Friday, October 4, 2013

Confessions of a KISSAHOLIC: A Coming of Age Tale


I'm 39 years old, my name is Loose Cannon, and I'm a KISSAHOLIC.

Let me tell you a coming of age story full of twists, embarrassment and a pyromaniac.

While listening to Decibel Geek's KISSMAS IN JULY (and endless KISS references each show)   I reflected on how, through a three step process, I became a KISS junkie always chasing the high of Alive! 

 1980: When I was 6 years old, I was first introduced to KISS through my friend Brad.  And by "friend" I mean "a dude I knew because my Mom was friends with his Mom and was constantly dragged to his house."

Brad was 9 years old, liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass, and enjoyed shooting bottle rockets at anybody younger than him.  This included me. This particular visit, Brad explained that he was upset and led me to the basement where his Dad had an insane custom built model train set,  a record player, and a drum kit.

He pulled out a stack of about 10 KISS albums, including the solo records,  pulled the records out the sleeves and begin throwing them around like Frisbees, ricocheting off the walls.

Brad: I hate these guys.  Peter Criss just left the group and all their music sucks now. 

Me: Who?

Brad: KISS!  You've never heard of them?  The drummer left and now they got some other guy but it's over for me. 

I tried to relate to Brad by thinking how I would feel if Animal left the Muppets. Brad picked the already cracked records off the floor and placed them on his drum set.  With a crazed look, he performed a 10 minute drum solo instructing me to keep feeding him the records until he smashed them all into little vinyl shards.  We then took all the bits out to the woods, and set fire to them as Brad cackled.  Then I think he fried some more ants.

I never hung out with Brad again.

1983: Fast forward three years with no other KISS interaction except hearing a certain song on the radio.  I was with my Mom and brother at a old style diner that had the mini jukeboxes on the table where you could flip through about 30 songs and make your selection.  I was granted a quarter, I made my selection, and my Mom stared daggers at me while the song played.

Mom: Loose, who is this?

  Me: It's KISS!  Remember Brad ?  He introduced me between small acts of arson.  I heard this on my Jambox radio.  This song's called Lick It Up!  Lick it Up!  Ahhhhhhhah ahhhhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhh!

  Mom: Never play this again.

 I didn't realize until years later about the money shot / happy ending theme.

Alive II Gatefold.  Still.  Fucking.  Impressive.  

1987: No more KISS for another 4 years.  In fact, I didn't listen to any music of any genre until the summer of '87 when I was 13 and became immersed in hard rock.   I had allocated enough cash per month from lawn mowing money towards a cassette of my choice at JL Records and Tapes.  I had recently purchased Hysteria,  and Look What the Cat Dragged In. I biked to the record store and perused the store for my latest selection.  I bought one album a month so the decision was extremely important.  After much contemplation ($10 was a huge investment at this time) I decided on  KISS - Crazy Nights.  I'd heard the single, didn't like it, but went for it anyway.

 Wow.  I mean.. wow.  What the fuck was this?  This was the group that caused Brad to go bonkers in his basement?  This sucked.

I chalked it up to a loss and was much happier with next month's selection, Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls.

I wrote off KISS until that fateful day in photography/art class the winter of 1988. Our constantly stoned art teacher allowed us to bring our own music to listen to while we worked on our latest bullshit project.  Nathan and a goth girl named Anna shared my table. Nathan had a bunch tapes in his backpack and handed one to me.

Nathan: Here you go.  Keep this.  I don't listen to them anymore, I'm into real Metal. 

The tape was Side 1 and 2 of KISS Alive II. (I didn't hear side 3 and the studio side until years later)

Me: No thanks.  I bought Crazy Nights and hated it. 

Nathan: You might like it.  It's some of their best shit.  I just like the harder stuff now. 

He then plopped in Megadeth's So Far, So Good, So What and played the first track Into the Lungs of Hell while our teacher probably rethought her music policy.

 Nathan was right, I loved it and wanted more.  I went back to JL Records and found a used set of their first 3 studio albums called "KISS- The Originals" for $8.00.   Thinking this was rather pricey for an old LP, I decided to add extra value by also stuffing (read: shoplifting) the entire Alive! album into the sleeves.

I loved Alive!

The studio versions of the same songs were flat by comparison, even though Alive! is pretty much a doctored studio album.  I gobbled up the rest of their 70's albums and during a time period when KISS was unpopular, I became a KISS-aholic.


Gene trying to kill himself after listening to Asshole album on repeat
I was fascinated with the mythology, went to the library to find old interviews, scoured music stores for the old albums and sent away for outrageously priced videotapes of old concert bootlegs. - most of which are now of course available on KISSOLOGY, YouTube, etc.

Around 1991, KISS started apologizing for sucking (with the exception of a few gems) for about 13 years and that their upcoming album Revenge would be a return to form, joining forces again with producer Bob Ezrin.  I remember going to the store at 10 am to get this album - the only human in town to do so.

It was a revamped, re-energized line up with incredible sound and the only decent release they'd had since Creatures or Lick it Up. I saw them for the first time on the Revenge tour in 1992 and the next few years they remained inspired up until the cash grab of the Reunion Years from 1996 -2001.   I'm a KISS fan that couldn't give a fuck about whether Ace or Peter is in the band, in make up, etc.   Ace and Peter were great..... when they could actually play.

During the Reunion shows they sounded sloppy and like a bunch of hacks compared the the tight lineup of Singer/Kulick from 1992-1995. I've seen every tour since 1992 but nothing compares  to the set list, energy and musicality of the Revenge show I saw in the beautiful town of Ft. Wayne. Its the only era, besides the beginning years, that all members were focused and firing on all cylinders live.

So there you have it.  My KISS obsession. Summarized.

This will likely continue well past 2020 when KISS 2.0 has officially launched with Eric and Tommy left as the Elder statesmen.  We can only hope the next generation  of KISS will continue the tradition of infectious rock tunes and performance along with introspective lyrics such as:

I told her I had a submarine
she said I know exactly what you mean
I took a flight at night from east to west
I asked the hostess for my flying test
She threw the covers and we started to rock
She whispered "you can take me bottom or top"*

That's not just great songwriting, that's great hostessing.

* "Take Me Down Below" - Monster


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