The last few days have been kind of trying for me. Anyone who has ever suffered back pain can surely relate. I literally could not sit in my chair to communicate with you folks for the past two or three days. The truth is I shouldn’t be sitting here now, but it’s the last day of February and I need to get in one more post. I must have watched five movies this weekend flat on my back. It’s incredibly frustrating, but I feel like I’m on the mend finally. It’s a chronic injury, but it only knocks me flat maybe twice a year and it usually stems from too much time at the computer. I’ve given up, for the most part, playing basketball and competitive softball, so there is nothing really standing in my way from relatively good health provided I don’t sit here for ten hours at a clip ignoring the discomfort in my back. Wish me luck going forward. I wouldn’t wish this kind of discomfort on my worst enemy.
Speaking of things not very Rock & Roll, The Giant Panther and I had plans to go see Black Joe Lewis at a local bar here in the Boston area last night. The GP grabbed the tix and invited me along and everything. Well, he came down with a scratched cornea, which is right next to debilitating back pain as far as weathering a light show at a rock concert goes, so I was overjoyed when he called me to cancel. For the record though, I was going to force it if necessary. That’s Rock & Roll.
OK, I’m sure this post won’t go down big with the Indie crowd, but here goes just the same. I had big plans for at least half a dozen other love fest related posts this month, but I think I lost my mojo. Sorry, watched Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me last night again out of boredom. Heather Graham really puts the “Ger” in Swinger baby, yeah! Anyway, I had a number of posts lined up to put forth this month which will now remain on the back burner. With my last chance to produce something this month I decided to post about Kiss for fun and games.
When I was a kid of maybe 14 I watched Kiss perform on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. For those of you who have never heard of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, shave about eight years off of the age of MTV and sprinkle in footage of real concerts. Rock hungry kids like me couldn’t wait to see who was going to be on Don Kirshner. It wasn’t like waiting for the musical guest on Ed Sullivan, The Smother’s Brothers or Saturday Night Live; this was a real rock concert. The show as 90 minutes, if memory serves and frequently had more than one guest. Don’t quote me, but that was the format I remember. The first show was a 1973 performance of The Rolling Stones. Much like Soul Train and other TV shows in strange (to rock musicians) formats, early on Kirshner’s team had to beg rock acts to be on the show. Not long after the show began, rock acts were begging Kirshner.
Kiss, a band that seems to have as many detractors as fans, was a very unique made for TV band because of their unusual makeup. These guys weren’t just mimicking Alice Cooper or The New York Dolls with a little makeup. You literally would have a tough time identifying them on the street without it. They painted their entire faces. Not one speck of natural flesh to be had. For me the interest was immediate; the first song I think heard them do was “Strutter,” which was the first track on their debut album. From there they did, and believe me this is all from memory because I can’t document this stuff; “Nothin’ To Lose” and ”Firehouse.” Sold. I watched their makeup slowly melt off their faces during the performances and I wanted the record. I still have the original cassette I bought back in 1974. Pretty soon you had friends from school carrying Kiss lunch boxes and declaring their membership in the Kiss Army.
The merits of their actual music aside, Kiss is arguably the most financially successful band of all time. I don’t have any facts to back up that statement, but these guys were the first act signed to Buddah Records subsidiary Emerald City Records (later changed to Casbalanca Records). Buddah, you probably will not recall, was home to a zillion Bubblegum acts like 1910 Fruitgum Company or The Ohio Express. Kiss had an almost instant following and I’m guessing a big portion of that had to do with the exposure they received as a result of their appearance on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The makeup thing was remarkably catchy. Pretty there were Halloween costumes, lunch boxes, solo albums, comic books, Army memberships, posters, caricatures, figurines and everything under the sun. It was pretty incredible. Still, without 1975′s double album Kiss Alive!, I wonder if they could have really sustained. Make all the fun you want of Kiss, Kiss Alive! was one of the hugest live albums ever released when it came out. If Frampton Comes Alive hadn’t been released the following year I dare say it might be looked upon as the live album of the decade.
One thing is for sure, if it hadn’t been released, Casablanca Records would probably have been forced to declare bankruptcy. Later on they signed Donna Summer and were able to stabilize fairly well, but it was touch and go before the nation got a handle on Kiss mania. In all fairness to their detractors, I was a hard core Kiss fan for maybe three records. There was always something I liked on their first ten records or so, but I was not a face painter. No way. I didn’t even see them live until about 13 years ago at New Haven Coliseum and even then it was my friend Richard who dragged me along. It was probably twenty years too late, but I had a blast.
I do want to say that I loved this first record. I still do. Big time stars have reworked some of the songs from this record like Lenny Kravitz (Deuce) and The Replacements (Black Diamond), but it clearly struck a chord with folks my age at the time. It’s easy to dismiss them as kid’s music or whatever, but if they hadn’t recorded another note after their debut I would still feel compelled to post about them. My three favorite songs on the record are probably ”Deuce, Cold Gin and Black Diamond,” but if you like those tracks you’ll probably like the whole record. Hotter Than Hell, released later that year and Dressed To Kill, released in 1975 (they either had not mastered the art of milking the previous record for all that it was worth or they wanted to get while the getting was good) all produced the lion’s share of the songs that appeared on Kiss Alive! From there it was a matter of milking the money machine. Between the makeup, the spitting of blood, the fireworks, the breathing of fire Kiss was a sight to behold in concert. They ended up selling 100 million records worldwide and probably the same amount of DVDs. Staggering. Talk about making the most out of your ability.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never seen Family Jewels or own every record these guys ever put out, but give me fifteen songs and let me have my fun. They call me Doctor Love indeed. Are they in my top 100 bands of all time? No, but hats off to Kiss original members Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley for knifing through the constant criticism and achieving monumental success. It’s so Rock & Roll. Here endeth the month of February 2010. Sealed with a Kiss…
Buy or download Kiss from Amazon.com here.