Friday, April 9, 2010

The Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever: KISS vs. Spinal Tap

Okay, here's a quick test for you.  Which of the following rock lyrics is from a "real" rock band, and which is from a fictitious "parody" band?

A) "Let's put the X in sex.  Love's like a muscle and you make me want to flex."

B) "Big bottom, big bottom, talk about mud flaps, my girl's got 'em."

The correct answer of course is A.

Wait, that really doesn't answer the question.  What I meant was, choice A is from the somewhat obscure KISS song "Let's Put the X in Sex" and choice B is from the fictitious band Spinal Tap, stars of the hilarious Rockumentary This is Spinal Tap.

But, while KISS is real and Spinal Tap is fake, the similarities between the two groups are astounding.  We'll start with personnel.  Throughout their history, Spinal Tap has had an inordinate number of drummers.  Though either karma or coincidence, most of these drummers met an untimely (and usually very strange) death.  John "Stumpy" Pepys, for example, died in a bizarre gardening accident that police said was best left unsolved.  Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs died choking on vomit.  According to guitarist Nigel Tufnel, it was someone else's vomit but police couldn't find the culprit because, and I quote, "you can't dust for vomit."  Two drummers, Peter "James" Bond and Mick Shrimpton, spontaneously combusted onstage.

While only one of their drummers (Eric Carr) died, KISS has employed five different lead guitarists -- Ace Frehley, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick and Tommy Thayer.  Also, in the late 70's, the band used studio guitarists on their albums on the occasions (and there were many) that Ace was unable to fulfill his musical responsibilities (often due to being drunk, wrecking his car on the way to the studio, or both).  Mark St. John (or as he's known by KISS fans, "The Pope John Paul I of KISS") held the job of lead guitarist for a mere six months before contracting Reiter's Syndrome.  This disease caused his hands and arms to swell which, while a mere annoyance for you and me, becomes somewhat problematic if you're, say, a professional guitar player.

Speaking of guitarists, let's take a look at the so-called "wisdom" of Ace Frehley and Nigel Tufnel.  Between the two of them, their intellectual wattage would be insufficient to power the lightbulb in your refrigerator.  The difference, though, is that Nigel's inane blathering was created by a team of brilliant comedy writers while Ace was just talking.  Here are some quotes:

"In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, an ancient race of people.  The Druids.  No one knew who they were or what they were doing." - Nigel Tufnel 

"When you take a shower in space, you have to press the water onto your body to clean yourself and then you vacuum it off." - Ace Frehley

"You know, just simple lines intertwining, you know, very much like - I'm really influenced by Mozart and Bach, and it's sort of in between those, really. It's like a Mach piece, really. It's sort of, well, I call this one 'Lick My Love Pump'." - Nigel Tufnel

"I can't even read music.  But I can teach someone how to make a guitar smoke." - Ace Frehley

And finally, both bands have had their share of onstage humiliation.

One night, Tap is onstage, ready to start their show.  Three of their members, David St. Hubbins (guitar), Nigel Tufnel (guitar) and Derek Smalls (bass) are encased in plexiglass pods, and as they start their opening number, the pods open and they emerge to tumultuous applause.  That is, St. Hubbins and Tufnel emerge but Smalls's pod fails to open and he's thereby trapped inside.  As the song proceeds, stagehands try to pry, burn, and smash open the malfunctioning pod while Smalls looks on helplessly.  They finally get the pod open, just in time for the song to end.

It's March of 2000.  I'm at a KISS concert at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (now Honda Center).  The band launches into the opening riff of their classic song "Love Gun".  Lead singer Paul Stanley is hooked up to a contraption designed to lift him twenty-five feet in the air and "fly" him to a smaller stage set up in the middle of the crowd.  Halfway through the journey, though, something goes awry and instead of landing on the stage Paul gets stuck and is left swinging back and forth over the audience.[1]  Not wanting to abort the song, Gene Simmons takes over the lead vocals but even after twenty years, Gene has somehow never memorized the lyrics to "Love Gun."  So now we have Paul swinging around helplessly, Gene butchering the vocal, and Peter Criss nearly falling off his drum stool he's laughing so hard.  Ace Frehley, as usual, is completely oblivious. 

In some ways, the mishaps suffered by KISS (Paul Stanley would probably call them "KISShaps") have been even more comical than those endured by Spinal Tap.  Gene Simmons has set his hair on fire more than once, and Ace electrocuted himself one night when his guitar wasn't properly grounded.  Even Peter Criss got into the act, losing his hearing temporarily when a "fan" threw a cherry bomb on stage.  Okay, maybe "comical" wasn't the right word.

At least none of them have ever choked someone else's vomit.

[1] I was particularly upset by the malfunction because my seat was about ten feet from the small stage where Paul was supposed to land.  But even so, it was hilarious.

Stumble Upon Toolbar submit to reddit


Moooooog35 said...

I love Spinal Tap.

Somehow, though, the fate of their drummers is now my problem.

I've gone through two kids playing Lego Rock Band on that thing.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Ah, one of the greatest flicks of all.

Barco Sin Vela II said...

I happen to really like Spinal Tap's Black album... but one of the finest scenes was of the Stonehenge monument in danger of being "Trod upon... by Dwarves".

Great stuff!

Michelle H. said...

Kiss-smlish! What a paparazzi band!Give me Alice Cooper.

Cricket said...

Great post! I still love 'em both. I once owned a bootleg video of a 1978 Kiss show titled: Ace Drunk!. Kind of sums it up right there.

Obviously, I bought that one for comic value only.

Heff said...

Excellent post. You honestly know your Kisstory very well.

In case you've never seen it, there's some classic Ace footage from Tom Snyder's 1979 interview with Kiss on youtube. Hilarious stuff, man.

lime said...

i have never understood the allure of KISS. seriously. you've just confirmed that for me. but the recent foul up at the concert must have been damned funny.

Eva Gallant said...

Years ago when I was a high school teacher, one of my students on Halloween brought in a huge jack-o-lantern with the faces of the rock band Kiss carved in it! It was really quite amazing!

HoodChick said...

My 19 year old nephew is into "old" metal music. He came up for a recent visit and I told him I have 2 'like new' KISS concert tees (one with makeup, one without) - he said "I hate KISS!". Sigh. I guess I will put them on Craigslist or something...

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

KISS perfectly defined the sort of band that I dislike, but that would've been one of the most entertaining concerts ever, as far as I'm concerned.

And I love Spinal Tap. I pretty much love everything Christopher Guest does. Dude's a flippin' genius. Subtle, underplayed, genius.

Mariann Simms said...

The difference for me - is that I've seen "This is Spinal Tap" many times...and if they aired it tonite, I'd be watching it again. Kiss? Eh...never have, never will.

Becky @ Welcome to my life said...

I've never seen Spinal Tap, just know those two words go together and mean something to someone. I just wanted to know I don't comment often, ok, I comment very very rarely, but I read every word you write. Ok, I read most words you write.

Homemaker Man said...

It is a funny thing how geniuses can write one of the greatest parodies ever and morons can parody themselves to even greater effect. Good illustration of that thin line between genius and moron.

Homemaker Man said...

It is a funny thing how geniuses can write one of the greatest parodies ever and morons can parody themselves to even greater effect. Good illustration of that thin line between genius and moron.

Ivan Toblog said...

A removal by centesis of fluid from the subarachnoid space of the lumbar region of the spinal cord for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes


A caress or touch with the lips

Just guess which one's the one I'll take.

Me-Me King said...

I've never been a KISS fan, however, I am a fan of Gene Simmons' marketing genius.

Spinal Tap - Thanks for the reminder, it's a great film. Think I'll give it a watch today.

Jewels Diva® said...

Grew up on Kiss, and still love hearing I wanna rock and roll all night!!!!!

Rebecca said...

My husband is a guitar freak, grew up on all this stuff. He made me watch "Break Like the Wind" and I had nightmares for months. lol

Thanks for visiting my blog! ;)

Related Posts with Thumbnails