KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries
by Alan K. Stout
New Book A Nice KISS For Die-Hard Fans
(Review, April 1995)
The Times Leader
By Alan K. Stout
Paul Stanley couldn't stand Gene Simmons after their first meeting back in the late '60s: He came away thinking he was extremely obnoxious.
During their first year of touring the country, KISS continually got kicked off opening act slots for upstaging the headliners.
Peter Criss had practically no involvement in the group's "Dynasty" and "Unmasked" albums and was finally asked to leave the band.
Even if you knew all of that, you'll still want to pick up "KISSTORY" a new 440-page, 9-pound, coffee table book that has been issued exclusively by the band for KISS die-hards. The price tag, though, is as heavy as the book: almost $150.
But it's worth it.
The book is packed with hundreds of photos, many of which came from the band's own personal collections and have never before been published. There's also a slew of early press clippings and shots of ticket stubs and posters from the band's shows in the early '70s.
The bulk of the text was written by Jeff Kitts, as told to him by Simmons and Stanley. Both are fairly candid in recounting the highs and lows of the group's 20 year career, admitting which albums fell short of expectations and when mistakes in judgment were made.
Unlike many bands who tend to glamorize internal fueding, KISS has always kept most of their dirty laundry in the house. In "KISSTORY" however, a few interesting revelations are aired:
In 1987, Simmons and Stanley had a fairly heated blow-up in the parking lot outside of a recording studio, where Stanley blasted Simmons for neglecting the band — accusing him of concentrating more on outside projects such as acting and producing other acts.
Backstage at a 1979 show — between encores — drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley actually came to blows, only to immediately regret it. Both began crying, hugged one another and went back out to finish the show. "That was the one and only time anyone in the band ever swung at another person," says Simmons in the book. "Now matter how disjointed the band was at any given point, we always had enough respect for each other not to raise a hand to another member. In the case of Ace and Peter, the tension was so great that the unthinkable happened. And to this day, it's never happened again."
The band was also on the outs with late drummer Eric Carr at the time of his death, and admit that their decision to proceed with the recording of 1992's "Revenge" while Carr battled cancer angered the drummer. They, in turn, say they were only looking out for his best interest, recommending he concentrate of getting well. Eventually Carr and his family stopped updating the group on his condition, and they knew nothing of its severity until the end.
But most of the book is a celebration of a 20-year global musical domination, and there are quite a few funny stories coming from former managers and the band themselves. Former members Criss and Frehley are praised by Simmons and Stanley, and there's a strong undertone that Frehley's departure remains bittersweet.
There's also a 30-page spread of comics depicting the history of the band, and a 15-page spread displaying the hundreds of magazine covers the group has graced.
As a self-proclaimed KISS expert, I found only two factual errors in the text. The group's 1985 LP, "Asylum" was released in September of that year, not November, as the book states (nit-picking I know, but if you pay $150 bucks for a book about a band, you'd better get the facts). The other error deals with the 1981 "Best Of" release, "Killers." The book states the album contained five new tracks, including "Sure Know Something." Not so: "Sure Know Something" appeared on 1979's "Dynasty" LP, and was even a minor hit. There's also one flub in the pressing found on page 257, where the text jumps out of sequence and something appears to be missing.
Some current input from Frehley and Criss would have given some of the more turbulent periods of the band which are discussed more balance, but Simmons and Stanley are fair in their recollections of the two, and the mud-slinging that took place in the press throughout the '80s is gone. If anything, Simmons and Stanley are at times too hard on one another, discrediting albums that many fans may consider gems as not being up to par.
Overall, "KISSTORY" is a must have for the die-hard KISS fan. It comes autographed by the group's four current members and the text is well-written, informative, and at times very funny. And the photos? You'll never get a collection like this anywhere. Along with an incredible pictorial of the group's career, there's also lots of shots of the band without their trademark make-up taken before 1983, when they first officially unmasked for the public.
The book ends with a note from the band saying that "The End" is nowhere in sight.
And for KISS fans, that may be the best news of all.
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