Guest Blogger: The Werewolf of Sex
Thank you, Coco, so very much for the three-dvd set of Kiss concert footage. It’s so good to have in my possession high quality digitally restored versions of the VHS concerts I used to entertain myself and worry my father during my awkward tween years. For Kiss was the perfect pudding for engaging an 11 year old fixated on the bizarre and jarring imagery supplied by 80’s low-brow cinema, comic books, the iconic status of sports figures and that new tugging feeling in the pants. I gleefully ingested every spoonful of satisfactory rock that these four (actually six) hairy, make-up splattered Jews from Queens put out.
Shiiiiit. I licked the mixing bowl clean and broke my teeth on the metal mixers trying to taste even the rawest of sub-par kiss demo throwaways. and you can imagine what SUB-PAR kiss sounds like…
To me there was no bad Kiss. There was just MORE kiss. And that’s the perfect description of this collection that I am know the “proud” owner of. It’s 24 hours of Kiss, though I watched its entirety in just a little under 6. If you know anything about them, then you know their taste for repetition (“Rock & Roll All Night” appears on here 14 times). The concerts are presented in three volumes: Kissology Vol 1, 2 & 3. Yeah, they love to use Kiss as a prefix.
Spanning from 1973 to 2000, the set chronicles their rise from cult phenomenon, to international merchandising juggernaut. I’ll save you the full odyssey of Kiss for the simple reason that their tale of worldwide domination, fall from grace and eventual recapture of the gold is oh-so-rock&roll-formulaic. But then again, what about Kiss isn’t formulaic?
There is no possible way that anyone has read this far.
Volume I (The Honeymoon)
The first disc opens on Kiss playing a club in Long Beach, LI in early 1974. It’s safe to say that this is the most authentic kiss gets. say what you want about their musical chops or lack thereof, but this was a time when visual rock and roll bombast was few and far between. And Kiss cornered the market. The Cobohall shows of early 1976 blew my face off as a kid. The 7 nights at Budokan in Japan were just crushing. This was also a time in which gene and Ace’s blood & fire antics, Paul’s Queens-inflected femme preaching and Peter Criss’ tribal LOLCat-ing were completely new to me. I had yet to experience the exact same routine 6 thousand times over.
Volume II (You’re Gonna Eat THAT Too)
With the first volume closing at the end of 1977, this was the point where people began going “Hey, this band….they’re full of shit right?” Well, I guess the boys realize that and open the second volume with an 1978 ABC special called “The Land of Hype & Glory”, which tries to expose Kiss for sensationalism and blatant commercialism. Their response in this interview and subsequently all interviews to follow is that there is no meaning behind what they do. They are fully aware that they are less-than-average musicians and only care about entertaining, making money and getting pussy. Fair enough, Gene. And just to drive this point the next feature is “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park”, their made-for-tv movie portraying them as superheroes. This stunt had two effects. For about 11 more months, Kiss were the most iconic and biggest selling brand in the world. Can you imagine the second effect? They looked like fuckin’ morons and realized it. Ace and Peter knew this was the wrong route. But those guys were so jazzed on themselves that they actually thought they were stifled artists. Not quite, fellas. Anyway, the balloon deflates here. Next is the famous Tom Snyder interview, which is like watching children turn on each other. And the rest of the disc is filled with early 80’s international concerts because without the original members, as cosmically insignificant as they are, lets face it, America was looking for an excuse for a break from these guys. Oh, and you also get to see that brief moment in 1981, where Kiss actually flirted with critical acceptance by releasing a concept album entitled “Music From The Elder”. The story, you don’t ask? It’s about these ancient creators of earth who…….it’s basically Kiss with short hair. The songs are actually pretty good (with three songs co-written by Lou Reed!) But after years of preaching of the disregard of critics…..can you say cognitive dissonance? The last seven segments are from the scaled-back, unmasked mid-80’s Kiss – a period referred to by a friend of mine as “that period where Kiss didn’t’ wear make up but where Gene still stuck out his tongue.”
Volume III (K.R.E.A.M.)
The third volume is all Kiss reunion stuff. And this is where it gets pretty despicable. What could’ve been a palatable one-off celebration of Kiss’ distinctive historical rock & roll offerings quickly turns into an over-inflated, brand once again over-staying their welcome. After all the talks about how this time around it’s going to be about the fans and the music, after one world tour of the original four members (which I saw at MSG when I was 17 and must say was pretty awesome) Kiss were back to their old shameful tricks again. Merchandising EVERYTHING. And if you thought ’78 was a year of gross capitalism, allow me to alert you to the $6000US Kiss coffin.
Peter was once again and ingrate, Gene and Paul were overbearing, Ace’s solo’s SUCKED. The hardest thing to swallow about Kiss is their mantra of “For the People, By The People” which implies that they created the show that they had always wanted to see but never did. That the fans put them where they are and they owe it to them to give them what they want. And never more were those sentiments pounded into “the people’s” heads than the five years that Kiss were reunited. Yet it became obvious that if this was the case then they wouldn’t charge $100 to catch a show in an auditorium in Winston-Salem and then another $40 for a souvenir? Jeez, guys – how about switching up a setlist? Well, Kiss subscribe to what’s tried & true. And so do their fans. I’m often surprised that when I’m waiting in a urinal line at a Long Island bar I don’t’ run into more disgruntled Kiss fans. But I guess you could say that the true red-white-&-blue-blooded Kiss fan doesn’t care for much other than if the boys just trot out the “hits”. It’s more about that feeling instilled in us when we were kids. That excitement that we always seem to not quite be able to disregard despite the Kiss organization shitting on us. A couple of years back someone put together two hours worth of Paul Stanley concert preaches into a cd entitled “People Let Me Get This Off My Chest.” If you can make it through you realize that THEY don’t even believe the mantra. So why should we?
I guess when it all boils down it’s not surprising that it’s empty & vapid, it’s rock & roll. For chrissake, Kiss is still touring and this time around Gene was slick enough to get the likeness rights back from Ace and Peter and use two younger and more nimble guys playing their parts. I guess you could say they sound better for it. But the dvd collection stops at 2000 which is the last time when the four members played together. It’s as if Kiss, who said at one point that it doesn’t matter who is in KISS, it’s that KISS LIVES ON, even recognize that at this point, it’s vaudeville. Though, they’ll never admit that out loud. I think it’s kinda sad really because it’s something that meant so much to me as a kid. But what did i know? I was a chubby, pimply, virgin with a bike. And they’re MILLIONAIRES. So in the grand scheme…….
Sometimes when I watch those early shows, I can’t help but laugh. It’s not because I’m realizing “wow, that REALLY sounds like dog shit” or “How is Paul reeeeally singing that about a girl” or even “peter! you’re ONE moment in the show is to sit on an amp case and sing along to a tape to a minute and 45 sec song. can you TRY not to fuck it up?” It’s not smarmy or ironic at all and it’s not a laugh of embarrassment. It’s that I can always see the appeal to the 11-year-old kid in me. My dad still asks me to this day if I’d like back the money I spent on posters, tickets, cassettes, tour books, action figures, stickers and swag. And honestly: No I wouldn’t. It gave me a taste for the dramatic and instilled in me a confidence that I carry to this day. And you needed steadfast confidence to be a die-hard junior high Kiss fan in 1992.
But I am glad that Coco gave me these for free.