Saying Goodbye to KISS. A Band That Always Hated Me.
When I was a wee bop of a lad, KISS was a BIG thing.
In 1975 I was 5 years old. That was the year the band KISS became the obsession of almost every kid in every neighborhood.
They were sleek. Hungry. Dangerous. And they had just released arguably one of the top-five best live albums of all time, recorded in a way best described as “arguably live”.
And yeah, they weren’t as good as Black Sabbath at Sabbath’s best, but they were far better than Sabbath at Sabbath’s worst. About as good as their own prototype Alice Cooper at his peak with Bob Ezrin, and actually… in their own ways, more talented and adaptable than both bands. And FAR more daring.
They had an ARMY! They had a bunch of kids, myself included, who were willing to take up arms and go and do battle for KISS. A bunch of 5, 6, 7-year-old kids waiting for the call when we’d have to go and fight, leaving our loved ones behind, to march off to whatever wars KISS had started…
KISS was the biggest thing in the world by 1977.
And then… they started to punish their fans.
- “Hey, Fans! Think we’re cool? Well, here we are in a Hanna Barbara made-for-TV movie (provided that TV was located in an asylum…) that’s truly the only thing ever broadcast in the history of television, that’s goofier, and more artistically bankrupt than the “Star Wars Christmas Special”. Take THAT, KISS fans!”
Then they said
- “Hey! Like our music? Well instead of coming out with one or two great albums, to cement our own legacy — here’s FOUR SOLO ALBUMS, all released the same day. Have fun! PS — No one has ever made it through a full listen of drummer Peter Criss’ solo album. Not even Peter Criss”.
- “Wait, you STILL like our music? Okay, here’s a DISCO record. But we promise our next record will be heavy! It will be like the music that made you like us!
- Okay, we were just messing with you, SO, here’s a pop album. It’s AOR oriented! From KISS! — No? Okay, the NEXT album will be SO HEAVY… like just…all ripping guitars, and cool riffs, and will remind you all why you were fans. We solemnly PROMISE!
Now, keep in mind — through it all, us, the dwindling fighting force that was the KISS ARMY, would have to now do battle with our own schoolmates and all the KISS Army deserters. They’d say, “KISS SUCKS! So, you’re wearing a t-shirt that says that you suck and like lame bands that suck!”
and we’d reply,
“Oh. yeah? Well, just wait until they come out with their new album that’s gonna rock! They promised this to us four times — so this time it’s GOTTA be true!”…
knowing in our little hearts, it wasn’t.
And so, they released a CONCEPT ALBUM with lutes, and flutes, and operatic falsettos! KISS did this! See, they felt they weren’t committing musical suicide and will finally show the critics the vast, vast, talents of KISS!
The critics said:
- “Fart”- Rolling Stone
- “My butt hurts”- NME
- “A musical atrocity that should be banned under the rules of the Geneva Convention”- Hit Parader
- “This review also serves as my suicide note”- Jim Ferber
- “That’s it. We just officially stopped reviewing albums!”- Album Review
- “Music is dead to us now.”- Billboard
So, a concept album — exploring a unique* story about a boy destined to be a hero by overcoming obstacles by BELIEVING in himself, through the help of a mentor — didn’t sell well. Imagine that… Despite being crafted by a heavy metal band wearing make-up! Despite sounding like the soundtrack to a Renaissance Fair devoted to sucking ass! (*‘Sarcastic Font’ on the word “unique”.)
In fairness, guitarist Ace Frehley was vehemently against this idea and was quoted as saying, “This is a really, really, stupid idea and I’m a guy who just drank an entire bottle of lighter fluid mixed with Windex! — So if I think this is a bad idea, then it must be a really, really, really, tragically bad idea!”.
Sobering thoughts,… indeed.
(*Frehley later followed up that statement by saying “ACK!” while drinking an entire bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol).
So, KISS’ popularity plummeted to “Less popular than anal polyps”. They lost two of their original members (who both went on to successfully become drug-testers for every pharmaceutical).
Then, KISS released the “heavy ”album they promised over the last 4 albums. And it was awesome! (Possibly because KISS had little involvement in writing the songs besides putting their names on the copyright forms). However, it was too little, too late. KISS went out on tour and filled arenas with as many as six people, (although that number dropped to two people, per show, if we subtract the four members of KISS).
A band that a few years earlier filled NY’s *Madison Square Garden multiple nights (*named after famed Vaudeville performer — Madison “Buzzy” Squaregarden), weren’t able to fill venues the size of the linen-closet in my mom’s house.
KISS soon realized:
- No one likes us anymore
- No one comes to our shows anymore
- We owe the record company A LOT OF MONEY and are essentially financially bankrupt.
- If we don’t take those brownies out of the oven they’ll get hard and chewy.
So, they rescued their brownies and took off their make-up. They survived through the ’80s playing half-filled arenas and barely eking out enough money to keep them afloat. The most dangerous band ever (as far as the most number of roadies accidentally set on fire or exploded), KISS, those scary dudes that used to spit blood, and breathe fire, and smoke guitars, became AMAZINGLY SILLY. Well,… sillier.
Look at this. Spend a moment.
See, the men above willingly wore those clothes. It wasn’t a thing where they were being chased, and found some clothes on a line and quickly put them on for survival purposes to allude their foes. No, they CHOSE to do this…
I know, right?
And DON’T tell me “Oh, that was the ’80’s”. — I was alive in the ’80s and I NEVER did that!
Also, their music in the mid-’80s is best described as “drinking toilet-bowl water with a dirty straw. An embarrassment of riches of embarrassment”. Artistically bankrupt to match their finances, they proudly made videos to sonically and visually announce “Hi, we’re no longer any fun to watch, listen to, or even on a personal level, to be around!”
THEN something happened. The original KISS with all 4 original members got back together, with their costumes, make-up, and show. And people said “YAY!”
Here’s how KISS fans all looked when that happened
See how happy they were?!? Some of them even stuck out their tongues, like this
So, all was right in the world of rock and roll. This lasted about four years, then KISS realized they absolutely hate each other and broke up again.
They had a FINAL tour. The last chance to see KISS. Ever.
“That’s it! We’re going out on top!” they said.
So, then, twenty minutes later KISS just found two new guys and dressed them in their former bandmates make-up and costumes, and KISS immediately went back to sucking in ways that defy all logic and science.
NOW, 16 years later, KISS is again saying they’re on their ‘final tour’. The “We’re Getting Pretty Gassy And It’s Effecting The Pyrotechnics In Very Unfortunate Ways, Tour!”
So, instead of getting the original members back and doing one last tour — FOR THE FANS, they’re going out with the same lame cover-band lineup.
Lead singer Paul Stanley’s voice sounds like what happens when Sarah Sanders talks. The birds all fall out of the trees, dead, after twitching and crying. SO- they’re now lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks.
Isn’t THAT fun? Seriously, imagine any four of our septuagenarian grandfathers donning wigs and make-up and lip-syncing to KISS… We’d immediately put them in a home! It wouldn’t even merit discussion! We certainly wouldn’t shell out 400 bucks for two tickets to see them!
So, to recap, in lieu of EVER giving their loyal fans what they actually WANT, KISS is doing what PAUL STANLEY wants.
A lip-synced performance by a bunch of old, farty, men wearing makeup, with two guys dressed up to look and sound like two other guys who are no longer in KISS.
Guys like Ace Frehley, who influenced so many kids to pick up a guitar. Kids who themselves became rock stars. Guys like Peter Criss, who a young Lenny Kravitz dressed up as on Halloween. Sure, they suck to be around and work with, but us original fans love the original line up —
— and love is supposed to be a two-way street.
Not just a one-way freeway — where one can purchase a $400 dollar guitar Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley “looked at” or “pointed to” for $21,000 actual, real, dollars. (In fairness I think they do play the instruments they sell, for like, one song, onstage. AND, they also sell the torch Gene Simmons breaths fire with at each show for a similarly insane price. Just in case you desperately need a stick Gene Simmons once held).
So thanks, KISS. As per usual, like your (actually quite well-deserved and long overdue) entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you still refuse to perform with the original line-up of KISS that your fans all crave. Even though if both of them added their lead vocals we might even possibly hear a show that’s not pre-recorded…
So, KISS — WHY do you HATE US?
It’s supposed to be the last time we’ll ever be all together, and we’re asking for only that one thing.
We may never know why KISS hates their fans.
We just know they do.
Written by Steven W. Rouach