Saturday, August 7, 2010

20 years of KISS—and counting

What in me is dark

Illumine, what is low raise and support,

That to the height of this great argument

I may assert eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of KISS to men.

—Unnamed KISS fan

Twenty years ago I attended my first KISS concert at the Great Woods Performing Arts Studio in Mansfield, MA. It was the Hot in the Shade tour. KISS’ big hit at the time was “Rise to It” (though “Hide Your Heart” and the power ballad “Forever” were making the airwaves, too).

I was so pumped for that show and KISS did not disappoint. I still remember Paul Stanley’s command, “If life is a radio, turn it up to 10!” I listened to Paul and obeyed.

That night I rose to the greatness that is KISS and I’ve never come down. Over the years I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen them—a dozen or more probably. I’ve worn KISS makeup to concerts. One of my favorite memories is going through the drive-through at Burger King with three other guys, all wearing KISS makeup. Before we drove out the cashier had called over every employee in the restaurant to gawk at us through the narrow window.

Twenty years later—tonight, in fact—I’m returning to the same Mansfield stomping grounds to see them again. No makeup this time, but I’m still feeling the same old excitement.

KISS was the first band that I fell in love with and claimed as my own. I was 14 or so when I bought my first KISS cassette tape, Crazy Nights. Here was a band that instilled me with a sense of rebellion while also paradoxically inviting me to be part of something big and cool, the KISS Army. From “Crazy Nights”: “They try to tell us, that we don’t belong, but that’s all right, we’re millions strong!”

Although those years are long gone I still love KISS. I’ll never make the claim that they’re the best musicians. Far from it. KISS has had a couple okay guitarists over the years (Ace Frehley pre-booze, Bruce Kulick, Vinnie Vincent) and Eric Carr was a decent drummer, but that’s it. Nor have they written any deep or meaningful lyrics. I mean, have you ever tried listening to the mess that is The Elder?

But I consider this latter "shortcoming" a strength. I still have a chip on my shoulder about grunge bands, mainly because so many of them took themselves way too seriously. I loathe whiny, “my life sucks” lyrics, and personally I see no appeal in attending a concert to listen to that crap.

KISS is all about fun. Their lyrics are an absolute joy, at times approaching a Spinal Tap level of ridiculousness. For example, again from Hot in the Shade, here’s “Read My Body”:

Read my body
Are the letters big enough?
Read my body
Do you like the book of my love?
Read my body
Turn the page, get to the good stuff

KISS also always puts on a great stage show. Yeah, Gene Simmons is an absolute merciless capitalist, but so what? At least he’s open and honest about it. And KISS always delivers.

A review could be coming; we’ll see how I feel.


Chad Thorson said...

Another member of The Kiss Army!

I've only seen them live once, backin 2000 with the original lineup. Their music is everything that rock 'n roll should be. Rude, Raucous and Risque!

My favorite album is Unmasked.

CitizenBen said...

Thank you sir for raising the flag! That picture is fantastic!

Eric D. Lehman said...

C'mon! No makeup this time?

Brian Murphy said...

Atom Kid: Unmasked? Really? That album does have a unique style and some underrated hits, but it's rare to hear someone declare it their favorite. Still, I salute you!

CitzizenBen: Sure, I'm a KISS fan and proud of it. Any guesses as to which member I am in the photo :)?

Eric: I thought about it, but it would have required shaving off my beard, which I was not about to do.

Falze said...

Man, that shirt already had a hole in it then. The first of many...many many.

Brian Murphy said...

Yup, so many holes in fact that the Spinal Tap shirt is now officially retired. I'm donating it to a local museum.

Anonymous said...

although I was made for loving you is one of my favourites songs od any genre I have controversy with Kiss I see them more than a kind of entertainments than good musicians... a bit the same as with the Rolling stones, the most popular songs of the stones, Jumping Jack Flash, It's only rock and roll or Brown sugar and the standards of Kiss Rock and roll all night, Detroit rock city or Lovegun are weak compositions for me very poor technically and musically...
all in all both groups have great songs but they have no comparation with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who or Jethro Tull for example...