November 06, 2012
Back in 1992, Simmons arranged to spend time with Dylan and work on some material, namely so he could say, “I worked with Bob Dylan.” Simmons took what was done and later created a song he initially titled “Laughing When I Want to Cry.” When working on his 2004 solo album, Asshole, he brought in the song for possible recording. It was reworked into “Waiting for the Morning Light” for the album.
Another famous singer-songwriter, who had first won notice in the band the Velvet Underground. Bob Ezrin produced Reed’s controversial Berlin album in 1973 and was asked to help throw around some ideas during the recording of Music from “The Elder.” Reed came up with the title for “A World Without Heroes” and worked a bit on the song. Supposedly there is also video of Reed in the studio singing the song. Reed also co-wrote “Mr. Blackwell” with Simmons for the album as well as some additional lyrics to be used if there was to be a second album in the series. Speaking of Reed . . . .
Another founding member of the Velvet Underground. Cale played viola on a track for the 1971 album for Peter Criss’s band Chelsea.
Coming from a show business background (her father, Boris Sagal, had many television credits as a director and also directed Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, which costarred future KISS Meets the Phantom star Anthony Zerbe), she started her career as an actress before switching to a musical career in the mid-1970s. During this period she was asked to sing backing vocals on Gene Simmons’s 1978 solo album. In the 1980s, she went back to acting, doing very well in the part of Peg Bundy on Married . . . With Children. For a Hollywood premiere of the Fox series, both Simmons and Stanley appeared to support Sagal. Along with occasional ventures into singing, Sagal has kept busy with acting, including memorable roles in Lost, Sons of Anarchy, and as the voice of Leela on Futurama. She also sang backup on Olivia Newton-John’s 1985 Soul Kiss album, which produced a music video featuring future KISS drummer Eric Singer.
When Casablanca first broke away from Warner in the fall of 1974, Neil Bogart had put himself in debt, while banking that a new acquisition would put the company back on top: a two-album compilation of interviews and skit segments from The Tonight Show called Here’s Johnny: Magic Moments from The Tonight Show. Bogart heavily promoted the album to distributors, allowing Casablanca to push a million copies out the door when it was released in November 1974. The problem was that the audience for such audio collections of television shows was not as big as Bogart had thought. Although The Tonight Show had plenty of fans, many preferred watching the show at night to listening to excerpts from earlier episodes. While the company sold an impressive half-million copies, they had plenty sitting in record bins unsold. The distributors eventually sent back the unwanted copies, forcing Casablanca to eat them and giving the album a reputation as a dud. This was the album that created the famous saying of a record “shipped Gold and returned Platinum.”
This damaged Casablanca’s reputation at a time where they had none to really build on, even though for a brief moment the company had an influx of money thanks to advance sales on the collection. Bogart later told Rolling Stone that he was near-suicidal after the failure of the album made headlines in early 1975 and figured the company was dead in the water. Then KISS and some of the other acts on Casablanca began moving when signs appeared that the band was beginning to sell albums and singles. The year 1975 was the turnaround moment for Casablanca, but for a brief moment it looked like Johnny Carson was going to cause the end of the company.
The famed Canadian singer-songwriter who is more commonly thought of today for some of his ballads had a fine career going in the 1980s as a rock musician with such hits as “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Summer of ’69.” In the early 1980s, he was working with Jim Vallance on songs and submitting them to other artists. In 1982, the pair submitted two songs—“War Machine” and “Rock and Roll Hell”—to Michael James Jackson, who was about to produce the album Creatures of the Night for KISS and was looking for material that would suit the band. Gene Simmons took the material and transformed it into the songs known from the album (there has been the suggestion that Adams was never even in the same room with Simmons when the changes were made). Adams also worked with Paul Stanley on the song “Down On Your Knees” for the Killers album. Meanwhile, Eric Carr worked with Adams and Vallance on a song called “Don’t Leave Me Lonely,” which appeared on Adams’s Cut Like a Knife in 1983, his breakout album.
Singer and drummer for the brother-sister act the Carpenters. Simmons at one time mentioned that he had met up with Karen at a club when both the Carpenters and KISS were touring in Indianapolis at the same time in 1976. He would go on to say that the two spent the night in her hotel room, although he was quick to say that nothing happened and the two had talked all night, which for someone always ready to claim his post notches means that this probably is exactly what happened.
Actress best remembered for her role as Wonder Woman in the 1970s series of the same name. Carter also was a singer, and in a 1980 CBS variety special sang “I Was Made for Lovin’
You” in a feathery, sequined costume while dancing around four thin gyrating men in KISS makeup and costumes. The clip would be a favorite among KISS fans, even if it was a bit nauseating to watch. Later, when Simmons filmed the movie Never Too Young To Die, he wore a duplicate of Lynda Carter’s outfit from the special in a musical number. It has never been confirmed if this was his idea of a joke, someone playing a joke on him, or just a huge coincidence.
Singer-songwriter known for her many songs that became hits for other artists. Lyn Christopher, a backup singer for Nyro in the late 1960s, recorded a self-titled debut album in 1972 that featured Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley singing background (and supposedly Peter Criss with some additional hand-clapping, although only Stanley and Simmons are credited on the album). The recordings led to KISS being able to get a five-track demo down at Electric Lady Studios with Eddie Kramer producing in exchange for payment on the Christopher sessions. The demo tape then led to Neil Bogart and Bill Aucoin taking notice of the band and signing them on in 1973. Vinnie Vincent played guitar on Nyro’s 1978 album Nested.
Bolton became a superstar in the 1990s for his many ballads but before that he was struggling to make it as a hard-rock singer under the name of Michael Bolotin. He met up with guitarist Bruce Kulick and formed a band called Blackjack that released two albums in 1979 and 1980. After the band broke up, he changed his last name to Bolton and tried to kick-start his career by writing for other artists and continued to get noticed as a hard-rock singer, but it was his 1987 remake of “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay” that drew attention to him, and from there he went on to success by concentrating on ballads and remakes of other classic pop songs.
Interview with KISS FAQ Author Dale Sherman
Why do critics hate KISS so much? Could you argue they just might be the third most influential band of all time?
KISS was the band that said you could have the huge marquee in the background, the fireworks and confetti-cannons, shows that are like Broadways productions instead of just a band running through a medley of hits. There were also at the forefront in the ’70s in reminding the public and the critics, “rock and roll is supposed to be about having fun.” And I think it’s a good statement to make. I believe there certainly is room for rock music that has a “message” but there’s no reason that has to be the case for everything. I think that’s what upset 70s critics most about KISS. When your bread and butter is consistently telling everyone, “see, Dylan is trying to tell us about the impossibility of global war … blah, blah, blah,” you get annoyed that everyone is staring at the guys in the makeup, jumping up and down and singing about their love guns. (Then again, such critics tend to forget that Dylan was just as likely to do something like “Everybody Must Get Stoned”.) We’re trying to be serious over here and HERE COME THE CLOWNS!
So the history books tend to push KISS into the background and point at the other bands as being so significant, because dealing with their influence on music doesn’t fit into the puzzle they want to see out there. One of the reasons I started writing about KISS in the first place was because I felt the historians of rock music were willingly ignoring their work and someone had to step up to the plate to remind people about them.
What’s your best childhood memory of the band?
I know it’s odd but I really don’t have a good one. I was 11 in ’75 and I do remember hearing stuff like “Beth” on the radio. But I think fell into a pocket age-group that KISS wasn’t working to get – I wasn’t old enough to be there for the early albums and I wasn’t young enough to get into the whole super-hero/fantasy thing. People ask me about seeing KISS Meets the Phantom when it aired in October ’78. They were all seven or eight so it meant something to them. I was 14 and busy doing 14-year-old stuff! I recall coming in after TP’ing friends’ houses that night just long enough to see my mom watching it before I headed back out to see Animal House again.
Heh, I think she just watched because it was goofy and there wasn’t anything else on. Anyway, I didn’t really get interested in KISS until after high school around the time of Killers and Creatures of the Night, which is also the wrong-way around from what most fans did. Creatures was supposed to be when everyone gave up on them and then came back or found them anew with Lick It Up. Becoming a fan later allowed me to see one era of the band end and another begin. It also allowed me to see the band work from the ground up to rebuild their fan-base, so that was cool as well.
I’ve yet to run into an adult KISS fanatic who didn’t say Ace Frehley was their favorite as a kid.
Ace was the big one for me too. I have a soft spot for Peter because he was the odd-man-out of the four, the real underdog of the group. Gene is interesting from a geek standpoint as he is/was into comics, cartoons and horror movies, but his general persona is a bit of a turn-off (he tries way too hard to be the center of attention, I feel). Paul is Paul. That’s about it.
I’m hoping against hope Ace will get the incentive to create something as special as his ’78 solo LP. Sort of shut Gene up again.
I think Ace has the most talent out of all four of the originals, and when really pushed — he can come up with amazing stuff. He just doesn’t have the motivation anymore. He’s the one guy who could have branched out from the band and made his own mark. Instead we have Gene, who has a big talent for promoting himself and does have musical talent, but not enough of anything extraordinary to really push it beyond that. In other words, if Gene had been Ace’s manager, I think Ace would be on the level of Slash in the mind of the general public today.
What do you think KISS in twenty years looks like? Outside of Southern Gospel (The Oak Ridge Boys are the first that come to mind) we’ve never really had a band continuing with no original members.
A tribute band. A really nice one, but just a tribute band … maybe still trying to live down the embarrassment of the one studio album they recorded that everyone hated. I think if you have four new guys songs written by Gene, Paul and anyone else associated with the band AND had Bob Ezrin produce it AND had the original foursome promote it as if it were their lovechild — fans are still going to hate it. Because it’s not Gene, Paul … and two other guys who Gene and Paul are playing with.
What’s your take on the band’s exclusion from Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Does it seem to you that the omission of seminal acts such as KISS have brought the hall’s credibility down instead of that of the artist?
I’m not terribly bugged by artists who haven’t gotten their name on a plaque in the Hall. You can go in and see KISS stuff there, as well as from other artists who haven’t been nominated. So they are represented – just not with a bad dinner and humorous quotes from the podium … yet. Saying all that, I’m not a huge fan of who they nominate sometimes. It seems all on a whim without any true focus on how artists get in there. Does Chic deserve to be in there? Yeah, I can see it, but there’s a lot of others that probably should go in there first. You heard the quote from Nile Rodgers about that, right?
I don’t think I have.
“We formed CHIC based on influences from two distinctive bands of our era: the sophistication of Roxy Music and the anonymity of KISS. Neither of those bands are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame either. I Guess We All F***’d Up?”
So you hear people howl about it, but you know what? Once they make it in, you never hear another word. Case in point – KISS can get uptight about how Jann Wenner is the mastermind behind it all and how Rolling Stone sucks, but take a look at the sticker on the new KISS album. Where is the quote about how great the album is taking from? Rolling Stone. So it’s all just a game, I feel.
The last time KISS had anything truly earth shattering was when they went on Unplugged. MTV finally said okay ONLY once Gene and Paul relented to have Peter and Ace come and play with the band. If they get nominated for the Hall of Fame, it’s for those four guys who started the band nearly 40 years ago. Right now, Gene and Paul are saying, “We’re not going to do anything with Ace and Peter again,” and they have a new album and tour to worry about. Meanwhile, the first KISS album came out in 1974, so we’ve got the 40th anniversary coming soon. I can’t shake the feeling that we’ll see them in there the next time around. And everyone will be buddy-buddy again, at least for the sake of the ceremony. And the band will play “Rock and Roll All Nite” (maybe with Singer playing and Criss on a stool, but still …), and everyone will be happy. It’s all a big gimmick really. That’s all the Hall of Fame is. But, y’know, that’s rock n’ roll!
Excerpt from KISS FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Hottest Band in the Land by Dale Sherman, published by Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard.
Dale Sherman has an MBA from the University of Louisville and has written on such music-related topics as Alice Cooper, KISS, urban legends in rock, and women in music. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, daughter, and way too many pets.