Tuesday, September 9, 2014

18 Months And A Pack Of KISS Cards

I told my sister I had no idea what happened to her KISS ALIVE II record.  Don't fucking say anything.

In December of 1977 I was a first grader who had a recently turned seven.  My world was the size of my parents yard, which while sizeable at 10 acres, was still small in frame of reference.  But I was seven and it was all I knew.  Anyway, there I was a typical and happy small town (Country) Minnesota boy.  Other than going to church once a week I had no complaints.  It was a seemingly mundane trip to the Owatonna Pamida that would impact the rest of my life (as well as my wallet) in a manner I was too young to yet comprehend. 
Still Got It
Inexplicably my historically cheap (broke) parents told my sister and I that we could each pick one record  album as a pre-Christmas bribe.  I think my sister had been squawking about having to baby sit me for free and to keep the peace I was offered a treat as well. Being as it was Christmas time I was drawn to a record called Halloween Horrors.  But it was the cover of the record my sister picked that was far more scary.  She picked the released just in time for Christmas KISS ALIVE II.  I had no idea what I was looking at as my sister held it in her hands.  Was that paint on their faces?  Why is his mouth bleeding?  Is that a piece of his lip floating around in the blood flowing out of his mouth?  Dear God.
Once home, we listened to my record first.  Side one was a narration of a guy who inherited some haunted mansion.  Some spooky shit like that.  And side two was sound effects related to Halloween.  Then came KISS.  My sister put her new record on our console turntable and shortly after that is when it happened. 
I became a KISS fan. 
I listened to my sisters record nonstop.  I listened to it so much that a last minute addition to my Christmas presents that year was a pair of headphones.  In hindsight its clear that was more a present for my parents.  But this wasn't just music.  This wasn't just a catchy tune on the FM radio. This was monumental.  This was a way of life.  This was Larger Than Life (Side Four)  This, was KISS. 
By April 1978 KISS would release Double Platinum.  A greatest hits collection that came in a package that for even a seven year old can only be described as chub inducing.  By September the four solo albums were released which seemed like a lot of work to prove my family was poor.  But then in October, the greatest thing to ever happen.   Happened.  On Saturday October 28th 1978, just six days after my 8th birthday, KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park aired on NBC.  If I needed to pee during this I’m sure I pissed my corduroy’s as I wouldn’t have risked being in the toilet while they returned from commercial.  And I loved every minute of it and couldn’t find a flaw if I tried.  (I wouldn’t see it again until Christmas 1985.  When of course I videotaped so I might watch it another 2-300 times.)  In May 1979 they released Dynasty.  It would serve as their last legitimate (semi?) album with Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  It wouldn’t be long before the inner turmoil would break up the band.  It wouldn’t be long before the changing music scene would view this bloated monster called KISS much the same way grunger’s would treat bands like Motley Crue and Ratt a decade later.  It wouldn’t be long before KISS was a band that didn’t wear makeup.   

In Canada the posters were square because the puzzle was too hard

Cords that may or may not have been
wet a few months earlier
Somewhere in the middle of December 1977 I became a KISS fan.  And by May of 1979 they had released 6 more KISS albums.  Just a little over 18 months.  During that time I slowly devoured their back catalogue.  It seemed every newsstand had an issue of 16, Tiger Beat or Teen with KISS on the cover.  KISS was everywhere.  Lunchboxes, Halloween costumes, board games, trading cards, pinball machines.  Even in my small town.  I soaked it all in as fast as I could.  I spent more time with headphones on staring at album covers  than being parked in front of a TV.  Rock Star had replaced truck driver as my future occupation.  My memory of that time is still that of a seven year old.  The space between all of those events seems like years upon themselves by today’s comparisons.  I can’t believe it was only 18 months.
In many ways by me growing up, KISS has let me down.  I used to believe in the devil and a bands ability to convey him.  KISS grew less ominous as I aged.  Those 18 months might have been a low point for the band behind the scenes but for me, it was the most believable time to be a KISS fan.  Those 18 months changed my life.  I have to a certain extent removed much of the emotion from KISS.  Part of me finds them silly, fat and old now.  Gene and Paul don’t look good in the makeup anymore.  And the new music feels as real as Gene’s hair.  But I love KISS.  I love to talk about them. They still fascinate me.  And probably most important the music still moves me.  And while they may have grown old and sound tired.  And while I may have grown up and grown tired...  That was a pretty good 18 months.



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