Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kiss Me Once Again

I was very happy to see the pro-Kiss comments on yesterday's post.

Shriner stating "Yes, I love "Dynasty" and "Unmasked" and 3 of the 4 solo albums." (Me too, Shriner.)

A Walk In The Woods pointing out that "What's On Your Mind? is way more Todd Rundgren than metal." He is referring to a track from Ace Frehley's solo record and you know what? He's right.

The band and its four original members are easy targets for good reason. Let's face it, they've been playing music for over 40 years and they still can't play their instruments. (See? Cheap shot.)

I won't discuss the merits of their music post-1980. Post-makeup Kiss lost its charm and its sense of humour. But up until then, these guys knew how to write a hook.

Funny story:

In 1996, the four original members put the make-up back on and reunited for a tour. I went to one of the Madison Square Garden shows and bumped into my old friend John who had been a Kiss fanatic and Kiss Army member since day one. We hugged and he asked, "Were you here last night?" I said no and asked how the show was. John said, "Oh man! It was unreal! Great set list. The explosions, the blood, the...oh wait. You saw them back in the day, right?" I said, "Yes of course." John said, "Right. Then the show sucked. You'll see."

Three videos below, one each from Paul, Gene, and Ace's solo records, including Ace's Rundgren-esque song mentioned above. Paul's "Wouldn't You Like To Know Me" sounds more than a bit like the Raspberries and Gene's acoustic ballad is very Beatle-esque.

Let's see how these grab ya.


Christine Cokefair said...

I'm one of the four. Great post.

FD13NYC said...

A true KISS fan myself, as you know, we grew up with them. I guess I lost interest when the make-up came off, stopped around Creatures. Lick It Up was good. The solo albums were ok, Paul Stanley's being my fave, It's Alright and the tune you posted are great.

Saw them twice Live, 1974 at The Beacon, right before Hotter Than Hell came out, so they did basically the first two albums. Great seats, orchestra close, felt the heat from the fire bombs that went off. It was quite a show. Failed my high school french exam the next day but who cared, I saw the up and coming hottest band in the land. Then again in 1977 at MSG, big show, they were superstars at that point.

I'm glad to see the peaked interest in KISS again. Great posting Sal! To me they'll always be true legends of rock. We go way back with them.

Shriner said...

Very nice song selection from those 3 albums.

I do not think there's a duff track on the Paul Stanley solo album, so you could have picked anything to display it's excellence (well, "Move On" is probably the weakest track, but it's still great...)

"Rip It Out" is an awesome Ace solo album track and great album opener. I never picked this up until the remasters and I regret bypassing this for all those years.

The Gene album is all over the place, though...

And I always thought "Revenge" was a return to form. That's an excellent album.

Noam Sane said...

1978, i'm 19, guys in the dorm are all going to the Spectrum to see Kiss, what the hell.

Bunch of noise, shit explodes, Gene Simmons goes up in a cherry picker.

Could not end soon enough for me, no matter how high I got (which was very.)

Seriously, a fucking cherry picker, like you'd see a window-washer use.

Spinal Tap had better tunes, plus they were in on the joke.

Sal Nunziato said...

So Noam, not a fan?


Gene Oberto said...

Never a die hard, casual listener I can take them and leave them.

However, Strutter and Firehouse (woo-woo) never fail to roust me.

They do deserve the HOF, but then so does Spirit.

Noam Sane said...

No, but I do enjoy reading about them, and I will forever appreciate your general musical enthusiasm and wonderful writing.

The Paul Stanley interview in the new Mojo was interesting and frankly kind of moving.

I don't like 'em but I'm glad they're around, they certainly make the world a more interesting and occasionally hilarious place.

William Repsher said...

Hated KISS at the time -- couldn't stand the goofball make-up, just seemed like a bad joke. I still remember the day those four solo albums came out ... the record store in the mall gave out special bags that you could get ONLY by buying all four albums. And buying four albums in one shot was a lot of money back then, even on sale. You bought that shit, you were a fan! (For the record, none of those solo album tracks do much for me -- they're not bad, just not that good either.)

That said, a few years ago I sat down again and gave the early albums a listen ... came away with about a dozen tracks that are just solid, well-written rock songs, real garage-band sounding stuff in a good way. Just wish I could have penetrated the dumb image and gimmicks at the time to appreciate that.

And Springsteen was enough of a fan to lift the melody of "I Was Made for Loving You" for "Outlaw Pete."

Anonymous said...

Great selection of solo tracks I'd love to hear your picks for actual Kiss tunes.
I couldn't agree with you more about the Paul Stanley track sounding like the Raspberries.
I gather the Peter Criss record is the one you don't like. Can't say I disagree with you again.

From The Autumn Defense to Wilson Pickett to Kiss.
That's what keeps me reading.

A walk in the woods said...

Nice stuff Sal... I was never into KISS at the time, despite some buddies in the neighborhood being WAY into the KISS Army. But this is yet another example of something that totally slipped me by when I was growing up (Thin Lizzy is another key example) that sounds really good to me, discovering it almost 40 years later.

It's exceedingly strange to dissect the work of the solo albums especially... feels a bit like reviewing a John Oates album. But - I LIVE John Oates - I'm getting off topic. OK, it feels like reviewing Andrew Ridgley. But - these tunes rock.

Clearly I'm going to have to add some more KISS to my iPod other than just "Rock & Roll All Night" and "Hard Luck Woman" now....

Shriner said...

I think we need a KISS weekend mix that is not the big hits, Sal!

Todd said...

I'm with Shriner! - Despite having all, that's right ALL the group and solo albums!-

Except Gene's last... Even I couldn't. :-)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've made this argument before, but I feel it needs to be made. KISS was always unfashionable, and never fit into any category, they were intentionally and simultaneously overblown and simple, but I just don't understand why somehow The Ramones ( who I also love ) are somehow seen as artistically pure and retain credibility and KISS is seen as a joke musically.
Both are big, dumb, cartoon bands that make simple riff-oriented rock and roll with three chords, and yet, somehow The Ramones are supposedly cooler and more culturally acceptable to openly be a fan of these days.
I'd argue that KISS was more musically advanced, more adventurous, and brought more ideas to the table.
I also don't get the concept that somehow it's deeper and more artistic to write about sniffing glue and turning tricks on 53rd & 3rd than it is to write about sex, celebration, and the spirit of rock and roll.
KISS wrote some really great songs, put on a visually stunning show. Why is it art when Pink Floyd, who I also love, makes a visually stunning show evoking sadness and yearning, and trash when Kiss does it to make you smile?
It's damn hard to make a great comedy, a great, truly happy film, but the Oscars will almost always laud the films that dig the furthest into darkness, ignoring art and entertainment at times as if they have no worth, as if comedy is the lazy-eyed, red-haired stepchild of drama, when actually anyone who's tried comedy knows it's possibly harder. The idea that KISS somehow lacks something because they only rarely sang about tragedy ( Detroit Rock City, etc ) only rarely tried to make music complex for its own sake, just rings false to me, because these things called light entertainment, happiness, rebellion, celebration, sex, love, and joy of being alive are, I'd argue, part of the very DNA of rock'n'roll.
A musical form that happily and unashamedly includes the genius of Great Balls Of Fire, Johnny B Goode, What'd I Say, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and on and on, certainly has room for another act that makes fun, simple, catchy songs and puts on a helluva show.
Not everything has to be Lou Reed, and even Lou Reed sang a lot of simple Sally Can't Dance stuff too.
I won't apologize for loving fun pop as much as I love Dylan or The Wall. There's room for everybody, because rock'n'roll, if it's consistently about anything, is a celebration of the joy of limitless possibilities and the fragility and futility of anybody else's old rules.
KISS did things nobody'd ever tried, tread new ground, and showed us all that we didn't have to be limited by what everybody else thought we had to be. We could all re-invent ourselves, like an awkward Israeli immigrant son of a single mom could become a millionaire rock star bat-winged, fire-breathing demon, and a fat, one-eared Jewish boy named Stanley could become the Star Child, and by extension, we could all dream ourselves into any world we liked.
And they wrote actual fucking songs that hold up today better than anything on today's charts likely will in 30 years ( or weeks ).
Thanks for another great, thought-provoking post, Sal.
PS. Screw them for not playing with Peter and Ace at the RRHOF tho. Seriously.

peabody nobis said...

Those were...interesting. Paul's entry sounded most KISS-like. Ace's was standard middling pop-rock.
But the Gene Simmons track was clearly the best. Definitely Beatle-esque. However, it should NEVER be associated with a character such as Simmons.
No self-respecting demon from Hell would allow it.

Jon said...

The Gene Simmons record is all over the place but that's a really sweet cut.

Regarding the HOF controversy, I was thinking it would be funny if Ace and Peter performed as KISS with two random schlubs in Paul and Gene disguises.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've always hated KISS for no good reason. OK they weren't King Crimson, or The Beatles, Stones, Who or even Led Zeppelin. They weren't even Aerosmith. I think the Ramones are fun for 2-3 songs and then I want something more than the Four Stooges.
I was going to ignore this post altogether, but just now, Steve Gadd's video inexplicably became the Ace Frehely song, and all the posted videos were suddenly in the wrong place, so I listened to it and the verse is okay, but the recording seems to lack any kind of energy, and then the chorus is the worst kind of pedestrian resolution. Next I checked out Gene Simmons, which really surprised me. It sounds favorably like a Big Star outtake. Paul Stanley's tune starts exactly like something off "Give'em Enough Rope" until the lame "rock" vocals come in, but I can't complain about the music at all. Now I want to hear something from Peter Criss, just for the comparison. The videos just as suddenly returned to their rightful position, so I guess the universe needed me to listen. I'm not a convert, but I will no longer snark in their general direction.
Now, back to Steve Gadd.

Lesley said...

This is the third piece I've seen this week that makes me think I might oughta pay a little attention to KISS, two on BW and one in the Huff Post by Binky Philips, and now I'm wondering if the articulate comments here by Anonymous aren't Binky...

Anyway, my only contact with KISS beside overhearing them on the radio was riding up in the tiny elevator at 55E55 Street, a small office building where both Bearsville and KISS's management were quartered. I didn't know who they were and they weren't in makeup (this would have been 1975), but one of them was carrying a guitar case with KISS stencil/spray-painted on it, so that kind of gave it away. If I remember correctly, they all smiled. Or leered. I wasn't sure...