KISStorian talks 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” > 

 

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Elder / Oasis anomaly discovered …who knew?

Hmmmm … “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” … Jagger was right, truth is stranger than fiction. Don’t look back in anger, The Elder is the Kiss fan’s “Wonderwall” but, really, it’s you who turns the light in to day.   IMAG0794-1-1 (1)

KISStorian discusses THE ELDER paradox

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Few bands have survived such a fall from grace. Somehow KISS’s The Elder managed to turn off almost everyone at once. It was the perfect KISStorm, a deadly concoction we’re lucky they survived and yet the album helps define KISS. I am going to go ‘full monty’ here so please indulge my ramblings ….in no particular order.

To start ….I give it a 7 out of 10 because there are some moments that transcend KISStory on every listen (since the first which, as most admit, left us all in a state of confusion). In hindsight, I like some of the lyrics, vibes, and the age-old ‘child-to-hero’ premise that mirrored Star Wars, but set in the dark ages in the case of The Elder. Knowing Gene & Paul way better now than then, I (almost) bought into it at the time but decided wisely around then to keep my continued fascination with KISS on the down-low. None of my coolest buddies could have given a fuck about the band at the time. Somehow in three years they had gone from the biggest band in the world to a side-show of sorts.

TScan0010he Elder seemed a grim omen too: KISS had really lost their way and needed a face lift. They probably should have taken the make up off then, but the lesson had to be learned to get to Creatures of The Night or Lick It Up.

The Elder costumes were rough and didn’t help matters for us as fans. Ace’s was the only cool one with Eric’s as nondescript close second. Gene looked almost human and Paul’s new ‘puffy jump suit with purple neck bobble would not have worked in any decade.  Paul’s new look was way worse than the record itself.

The Elder effectively killed the original KISS and I believe their decision to not put their faces on it anywhere, with new member Eric Carr, was a slight hedging of the bet by the band. Bold as the musical endeavor was, the band stopped short of giving it their full endorsement. Instead it looked like a children’s book; not cool.

They were in a hard spot …trying to get their old audience back somehow and yet appeal to a new audience, a more critical one. The album could have been better with a couple more rockers and less between track fluff. Fuck, they should have made it a double album and spent a little more time until they found a song to sell it with at least?

In any event, Ace was in bad shape and the only way he would play along, or show up, would be to do the tracking at his house, in his studio. Still didn’t work. Like Sir Paul (McCartney) saving the Beatles by convincing Lennon to be ‘not the Beatles’, Gene (and Paul to a lesser extent it seems) gravitated towards the idea and figured it was time for the band to get serious in order to shake off the sticky yoke of the poppy Unmasked .

220px-TheElderJapanCoverThe band had just put out two back to back records in which Ace had 3 cuts, all on the heels of the surprise success of his ’78 solo record. Sure, moving it to his place for recording is a giant concession to Ace but the concept and inclusion of Bob Ezrin (with whom he had had issues) was like bringing hell to Ace’s front door. In sales it’s called ‘chasing’ and it usually drives the customer away. And, as fucked up as he was, and already worried he would kill himself if he stayed on the road, it might have been a bit much of the guys to move forward at the time. At the end of the day, the same thing happened ironically: some of Ace’s guitar work and tracks were scrapped at the behest of Mr. Blackwell and Lord Ezrin, probably because communication broke down again leaving the boys to piece together an album with a flagging Ezrin.

Ace didn’t mind direction, but not when he didn’t believe in the album. He preferred being with a guy like Eddie Kramer where he could just be a guitarist and not challenged at every musical turn by a diverging and less than enthusiastic voice like Bob’s. Bob was, to be fair, in the Gene & Paul business in ’81 and was apparently at least as out of his mind as Frehley.  In fact, much reference to the fact is made by Paul when talking about Ezrin’s condition during The Elder as if he wasn’t doing his best work either but, by all reports, Sir Ezrin was equally coked-up during the session for Destroyer but still did a fine job in the ultimate ‘production’ of The Elder in terms of sound and performances.  What was lacking wasn’t him or the concept, it was a cohesive KISS with an engaged Frehley.

The-Elder-KissThey should have not gone forth with the project if they wanted to keep Ace and so, as smart as Gene & Paul are, I believe this was a psychological misfire that came as a result of the sheer stress the whole unit was under to continue or fold. Subconsciously perhaps Gene & Paul wanted to be left to their own devices and to be no longer at the whim of Frehley’s crumbling sanity but it seems they  unwittingly drove Ace from the band and almost sunk the ship. Maybe Gene’s vision involved some deception?

And so, yeah …Ace was right about The Elder being a bad idea and, even with Eric Carr with his back in the argument (whose vote didn’t count), he was outvoted …it appears now that manager Bill Aucoin was on the ‘outs’ with the band at the time. I believed he stayed on simply because he cared about them, didn’t want abandon them when the chips were down, and so went along with the titanic plan. Ultimately it’s the band trying to re-create the magic they had originally, especially with fans, by creating a magical record  …like “we still believe, do you?” It could have been a great album, but not with Ace being unwilling participant in what he thought was career suicide.

I believe The Elder could still have legs folks: KISS could put out The Elder: Part II now and it would have a bigger chance of critical acclaim than the original ….or finally put out a movie or cartoon using the material and story? The band could partner with someone to put out a video game based on The Elder. …do a Broadway or Vegas fantasy show based on it? …parlay the project into a ‘self-help’ life affirming thing by creating a new non-profit that, I don’t know, brings attention to real Elders with a story to share with youngsters?

The story of the epic failure of The Elder to re-ignite KISS’s career and reach a new, more critical audience teaches us not to stray too far from what we are, that timing is everything and that, if you fall, get up and try again.