I was seven years old and I just saw the made-for-TV movie “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park” and I was hooked. I didn’t know who they were or that they were the biggest band in the world at the time. I just saw the costumes, face paint, big stage and loud guitars. It was like nothing I ever witnessed before. The only other music I ever heard at the time was with my dad in the car on family trips listening to AM radio country music. Or if I was lucky I got to hear the Eagles or Dolly Parton on the record player when my Mom was cleaning house.
But like I said, this was different. Kiss was right there in my face living, breathing fire, blood spitting theatrics and all. I wanted more, I needed more. So I begged my mom to get me one of their records and I guess she couldn’t resist my baby blues because she came home with a vinyl copy of Love Gun.
I remember it clear as a bell. Mom came back from the department store up the street called Zayres and in her hand was a plastic bag. She reached in and pulled out the record in all its 12×12 colorful glory. Before she would give it to me, though, Mom uttered these words: “I know I shouldn’t have bought you this because of the girls on the cover,” and handed me the record. “Your dad is going to kill me,” she said as she went to throw away the plastic bag.
I about jumped out of my skin. There it was – Gene, Paul, Peter, and my favorite, Ace. Oh how I wanted to be Ace in that black and white spacey outfit with the cool silver star make up. For years after, every Halloween, I always dressed up like Ace.
I thanked my Mom a thousand times and she put the record on for me. From the opening guitar chords of “I Stole Your Love,” I was mesmerized. I sat on our ugly orange couch next to the record player staring at the cover and inner sleeve while the band blasted “Christine Sixteen” (which ended up being one of my favorite tracks). Ace got to sing “Shock Me” and that was the best, the title track was killer too, in fact the whole album was amazing.
I didn’t know anything about the lyrical content at the time but now when I listen to the record there is some pretty raunchy stuff going on. Gene singing about his love for a 16-year-old or the infamous “plaster caster” and Paul stealing a girl’s “love.”
I played that record constantly, to the point I would sneak it on and turn the volume low. I would pull the speakers around me like a little fort so not to disturb my parents. I swear I must have worn Love Gun out. Maybe that is why my Mom came home with a second record.
Same story – Mom comes home with a plastic bag and inside is another Kiss record. This time is was 1977’s Kiss Alive II.
This was like the holy grail of Kiss records for me. Again I studied that album cover more than I studied my homework. “Did you see Gene spitting blood on the cover Mom? Look, look, he’s spitting blood.” From that point on, every time I would lose a tooth, I would let the blood run out of my mouth and pretend I was Gene Simmons.
Kiss Alive II wasn’t just any record – it was a live record, a double live record. I would open that gatefold cover and WOW amazing more pictures and there was also Kiss written in blood, or at least I thought it was at the time.
The back cover was just as cool. With the song lists at the top, there were these two kids with long feathered hair who made a Kiss sign (see picture) and the one kid was holding up his fist. Like all the other covers I studied that, looked at all the faces in the crowd, thinking how lucky those kids were to be on the back of a Kiss record. I wonder whatever happened to those two guys.
As time went on my love for Kiss grew, as did my record collection. Next in line were Kiss Alive and Destroyer.
They became my favorite band obviously and they were also my first concert – although it was four years after they took off the makeup. It was the 1984 tour for the album Animalize.
Wouldn’t you know it, Mom to the rescue! I was in eighth grade and my brother was a junior in high school. My mom wrote us notes to get out of school early saying we had a dentist appointment. I remember getting to leave class early and getting picked up at school thinking I was doing something wrong, but also thinking “ha ha fuckers, I am out of here.”
We were headed to Terre Haute, Ind., to see Kiss. My brother was driving and he had three friends, Corey Wilson and I forget who else. They had Cherry Vodka and 7-Up. They gave me some and I drank a little and didn’t like it, so I pretended to drink the rest. They also had “white crosses” which was acid, maybe speed? I didn’t take any, I knew better. I wanted to enjoy the show.
A new band called Queensryche opened up for Kiss. They had one album out and I thought they were horrible – but I’d later go on to like them actually. One thing I still remember distinctively about that show was sitting in the back, pretty good seats because it was a small place. I had an aisle seat since I was shorter than everyone else. There was this guy across the stairs from me, a big guy, smoking weed and he went to get something to eat, and he brought back a tray of hot dogs, sat the tray on his lap and ate every single one of those hot dogs. I counted 14.
The lights went down and the pot was heavy in the air, probably the hot dog dude, and the opening chords to “Detroit Rock City” started to play. Kiss rose from the back of the stage with their name in these huge blinking lights in unison. It was amazing. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to jump around and rock out, but I didn’t want to miss a thing on stage.
After the show on the way home I was tired, but was too amped to sleep. I stared out the window in the backseat at the black night sky thinking about every moment in the show.
From then on I collected every cassette of Kiss. I got up to 14, and then around 1987 they started to suck with albums like Crazy Nights and Hot in the Shade. That’s also the time when I found the bands coming out of Seattle and never looked back.
I actually grew to hate Kiss because they were, well still are, so greedy. They would sell anything with a Kiss logo on it…remembers Kiss Coffins?
Now that I have gotten older and gotten past their money grubbing ways, I find myself going back to Love Gun and Destroyer etc really enjoying the music and the memories. I can’t say I will go out and buy all their albums, but I will listen to the ones I have, and pick up some that I am missing (all pre-1985) and really enjoy the memories they bring back.