Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As Subtle as a Love Gun

"Paul Stanley is sick of KISS." - Paul Rudd, Role Models

I was in fifth grade when the the rock supergroup KISS exploded upon the American music scene in 1975, amid smashing guitars and blistering pyrotechnics. KISS actually formed in '73, but it wasn't until the release of the album Alive! that they became the pop culture/glam rock Gods that they Gene Simmons believes they are to this very day.

Because of the timing, I went directly from being a fan of the Brady Bunch to a Love Gun-wielding soldier in the KISS Army. One would think that I could've transitioned through some sort of pop culture halfway house, say, the Partridge Family or the Bay City Rollers, but no. It was "Sunshine day, everybody's smilin'" one day, "It's cold gin time again" the next. It's probably a good thing the Bradys and KISS never overlapped in the public consciousness, because the Brady Bunch episode featuring Davy Jones would've had a whole different dynamic if the ex-Monkee had been replaced by circa 1975 Gene Simmons. I doubt Mrs. Brady would've been so enthusiastic about her daughter's "prom date."

After much begging and cajoling, my parents bought me the Alive! album for Christmas. I don't think my father had ever heard KISS's music at this point, he was more the Roger Miller "King of the Road" type, but KISS's Kabuki-makeup and blood-spitting, fire-breathing antics caused him to make some grossly unfair assumptions about the band's potential negative influence on his 10 year-old son.
The first sign of trouble came when he walked into my room with "Nothin' to Lose" blaring through the speakers.
Before I had a baby, didn't care anyway
Thought about the back door, didn't know what to say . . .
He entered my room, hands covering his ears. "What's that crap you're listening to?"
"Uh, the KISS album. Why?"
"Thought about the back door?" he quoted. "What do you think that means?"
"He's trying to get her attention and she's not answering the front door?"
Believe it or not, I was serious. I was a pretty naive kid, and it's not like I was analyzing the lyrical underpinnings of the Simmons-Stanley songbook anyway. That would come later, and boy, was I surprised when I found out what "Plaster Caster" was all about. But that one was still three albums away.
"Yes, exactly right, he's ringing her front doorbell. Enjoy the music," Dad muttered as he walked out, shutting the door behind him.
This was also about the time my dad heard the ridiculous rumor that the name KISS was actually an acronym for "Knights in Satan's Service", and that the band members were devil-worshipers. Come on, how could anyone believe such nonsense?
I patiently explained to Dad that, according to the February 1976 edition of the KISS Army Newsletter, Paul Stanley came up with the name "KISS" because it was a simple, one word moniker that everyone could identify with. Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter were definitely not Satanists.
But damn, Gene, you're really tough to defend sometimes.
By the time Alive II came out three years later, I was a full-fledged KISSmaniac. I dressed as Peter Criss for Halloween, owned the entire KISS-cography, and faithfully scooped up any issue of Circus, Rolling Stone, or People (yep, People) magazine that the boys appeared in. I dreamed of the day that my Dad would let me attend my first KISS concert. It was a tough sell. Love Gun tour, 1978? Not a chance. Dynasty tour, 1980? No way.
Eventually, however, I wore him down and he gave me the go-ahead.
In 1996. The Reunion Tour. I was 31.
By today's standards, KISS music is pretty tame. Double entendres abound, and no one's going to call Paul Stanley subtle ("You make me rock hard, baby all night. My love's a glove and you fit just right" is but one example), but compared to say, Eminem, even the most raunchy of KISS lyrics come off as fairly tepid.
And I'm still a fan, the entire KISS catalogue downloaded on my iPod (even Music from the Elder, which sold about eight copies when it came out in '81). When my son was about ten, I recruited him into the KISS Army as well. Took him to a concert and everything.
The boys are still touring, too. Sure, Peter and Ace have been given the boot (again), but Gene, Paul, and a couple other guys are still rockin' and rollin' all night and partyin' every day.
Dad's still convinced they're the minions of Satan.


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Suldog (duh) said...

I was on the KISS bandwagon right from the beginning. I was 16, I think, when I saw them on the old ABC show "In Concert", was blown away by the look and music, and bought the first album the next day. Of course, the groundwork for my liking them had been laid by such previous stalwarts of hard rock/metal as Alice Cooper (he also was admired for the make-up, the first that I know of to employ it for theatricality), Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and other such pinheads (which is said lovingly.)

notactuallygod said...

I never 'got' KISS at the time. I thought the make-up was a cheesy gimmick. The lead singer's looked cool, and Gene's was wicked but that cat-face on the drummer was so so Sooooo lame. It kept me from taking them seriously.

Britton said...

I was IN LOVE with Paul Stanley. Where is he now?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Knuck, you forgot the immortal line "I wanna put my log in your fireplace."

Eva Gallant said...

When I was a high school teacher in the 1980s, one of my students brought me a giant jack-0-lantern on which he had carved the faces of the Kiss group for halloween. It was amazing!

otin said...

Remember the Phantom of the Park? Now it's just a joke, but when it was on TV I was glued to the set!

So. Cal. Gal said...

I'm soooooo glad the brothers were never KISSed.

Heff said...

Hey, this is a RE-POST !

What IS this, "Best Of KnuckleHead Week" ??

Fred Miller said...

When I taught high school English, I kept a stereo in my room and a few CDs. Mozart, Bob Seger, and KISS. Of course, they always wanted to hear KISS "Rock and Roll All Night." This was in 2003, so they still have appeal, I think.

Steve Bailey said...

I prefer the much more serious Gwar!!

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