KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout

KISS Fans Should Just Pucker Up And Enjoy The Ride

(Commentary, October 2009)

The Weekender
October 1, 2009

By Alan K. Stout
Weekender Music Columnist

click to enlargeHaving been a KISS fan for more than 30 years, I can honestly say that in 2009, some KISS fans have become a strange breed. It should be a fun and exciting time for fans of the legendary hard-rock band, but if you check out some of the group's fan sites on the Web and even read some of what's happening within the rock press, it appears the KISS Army is a house divided.

I'll get to that in a minute ... but first, you may ask "Why should this be such a fun time?"

Well, first and foremost, KISS is set to release its first new studio album in 11 years. It's got one of the coolest names ever for an album in "Sonic Boom" and early reviews say it's a great throwback to the band's pure rock sound of the '70s. In fact, most early reviews have been glowing. Plus, the band is on tour in the U.S. for the first time in years with an all-new stage show that the band says is bigger and badder than ever.

Why else should it be a fun time?

Well, former guitarist Ace Frehley just dropped his first new solo album in 20 years. It's called "Anomaly." And it's excellent.

And, on top of that, the band was finally just nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To me, as a fan, this is all good. Yet to some, it's been reason to nitpick and squabble within the KISS community. Here's a few samples of some of the schlock floating around out there:

"Ace's album is way better than the KISS album."

When I read stuff like this, I feel as if it should be followed by the sound of a five-year old saying "Na-na-na-na-na." You know, like a "My-dad-can-beat-up-your-dad" kind of thing. Please, just stop it. Grow up.

I've also read this: "If they get into the Hall of Fame, they better only put in the original four guys."

And this: "I'm not going to see KISS if those other guys are wearing Ace and Peter's makeup."

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

With all due respect to my fellow fans, some of you are idiots.

The fact is, both the Ace album and the KISS album are really good. The close release dates of the two also happened in 1989, when KISS released "Hot In The Shade" right around the same time Ace released "Trouble Walkin'." I say fans should do now what they did then. Just enjoy them both. You might like one a bit more than the other. And that's fine. That doesn't mean you have to slag the other. Personally, I'm just happy to be getting all of this great new music from these guys. Would it be cool if Ace were still in KISS, and the three best songs from his CD were simply on the new KISS album? Sure. But that's not how it is. They can't work together anymore. They've tried — twice — and ended up splitting up both times. Just get over it and enjoy the music.

As for the Hall of Fame, fret not. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley will be the ones to be inducted should the band pass the vote. But Stanley certainly had the right in a recent interview to consider a few other members as well, and to credit their contributions. The late Eric Carr drummed brilliantly in the band for 11 years. Bruce Kulick was the lead guitarist for 10 years. Listen to his solos on hits such as "Tears Are Falling" and "Forever." It's great stuff. And the band, with these members, sold millions of albums and performed hundreds upon hundreds of shows at the world's largest venues. And let's face it: If KISS broke up in 1982, after Frehley and Criss had both left the band, and were never heard from again, they would probably not be being considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their enduring 35-year history and legacy is a big part of it. And the huge reunion tour of '96'-97 with the original four members would not have been nearly as big if the band had not also remained in the pubic eye so much throughout the '80s and early '90s.

All of these things are valid points in considering which members, in addition to the original four, should be inducted into the Hall.

As for the new KISS tour, the fact that some fans are upset about Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer using the same makeup design as Frehley and Criss is understandable. Fans have always been told that those makeup designs were true extensions of the band member's individual personalities, and thus making them interchangeable with somebody else for the sake of marketing seems wrong. But if it was going to be done, Thayer and Singer are the right guys. They each have a history with the band, they were fans before they were members, and they are great musicians who fully understand and appreciate the KISS sound.

What bugs me the most about all of the nitpicking by KISS fans is when they attempt to pile on Gene and Paul. Gene and Paul are NOT the bad guys in the KISS camp. They are not the ones that put substances before the band. They are not the ones that didn't show up for recording sessions when the band was making great albums. I mean, man, I love Ace just as much as anyone, but the guy almost missed one of the biggest shows of the band's career: the opening night of the reunion tour at Tiger Stadium. Ace is as cool as hell and his new album rocks, but even he now admits he was quite a handful sometimes and tough to work with.

Gene and Paul have always been there. From from "Dressed to Kill" to "Dynasty," "Animalize" and "Revenge," they always made sure there was a really good KISS album in your hands every year or two and that the accompanying tour would blow you away. And when the ticket said the show started at 9 p.m., it started at 9 p.m.

They gave you respect as a fan, and as a fan, I still respect and appreciate that.

A few of friends of mine were talking about the new KISS tour last week, and the show coming to Philly on Oct. 12, and the subject of Thayer and Singer's makeup came up. Some were not pleased. I said this: "If Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are playing KISS songs two hours from my house, I'm going."

I also hope to catch Ace on tour, and if they somehow decide to put a few other members besides the original four in the Hall of Fame, I'm very cool with that, too.

On a personal note, I've seen KISS in concert 28 times and I've met most of the guys that have played in the band. Paul and Gene were very cool to me. Could not have been any nicer. Paul even helped us out with "Concert For A Cause" one year and sent us an autographed guitar for the rock auction. Ace is very funny and very cordial guy. I even talked to Eric Carr once on the phone for a radio show I was working on and he was terrific. And I've also met Peter, Tommy, Bruce and even Vinnie Vincent. Never had a bad experience with any of them.

They're good guys, and in whatever lineup they've had, KISS has always been, without question, a great, great rock and roll band.

It's a fun time to be a KISS fan.

Just enjoy it.

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