There have been more than a few discussions about KISS and their music and what is real rock and roll since we started up here around nine months or so ago.
For the record, I have seen KISS live, in 1979, and they did little or nothing for me (though I did get some great photographs of the band).
However, as I am about a decade older than my two friends who are the biggest fans of the band I know–Steve Moyer and Scott Engel–I will admit that just age and experience had a lot to do with my indifference to the band.
I got the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and the Kinks when they were new, and then a few years later I lived in the bay area when the San Francisco bands hit it.
So, one of the things at play here is that the bands we love and which form the basis for our likes and dislikes, make their impression during our adolescence and in that context, I was too old for KISS.
That said, I still don’t really think that much of them as a band, but I also know there are those who hated the Moody Blues when they were my favorites, and well, look how Bob Dylan was received when he plugged in. And, all Dylan was trying to do was keep his art growing.
Anyway, over the past week, KISS has come to my radar in a couple of odd ways.
First, the previously noted Mr. Engel invited me to come play miniature golf in Las Vegas when we were both there for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Winter Meeting.
The kicker was this pee-wee golf course is dedicated to KISS. Which kind of makes me like them (I love miniature golf) and kind of hate them (how much shilling does Gene Simmons need to do?).
However, a few days after I got home from Vegas, Diane and I were snuggled in bed, watching the tube before we fell asleep, and the Road to Europe episode of Family Guy came on.
Now, as with the miniature golf, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, again, sigh, KISS all over the fucking place.
OTOH, we both love Family Guy.
And, this episode was particularly sweet with us finding out that Peter is proud of his wife Lois for “doing” KISS (we find out as an aside that she also did the Geils band).
How can you not like that?
I finished “Nothin’ To Lose” a couple weeks ago – 500+ pages on KISS from the pre-beginning to the release of the first Alive. None of you guys will read it, but it’s an excellent book on KISS when they mattered and what made them matter when they arrived. Granted, they’ve shilled and fucked things up beyond hope and recognition at this point. The early albums are legit; the debut in particular stands up very well even today. As well, they’re a band’s band, certainly not for the established bands who turned up their noses to them in the beginning, but for many of the next generation’s rockin’-est rockers. Like my beloved Hella’s.
I think I mentioned that I saw them from the 3rd row in 1974, a midnight show at the Beacon. I had their first two albums and always liked some of their songs including Nothin to Lose. That’s all I care about. I enjoyed the show, they put out and that’s rocknroll. I took them as a cartoon because they they presented me with a cartoon. But watching them play, they were the first band I ever saw to bring air guitar moves to the stage. In a just world they would have had a nice career opening for the Dolls, with an occasional hit. Now they usually sound too slow to me. They were definitely superseded by punk. They’re a lot like Slade only Slade’s best songs were great whereas Kiss’s are more good.
Now that’s rock ‘n’ rollin’ all night!
Here is my question about KISS: they were just another band until they put on their makeup, and then they hit it. And, for a while they took their makeup off, and did not do so well, so eventually they put the makeup back on.
Kind of like Batman, who smacked of intrigue, as opposed to Bruce Wayne who was essentially mayonnaise. Rich mayonnaise, but still dull.
What I am saying is the same thing that made Masters of the Universe big with kids, helped make KISS big.
So, is it music, or something else that is the source of their success?
I think it is something else: marketing.
(note, I also think if Simmons did not seem to take himself so seriously, they would be easier to take.)
First of all, Lawr, KISS was long gone by the time they took their makeup off. Please judge them only on Alive and pre. And as for Slade, you’re not gonna get any argument from me there. In fact, there’s probably five pages in the KISS book of KISS talking about Slade and Slade talking about KISS. Nothin’ To Hide on the influence. And Slade is fantastic – Noddy, one of the greatest rock voices of all (like I’ve said before, try covering a Slade song if you want a vocal impossibility), such great tunes and lack of pretention. Dig Dave Hill’s stupid little dance and Don Powell drum-synching from an office chair. No stupid, ultra-serious “we’re so full of angst” nonsense here.
Great to see Lawr writing about Kiss and thanks for the mentions. Never knew Steve was a big fan like me. It’s all about the music in the end, the great show is a bonus. Rip roaring, energetic fun rock and roll, makes me feel good and reminds me why life is great