KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries
by Alan K. Stout
Frehley's 'No Regrets' a fun and engaging read
(Commentary, February 2012)
102.3-FM The Mountain
By Alan K. Stout
When former KISS guitarist Ace Frehely first put the word out about two years ago that he was penning an autobiography, he was candid enough to admit that his recollections of much of the '70s and the '80s were a bit of a blur. Living a fast life of wine, women and song ' and drugs ' had made it that way. But with some fine prodding by co-authors Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, Frehley's memory came alive. And his recently released book, "No Regrets," is a total page-turner.
Frehley talks about much more than music and the life of a rock star throughout the text's 300 pages. He discusses his Bronx upbringing, where he was raised in a fairly normal middle-class home, and though he was a pretty good kid overall, sometimes fell in and out of trouble and later dabbled in the gang scene. As a teen, he discovered he had a knack for two things: playing the guitar and charming the ladies, and he reveals that his nickname, "Ace," did not come from his skill on the fretboard, but rather his ability to serve as match-maker for his friends and the girls that had struck their fancy.
Music, more than anything, is what struck Frehley's fancy. And as a kid growing up in New York in the '60s, readers learn he was completely tuned into everything important that was happening in rock. The Who's first performance in New York? Creem's first performance in New York? Led Zeppelin's first performance in New York? Frehley was at them all. And when he saw people like Townshend, Clapton and Page on stage, he not only knew what he wanted to, he realized it was something he could do.
Many of the tales Frehley shares in the text are quite remarkable and amusing. As a kid, he once snuck backstage at a Jimi Hendrix show - another one of his idols - and rather than being booted out, was asked to roadie and ended up setting up stage gear and chatting with legendary Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell. In 1971, several years before he joined KISS, he attended a Grateful Dead show and "somehow ended up backstage again." He writes, "I just wandered around, looking and acting like I belonged ... soon enough, I was hanging out with Jerry Garcia." It's a pretty cool story.
Another interesting aspect of the book is when Frehley discusses his instant belief in KISS and that he knew right away, based on the music alone, that the band was a powerhouse. After kicking around with a few other bands over the years, he says he knew he'd found something special not long after he first started playing with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss. "We f-ckin' killed it," is how he describes a showcase show the band did for its future label, Casablanca Records. It's a fine insight into what would soon become the biggest band in the world.
Frehley also offers some details of KISS' meteoric rise to fame, the recording of his successful 1978 solo album, his eventual departure from the band and, later, his reunion with KISS and his second departure. Throughout it all, he talks about his battles with drugs and alcohol, his arrests, his car wrecks and his high-speed chases – some of which he is lucky to have survived - and his close friendship with the late John Belushi. He takes on a good chunk of the blame for some the problems he had with KISS and offers some insight into the dynamics of his relationship with Simmons and Stanley. And while they go under the bus a few times, he throws himself under as well while also offering his perspective on a few of the band's career choices on which he was out-voted and which he felt were mistakes. ("Music From The Elder," for example.)
Overall, "No Regrets" is a fair, balanced and entertaining look at the life of one of hard-rock's most beloved musicians. Frehley has done incredible things in his life, as well as things that showed poor judgment. Sometimes his actions – though quite humorous - were downright puzzling. With his book, he talks openly about it all. And perhaps the best part is when he discusses, without posturing or lecturing, how he has now been clean and sober for the past several years.
Paul Daniel "Ace" Frehley. A laid back and unassuming guy at heart, and one of the most influentual hard-rock musicians of all-time. He aced playing the guitar more than 40 years ago, and now, at age 60, he's finally aced the game of life.
Good for him. And a great read.
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