his being on the album cover). Given the poor attendance of the tour and tepid sales of the record, it would be interesting to check-in on the vibe backstage after the show in San Francisco that night. Sure, KISStory tells us that they would still play a few South American dates in their face paint before their true unmasking on Lick It Up but this Creatures US jaunt was almost curtains for the band. Simply have Abner flip a switch and this might have been the last KISS concert ever, in the US or anywhere. San Fran was no treat for the Sex Pistols either who played their final show there in January of ’78. Pretty vacant.

thNovember 27, 1984 > What a long strange trip it’s been …. especially in the Animalize portion of KISStory with when KISS briefly had two lead guitarists in the late great Mark St. John & now long-time KISS’r, Bruce Kulick.  This evening in Baltimore seems a little like an alternate KISS universe. It was the night that both Kulick & St. John played with the band, ultimately joining each other together on stage to take the encore bows with Gene, Paul & Eric ….as a 5-piece!!!! Whether there were actually 5 KISS members playing on stage together at the same time at any point seems highly unlikely but, if you were there, please set us straight dude!. It’s reported that St. John only played three nights stateside before being ultimately let go. This would have been the last of those three and apparently enough pudding for Gene & Paul to make a decision. Foiled again, Abner.

2d37aeddcabbcda78b86599bd82e2ab7March 8th, 1985 > Ace’s first show after KISS with Frehley’s Comet at the L’Amour Club in Brooklyn. The bootleg was a childhood prized possession I got on cassette by mail from the New England Kiss Collectors Network back in the day. I love when Ace says “like dig it man ….it’s like such a ….great pleasure …to play for you people … I haven’t been on stage in years … it’s the fucking worst!! … but the reception I’m getting from you people just makes it all that much better” .. early Comet, before the album, with Richie and Arthur and Anton and John. A hot night for rock & roll. The energy in the room may have been enough for Abner to defect and become a ‘Rock Soldier’ …or did he spike Ace’s drink?

March 30th, 1986 > I was actually at this show, but wouldn’t mind going back! No sign of Abner, but we felt his presence as there was a snake there that night (but it was opener King Kobra). This was the night on the Asylum Tour that KISS played Hammond, Indiana. Only problem was it was Easter Sunday and local Church officials rallied to protest the show and all things KISS. Me and my bro tried to talk to a few of the ‘church elders’ about our ‘KISS Elders’ but they weren’t having it. KISS was, as they put, “what’s wrong with America”. Abner’s sentiments exactly.  The universe handed me a free photo pass that night so, had I seen Abner backstage, he would have been a goner or at least questioned severely … “okay, Abner, what are you doing in Hammond man?”

It’s no wonder Abner wants to go back in KISStory: he may be the only one among us who could accurately see the future; a KISS with no original members.

VINNIE VINCENT, KISS Army defector?

vinnie_83_01_lgIn fact, he was never even in the band (save performances, recordings and songs), let alone a ‘fan’ if you get my drift. Through years of futile legal wrangling with his masters (KISS) for alleged royalties due, we had long known that Vinnie Vincent never signed his contract with KISS. But, in a recent episode of the perennial KISS-podcast ‘Three Sides of The Coin’, former New England drummer Hirsh Garner added some long-needed color to the murky period in KISStory by dropping a bomb shell: Gene Simmons & Vincent were still talking after the Lick It Up Tour and that, if his memory serves him, Simmons was negotiating to keep Vinnie in the line-up?! OMG!!

I am not alone in KISS country when I say that we had always been led to believe that Vincent was fired (or since he wasn’t actually on the books, “let go”) immediately after the Lick It Up tour. It had been, to hear KISS co-founders Gene & Paul Stanley tell it, a unanimous decision, he had to go …but apparently that was not the case, not initially anyway. In KISStoric terms, this is nothing short of revelation for, on the 8th day, it appears Vinnie still had at least one of the two KISS leaders ears in the Demon; Gene Simmons.

Who knows if Stanley was even in on this conversation? Knowing what we do about the cunning head-strong Simmons, it’s entirely possible he sought to right the ship mono-e-mono, get Vinnie on board, and then reach out to Sir Paul with the (tempered) good news that the shrew had in fact been tamed. But, of course, it’s entirely possible also that Paul was in on the convo and told Gene something along the lines of “if you can get him in line, have him sign the deal, and I don’t have to deal with him moving forward ….I’ll give him a final chance with the new record and see how that goes, otherwise I am done with Vinnie”.

GeneVVEither way, it’s now clear Vincent must have put quite a strain on the already flagging relationship sans make-up between the Starchild and Demon. Chances are Gene & Paul were not on the same page because, after Vincent left, Gene went semi-MIA for Animilizeleaving Paul to teach guitarist Mark St. John how to hit a mark and then cobble together the album on his own while Gene chased dragons in LA and beyond.

And who knows where Gene’s head was as he sat on the phone with a now AWOL Vincent who was cutting new songs with members of New England? It’s possible Gene was considering cashing in his chips on KISS entirely if he couldn’t get Vinnie to stay. It would of course have been a betrayal of KISStoric proportions that would have weighed heavy on his mind at the time. Sure, LIU had been a success on several levels, but another change at lead guitar? when they had just re-invented the band and brand and saved their (the) Elder worn hides by finally unmasking?  The fact is half the KISS Army had already defected long ago, and new, more fickle MTV generation fans wouldn’t actually care who was on lead in KISS on Animailize. Still, must have been a serious concern ….. jeez, how we gonna spin this one?

VinnieVincent065It’s also possible that Gene just wanted a few of Vinnie’s tunes for the next record, as a compromise deal if Vincent was in fact leaving. Vinnie had significantly updated their sound and Gene may have come to believe they really needed him. For all we know Gene threatened him with his royalties as the ante? In any event, both he and Stanley had leaned on Vinnie hard for tunes on Creatures of The Night as well as Lick It Up. Heck, they would even bring him back in to the fold again to co-write on the bounce back Revenge in ’92. See, Vinnie wasn’t in KISS but, for all intents and purposes, strangely was KISS in 1983. It must have been a scary time. I believe Gene feared the worst; that losing VV would be their death knell.

Almost unbelievable to learn now that Vincent wasn’t so much involuntarily discharged from the KISS Army as he was a defector. He had had a choice and what fascinates me most is where his head was at the time, or all along. Thanks to Gardners’ inadvertent revelation, it now seems to me that from the very start Vincent simply saw KISS as his ticket. When he got involved with the band circa-Creatures he saw a sinking ship. He would use what wind was left in their sales to gain personal notoriety and, once he had destroyed the Simmons / Stanley alliance from within, leave KISS in smouldering ruins as the sole survivor to launch the insane vision that would become the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, a telling moniker in hindsight. He probably felt he had saved the band and, my best guess is, may have pushed for equal partnership and it backfired? In any event, he thought he could play Gene & Paul off against each other and ultimately hold them for ransom, and it almost worked. Were it not for cooler heads, KISS might literally have been KISStory because, with Vincent, it seems Armageddon was just a matter of time …plus, everyone knows, three’s a crowd. But don’t listen to me, Vinnie gives us the finer points in this interview from ’86 …”the common denominator” > 

 

LIU promo shot from England

I bought this in some record store in London, England in ’85. It’s an ANABAS (Magazine) promo shot that looks like it was taken pre-show at one of KISS’s October dates in England in 1983 when they kicked off the LIU tour overseas as a KISStorically smart ‘hedged bet’. Gene & Paul were determined to not repeat the disaster state-side that the Creatures of The Night / 10th Anniversary Tour was for the lads. Starting in Europe gave them time to not only get comfortable in their own skin live but to wait for LIU to take hold at MTV and on radio in the US. On what must have seemed a lot like The 8th Day or worse, KISS was rising from the rock & roll dead.LIUpromo

 

a KISStorian reflects on Houston ’77 (2nd Night)

cropped-imag02032.jpgIt’s definitely the first live video boot I saw of the band from ’77.  We had gotten a copy of it after going to a KISS convention in Chicago in like ’86. We ended up going to this girls house afterwards to burn a copy of it in exchange for my red vinyl original pressing of Love Gun, also from ’77. And why not? We now had KISS live on video at their most mega-zenith. My bro and I felt it was the ‘Holy Grail’ of all KISSdom and, in some ways, it really still is. That’s why it was featured in KISSOLOGY and, before that, on KISS Exposed.  It’s pro-shot and they kick major ass throughout. Plus, it’s easily KISS’s best ’70’s stage set. They do not look or sound like any one on earth then or since. It is a rock & roll freak show that proves they are some of the greatest entertainers of all-time.

I didn’t see KISS live until they unmasked for real on the Lick It Up Tour. In ’77, I was only eleven and a KISS concert was not in the cards, though I would get riled up when I heard the “KISS!!!!……LIVE AT THE AMPLITHEATER!!!” ads on the radio. I never even asked to go. I instinctively knew it was out of the question. That is how cool KISS was in ’77 – I wasn’t worthy.

Gene’s performance on this show is nothing short of astounding on every level: musicianship, focus, theatrics, vocals, gravitas. Gene rarely misses a moment to shine when the camera is rolling and Houston ’77 is quintessential, must-see Simmons. I can’t say I have ever seen him more convincing as the Demon. His performance is the grizzly photo of Gene on the back of Alive II brought to ghoulish rock & roll life. No one in the band can compete with Gene for sheer spectacle and by ’77 it had been he had been whipped up into a bloody froth. Theatrics aside, I don’t think he misses a note on bass all show and, vocally, sounds literally possessed. During his solo he climbs on a hydraulic lift and ascends for the most whack sounding blood-letting in all KISStory. He never breaks character: even between songs, just off mic, you can hear him and he is 100% Demon.

Ace is on fire here (if a little forgetful on some chord changes) but remarkably in command of his sound and guitar considering whatever heady mix of booze and drugs he was on at the time. It suits him, or did then anyway. Man …..seeing KISS live in ’77, and witnessing Ace’s guitar solo, could have only left jaws agape. He’s as cool as the other side of the pillow, ripping through solo after solo as if he is God’s gift to rock & roll. One forgets what an incredible stage presence Ace had back then but watching this show again it’s obvious that Ace is, in a word, electric and (quite possibly)”DOWN TO THE BARE WIRE!” Some say he was his best on the Dressed To Kill tour, but I believe this Love Gun tour footage shows him, and the band, at the topper most of their poppermost. Side-note: Ace has a boo-boo on his left hand pointer finger and is wearing a band-aid. Wonder what sort of hi-jinx led to his injury?

Peter sings and plays great throughout this show even if he can be heard between songs asking his drum tech for cocktails and who knows what else. “Whaddawee Got??!!” His lead vocal on “Hooligan”, and some of the screams he pulls off, make it clear he is by far the best natural singer in the band. When Paul returns to the mic to sing lead he sounds almost hackish in comparison. There is stuff that Peter can do with his voice that no one on earth can duplicate. His drums solo here is also one of his best on vid. Later on in the show happy Pete gets a fit of giggles that eventually spreads to Ace and then even Paul. I get the feeling they were all laughing about Gene’s singing which was so over the top at times anyone would be insane not to see the funny side of it from time to time (especially if you’re hearing it blaring through your monitor 3 or 4 times a week (and you’re high!)). Side-note: Peter likes to say “Mommy” when testing his mic throughout.

Surprisingly, Paul comes off a little bit like the weak link in the band here. I know he wasn’t because he wrote the best tunes but, I’m just sayin’, Houston ’77 shows Paul as a bit of a work in progress. By the time the 80’s came around I believe he had become twice the front-man he was here in ’77, largely because he had to. Sans make-up, KISS became the Paul Stanley band, but back in ’77 they were a four-wheel drive beast. Each man competed for the audience’s attention fairly equally. And sure, Paul holds down the fort nicely but comes off to me as a little uncomfortable at times in comparison to later on in his career. Plus, I don’t believe this is his best night on vocals to be fair (though the between song raps stand as definitive Paul Stanley). “HOW YOU DOIN’ HOUSTON?”