Published by Prestel Verlag, Munich · London · New York, 2020.
Hardcover $45.00 Oct 20, 2020
224 Pages | 9-1/4 x 11
Documenting the birth of a radical era of music, fashion, pop culture, media, and art, Steve Eichner was hired by Club King Peter Gatien to make images of his clubs.
Sex, drugs, and dance music created the perfect cocktail of hedonistic bliss set amid a backdrop of iconic parties that catered to revelers every whim.
On any given night, one could party alongside celebrities, club kids, drag queens, ravers, hip hop heads, models, banjees, body boys, bondage slaves, goths, and the bridge-and-tunnel set at legendary nightclubs like Tunnel, Palladium, Club USA, Roxy, and Limelight.
At a time when people from all walks of life came together at night to celebrate themselves. There was universal respect. No one could see what went on inside these nocturnal spaces…until now!
Steve Eichner was the official photographer of NYC nightlife. There are 200 brilliant images in this book.
Here is a sample of his work:
This collection of vivid good times comes at a point when we could use a reminder of the days when people gathered in mass.
Ordinary people became clubbers. They rubbed shoulders with celebs and danced the night away.
Here, a new group of upstarts of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and economic backgrounds came together on the dance floor in a celebration of PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect).
This book will be a great addition to any coffee table this upcoming holiday season.
Edward Van Halen died this week from throat cancer.
His journey from Netherlands to Pasadena, California enabled him to prosper in a culture that became the LA heavy metal scene.
The first Van Halen record features real photos of each member during a gig at the famous Whiskey–A–Go–Go on the Sunset strip.
In 1978 Punk and Disco were exploding in popularity.
With its opening power chords the VH album was a fresh audio blast of serious but joyful rock.
Runnin’ with the Devil, the guitar solo Eruption, and the rest would change music forever.
The members of this group were great looking too. Eddie’s brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth would rise to become the model for all the rock music to come flooding into the hearts and minds of young people all over the world.
Now called Hair Metal, the bands that bought Van Halen’s records are legion.
Eddie was an ingenious player. He could not read music but was able to play spot on by watching other musicians.
There were wonderful collaborations with Michael Jackson on the smash hit Beat It and his appearance on Brian May’s first solo effort Starfleet Project.
1984 is one of my favorite albums of all time. Featuring hits Jump, Hot For Teacher, Panama, and I’ll Wait. They were MTV’s most played act that year.
The changes to Sammy Hagar then Gary Cherone of Extreme yielded 8 years in which they released several #1 records including 5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Kiss were the band that VH opened for on their first national tour. Both bands would headline Britain’s Monsters of Rock festival.
Eddie Van Halen’s music still makes me feel great. I believe it’s timeless.
Although I only saw him in concert on their 2007 Tour, he went shirtless and played like the headliner he had always been.
The rockers of the 1980’s made their mark. Many of the bands from that era are still here recording and performing. Do not take them for granted.
Van Halen music is hard, heavy, melodic, harmonious, and the definition of great rock n roll.
I will miss Eddie Van Halen. He was such a huge presence in my life. Happy Trails…
Another week is done. I have calendars in my apartment. Two in fact. One features puppies in silly outfits and poses to fit the month/season. The other is a New Yorker magazine cartoon-a-day.
The small things that went unnoticed are now prime pins in my mental machinery. They keep me safe. Taking an anti-depressant is the other component in this equation.
Here we are in New York without sitdown service in restaurants. One diner remains with delivery. It’s called Midnite Express after the drug trafficking movie from the 1970s.
Funny to think how the underbelly of society is operating now. Are they wearing masks too? Everyone is required to wear them now.
So with all this time on our hands we come up with projects. My latest was listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalog. I found out I could listen to 9 albums in one day. This infuriated my beloved husband but I was determined to finish in less than a week.
No theater. No baseball. No concerts. Summer will present a challenge. No day trips. May there be no heatwaves nor hurricanes. Oh, the city pools will not open. The last time that happened was the polio pandemic.
We should remind ourselves daily we must allow the health sector to do its best to curtail new illness. We should also keep in mind that all workers are valuable in any economy. Do not scapegoat.
At 7 each evening New Yorkers are banging pots and pans while cheering for nurses and doctors; food deliverers, store clerks; pharmacists, drugstore clerks. Hand in hand those with advanced educations and those with limited resources are working together to keep us all safe.
The city is quiet. You cannot help but feel how fragile society can become when faced with these unusual circumstances. New York pride was once about being open all the time. Things have changed.
Before the pandemic hit Manhattan the complaints to 311 (our city services number) over noise was hitting records. Subway ridership was bursting, and tourism was high.
Now those complaints are not happening and the subways are empty save essential workers. No tourists.
The past 2 administrations created a city for visitors. This has proved to be a shortsighted vision. Without their revenue now what do we do?
The city sleeps. Schools are closed. Life will not return to normal. Our lack of hindsight has proven to be our folly in 2020, funnily enough a year whose numbers literally mean healthy vision.
Last night at twelve Bob Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes”, referencing Walt Whitman, Anne Frank, and the Rolling Stones! Mr. D is doing his part.
The above comes from the Merriam—Webster dictionary definition of Weird. For myself this was the word that always popped into my head when I thought about Frank Zappa. Not surprising that a single word could then be translated in many colorful ways. Much like the sonic experiments Mr. Zappa created, his listeners would receive a bounty that would never get exhausted.
This entry is happening now because on Friday May 31, 2019 for the first time on vinyl since 1976 comes a re-issue of “Zappa In New York” on 3 Lps. Recorded during a 4 show stint at The Palladium in New York City. Originally a double LP, the third record is a bonus!
Before I delve into my thoughts about the work, how did it come to be?
In 1964 Frank Zappa took over leadership of the American band The Soul Giants. He renamed the band The Mothers, referring to the jazz compliment of mother for a great musician. However, their record company, Verve Records , objected to the insinuation (i.e., “motherfuckers”) and by necessity Zappa had to change the name, creating (and defining) The Mothers Of Invention.
Necessity is the mother of invention” is an English-language proverb. It means, roughly, that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need.
Mr. Zappa’s need drove him to create music that would provide new pathways for musicians and listeners.
As a music lover I am relieved that my appreciation of his work comes after my obsessions with mainstream groups. Music is exploratory by nature. As a listener I need to be challenged. Following the former years of passive media consumption I want to be more actively engaged. Music does this for me. But like many of my fellow countrymen I listened to what was put before me, not what I actually made an effort to get. In an age where over produced pop is drowning us in simplicity I need complexity.
Now, in this age of information, the legacy of his vast body of work can be understood as a rigorous expression of subjects Mr. Zappa cared deeply about. Nothing to do with easy access or top 40 popularity. This music is label free. Fusion is the word used to describe what is the core of his output. He puts styles together to form a new sound.
Remaining outside the mainstream culture of mass consumer popularity Mr. Zappa is being reached for the first time by people like myself who remained in a fractured mindset. Applying self-made restrictions on what to hear or think about prevented finding this revolutionary sound.
Tellingly, Mr. Zappa spoke openly about the damaging effects of television that enable a crippling passivity. People become narrow and confused, bogged down in just one form of expression. Taught to consume without much thought. Creativity becomes necessity in such a culture. In his lifetime he released 60 albums of original work. The Zappa Family Trust, since his death in 1993, has put out 62 more works.
For a complete list of the 112 studio albums and 40 tribute albums use this link:
Even back in the late 1960s the idea of free thought was constrained by profit. His albums beginning with the debut, “Freak Out!”, sought to obliterate this filter. Without a filter he put out a record titled, “We’re Only In It For The Money”, with cover art that mocked the lionized “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The rock era is filled to overflowing with artists that sought nothing more than commercial acceptance. Nothing wrong with it. There is more to art than just profit.
I admit that my first impression of him was typical of a kid too young to understand anything more than top 40 drivel. Here was a guy with looks I found peculiar playing music that had sounds I could not readily decipher or pigeonhole. My prejudices were taught. Today there are more people with Zappa’s looks of otherness. I think this is encouraging. He brought humor into forms considered serious like jazz and blues.
Way-out experiments are not the commercial fruit bearing endeavors record companies want from their talent. Frank Zappa did it because there was within him a strong need to invent sounds that could not exist otherwise. He sought out musicians that could play this no boundaries music.
On YouTube there are several hours worth of interviews from different countries and years. His opinions were direct, smart, and well thought out. Knowing full well that America’s self-deception was the thing hurting the nation from era to era, Zappa spoke about our deep backwardness regarding sexuality and free expression.
“The American dream is to always be young, always be rich, and always be cute”— Frank Zappa
Sexuality was the pressing issue. He felt strongly that sex is as natural a function as going to the bathroom. In American culture many are taught to repress sexual expression. Look at what the result of this has been. Zappa did not believe in pornography or dirty words. Filters like religion and television have done damage in dictating that there is something wrong with sex. Notice how absent most expressions of sexuality are from our media. He recognized most license holders in television are right-wing.
I admire his tenacity when expressing these things. I agree with a lot of it. To fix the economy he stated that churches should be taxed. Then legalize prostitution and drugs. Both should be highly taxed and regulated. Make sure our politicians get what they need, especially sex.
Everyone in the country would have better jobs because America would be manufacturing goods. The economy would then be quite strong. And stop overfunding the military. I think this is why so many wanted him to run for President during the 1980s. Boldly put, do you really want sexually repressed people in places of power?
Speaking of power nobody was more aware of television’s deliberate consumer mission: to sell products. His 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live was my first exposure to his music and personality. “Dancin’ Fool” was the catchy number I remember most. Re-watching it I discovered how relevant the other two pieces were in presenting his ideas. Click here to see it: https://youtu.be/PGWE7t3qO1I
Actually, after seeing it again now as an adult I think of Frank Zappa on the simple level of a George Carlin type with musical talent. Intellectual, probing, and skeptical of what we as a society think culture should be.
Mr. Zappa was a champion of First Amendment rights. In the 1980s when the Parent’s Music Resource Center, a group made up of politician’s wifes including Tipper Gore tried to censor rock music, Mr. Zappa testified before Congress. He defended the rights of all. He knew an attack on any form of music was an attack on him as well.
I think he would find the current state of things typical. We are still fighting over race, sexuality, gender, censorship, and inequality. The continuing legalization of marijuana would be progress, slow, but a forward step he might have been happy to see. Just imagine the Zappa response to ‘reality’ TV and ‘social’ media that do the opposite of what they pretend to be. Zappa was quite real and social. A real mother.
Details of the 40th Anniversary release of Zappa In New York set (seen above) are here:
Getting back to how I started this entry. Can we define Zappa? I think we cannot. Fluidity is the main thing in art. Zappa the musician. That’s enough for me.
I have started listening from the beginning with the first 4 albums by The Mothers Of Invention. The first two solo albums were added too.
There may be more entries about Frank Zappa in the future. Although I still need to write about the albums and artists that were at the core of my love of music, the boundaries are ever expanding. The gate is always open.
Nearly 50 years ago a young would be singer appeared on the rock n roll landscape performing his first ever top ten single, “Your Song”. His first record, “Empty Sky”, was not released in the U.S. until 1975. He has 32 albums, over 300 million records sold worldwide, and currently performing live in arenas all over the world for the last time.
Reginald Dwight was his name. He played tennis. Piano lessons came at an early age. He performed a lot as a kid then eventually wound up in a group called Bluesology. Then he changed his name to become a rocker. He took the names of two bandmates in his former group, Elton Dean (Saxophonist) and Long John Baldry (Vocalist) to come up with his new name, Elton John. The name was a tribute to his mates. This would become a lifelong trait.
On Friday, May 31, a new biopic, “Rocketman” will hit theaters. Telling the story of his formative years including a difficult family life and his initial rise to rock stardom. The R-rated film stars Taron Egerton as Elton and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin. I am quite excited about the film. Presented as a ‘real’ fantasy, the film will surely be a fanciful trip.
My listening over the years regarding Mr. John’s output has been quite spotty. Honestly I prefer much heavier rock than the pop he composes, but cannot deny his success. Quite frankly I feel he deserves his name to be singular like Cher or Sting. When researching for this entry I re-discovered how I first came into contact with his music.
Each listener comes to an artist’s work in different ways. Whenever I heard his name I pictured the oversize eyeglasses he sported. I learned about his name change and the construction of his public persona later on in books and magazines. I was a kid in the seventies. I was seduced by the camp and androgynous rockers of the time. Marc Bolan of T-Rex, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and Elton John are my favorite three of those days. Sir Elton is the sole survivor of that raucous era.
In 1967, Dwight answered an advertisement in the British magazine New Musical Express, placed by Ray Williams, then the A&R manager for Liberty Records. At their first meeting, Williams gave Dwight an envelope with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had answered the same ad. Elton would compose the music to fit the lyrics. He would send the music back to Bernie in the post. The two men’s partnership endures to this day.
During the 1970s I was certainly aware of Elton John. ‘Crocodile Rock’, ‘Bennie and the Jets’, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ were performed on “The Muppet Show” which he hosted. It was not until the 1980s that I would listen to a full album of his work let alone purchase one of his albums. Then came the second moment of impact, a concert in the park, attended by 400,000 people and aired on HBO within 3 months of John Lennon’s death. This was a show that included Lennon’s song, “Imagine”.
Elton John’s Concert In Central Park (Fall 1980)
On the left Elton John started the concert in this flashy suit. On the right side he came out for his encores dressed as Donald Duck! I never forgot this show. When his next album appeared I bought it.
However, it was not until the appearance of his May 1983 release that I would be a fan for life. This was to become his best-selling album of the 1980s. “Too Low For Zero” was quite personal too. Mr. John’s turning point from over the top excess in the 1970s to a more conservative approach. The album was his arrival on MTV with hit videos made for every single released. ‘I’m Still Standing’ was his declaration of survival.
A cocaine habit and bulemia almost cost him everything. He was closeted until 1988 when he officially came out as gay. His AIDS foundation has raised countless millions for people afflicted around the globe.
Sadly, ‘Empty Garden’, a tribute to the late John Lennon had him reflecting on the loss of his friend. Unfortunately there were many to come. I came to understand him as a pop star with a defined mission to help those in need and never stop trying to reach new listeners. His longevity is remarkable.
During the 1990s his image and career would change considerably. After the tragic death of Princess Diana he re-released ‘Candle In The Wind’ with new lyrics from Bernie Taupin. It became the biggest single of all-time.
The Disney Company hired him to perform original songs for their animated film, “The Lion King” which proved to be a global smash. Mr. John would win an Oscar in the process. He was now a film composer! With Tim Rice he wrote, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Now kids of all ages were fans too.
Staying relevant is always a challenge for famous people. Elton John has managed to do so after many ups and downs. Following The Lion King would be hard. The movie “Billy Elliott” would be the ticket. The movie featured the music of T-Rex. Elton saw the film knowing in his heart it could be made into a stage musical with original music.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Too Low For Zero”, “The One”, “Made In England”, and “The Captain and the Kid” are my favorite albums. They cover 4 decades of pop and rock.
I have seen Elton John perform many times. I worked at Tower Records in the 1990s. I got to meet Elton in person! He always shopped for new music every month. Always interested in what is happening in the current musical culture has kept him alive.
His performance Co-headlining Shea Stadium in New York City with Eric Clapton in support of “The One” was one of the best shows I have seen. Elton covered Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” in tribute to his fallen friend, Freddie Mercury. It was the first time I had heard a Queen song live!
Elton John & Billy Joel would tour together. I went every time. Each sang the other’s songs. Selling out football stadiums in this era was standard for the piano men.
Elton John encouraged Mr. Joel to tour. Today, he is his own music franchise at Madison Square Garden in New York.
At 72, Elton John can be proud of a life well-lived. Everything comes at a price. He knows his persona will be public property forever. Following his Goodbye Tour he wants to settle with his children and husband.
I think he will return for special events. His songs have been featured in movies, musicals, radio and television. The unkown Reginald Dwight became Elton John. He has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir Elton Hercules John. I will just call him ELTON.
KISS are on their Final Tour Ever. Dubbed “End Of The Road”, as of this writing the first leg is done in the U.S. Next week they begin the second leg in Europe.
I have written about their storied career here to voice my appreciation as a listener and fan. Not every detail is included since there are books, articles, and tons of fodder on YouTube for people to consume. The cultural impact of the group was massive. Here now my entry about them.
The streets of New York were filthy in the 197o’s. The Beatles had just broken up. Millions of rock music fans were left feeling the loss of an entire era. The 1960s provided a ton of artists that were critical darlings. The Vietnam war was still grinding forward. What would happen next?
From those filthy streets in a declining city four young men were practicing music who enacted their wildest dreams of becoming part of a band. Stanley Eisen from Queens, Chaim Weiss raised in Tel Aviv then Brooklyn, Paul Frehley of The Bronx, and Peter Crisscoula of Brooklyn found each other by ads placed in the papers.
Each of these young people had experience playing music live. They shared a love of The Beatles. The love generation was about to give way to the more agressive love gun generation. The term heavy metal was not yet applicable. Their music was a new sound. Their names would be changed too. Chaim Weiss became Gene Simmons. Stanley Eisen became Paul Stanley. Paul Frehely used his nickname Ace because these guys just knew you could not have two Pauls in the same group. And Peter shortened his name from Crisscoula to Criss.
The gritty early 70’s was a culture of worn down clubs, high crime, and low rents. This culture fostered artists. Gene and Paul had a band called Wicked Lester. They had created a sound that was edgy and raw. Simple chords like the rock n roll of past times with heavier bass and loud electric guitars. Starting over they put ads in the Village Voice. Guitarist with flash and balls; Drummer willing to do anything to make it.
Peter Criss claimed he would wear a dress if necessary. Ace Frehley came in, plugged into an amp and let it rip without asking for anyone’s permission. He famously wore mismatched sneakers and looked, in Gene’s opinion, like a bum. Both of these guys were hired. They rehearsed tirelessly in a loft space infested with vermin.
One of the reasons I love them was their absolute determination to make something special. They were never handed anything. Everything happened because of the blood, sweat, and tears put into the development of their act.
With songs from Gene and Paul’s Wicked Lester days plus new material along with some covers the newly named, Kiss, would record their self-titled debut album in just 13 days with producer Richie Wise. The band’s make-up would put off their record company so much that Warner Bros dislodged Casablanca from the company!
The name was derived from Peter Criss’s former group, Lips. Paul Stanley by way of word association thought Kiss would work. Their songs were mainly about sex. Short and easy to remember too. Ace Frehley drew the logo all in caps; Paul Stanley later refined it with extra lines to highlight each letter. In Germany to this day the logo appears without the lightning bolts. That double s caused a lot of reaction for obvious reasons. I think they took back the infamy of this symbolism. The logo projected the power of their music and their image. Today, the name is known around the globe.
Kiss’ first record sold 75,000 copies in 1974. 10 songs with a running time of 30 minutes without a hit single. During a year that included, The Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock N Roll” and Queen’s “Killer Queen” as well as Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”, Kiss was a shock to the system. In make-up on the cover in a similar layout to their heroes, The Beatles, this image was received by critics as not a rock group but a circus act.
On the first record, “Deuce” by Gene Simmons opened their shows. The lyrics were quite purile by any standard. Raw rock music. At a point in time when singer/songwriters like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell were peaking, the culture at large was revolted by Kiss.
“Strutter” by Paul Stanley was about streetwalkers. “Cold Gin” by Ace Frehley was about liquor saving a relationship. These tracks set the stage for concert tours. The next 2 records, “Hotter Than Hell” and “Dressed To Kill” did not set the world on fire either. But the Stanley/Simmons rock anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite” did break the top ten and placed Kiss in the limelight they had been pursuing for years. Then KISS became rock’s next big thing.
At every live show they are introduced with the following:
Alright ________ (fill in the city/town they are playing), You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world…KISS!!!
From then on they were known to their peers in this manner. Quite a feat for an act many had written off as pure novelty just a few years earlier. I think they were probably the first real hard rock group to make it. Alice Cooper had a make-up image too. By the time KISS hit it big, Alice was solo. His act was so different Frank Zappa took an interest. Like Alice, they were inspired by horror movies and comic books. The four guys came up with unique designs. Then came a youthquake across America.
Alive! was the band’s first live concert album recorded on the Dressed To Kill tour in Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, Davenport, Iowa and Wildwood, New Jersey. Including the best tracks from the first 3 albums this record did set the world on fire.
Kiss became the top selling rock band in America. Revulsing parents only added to their popularity amoung teenagers of the time. They thought it was the end of Western civilization but it was the beginning of hard rock music. Sure, Black Sabbath brought metal before it had a name and Alice Cooper took shock rock to a new level, but Kiss developed as a hard rock quartet. Even Alice recognized how unique their image had become in comparison to his own. Both artists would continue for the next 30 years.
Producer Bob Ezrin then took Kiss’ superstardom to new heights recording the album “Destroyer”. The songs “Detroit Rock City” and “King of the Nightime World” showed their skills as songwriters and musicians. The record sounds contemporary to this day. “Beth” was the soft side of the group, a ballad, that became their biggest hit. It provided the inspiration for future acts like Motley Crue and Poison to record what came to be known as power ballads in the 1980s glam metal era.
After proving their metal the band offered their new army an array of goodies. Many of their records had extras inside like posters, merchandise order booklets, temporary tattoos, and stickers. This provided more fuel for those who saw them as a passing fad.
Manager Bill Aucoin recognized how much cultural capital the band had earned with their make-up and costumes. He insisted they license their image. And then came the flood of goodies. Mego toys produced dolls, Thermos made lunchboxes, and there were transistor radios, a toy guitar, a phonograph player, and even a colorforms set. I never had any of these items during their heyday. I would indulge later on during the 1990s. Ads were place on television for the toys and concerts. The increasing cost of their shows was covered not only by ticket sales but merchandise. Fans were mostly pleased to openly display their support.
Throughout the 1970s KISS would appear on daytime shows like Mike Douglas and primetime specials like The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. I saw these programs as a kid. I was spellbound by their sound and image.
Their live show included explosions, flashpots, and a sign above the stage that flashed their logo in blinding lights. A new era had arrived. This music that became hard rock was then known as glam or glitter rock. I never got to see and hear them live until after this period.
The band took pride in selecting up and coming bands they felt their fans would like including Rush, Van Halen, and Cheap Trick. These artists are still among my favorite groups.
Gene and Paul’s vision was a band they never saw onstage but wanted to see themselves. A heavy metal version of The Beatles was their intention. I think they delivered despite not being critical darlings or chart toppers.
They never stopped facing adversity. Gene and Paul developed a relationship with their fans. They listened to producers in studio that wanted them to work using different methods to refine the music. However much success they earned the toughest period was their transition from the 1970s to the 1980s.
In an effort to keep the band together KISS released 4 solo albums all at once in 1978. Each album had that member’s face on the cover along with the KISS logo and their name. Each member dedicated their album to the other three guys in the group. A poster came with each album. When all 4 posters were pieced together it formed a full- color mural of the group as superheros. The 4 records shipped platinum. Only the guitarist and singer Ace Frehley would score a top 40 hit with “New York Groove”.
However, each record expressed that member’s individual musical style. Personal beliefs also played a part. On Gene’s album, for example, he ends with a cover of “When You Wish Upon A Star”. The song was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio. It became a Jazz standard and an icon of The Disney Company.
The 4 Solo Albums drove a wedge between the members of the group.
Instead of unifying them, they were driven farther apart.
“Music From The Elder” then saw them try to create a ‘serious’ prog rock concept album. There was going to be a movie Starring Chris Makepeace (“My Bodyguard” and “Meatballs”). The story took place in a medieval setting. A boy who sets out to destroy a dark knight. In so doing he becomes a champion. A complete departure from the rock basics it became the most derided effort among fans to this day. The film was never made either.
So they went back into the studio to record what would become their 10th record, “Creatures of the Night”, their last for Casablanca. The label’s head, Neil Bogart died of cancer. The band would dedicate this album to him. After all he was one of the first people to really believe in them.
The “Creatures” album was also the final record in make-up until “Psycho Circus” in 1998. The lackluster performance of their previous 2 efforts had people speculating they would disband. Fans reacted positively to the ballad “I Still Love You”, the anthem “I Love It Loud” also a video on the new cable network MTV. Their tours took a big dip at this time. New drummer Eric Carr in Fox make-up and lead guitarist Vinnie Vincent in Ankh make-up drove old fans away. Peter and Ace faced substance abuse issues that cost them their place in the group.
There were half empty arenas. The times were changing. New wave music was rising. There were new groups who benefitted from MTV. Like KISS before them some of the new artists were accused of being all image too.
But they survived these lows because newer fans like myself wanted to hear and see them. Our parent’s disapproval only pushed us furthur in our support. Kiss did not need to have a #1 hit. Each tour was unique. The records had to remain heavy. Even their album “Dynasty” with its disco number “I Was Made For Lovin You” was a hit worldwide. This success led to the lighter “Unmasked” lp. “Shandi”, a ballad that seemed to be a follow-up to “Beth”, was a big hit in Australia.
My first encounter with them was their 1978 release “Rock N Roll Over”. A tight set of hard rock tracks that I still love today. To this day I will listen to albums from the 70s like “Destroyer”, “Love Gun”, and “Alive!”. Their 1980s output was my entry into their world. Arenas filled with my peers who just wanted to rock out. By the time the first 10 years were over Kiss had never stopped having to prove themselves.
I listened to every counter argument leveled at Kiss: they had no talent, their name stood for Knights in Satan’s Service, they were Nazis, they were gay, they were clowns and were only in it for a buck. Oh, yes, their only popular because of the image.
Then Kiss did something no one had ever expected them to do . On MTV in 1983 the band appeared for the first time without the make-up. I did not see this press conference. I discovered this new Kiss when I went to my local record shop.
“Lick It Up”, their 11th studio album, featured Vincent on lead guitars. He co-wrote the album with the exception of two songs written by Gene Simmons. This proved to be a promising start to a new era of Kiss. Their years on Casablanca were over; Mercury was the new label.
The cover was literally a clean slate. A white background with a full color image of the band . I remember how confused I felt when I first laid my eyes on it. No Ace; No Peter. The logo was just a bold outline, small, in the upper left corner. The only other tell-tale sign that it was Kiss was Gene sticking out his tounge! This was a tough period for them.
Ironically, the MTV launch in late summer 1981, helped Kiss reinvent themselves. The music videos for “Lick It Up” and “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” received heavy airplay. I embraced the new music. I would not see them live until the late 80s.
Although Gene and Paul are not that fond of their post 1977 output their sound influenced the 80s hard rock scene. Cheap Trick’s anthem “Surrender” even mentions the band by name. Motley Crue, Poison, Van Halen, Skid Row, Ratt, Bon Jovi, and many others performed what became known as Glam Metal. Their shows emulated Kiss with big pyrotechnic spectacles.
I finally saw them for the first time on their “Asylum” tour. Vinnie Vincent was long gone. Bruce Kulick was now their lead guitarist. I was studying communications in college at the time. I came across the attributes that define strong groups. The ability to change members was an attribute that stood out for me. Kiss kept going through changes and survived. Some of the records they released would be more appreciated as the years passed.
I would see them several times on various tours. Kiss did World Tours. During the 80’s their make-up related merchandise vanished as well. Only at shows could you get a program and a shirt. Their albums continued to sell too. The only image of The Demon was on the body of Gene’s custom bass. There were always fans who showed up at concerts in full Kiss make-up too.
Kiss released “Animalize” in 1984, “Asylum” in 1985, “Crazy Nights” in 1987, and “Hot In The Shade” in 1989. There was a tour for each. And music videos were produced for MTV. This enabled them to stay around until their resurgence in the mid-1990s. You can look up information about the videos and chart positions. The biggest commercial hit they had since “Beth” was another ballad. “Forever” written by Michael Bolton and Paul Stanley peaked on Billboard at #8. The video reached #1 on Dial MTV thanks to fans. The last 2 records of the decade found Kiss using keyboards, synths, and drum machines. Then came the 1990s.
I saw Kiss twice on their Hot In The Shade Tour. Opening act Slaughter were the latest in a long line of popular groups to get their first national audience at the arena level thanks to Kiss. The show featured a Sphinx whose mouth opens up to reveal the band. Laser lights were also featured effects. The set included songs from the 1970s era too! The rumors of them appearing in make up again were fueled by the music video for the song “Rise To It” which shows Gene and Paul in make-up for a brief moment at the end of the clip.
During their Madison Sq Garden show I caught a Gene Simmons guitar pick and Eric Carr’s drumsticks! I was 6th row center on the floor. The shows were great.
The early 1990s were cruel to hard rock groups and their fans. The labels that had signed Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Warrant, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Kiss were starting to move in a new direction. The new decade brought the groups Nirvana and Pearl Jam; Soundgarden and Faith No More. Glam metal died. The new sound became known as Grunge.
Then in 1991 Kiss’ longtime drummer Eric Carr died from heart cancer. His death happened on the same day as Freddie Mercury of Queen! Kiss were again at a transformative point in their career. Another Eric would become the next member of Kiss. And producer Bob Ezrin would work with them again for the first time since the failure of “The Elder” album.
1992’s “Revenge” became the band’s most succesful since 1979’s “Dynasty”. And had the most music videos of any Kiss release. After years of pop infused hard rock the group returned to their more primal 70s sound. Before the arena dates the group performed in a New York City club for a sold out standing-room only crowd. No make-up; No pyro. Just 2 solid hours of their hits. This was one of the best concerts I have ever seen!
Then the group took another unexpected turn by accepting an invitation to record a special for the MTV series Unplugged. This would prove to be the most pivotal event in the band’s storied career.
In 1995 at Sony Studios in New York City the members of Kiss would perform their songs on acoustic guitars. During the show they spoke about the development of the songs too. Then came the surprise. Ace and Peter came out to perform with them for the first time since the end of the 70s dynasty. The stage was set for their official reunion!
Even a reunion of the original band had its adverse results. Although overlooked by many older fans, the unmasked line-up featuring Bruce Kulick on lead guitar was reaching a creative peak with Revenge in 1992 then came an album that got lost.
Following their Revenge World Tour the group returned to the studio. The band once again took another departure from their hard rock sound with “Carnival Of Souls”. I loved this record. The biggest price paid for the reunion was the loss of this album as a tour.
When the reunion happened they shelved this record. Fans started to get a hold of bootleg versions of this album. The band released it with the title, “Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions”. This was Bruce Kulick’s final appearance as a member of KISS. He got his first lead vocal performance on the last track of the set, “I Walk Alone”. Eric Singer, the drummer would not return to the band until 2006.
The following year became their biggest. The Alive Worldwide Tour of 1996 featured the original line-up in make-up with a production inspired by their set for the Love Gun Tour in 1977. Nearly 20 years had passed but when they put the greasepaint on they were young again. And the KISS Army made this tour the most successful of that year.
I went to a group of shows during the tour. The Madison Square Garden concerts were spectacular. For the first time I saw and heard what made KISS so special upon arriving in the turmoil of the 1970s. The songs they brought back into their set included “King Of The Nightime World” and “C’mon and Love Me”. The crowd was the most electric I have ever witnessed. All of the old fans came back to see them too.
This period was a time where the band could feel good about themselves. Even critical reaction was favorable. The waters would get rough again but the group was resilient and nothing would stop them. “Psycho Circus” would be the first make-up album since “Dynasty” to feature Peter And Ace. “Into The Void” is the only track they played on fully. The problems of the old days were returning to bite them again in 1998.
The songs were a love letter to their devotees. During the recording sessions the old problems resurfaced. Other musicians aided the effort to get the album finished. They released a video for the title track in 3-D. The tour would be billed as the first ever done in 3-D too. Then came a hevy period of touring all the places they had not been to for awhile including Europe and Australia. Gene and Paul would invest in ventures outside the rock world like their restaurant Rock N Brews. Arena football, a mini-golf in Vegas, and extending the KISS brand to an array of products that would bring them into their penultimate era.
In 2003 the group toured for the final time with its classic original line-up. A lot of fans misunderstood the farewell tour headline. They were laying to rest this reunion era. The band would not record again until 2009’s Sonic Boom. The next line-up would be their last. The make-up would never come off again. Fans got what they wanted in 1996; Gene and Paul got what they wanted the rest of the way.
Music is a business. I feel strongly that to stay around you need to develop a fan base with pretty consistent albums. KISS built a strong foundation during the 1970s. With the help of session musicians, managers like Bill Aucoin who nurtured their image, and the songwriting skills of the members themselves, they have survived in this business for alomost 50 years.
Without releasing another record there were a lot of concerts. The band reached New Zealand and Chile for the first time. It was also their most extensive tour of Europe. Their Sonic Boom was literally heard around the globe. Since 1998’s Psycho Circus they went 11 years without recording. “Sonic Boom” was the first with Tommy Thayer on guitar and Eric Singer returned as drummer. Both had lead vocals on the record. And they wore the trademark make-up of Ace and Peter.
In 2012 KISS released their 20th album, “Monster”. This has now been realised as their final release. It reached #2 on Billboard, their highest chart position ever. The set spelled it out one last time what Kiss were all about. “Hell Or Hallelujah”, “Freak”, “Wall Of Sound”, and “All For The Love Of Rock N Roll” are amoung my favorite songs.
Gene Simmons has become a business guy not ashamed to hawk products he believes in. Paul Stanley has been exhibiting his paintings. Their partnership has lasted 45 years and counting. The final tour is expected to run for the next 3 years.
All I know about them has led me to think there are more surprises to come. I have been fortunate enough to have met most of the members of KISS. I was present aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid when they announced the reunion tour. I have attended 12 concerts.
In August I will see my 13th and final Kiss show. In the end I have many great memories. And there are 20 studio albums and 4 Alive! albums to enjoy whenever I need a jolt of their energy.
Here are my favorite KISS albums and songs:
100,000 Years (Simmons/Stanley)………….KISS (1974)
Rock N Roll All Nite (Simmons/Stanley)….Dressed To Kill (1975)
God Of Thunder (Stanley)……………………….Destroyer (1976)
Sweet Pain (Simmons)…………………………….Destroyer (1976)
Beth (Criss, Penridge, Ezrin)…………………..Destroyer (1976) Lead Vocals by Peter Criss
Shock Me (Frehley)…………………………………..Love Gun (1977) Lead Vocals by Ace Frehley
Hooligan (Criss, Penridge)………………………..Love Gun (1977) Lead Vocals by Peter Criss
Love Gun (Stanley)…………………………………..Love Gun (1977)
I Was Made For Lovin’ You (Stanley, Vini Poncia, Desmond Child)….Dynasty (1979)
Magic Touch (Stanley)………………………………Dynasty (1979)
Talk To Me (Frehley)………………………………..Unmasked (1980)
Two Sides Of The Coin (Frehley)………………..Unmasked (1980)
Only You (Simmons)…………………Music from The Elder (1981) Vocals by Simmons & Stanley
I (Simmons, Ezrin)……………………Music from The Elder (1981)
Rock N Roll Hell (Simmons, Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance)…..Creatures Of The Night (1982)
Lick It Up (Stanley, Vincent)……………………..Lick It Up (1983)
Heaven’s On Fire (Stanley, Child)………………Animalize (1984)
King Of The Mountain (Stanley, Kulick, Child)…..Asylum (1985)
Tears Are Falling (Stanley)……………………………….Asylum (1985)
In this new hardcover from Apollo publishing, the domestic lives of rock stars are exhibited. This is a nicely laid out coffee table affair with fine photographic images of many of the world’s most famous music stars from the past 50 years. A total of 176 pages. Lists for $24.95.
For the fan and non-fan alike. The histories of various properties like Cotchford Farm, former home of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne which became the estate of then Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones. The material within is quite a page turner. You get to find out what became of their homes after they died or whether they just left to live elsewhere.
There are essays by:
Chris Charlesworth (Melody Maker; Omnibus Press).
Eddi Fiegel (The Telegraph; The Guardian).
Colin Salter (The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock).
Daryl Easlea (Music Journalist and author of Books about Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel).
Bryan Reesman (Entertainment Journalist).
Simon Spence (BBC, NME) music journalist and author.
A survey of stars including Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Prince, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Keith Moon, The Allman Brothers, Noel Gallagher, Debbie Harry, Barry Gibb, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Freddie Mercury, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.
The material presented here is well organized. Essays precede each group of artists. Titled in order of appearance: Through The Keyhole, Psychedelic Suburbia, The Laurel Canyon Scene, Haunted Houses & Magic Mansions, All Aboard The Starship, Punk Digs & Dives, Out Of View, Islands & Exiles, Riot On Sunset, Last Known Abode, Musical Playgrounds, Mysterious & Spooky, and Colorfully Enhanced Cribs.
You begin to glean solid knowledge of the reasons why these people bought these homes and decorated them. The number one reason why some of these stars sought remote places was privacy. To escape the adoring public; to escape the press. Some of them would stay in the same home until their deaths like Jimi Hendrix did with his London flat. George Harrison’s widow Olivia still lives in their palatial estate. The birdseye view of this home is worth the price of this book alone.
Speaking of public museums you realize that some stars have a lot in common even if their musical expressions were different. Elvis, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix all had homes that would open to the public as historic places of interest after their untimely deaths.
The Eagles, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Carole King were neighbors in Laurel Canyon, Ca. This is an amazing time capsule of a very unique period of time where so many creative people could afford the homes that existed here. This is an example of a time when famous people had an open door too. They did not have walls.
Frank Sinatra and Keith Richards both eventually built walls in their very different places of residence to keep out intruders. Bob Dylan would move after fans discovered his then unknown residence in the town of Woodstock, N.Y. Mr. Dylan then sought seclusion. Chuck Berry like Sinatra (Twin Palms) named his estate. Berryland was open to the public until a massive fire destroyed it. This survey relates a lot of interesting stories like this throughout its pages.
Did you know that in the 1950s’ throught the 1970’s a lot of artists opened their homes to public viewing and parties. And that John Lennon’s murder in 1980 led many of these artists to close their homes as a result?
I can highly recommend this book as the type of treasure you can pick up for an insightful and fun tour of homes and people you may not have had access to otherwise unless you go to Graceland or Paisley Park. There is such a wealth of tidbits throughout that you will never get bored.
The misfits who began careers in music never expected to become wealthy. The galaxy of stars in this book represent a small sample of those who did well.
You realize in the end home is where you feel safe and comfortable. This book will make you feel this way and so much more!