@

I just finished writing a book filled with suicide, psychosis and the elusive meaning of life.  I turned it in and spent three solid weeks lying on my living floor, watching old metal videos and trying to untangle my brain.

My writer sort-of-mentor friend called while Judas Priest was ripping through “Diamonds & Rust”.

“Did you know that for at least one night in Memphis, K.K. Downing was the King of Rock and Roll?” I said when I picked up the phone.

“What?” she said.

“Never mind,” I told her, stabbing the TV mute.

“So you’re working on your next book, right?” she asked.

“Um, sure.”

“Let’s hear it.  What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking about the way it feels to watch a fifty-six year old Angus Young duckwalk strut and break into a run while scratching out the lick to “Girl’s Got Rhythm”.  About Gene Simmons, forty years into the game, still breathing fire and screaming: “Get up!!!  And get your grandma outta here….”

“Gene Simmons,” she said.

“And wondering what Lick It Up might have sounded like if Alex and Eddie Van Halen had joined KISS when Ace and Peter broke away.”

“Thinking about KISS,” she said.

“Well, mostly KISS,” I confessed. “But lately I’ve been concocting this theory of how Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt is a modern-day take on the Book of Ecclesiastes0.”

“Mötley Crüe’s life is like the Bible… OK.”

“Listen to this: I said in mine heart, I will test thee with pleasure and mirth and behold – dude — this also is vanity.  Ecclesiastes 2:1.  That’s like, the whole theme of The Dirt right there.”

There was static on the line then a pause. “Good luck selling that proposal,” she said. “Look, maybe you should just do one of your interviews or something first?”

*

As children we were told that rock and roll would rot our souls.  My parents suggested my fascination with Ace Frehley and Skid Row was “just a phase”.  But I grew up on a steady diet of Dio and Jesus, the philosophies of Nietzsche and Nikki Sixx, Paul Stanley raps running through my brain as I became, among other things, a licensed psychotherapist, college professor and outreach minister at the largest per-capita church in America. (Albeit, one with a picture of Lemmy at the Last Supper hanging over his office couch.)

As a therapist I quoted Axl Rose1, in the classroom I spoke of parallels between Poison lyrics and the great books of Wisdom.  Even as a preacher I argued that Ozzy and Bon Scott just might be modern-day prophets… and here I am now, trying to find a way to work it all together for the good, somewhere between a little too deep and far too sixteen.

Lady Mentor was right.  I need to talk to someöne who ünderstands.  There’s this one metalhead writer whose books have been a great encouragement to me.  An author who is well-respected even though he pens critical essays on topics like Bang Tango and Saved by the Bell.  Who was once called:

“The only guy in the world able to make academic arguments for KISS and Mötley Crüe.”

And he said about himself:

“I probably thought about KISS and Mötley Crüe more than anyone else in America.”

I’ve worked with his publicist a time or two – so why not?  I shoot her an email.

I want to do a piece where we talk about nothing but KISS and Mötley Crüe.

Within five minutes she replies.  Chuck is excited!

Just after that a message comes back from Mr. Klosterman himself:  When can we do this?

 

 

JMB:  KISS and Mötley Crüe.  Nothing else.  You ready?

Chuck Klosterman:  Wow.  Where’s this going to run?

 

JMB:  The Nervous Breakdown.  Based out of L.A.   Started TNB Music awhile back and the guy who heads it up works with Metal Hammer and Classic Rock Magazines.

CK:  Ohhh yeah.

 

JMB:  We’ve featured Zakk Wylde, Jim Dandy, Michael Anthony, Chuck D from Public Enemy.  Did a great piece with Duff McKagen.

CK:  Cool, very cool.

 

JMB:  But we can’t talk about Van Halen or G N’R today.  Just KISS and Mötley Crüe.

CK:  Ah, got it.

 

JMB:  I was wondering how to prepare because you’re gonna be making all those witty insights and I’ll be like, Dude, Creatures of the Night was awwwesome….

CK:  It is kind of nerve-racking because this is something I’m supposed to know everything about so the pressure is on me not to seem like a dilettante.

 

JMB:  Well, I slept ‘til noon and ate two bowls of Captain Crunch2 while listening to Rock and Roll Over.

CK:  You seem perfectly prepared.  I just had some General TSO chicken and I’m pacing around my apartment.  I’m ready.

 

JMB:  How did you discover KISS?

CK:  I got into KISS around second grade as a visually interesting, weird thing.  I had seen Phantom of the Park 3 but didn’t have any of the records.  Kids would play KISS at recess.  I was from North Dakota so if you were wearing snow boots, they were Ace Frehley boots.  Then I wasn’t interested in the band at all until about sixth grade when my brother-in-law gave me the cassette of Animalize.  He was in the Columbia House Record Club and forgot to send the card back.  I got Lick it Up next and then all the old albums.

 

JMB:  How did the makeup-era hold up after “Heaven’s on Fire”?

CK:  I immediately loved them.  DestroyerLove Gun.  The first record.  I really liked the live version of “Ladies Room” from Alive II.  The studio version sounded thin to me although now I probably like it more.  I mean, yeah, I first noticed KISS because they looked like superheroes but the reason I got obsessed was musical.  Which my rock critic friends don’t seem to believe.  They are constantly accusing me of pretending to like the music of KISS more than I do.  But I really do!  I like how they play behind the beat a little bit.  The straightforward melodic action.  I like the stylized lyrics, the way they almost seem like — in a good way — caricatures of what rock songs are about.

 

JMB:  First time I saw KISS was around second or third grade too.  I went to a K-12 school out in the sticks and there was this senior named Tony Gillot who had a full mustache and Greg Allman hair.  He wore a purple FFA jacket and used to work on his Monte Carlo in the school auto shop during lunch.  One day he pulled Alive II from under the seat and handed it to me like, Check this out, little man but smudge or bend it and I’ll beat your ass…. I sat against the shade tree and stared at that gatefold for forty-five minutes.  Nothing in life was ever the same after that.

CK:  That guy must have been bad-ass because a Monte Carlo was by far the coolest car of that era.

 

JMB:  Not long after, my aunt took me to the TG&Y and I bought my first KISS record and they sounded exactly like they looked.  Like black and silver and bombs and blood and comic book rock and roll.  That’s still brilliance to me.

CK:  Comic books are one of the few geeky things I have no relationship with.  I know KISS is closely associated with comic books4 and I own all the KISS comics even though I don’t really look at them.  Along with Phantom of the Park, the other formative exposure I had was this episode of 20/20, the one with Hugh Downs?

 

JMB:  I think I saw that on a bootleg comp…

CK:  I remember it so vividly I can tell you the first two stories were about the grain embargo due to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan and the other was on the MX tank.  Which was like the first really fast tank.  The third was KISS.  What stands out is Paul Stanley opening a suitcase full of money.  Which I assumed was staged for the show.  I can’t believe KISS was regularly paid with suitcases full of cash.  I was also confused by Paul’s interview where he basically says: This is my dream.  My whole life.  To have long hair, to wear makeup and be a rock star.  It had never occurred to me that anyone would have that as a career dream.  I was still young enough not to think anyone would aspire to be KISS.  KISS is a self-created entity, an extension of what these guys wanted to live like.  I’m sure I didn’t think about it that way when I was seven years old but I think about it a lot now.

 

(From ABC’s 20/20, 1979)

“If you listen closely to their music, it’s all dissonance, explosions and moaning. (rolls eyes)  Which perfectly surmises the adolescent experience.” — Charles M. Young, associate editor, Rolling Stone

“I never wanted to be a cab driver.  Never wanted to be an accountant.  I wanted to be beautiful.  Have long hair. (pucker, floofs curls) Be eternally young.  That’s me.” – Paul Stanley

 

JMB:  I remember hearing Gene say, You can be whoever you want to be.  Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or what you can’t do.  For a kid with a young single mother, living in a one-horse town — where the best you could hope for was a high school diploma and a job at the mill — that message combined with the music and the look, was incredibly empowering.  If I saw Gene today, I’d have to say, “Whatever else you did or didn’t achieve, your message helped me.” Then we’d hug and I’d say, “So please stop making KISS toilet paper.”

CK:  I don’t know what impact KISS had on how I view life.  It’s probably either much more or much less that I think.  Over and over, particularly in the 80s, they are forwarding the idea that KISS fans are being persecuted and that people are trying to stop us from liking KISS.  And that’s a brilliant aesthetic vision for the band.  It’s something that never technically happens – and yet as one moves into the world of pop music and becomes more intelligent – I have to say that it’s true.  People are often trying to convince me that KISS is terrible.  Or that when I say I love KISS — I’m actually pretending.  Or that if you like KISS, somehow you are only trying to rediscover your childhood.  I just believe that of all the bands to think about, KISS is by far the most fun.

 

JMB:  That’s a good point.  Fun is a perfectly sound defense.  KISS may not be as musically astute as Genesis but they sure are a lot more fun to think about.

CK:  I came in after the makeup years so for me, discovering the Love Gun Tour was like learning about the moon landing.  Extremely cool and super-interesting and I wanted to know everything about it.  I’ve bought every cassette, CD, LP, the box sets…  I think I have purchased “Rock and Roll All Night” something like – nineteen times so far.  That being said, I enjoy buying KISS stuff.  If I heard that all of the records were being remastered by some sort of new sound technique — like these new Neil Young LPs – I would be excited about purchasing them again.  They give fans a lot to do without actually doing anything.  I can enjoy KISS even when I’m sitting in a totally quiet room.

 

JMB:  In my early twenties I was in grad school for Behavioral Psych and would sit in the back of class drawing band logos on my notebook and weaving personality theories into the rise and fall of KISS.

CK:  Intriguing….

 

JMB:  I figured the downfall of KISS was two events.  First, Peter’s “Beth” is the band’s only number one smash.  Second, Ace Frehley smokes Paul and Gene with his solo LP.   Not even close.  When you empower the underdog, good things can happen if the alpha dog’s ego is secure.  If the underdog is supported and encouraged with good boundaries the team as a whole can rise to new heights because everybody is at their best.  Theoretically, Dynasty should have been KISS’s strongest release.  But it wasn’t.  Because I don’t think Paul and Gene could handle humility and apparently Peter and Ace couldn’t handle success. 

CK:  So wait — when we talk about the downfall of KISS – what are we talking about?  When the original four splintered or when they hit a low point creatively?

 

JMB:  For conversation’s sake let’s say towards the end of Dynasty tour when nobody’s talking to each other, they’re telling elaborate lies to the fans and straying into this sort of almost Dr. Hook-ish5 disco-y music that today we might call Yacht Rock.

CK:  I kinda like all the KISS records and the ones that are perceived as the worst are often the most interesting to me.  I think this happens a lot to people who are obsessive about groups.  I really like The Elder and UnmaskedCrazy Nights.  Records that most people would say were failures.

 

JMB:  Maybe the Dynasty through Creatures era was a downfall and saving grace.  It was a low point creatively and financially but those same egos were damned and determined to rise again.  If it wasn’t for that period, I think KISS may not still be around today.  That time is interesting to me because you grow up and think, how do you go from “I Stole Your Love” to “Sure Know Something”?  And from there to “Odyssey” to “War Machine”?

CK:  If we’re talking objectively, I think the downfall of KISS was the realization of their goals.  Most bands want to be The Beatles but KISS wanted to be Coca-Cola.  Early in their career, the records aren’t selling but they portray themselves as being super-successful.  Then it actually happens.  They become obsessed with holding on to the market share and too conscious of what else was happening in music.  Whether it’s disco or… I don’t know how we describe Unmasked, this sort of pre-cursor to 80s synth music?  So they start overcompensating in order to be as successful as they had always claimed.

 

JMB:  With grown-up ears, Dynasty sounds like polished outtakes from the solo LPs.  Nothing cohesive.  Just Gene songs and Paul songs and Ace and Pete songs.  No KISS songs.

CK:  That’s very true.  Even the cover wasn’t cohesive.  It’s like a Frankenstein image of different shots.  I think they even Frankenstein-ed some of the faces.

 

JMB:  So what was the peak of your obsession?  As a kid or an adult?

CK:  Hmmm.  I’d say the height was 1995.  I was working as a newspaper reporter and hanging out with this cool girl who didn’t know anything about KISS so I got to explain it all to her.  Then the reunion rumors started.  I like thinking about KISS as an adult.  About the interpersonal relationship between Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons.  I’ve been a fan all these years and still have no sense of their real relationship.  When I listen to Paul’s last solo record6 I feel like many of the songs are about Gene.  To work with someone you might not be that close to – for thirty years?  That’s crazy.  Thinking about Music from the Elder fascinates me.  The band realized the critical acclaim they said they didn’t care about was actually very important.  They would never be satisfied until they were loved by the intellectual elite so they consciously tried to accomplish that goal.  The record is actually not as terrible as it’s made out to be.

 

JMB:  “I” and “The Oath” were killer live.  They actually sounded more like KISS than anything on Dynasty or Unmasked.  “Mr. Blackwell” was Simmons enough to spit blood to.  The Elder’s not so bad.

CK:  But it proved that people can not get over their pre-existing knowledge of a given entity.  In other words, it wouldn’t have mattered if The Elder had been Sgt. Pepper’s.  It was coming from KISS.  So people viewed that music through the prism of how they understood KISS.  It must have been very weird for the band to experience that in the present tense.  To realize that your history puts a limit on how people will understand your work.  I sometimes have the same experience as an author.  I’d like to try something totally different and yet I understand that if I do it will be viewed through my pre-existing image of success.  So KISS are locked in to the idea of appealing to people who don’t give a shit about music.  It’s just part of their fan base.

 

JMB:  Actually, I think it was The Elder that led me to Mötley Crüe….

 

(Part II:  The mind-blowing package that was Shout at the Devil, the Crüe’s transformation from glitter glam to sleazy bikers to polished radio rockers to some sad Vince-less version of a metal Soundgarden… and The Dirt as penned by Chuck Klosterman.  Read it now!)

(Part III :  What KISS might look like a hundred and fifty years from now, the makeup-era album most conducive to making out,  Ace = George Harrison and the Vinnie-tastic value of widdly widdly WHOOoooo…. Read it now!)

 

________________________


CHUCK KLOSTERMAN
is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; Eating the Dinosaur; and The Visible Man.  His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.  He has written for GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, A.V. Club, and ESPN, and he now writes about sports and pop culture for Grantland.com.

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J.M. Blaine J.M. BLAINE is non-fiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Midnight, Jesus & Me (ECW Press) was released on April Fools Day 2013.

40 Responses to “Shout at the Devil and Rock & Roll All Nite: Chuck Klosterman & TNB Music’s J.M. Blaine Talk KISS & Mötley Crüe — Only!”

  1. J.M. Blaine says:

    0.) In which King Solomon proclaims he will discover the meaning of life through sleeping with the hottest chicks, drinking the finest wines and denying himself no pleasure.
    The Old Testament calls Sol the “wisest man who ever lived”.

  2. J.M. Blaine says:

    1.) “You can’t save nobody else. You can’t even save your own ass.” — Axl Rose, Paris ’92

  3. J.M. Blaine says:

    2.) In hindsight, should have chosen Cocoa Puffs.

  4. J.M. Blaine says:

    3.) The theatrical release was titled Attack of the Phantoms! and features an entirely fabulous extended fight scene between KISS and classic movie monsters Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman & The Mummy.

  5. J.M. Blaine says:

    4.) KISS made their first comic book appearance in 1977′s Howard the Duck and more recently in the four-part series Archie Meets KISS.

  6. J.M. Blaine says:

    5.) For some reason I always could hear Paul Stanley covering “Sexy Eyes” on Unmasked. And Gene doing Rupert Holmes’ “Him”.

  7. J.M. Blaine says:

    6.) Upon examination of Paul’s “Bulletproof” lyrics, this theory seems more than plausible.

  8. Art Edwards says:

    Sugar in my bloodstream, J.M. I wasn’t ready for this much insight from both you and Chuck, but whoa was my afternoon altered by nuggets like:

    “When you empower the underdog, good things can happen if the alpha dog’s ego is secure. ”

    Peter writing the band’s biggest hit would’ve been a very complicated element in the political and emotional lives of these four. What power to have trumped the two biggest egos in the industry! I bet Gene and Paul handled it better than Ace and Peter. Those last two just aren’t equipped to be the center of attention the way Gene and Paul are. I always contend that the rarest element in any musician is the unquenchable desire to be in front for 70,000 people every night of your life. The people who front these bands are barely human in that way. As adolescents, we get locked into the idea “Who *wouldn’t* want that?” But most of us would be a little bored with it by the second week.

    And Paul, who is–let’s face it–forever secondary to Gene, barely hides his contempt for his band mate, which must just make Gene smile.

    Can’t wait for Part II.

    • J.M. Blaine says:

      Art,

      I remember studying behavioral psych & watching
      things like the Tom Synder interview from the Dynasty years
      & there was just so much insight into my childhood heroes.

      I think a hundred years from now
      Paul will be remembered more as
      an incredible soldier of rock & roll.
      Paul’s star will rise & Gene’s will fall.
      Gene is carny & that has a part in the legacy of KISS
      but thank God Paul Stanley brings true rock star quality.
      If anything I think Paul gets tarnished from his association
      with Gene & from what I hear, none too happy about it at times.

      Thanks, brother, glad you enjoyed it.

      • Art Edwards says:

        Ace was all over the place in that Snider piece. I really loved how you could tell these four had been in the trenches together, and at that level there really is no alpha. I didn’t get the impression Peter or Ace were secondary as personalities amongst the four, and I believe that’s true for most bands, despite Paul and Gene clearly being more driven and talented. They started as nobodies, and I suspect they always would be nobodies to each other. That dynamic is all but impossible to change.

        Thanks again for a very stimulating piece.

        • J.M. Blaine says:

          That video was the breaking down
          of Alpha walls. Ace & Pete were empowered
          & totally free. I think that’s why it’s still
          a fan favorite.

          Almost every adult KISS fan I talk to
          claims Ace Frehley was their favorite as a kid.
          I think Ace was much more popular back then
          than the band realized.

          • Art Edwards says:

            Did any nine year old like Paul? He seemed the least interesting to me.

            • J.M. Blaine says:

              Paul was my second favorite back then
              but he did seem like the sort of adult
              who wouldn’t tolerate kids very well.

              Ironically enough, your day probably
              would have been best spent with Gene.

              • Art Edwards says:

                Yeah, powerfully mixed feelings for Gene on my end. I love to watch him play, because he so embraces his roll, but I don’t think I’d want much to do with him otherwise. That goes for most rock stars. They’re not good for much else.

  9. seanbeaudoin says:

    One of the best things on TNB….ever.

  10. J.M. Blaine says:

    I was talking to Joe Daly
    about features awhile back
    & thinking what I would like
    to read on TNB Music.

    Man, I’d love to see somebody
    like Klosterman just talk about nothin’
    but KISS & Motley Crue…..

    • seanbeaudoin says:

      In fifth grade I was a Beatles fan in part because I was given a stack of Beatles records that I listened to on my Donald Duck turntable, where the cartridge was Donald’s yellow hand and the tone arm was his feathered wing. But the other reason was that my parents took me to see Beatlemania in NYC, the one with Marshall Crenshaw as John Lennon and it scared me in just the right way. So I held out against KISS most of that year, arguing on the playground that Ringo was better than Peter Criss, etc. Until one day a big kid who only had three letters in his first name and three letters in his last name, like Rob Nen, except that wasn’t it, punched me and said “Kiss rocks. Stop being a puss.”

      Less than a week later I bought Destroyer at Caldor’s for $1.99 and that was that. I too sat down and stared at that cover and my life was never the same again.

      • J.M. Blaine says:

        You see, Sean?
        That story right there.
        Beatles on a Donald Duck turntable.
        That’s the kind of story I want to read.

        And buying Destroyer for 1.99.

        In part III we go all into
        KISS as the Beatles….

  11. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    JMB, I have not been on here in for-eva. Just now, it occurs to me to check it out at TNB and there you are – front page! – chatting with one of my favorite people. Excellence, my friend. (PS. What is going on in this joint? It took me a sec to understand how to comment. I have no game. Been sitting on the sidelines too long.)

  12. J.M. Blaine says:

    Sister Rae,

    Are the comments weird? Has it been that long?
    Either which way, always good to see you
    old friend.

    Come back for Part II
    where we talk about Motley Crue –
    only!

  13. hank cherry says:

    I like the concept of Gene as carny. Like Anton LaVey as carny. While his star may well fall, it won’t fade. He’s got the limelight- Kiss coffins, man. I want Kiss cartoons layered onto my teeth, so when I eat my Kiss branded Cheerios with my Kiss spoon, I can see the boys staring back at me in the glow of the spoon. Plus, great conversation!

  14. J.M. Blaine says:

    I love that quote from Anton LeVey
    where he talks about how true devil music
    is Calliope Music.

    You are right, Gene will never leave us.
    Has any musician inspired more tattoos
    that Uncle Genie?

    But time will cast a different light on Gene
    & people will go “Ah, you know that Paul guy….”

    Ace too, I think. People don’t realize the subtle genius
    of that guy as a guitar player. I’ve seen kids who can
    copy Satriani dead-on. Not even Tommy Thayer
    can truly capture Ace Frehley.

    & then there’s Pete….

  15. Irene Zion says:

    jmb

    when you write, the meaning changes with the light.

  16. J.M. Blaine says:

    What I really
    want to know, Irene,
    is were you and Victor
    KISS fans in ’75?

    If not
    who were you
    fans of?

    • Irene Zion says:

      At some point in time after college and the children started arriving, we stopped listening to new things and stuck with the music we always loved. We listened then and we do now to Dylan, of course, and the Rolling Stones, and singers like Solomon Burke, Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, the Temptations, the Ronettes, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, the Supremes, Doc Watson, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Otis Redding, Bonny Rait, all the blind singers like The Mississippi Blind Boys and Blind Lemon Jefferson, ALL doo-wop, (we probably have the largest do-wop record collection in the country.) I could go on all day. There just isn’t time for new stuff.

      • J.M. Blaine says:

        I love the Rolling Stones Now! record
        & almost every one since then.
        Love love love Some Girls & Tattoo You.
        But I think they will end
        the way they began, Little Red Rooster
        & American blues and boogie woogie.

        I love everything. Almost.

  17. [...] fun and lively discussion, which ran over three parts at the Nervous Breakdown, had its origins after Blaine had finished writing a book and [...]

  18. [...] fun and lively discussion, which ran over three parts at the Nervous Breakdown, had its origins after Blaine had finished writing a book and [...]

  19. [...] fun and lively discussion, which ran over three parts at the Nervous Breakdown, had its origins after Blaine had finished writing a book [...]

  20. Joe Daly says:

    This might be my all-time favorite TNB piece. A clever, well-informed dialogue that never takes itself too seriously, that deftly avoids inside joke territory and that showcases two voices whose passions match their talents. I might be biased, of course, as it just so happens that these are two of my all-time favorite writers.

  21. J.M. Blaine says:

    Kind words, sir.

    Klosterman has been a big
    inspiration since Fargo Rock City
    & he was gracious & engaging enough
    to make this happen and be right.

    Much appreciated. Love TNB Music.

  22. B. Cosgrove says:

    Love this! Thanks, guys. KISS in my opinion are the most influential American band, period. Yeah, the super hero imagery had a lot to do with it, but the bottom line is Kiss inspired more kids to pick up instruments and become musicians than any band from the states. Sorry Aerosmith. They will never get the respect they deserve musically. The albums from ’74 to ’78 are timeless. Those songs, even the deep cuts like Let Me Know, Parasite, Going Blind, Room Service, Anything For My Baby, Love Her All I Can, Almost Human, etc. should be all over classic rock radio – which really still only play Detroit Rock City, Rock n Roll All Nite, and Beth. I can’t even get my local rock station to play Strutter which is a travesty.

    Ace’s early guitar work and songwriting contributions were innovative. The dude could play. But I also wholeheartedly believe that him and Peter Criss were f**k ups and the success of Beth and Ace’s solo LP got to their heads. In regard to the “downfall”, I think it all started with the solo albums. While Ace’s album is a classic from start to finish, and I love a lot of Paul’s tracks like Tonight You Belong To Me and Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me, if they take the best material from those four albums , work with someone like Eddie Kramer or Bob Ezrin, and release a double LP studio album, they have a potential classic on their hands at the peak of their popularity. The solo album concept was unique, but will probably never be duplicated again by a big band, because it flopped big time.

    Kiss also became too kid friendly. Any element of danger had dissipated. And then they had the audacity to come out with “I Was Made For Loving You” and “Sure Know Something” and that prompted people my uncle’s age (15 at the time of Dynasty’s release) to pass on their Kiss albums to me (5 years old at the time) as they moved on to Van Halen and Rush. I still love Dynasty to this day. Although the best thing from that year was the Tom Snyder Show. Greatest TV rock band interview, EVER! I think Unmasked sounds like the early 80s pop rock that MTV featured. The Elder is a great album and an even better story with them trying to appease critics. But man I wonder what the rock album they were recording at Ace’s studio was going to sound like. One of my favorite Kiss tracks ever, “Nowhere To Run” is a throw away from The Elder that eventually ended up on the Killers compilation.

    Peter leaving the band, sorry original Catman, was no big loss. What Eric Carr brought to the band’s sound was what catapulted them into 80s metal. I do wish we would’ve had a legit Kiss album with Eric Carr and Ace Frehley in the band. I wish Ace could’ve stuck it out through the 80s as its possible he would’ve had a bigger hand in the band’s sound with Gene AWOL in Hollywood. Instead, Paul led the way, and say what you want, he kept the band relevant during that whole decade. Vinnie Vincent’s songwriting on Creatures, Lick It Up, and Revenge was also a big contribution. Asylum, which gets no love, has some of my favorite Kiss songs like King of The Mountain and Who Wants To Be Lonely. Crazy Nights should have been a much bigger commercial hit than it was – right up there with Slippery When Wet, Permanent Vacation, Hysteria, and Whitesnake. There was a period from like ’86 to ’89 where every KISS single and video reigned atop Dial MTV’s request countdown – yet their videos never made heavy rotation on the channel. Paul’s songs with Dianne Warren and Desmond Child were right up there with anything Aerosmith were doing at the time but the KISS stigma kept them from achieving Aerosmith’s commercial success. I love Revenge. I even love the grungy almost forgotten Carnival of Souls.

    I really don’t think there is a KISS album that I don’t like. Maybe the new tracks on Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits and most of Psycho Circus – which bummed me out because I really wanted a legit studio album with the four original guys which will never happen now. Sonic Boom was great. I like want Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer bring to the band now. I’m over the fact that they’re in Ace and Peter’s makeup, too. New personas are cool but I think Vinnie Vincent Egyptian Ank was enough to demonstrate they’re out of makeup concepts. They’re a band again. Four guys. I’m looking forward to Monster.

    But I’m in agreement that Paul Stanley will get more respect as time goes on. If they ever do get into the Hall of Fame, I can almost guarantee that its not until Gene Simmons dies. I just hope it isn’t before Paul dies.

  23. J.M. Blaine says:

    Whoa, thanks for the long note!

    I think KISS is the most influential band
    since the Stones and Beatles — and in some
    ways more influential.
    Hey, how many Ringo tattoos are out there?

    That’s an excellent point about
    Ace & Paul stepping up in the 80s —
    wonder what that would have sounded like?

    The HOF is a joke, losing more cred every year.
    They should call it the Rolling Stone Hall of Fame.
    I hope more artists take Johnny Rotten & Axl Rose’s cue
    & tell the HOF to screw off.

    Thanks for the awesome comment….

  24. B. Cosgrove says:

    Thanks for the awesome three-part feature! I had no idea my comment was that long until I posted, lol. I just kept going.

    For as much as I wonder about Ace being in the band through the 80s – especially since it seemed like he and Eric had a very genuine love for one another and it always seemed like Paul respected Ace’s early contributions to the band more than Gene – it would have changed so much. Eric Carr’s drumming made the band heavier, but so did the fact that they had guys who could play 80s metal style guitar solos. I still think the band’s “comeback” had as much to do with what Eric and Vinnie updating the band’s sound as the unmasking, which in retrospect I wish never happened.

    I suppose Vinnie could still be on board as a songwriter, like his contributions on Revenge. But lets also remember that Ace was f**ked up in the 80s too and could have been an albatross to Paul, too. Or resentful when Paul wanted to do keyboard driven stuff like the Crazy Nights album or ballads like Forever. I just really wish we could’ve heard a full rock album with Ace and Eric Carr. I feel the same way about the band today. I have no problem with Eric Singer being in the band or in Peter’s makeup. But I’d love to hear Ace playing like Ace on a KISS record, rather than Tommy doing a polished imitation of an Ace solo.

    The Carr/Frehley/Stanley/Simmons in makeup 80s lineup is just something I like to think about. Right up there with what would have happened if Ace and Peter were dropped in ’77 and replaced by Eddie and Alex Van Halen in makeup. KISS in makeup, while they’re still relatively young, on MTV with music videos is another one. I hated the fact that the makeup came off right when MTV was taking off and that the most visually imaginative band of my lifetime never really had a kick ass music video. Even today, why don’t they have animated videos.

    You’re right, screw the HOF. The number of bands left out of there is mind boggling. KISS is the most obvious but it goes way beyond them. I also think that Jann Werner and Rolling Stone’s hate towards KISS – or even the Lorne Michaels types (kind of amazing KISS has never been booked for SNL) – has more to do with them personally hating Gene Simmons than anything else. I don’t know if he was banging women in their clique or what. There was that funny Al Franken/Gene Simmons racquetball store.

    • J.M. Blaine says:

      I guess that’s the kind of book I’d like to see on KISS.
      One that talked about Paul and Ace and that dynamic.
      We have nothing on Paul and Ace really.

      For as much as Gene made KISS, he has also unmade KISS
      which is sad because I think you can see how frustrated Paul
      gets knowing he is saddled with that when he should be everybit as respected
      as his hero Roger Daltry.

      Yeah, a true Creatures of the Night with Ace on board.
      That would have been cool.

  25. D gates says:

    Awesome article. I have been a KISS fan since the Paul Lynde Halloween special when they came out lip syncing their songs … One look and listen and I was hooked for life! I love Ace, but there is no doubt it was an odd match to begin with. Gene and Paul trying to be the rock Beatles and Ace and Peter trying to be more like the Rolling Stones or The Who. The fact is that when they were all on an even playing field and had Bill Aucoin as a manager, they were a killer unit. Once they got away from that and had so much success, they realized just how different they were. Look, Ace and Peter obviously were difficult to rely on back in the day, but then again that’s also Rock n Roll! Not quite sure what exactly Gene and Paul thought they were getting. It’s not like these guys were Saints when they joined the band! Still hurts when of Paul Stanley’s latest interviews states he wouldn’t call Ace and Peter ‘friends’ at this point. I know Ace sure as hell does! Anyway – Great read!

    • J.M. Blaine says:

      Almost every modern day, long-term KISS
      fan I have talked with says Ace was their childhood favorite.
      I don’t think anyone had a way of knowing that until
      the solo LPs. Gene probably assumed Ace was last place.

      See, that’s a great point. That’s why I did this piece –
      I never thought about Paul & Gene trying to be Beatles
      but Ace bringing in the Stones factor. How cool is that.
      And Peter brought in um, Bobby Darin?
      Actually, Maybe Pete brought the Bubblegum.

  26. B. Cosgrove says:

    Yeah, Paul’s recent comments about Ace and Peter seem a bit out of character for him. I recall him saying he wished a focused and committed Ace was still a part of the band, be he had to take care of himself now. Ace isn’t beyond classlessness either. Remember when Gene Simmons presented the birthday cake at the surprise Ace Frehley party back in 2002? Ace spent the whole time ripping on Gene and Paul for lying to him and ripping him off. His daughter was on stage giving the finger to Gene as he walked in with the cake. I think Gene and Paul likely feel that they gave Ace a chance for a better life but he and Peter just wanted to gripe about not making as much as them. And they felt entitled to more money for being the workhorses and keeping the name relevant through the 80s.

    Gene Simmons interviewed Bill Aucoin shortly after the birthday cake incident for his website. I can’t find the direct link but here’s an excerpt taken from a message board. Fascinating read with Gene’s fixation on Ace. Also makes me wish Bill Aucoin would have continued managing the band – at least through the reunion tour to his passing.

    Gene: Ace had a birthday party in New Jersey, recently. People paid to come, and that’s fine. I sent a message to his lawyer that I wanted to come and wish him a happy birthday. And I was told not to attend. Needless to say, I flew across America, stayed at a hotel and suprised Ace. I thought, you know, just as a sign that we care about him, and, whatever else happens, just don’t forget the fact that we started something special together. And so I walked in with a birthday cake and what I saw just sank my heart.

    Bill: I came over and Ace wasn’t the Ace that I wanted to remember. He was a little bit crazed that day. He was kind of venting on you quite a bit, unfortunately, just before you came in with a cake. It was a bit awkward, to say the least. I think that the fans realized that you were reaching out to him, and it probably became more awkward for Ace.

    Gene: What about me gets under Ace’s skin?

    Bill: Because you speak your mind. And I think a lot of times they don’t want to hear it. I think a lot of times people don’t want to hear what you really think. That was the case with Peter and Ace. It’s easier to live in a world where you believe that what you want to do is the only right way, you don’t want to hear anyone else go against that.

    Gene: So what is it? What’s wrong with Ace?

    Bill: The one thing I got out of the birthday party is I’m not sure he’s happy. I mean, he goes from person to person, or relationship to relationship. If he’s with someone who cares, and someone who is basically straight, I think he’s more the Ace that we’ve known from years past. And I think if he’s with someone who wants to live the rock star lifestyle, which in a lot of cases people feel is alcohol and drugs and the craziness, that’s what I think he’s going to do.

    Gene: Why does Ace not know that we care about him? Why is it that he says, “No, they are my enemies, and that stranger I just met is my best friend.” What is that?

    Bill: Well, because it’s always easier. The stranger is taking you at face value, taking you based on what they’ve heard about you. If you’re a rock star, and you want to be around a rock star, I guess that’s enough. All I’m saying is as far as Peter and Ace are concerned, it probably was easier not to contend with you and be around people who went along with what they believed.

    Gene: What is it that tortures Ace about KISS?

    Bill: Well, it’s not so much KISS. It’s you. I haven’t been around you in the last few years enough to let you know. I mean, it might just be that you’re always throwing things back in his face. I don’t know. He would like to stand on his own feet and play the music he wants to play. And not have to deal with you. But that’s something between the two of you. And I would never have guessed how bitter he was except that I was at the birthday party and heard him speak.

    Gene: Look at it from my point of view, just for one second. The band gets put together, we pay for it, we design it and put it on the map. Ace comes in much later. He shows up sometimes, sometimes doesn’t show up. In the beginning, when we pulled equipment up and down stairs because we didn’t have any money for roadies, Ace would get drunk and would be slumped over in the corner. Or just wouldn’t show up.

    Bill: He hasn’t changed. Then you’re answering your question, except that it frustrates you more now than it ever has. It obviously frustrated you back then when you had to pick up the slack.

    Gene: Who wouldn’t give their left nut to be Ace Frehley? Who wouldn’t want to get up on that stage and be adored by millions? When all you’ve got to do is to show up and play guitar and do the best you can, and the rest of the time, live the life of Riley – have more money and more chicks than anybody ever wanted to. Ace would prefer to be the guy onstage in a club, in The Ace Frehley Band, than to be the lead guitar player in KISS. There’s no question in my mind.

    Bill: I think you might be right.

    Gene: And I don’t understand it.

    Bill: Well, I don’t think you can hold that against him. I don’t think that money has ever been the end-all. I don’t think you can blame Ace for that. I mean, I agree that maybe, at this stage of his life, he should take advantage of what you’re offering.

    Gene: But here’s the lunacy of it all. When Ace wanted to do a solo record, we said, “Have your solo record and have your career, but stay in KISS.”

    Bill: But on the other hand, neither one of us are Ace, and he may have emotional feelings about why he feels the KISS thing doesn’t make as much sense to him anymore, and why he wants to do his own thing.

    Gene: My opinion is that Ace may hate Gene Simmons, but the person Ace hates the most is Ace. And when I say stuff like that to him, he just explodes. He can’t take it.

    Bill: I think that it’s much more complicated than that.

    Gene: I remember Ace walking in with a guitar strap with a lightning bolt on it, that he put together himself, And I said, “Boy that’s a genius design, let’s trademark it.” “Nah, I don’t want to do that.” So, within a year or two, everybody from country artists to rap artists were using that logo and he got nothing from it. I said, “You know Ace, here’s another missed opportunity. You’re creative and you’re not taking advantage of it.” “Oh, I’ll think of another one.” He didn’t.

    Bill: You’re being pragmatic about this. You have a very good business head. That may not be where Ace is at. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. Yes, maybe in the sense of putting money in your bank account, and having things for later in life, or to pass it on to your kids, or whatever. I mean, obviously I understand that other part, but from a creative point of view, that may not be where he’s at.

  27. [...] fun and lively discussion, which ran over three parts at the Nervous Breakdown, had its origins after Blaine had finished writing a book and [...]

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