Flash Gordon’s Alive!

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Origins Of Swashbuckling In Outer Space

Before I delve into the legacy of Flash Gordon…

Buck Rogers is a fictional space opera character created by Philip Francis Nowlan in the novella Armageddon 2419 A.D., subsequently appearing in multiple media.

Without Buck Rogers there would be no Flash Gordon. First appearing in 1928, the character of Anthony “Buck” Rogers was the first to feature space exploration! As it paralleled the latest advances in technology of the early twentieth century, the space hero would take to alien worlds to defend Earth from certain peril.

The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. 

Later adaptations included radio in 1932, a film seriala television series (in which his first name was changed from “Anthony” to “William”), and other formats.

Buck Rogers was the inspiration for other comic strips:

 Tom Swift (1930-1937), Brick Bradford (Central Press Association, 1933-1987), Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire (Watkins Syndicate, 1935-1941),  Speed Spaulding (John F. Dille Co., 1940-1941),  and  John Carter of Mars (United Feature Syndicate, 1941-1943).

The adventures of Buck Rogers in comic strips, movies, radio and television became an important part of American popular culture. It was on January 22, 1930, that Buck Rogers first ventured into space aboard a rocket ship in his fifth newspaper comic story Tiger Men From Mars.

The Buck Rogers strip was popular enough to inspire other newspaper syndicates to launch their own science fiction strips.  The most famous of these imitators was Flash Gordon (King Features Syndicate, 1934-2003).

I did not discover this about these 2 serials until I created this entry for Evan’s Gate!

In the 1980’s NBC-TV premiered “Buck Rogers In The 25th Century” based upon the feature film of the same name that appeared in theaters. Starring Gil Gerard as Buck and Co-starring in the series were Erin Gray as crack Starfighter pilot Colonel Wilma Deering, and Tim O’Connor as Dr. Elias Huer, head of Earth Defense Directorate, and a former starpilot himself.

Buck Rogers will get its own entry in this blog at a future date. You just cannot celebrate a Flash Gordon Anniversary without providing this necessary background.

The Buck Rogers movie served as a pilot for a potential TV show. Released a year before Flash Gordon in 1979, the box office was good enough for NBC to hire creator Glen A. Larson (Battlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyQuincy, M.E.The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew MysteriesB. J. and the BearThe Fall GuyMagnum, P.I. and Knight Rider.)

The television series lasted two seasons. The actors strike of 1980 disrupted production. When it returned the show was revamped with new characters and format. The 1980-81 Season was to be its last.

Fun fact: Larry “Buster” Crabbe” made a cameo appearance on the Buck Rogers TV series!

Serial Start For Flash Gordon

Serial adventures were a staple of the American cinema from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Each week a chapter would appear in theaters. The ending was usually a cliffhanger. Our hero would be caught in some sort of death spiral that left viewers wondering how they would manage their escape.

These serialized adventures were provided as an added attraction at theaters. They did a lot with small budgets.

Based upon various comic strip characters of the day, those serials produced one character in particular that has stayed around for over 70 years—Flash Gordon. A comic strip created by Alex Raymond in the 1930’s influenced the adventures of Batman, Superman, Captain Kirk, and Luke Skywalker.

I saw the original movie serials on Channel Thirteen, a Public Television station here in New York during the 1970’s. The re-runs coincided with the release of Star Wars in 1977.

Later on I discovered that Star Wars creator George Lucas was a fan of Flash Gordon. He inquired about the rights with King Features but found out the expense was beyond his means. Movie fans got a space fantasy filled with characters inspired by Flash Gordon.

I had been enthralled by science fiction and fantasy since the re-runs of Star Trek. Then Flash Gordon appeared and then Star Wars. I could not see the direct lineage of these series until much later.

Summer of 1977 marked movie history being made. George Lucas’ Star Wars changed the popular culture. Becoming at the time the highest grossing movie of all time, its success would lead to the first Star Trek movie in 1979 and Alien in that same year! In fact Alien won the Visual Effects Oscar over Star Trek. And of course launched another franchise.

Then came a big budget European feature film of Flash Gordon announced in the pages of American fan magazine, Starlog. Italian Producer Dino DeLaurentis with Director Mike Hodges created a unique vision of the comic book hero.

The Italian film legend Federico Fellini turned down an offer to direct Flash Gordon.

Putting together an all-star European cast with two unknown Americans as Flash and Dale was an unusual contrast not unlike Star Wars. There were many European stars wearing masks in both pictures.

For example British TV/Film actor and Bodybuilder David Prowse wore the Darth Vader costume for Star Wars; British TV star Peter Wyngarde (Department S, Jason King) wore a mask as General Klytus in Flash Gordon. Mr. Wyngarde’s voice is heard while Mr. Prowse gets dubbed by James Earl Jones.

But I digress. Back to our main focus. The cast of Flash Gordon—

Max Von Sydow (“The Seventh Seal”, “The Exorcist”) was Emperor Ming The Merciless; Timothy Dalton (James bond) was Prince Barin; Brian Blessed (Black Adder) was Vultan; Ornella Muti was Aura; Mariangela Melato was Kala; Peter Wyngarde (Jason King) was Klytus; Richard O’ Brien (Rocky Horror) was Fico; Topol was Dr. Hans Zarkov; Melody Anderson was Dale Arden; Sam J. Jones (“10”) was Flash Gordon.

Coming Of Age

As a gay kid in the 1980’s there were a lot of stimulating images in film. What I mean is that there were lots of films featuring shirtless guys on their posters. “Beastmaster” is a good example.

“Flash Gordon” was a singular phenomena. There are no sequels. At the time it cost $70 million which would probably be over $200 million today.

At the time of release the picture had a PG rating. There are scenes with graphic violence and sexual connotations but nonetheless there was no PG–13 back then in 1980. The blood shown on screen was blue and green.

I loved this film for its tremendous effort to capture the spirit of the original serial. Now seen in rich color of every shade and hue. The skies of Mongo were a awash in red, blue and orange.

It was important for the film to keep to the universe Alex Raymond created in the 1930s. The only update was making Flash a football player for the NY Jets, Dr. Zarkov was a NASA scientist, and Dale is now a travel agent.

On the left is Charles Middleton as Ming in the 1930’s; On the right is Max Von Sydow as Ming in 1980. From B&W to Color Ming remains the same.

As a kid I was ignorant of this paradigm. It’s important to note the exoticism worked both ways in the film. Princess Aura seduces the blonde/ blue-eyed Flash Gordon as her object of exotic desire.

This was strong stuff for a pre-teen gay kid! Then you had Sam J. Jones shirtless in the execution and resurrection scenes, wearing nothing but a pair of PVC briefs!

On the left is Buster Crabbe; On the right Sam J. Jones. Both versions have Flash Gordon bare chested while facing punishment.

A ton of art was created for the film and some of it just for promotional purposes. Unknown to me at the time how many posters exist is incredible. Released globally there were images used in various countries to target specific audiences based on region.

Lobby Poster Art

All I knew then was the poster for American release was brilliant. Then I found a small copy of the art in a full page ad in Playbill magazine. I cut it out and put it on my wall. The name AMSEL was signed on Ming’s cloak.

The film’s Tagline, all in caps, PATHETIC EARTHLINGS…WHO CAN SAVE YOU NOW?

Who was underlined to stress that Flash is the hero.

The lightning bolt logo with planet Mongo at its center was an American market image. The font with its Red/Yellow/Orange coloring was brilliant. In Europe as well as in the opening titles the name is stylized in the mode Alex Raymond had used. You see it in the Italian promo posters we saw earlier in this entry.

Also note how Ming is so large like Darth Vader was for the Star Wars posters with Flash and Dale in a similar pose like Luke and Leia!

Instead of a fleet of X-Wing fighters you get a fleet of Hawkmen swooping down in an almost 3-D effect with Vultan’s cloud kingdom seen in the background on the right side of the frame.

All of his works are signed AMSEL with floating periods on either side of his name.

Richard Amsel was a prolific artist who attended the oldest school of Art in Philadelphia. After graduating he went on to create the poster art for films like “The Sting” and “Chinatown”. Following “Flash Gordon” he designed the art for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”!

He also designed album covers including Bette Midler’s Divine Ms. M.

For full bio of his life and works plus an animated slideshow of his iconic poster art click here: https://www.richardamselmovie.com/

He had an association with TV Guide for 13 years producing over 40 covers. A portrait he did of Lily Tomlin hangs in The Smithsonian. His final movie poster was for “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”.

The collage seen below is just a small sample of Amsel’s TV Guide covers. His first was an image of Lucille Ball upon her retirement from TV and show business.

I put up two of my favourites: All In The Family, Alice, and Richard Chamberlain in Shogun, a mini-series that aired for a week on NBC.

Notice the placement of the cast of Alice and All In The Family is similar to his placement of characters in his film poster work for Flash Gordon.

Richard Amsel died of AIDS in 1985 at the age of 37. I mourn him today. I had no idea he was one of the many awful casualties of that pandemic. His work is amazing.

Critical Reaction To Flash Gordon

The film found appreciation with some film critics, such as The New Yorker ‘s Pauline Kael. Kael described Flash Gordon as having “some of the knowing, pleasurable giddiness of the fast-moving Bonds…The director, Mike Hodges, gets right into comic-strip sensibility and pacing“.

She also stated the movie was “Like a fairy tale set in a discotheque in the clouds.” 

On their syndicated TV program Siskel and Ebert were giving films a Yes or No at that time before their now iconic thumbs up or down.

Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune did not care for it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it a borderline Yes vote citing the fun comic book nature of the movie.

Visual Effects

In homage to the serial chapters of the 1930’s the film version was produced in strong primary colors and utilized Chroma Key effects.

Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a visual-effects and post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on colour hues (chroma range). The technique has been used in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture, and video game industries.

All of the space craft were done this way. Flash Gordon riding a Hawkman rocket cycle was also accomplished with this method as seen below. War Rocket Ajax, Vultan’s Cloud City and Flash with the Hawkmen approaching Mingo City are all Chroma Key images.

Favourite Scenes

The lavishly produced feature included giant set pieces adapted directly from the pages of Alex Raymond’s work partly as homage and because the formula worked!

I love the film as much as Rocky Horror loyalists. I can quote dialogue from any scene. This section brings us to my favourite parts of the film. A bit tricky because I really do enjoy all of it. Here goes…

In The Court Of Ming The Merciless at the point in which are trio from Earth first encounter all the ‘breeds’ of Mongo. This set is enormous. Ming’s throne looks like the inspiration for the Iron Throne on a certain HBO series.

Each ‘breed’ of Mongo gets introduced. Gathering in Court to present their tributes to the Emperor we see rivalries between Hawkmen and Treemen as the two groups argue over who stole their tribute!

Awaiting Ming’s first appearance in the film are assembled Hawkmen, Arborian Tree Men, and assorted races.

The image seen above is a fish-eye view of the court. Unknown to me as a kid but later appreciated as a film student that Flash Gordon utilized the Todd–AO camera system. At the time of filming in 1979 this was the state of the art widescreen format. Everything about the film is grand scale for a timeless adventure.

The Palace of Prince Vultan and his Hawkmen.

Initiation on Arboria where Prince Barin rules his treemen there is a rite of passage that all youth must experience. Within a warren of hollow tree stumps lives a beast in which the initiate must reach all the way in full arms length. If you choose the wrong path the beast will bite injecting the victim with deadly venom. The result is pain so awful the victim begs for death. Barin forces Flash to take this test in order to live.

Above in this gallery a view of Arboria against the colorful skies of Mongo, at the left bottom a birds eye view of Flash and Barin as they begin their duel, and on the right the beast that resides within the stump.

The Screenplay

Lorenzo Semple Jr.

The dialogue in Flash Gordon was purposefully done in a tone of high corn. Movie fans always call it camp.

Having written King Kong for Dino DeLaurentiis, Lorenzo Semple Jr. was then asked to write the Flash Gordon script.

The Batman TV series of 1966 was also written by him. The camp humour of that show was revived in Flash Gordon.

To this day every fan of this movie can quote dialogue. The language is comic book affectation in my opinion.

Ming The Merciless scolds those pathetic earthlings, Flash, Dale and Zarkov: “….If you had any inkling of who or what is out here you would have shuttered from it in utter terror!”

Ming The Merciless

Lines like, “We only have 14 hours to save the Earth” could only make sense in an over the top fantasy.

“What do you mean Flash Gordon approaching?”
“You’re a hero. Can’t you see that? Are you sure you don’t want a kingdom of your own?”
“Klytus, are your men on the right pills? Maybe you should execute that traitor?”

Original Soundtrack Music By QUEEN

Flash Gordon is the ninth studio album and first soundtrack album by the British rock band Queen, released on 8 December 1980 by EMI Records in the UK and in February 1981 by Elektra Records in the US. It was one of two film soundtracks that they produced along with Highlander. It is the soundtrack to the science fiction film Flash Gordon and features lyrics on only two tracks. 

Following the success Queen had with Flash Gordon two other notable rock groups contributed to movie soundtrack albums: Toto’s music was featured in “Dune” and AC/DC’s music was heard in “Maximum Overdrive”.

This was unusual at the time. Rock groups were not generally commissioned to score films.

I walked out of the cinema with the Queen music in my head. Following a trip to a furniture store I went to a local record shop to pick up the album. Dropping the needle onto this record was such a joyful moment for me.

Then to find they had included the dialogue from the film throughout the record was such a bonus. And the package for this record was so different from all of Queen’s previous efforts. It included an insert with a full colour image of Ming on one side and the lyrics for Flash and The Hero plus album credits on the other in red and yellow.

Seen above are the inner sleeve of the soundtrack featuring images of Queen on on side and the international cast on the other with a die cut in the center that lines up with the custom label featuring the logo.

For whatever reason the American version of this record did not have the die cut hole. The center was left intact so you lost the custom label peaking out effect.

Years later DJ Vanguard released a special re-mix of the single Flash.

On what turned out to be Queen’s final American Tour with Freddie & John in the Summer of 1982 Flash opened their shows followed by a performance of The Hero at the top of their setlist.

Flash Gordon Memorabilia

From the original 1930’s film serials to the 1980 feature to today the Flash Gordon franchise has produced a large array of collectibles.

In the 1930’s there were tin wind–up toys of spaceships from Flash Gordon and miniature figures in tins.

In the decades that followed numerous Sunday comic strips were published weekly. Comic Books, Toys, Figures, Posters, Trading Cards, Candy, Mugs, T-Shirts, Keychains, Magnets, and on and on and on.

Above are images of collectibles relating to the Flash Gordon franchise. On the Top Left are Flash and Ming figures with fold out Vultan’s Cloud Palace backdrop from Biff!Bang!Pow!

On the Top Right an early Pop-Up Book.

On the bottom Left a Lionman figure from Mattel based upon the Filmation animated series in 1979 on NBC.

Middle Right is a Viewmaster pack with 21 stereoscopic images also from the cartoon. And the bottom Right is a volume collecting Sunday comic strips of Flash Gordon now published by Titan books. There are 4 volumes in this series.

Flash Gordon books and magazines have been published over the past 70 years. In this gallery seen above notice the Mad Magazine clone Crazy with its parody of the movie!

The 1980 movie spawned several comic book adaptations, a novelization, poster books, and recently a graphic novel from Dynamite press called Zeitgeist.

Both DC & Marvel have published Flash Gordon comics at some point.

Archie Meets Flash Gordon in New Crossover One-Shot. Archie Comics has announced a new crossover one-shot with Flash Gordon, that was to hit comic shops back in June of this year.

The selection of pins seen here have been licensed by Vice in the United Kingdom.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is a term used to describe a huge amount of creative writing available to the American public in the early nineteen-hundreds. Termed “pulp magazines” because of the low quality paper used between the covers, these publications proliferated in the nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties and beyond.

Flash Gordon was the subject of several pulp series sold in drugstores and book shops. The gallery seen below features some of the covers published. There were even Flash Gordon Flip-books! There the small sized books that you flipped pages fast to create the illusion of motion! Checker books’ collections of Alex Raymond strips in full color featured The Ice Worlds of Mongo.

Toys + More Collectibles above and below

A pinball machine showed up in game arcades which I got to play several times. It had Queen’s music! The Atari Game Cartridge was less exciting somehow, Mattel sold a toy rocket ship for kids.

Titan Books published a 4 volume set collecting Flash Gordon comics from Alex Raymond to the present day.

There was even a Flash Gordon Colorforms Set! Along with Silly Putty and Yo-Yos Colorforms were a 1970s staple kids toy.

The 1979 NBC Saturday morning series was licensed to comics, figures, and lunchbox/thermos sets.

A comic book adaptation of Flash Gordon was published by Golden. The price was $1.95

There was also a program sold at select theaters for the film. I found it years later at a Horror/SciFi Convention.

40th Anniversary of Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon Movie featuring the music of QUEEN

STUDIOCANAL is excited to announce the new 4k, Ultra High Definition restoration of Mike Hodge’s cult classic FLASH GORDON (1980), in honour of the film’s 40th anniversary.

 Flash Gordon was scanned from the original 35mm negative to produce 4K files. Over 500 hours of manual restoration repaired serious damage that included image instability, scratches, and intermittent flicker.

The sound was scanned from the original track negative and underwent restoration to improve issues ranging from audio drop-outs throughout the feature and during reel changes, digital clicks and optical distortion.

The film was colour graded for theatrical, home entertainment and 4K HDR release, using previous digital releases and 35mm prints as a reference. In line with the Director’s vision and the original 35mm cinema release, VFX work was applied to remove the strings in all scenes where visible. This restoration was approved by Director Mike Hodges in May 2020 and will include the first 4K HDR Dolby Vision master of Flash Gordon.

This Fall a new coffee table book will be published called Flash Gordon The Official Story by John Walsh.

Click here for Pre-Order information: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667683/flash-gordon-the-official-story-of-the-film-by-john-walsh/

The End?

Originally there were to be 3 Flash Gordon movies to form a trilogy. Sam J. Jones had a falling out with the movie’s producers. The box office in North America was disappointing. At a cost of $70 million (a huge amount in 1979/80) and a paltry $20 million take in America no sequels were made.

While the irony is not lost on me that Flash Gordon up until this movie had multiple chapters including the short lived NBC cartoon, I think the movie is even more appealing because it is the only one of its kind.

A short-lived live action series appeared on the SyFy Channel. Dispensing with the former image of Ming as a caricature of Asian villainy he appeared as a bland modern CEO in an alternate dimension.

Another animated series also appeared on Cable television with less than encouraging results. Flash Gordon went into dormancy again.

The chroma key special effects. The model space ships. The glitzy costume design. Queen’s trademark sense of corn/camp are all part of the 1980 film’s lasting appeal.

This movie has become a true cult classic. Appealing to sci-fi/ fantasy geeks around the globe many of whom dress up as their favourite characters for ComicCon and Halloween.

I have seen the film at least 100 times. It’s my favourite cult film.

Seth Macfarlane, creator of the animated series Family Guy is a fan. His comedies, Ted & Ted2 featured Sam J. Jones and Flash Gordon. Comic book artist Alex Ross loves the movie and also proclaims Queen as a favourite band.

Family Guy episode with the Hawkmen. The Ted movies were packaged with Flash Gordon.

Alex Ross art above for the Blu-Ray of Flash Gordon; The Ming Wants You art came with the disc.

There is talk in recent years of a Flash Gordon reboot with CGI effects but time will tell if this becomes reality.

All I know is that this work combined two of my favourite things: Flash Gordon and QUEEN.

This Fall boss Fight Studio is releasing figures of Flash and Ming to celebrate the 40th Anniversary; Movie posters for the 40th Anniversary Edition.

There is a new documentary called Life After Flash now streaming on Amazon Prime. It tells the story of actor Sam J. Jones’ sudden stardom followed by years outside show business. It will be one of the many extras on the upcoming blu-ray sets.

This was the theatrical movie poster for the documentary, Life After Flash.

Thank You Dear Readers! And Thanks Flash!

The multi-hued skies of Mongo.

“Keep your feet on the ground, put your hand on your heart, lift your head to the skies, and the world’s for your taking. Yes, you’re a Hero!”

“My life is not for any Earthling to tinker or take…”

ELW Photography #5

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July 31, 2020

I was just thinking how we were told back in January to write out the full 2-0-2-0 when dating important docs. Who knew that it would be almost exclusively applied to receiving unemployment benefits.

My Dear Readers: Updates from New York City. July ends. USA continues to deny the impact of Covid—19 despite the largest recorded drop in its economy in history!

If you reside outside of North America you may have heard about how poor our safety net is here. This is showing up now during this unprecedented crisis.

I only glance at the headlines each morning. It takes until late in the day to realize how much more our country has slid in the eyes of the world.

New York City has sport once again with its expensive corporate stadiums empty. Overpaid athletes are playing with piped in crowd noise.

Several athletes in baseball are now sick. Games are getting postponed. I think baseball should cancel the season.

No Broadway/ Off—Broadway theater. No museums. No movie theaters. Broadway and Hollywood had both reached their commercial summit. I do not believe this will happen again.

If we have cinemas the interior of those spaces will have to be reinvented along with Broadway and Off—Broadway theaters.

Personally, my fear is that America will be vunerable like never before to a new authoritarian reality. Already the President floated the proto-fascist notion of delaying the Fall Election. This never happened in America before this con man took office.

People are waking to see how much damage has been inflicted upon regular people over decades of blindly adding police to streets. This has resulted in the brutality seen in recent days.

The people were empowered to fend off the awful notions of power hungry office holders. Our struggle for greater Democracy will continue.

With such heavy issues hovering over us I refuse to conform to the reactionary nature of certain friends and family. I just read “Twilight Of Democracy” by the historian Anne Applegate, seen below in the picture, argues strongly for Democratic ideals. She is hopeful Americans will reject the anti—democratic platform of Donald Trump.

Highly Recommended to everyone who cares about Democracy.

My photography is an outlet to express what I see daily to counter the ugly forces at play in today’s world.

Despite it all I am having a lovely Summer. What else can I do? November will be chilly. And by then our biggest Election will be upon us.

Museums

5th Avenue from E. 86th Street to E. 103rd is called Museum Mile. There are several along this route on the East Side. The Museum of the City of New York, The MET, The Guggenheim and The Jewish Museum are my favourites. I took pictures of their facades over the past three months. Devoid of crowds. A silence. Mourning? Will they come back as strong as before the shutdown?

The Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and The Jewsih Museum are seen below:

Candids

Another component of taking images on walks are the people you see in moments. So distracted are these strangers that I could not resist capturing them in time. What follows are the first results of my observations.

August Arrives Tomorrow

Major League Baseball attempted to start a shortened season but finds itself in a bind now that the Miami Marlins team is ill with Covid—19. Then the Phillies were struck then the St. Louis Cardinals.

All of the hot spot states are only beginning to require masks and think about shutting down again.

The Republican party is making this crisis a partisan issue; their leader floats proto—fascist ideas daily.

Here in New York City while we have settled into our Phase 4 lives a new month starts tomorrow!

What will it bring? Will we learn?

Until next week Dear Readers!

Stay in good health.

Wear a mask.

Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul

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At midnight on March 27th, 2020, Bob Dylan released “Murder Most Foul”, his first studio release since 2017’s Triplicate and first original song release since 2012’s Tempest.

American Elegy—Our Nobel Laureate Publishes Another Masterpiece

In a career now spanning six decades Bob Dylan has been through numerous phases in a life that has itself become the stuff of living legend.

Now revealed that this song is the third side on his upcoming, Rough and Rowdy Ways, he continues to inspire and write brilliantly about history.

His ability to connect our ‘modern times’ with the ancient culture that brought it about, specifically the Romans, enabled his new life as a Nobel Prize recipient.

Murder Most Foul is Mr. Dylan’s longest song. if you take the time to listen to this track you will learn a lot about this wonderful country and its brutal past and present.

You will also discover an underlying feeling of hope in the soft accompaniment with its piano, light timpani, and strings.

Dylanologists are going to have another great track to explore for many years to come. There are a ton of deliberate references to all kinds of cultural arcana in this track. Too many in fact for a single blog entry.

But herein I will discuss some of my takes on this peerless work. The closest thing to a spoken word song or a revival of the beat poet in the vast Dylan catalog.

First Section

It was a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?”
“Of course we do, we know who you are!”
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight

Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing

It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

Here in the beginning of the poem we are explicitly told how Mr. Dylan feels about the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered.

Using a phrase as his title, he frames the dreadful event as a Murder Most Foul. As the track continues there will be an evolution or rather a de-volution through the following decades as America’s culture and politics slowly decays.

The great hope of a young, handsome, and brilliant leader is cruelly blown off the face of the Earth. The promise of a new frontier delayed by his killing.

Mr. Dylan further frames the President’s murder as that of a lynching. Mr. Kennedy was white on the surface, but he was also the nation’s first Catholic elected to the Presidency. In Bob Dylan’s view he was ‘led like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter’.

The first verses also make clear how this crime was such an American scene. Committed in broad daylight in front of the world; ‘greatest magic trick ever under the sun’.

The Second Section

Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President

Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you

Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
“Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl

Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

Now a tourist destination, the arts & entertainment hub of Dallas, TX was part of Kennedy’s fatal route on the day of his murder.

The last lines of these first 2 sections of verse connect to reinforce this crime as foul cold-blooded murder. ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s murder most foul; Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul’.

The actual neighborhood near the crime scene of Kennedy’s death is referenced following the pop culture explosion of The Beatles who became a salve for the real pain young people felt at the time. Deep Ellum, the arts and entertainment hub of Dallas, TX had a rise in crime too.

Referenced in the song’s second section above: ‘When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money on your shoe’.

‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you’, the famous Kennedy line to demand public service of youth is juxtaposed to remind people now trapped in poor communities not to expect any government assistance. The social contract was murdered too.

Explicitly calling out Woodstock and Altamont and the Age of Aquarius with the mythology of free love and the violence of Altamont. America has always created myths to soothe the wounds of very real crimes.

The reality of the made up summer of love is the real slaughter of men, women, and children in Vietnam. The daily death toll were surely murders most foul.

Mr. Dylan performs a conjuring trick as well raising the original sin of race hatred in a line that also references his hit “Hurricane”. Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street

Also quite cleverly references a Wes Craven horror film released in the decade that followed his hit song about boxer Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

The name covers Dallas’ real murder of a President and the fictional murders of teenagers in a genre called the slasher film. The cruelty on display in Dallas would continue to resonate for the decades that followed.

The Third Section

Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the back seat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland Hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder’s film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more

It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One comin’ in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

I set the third section above in big bold type since at this point forward the song becomes full and explicit. Brimming with anger at President Kennedy’s demise, whom Mr. Dylan likens to a King as the Kennedy White House became Camelot, then in a blink ‘his eyes, nose, and ears were filled with blood.’

The Zapruder film in some way becomes America’s first slasher film, only it’s real.

Mr Dylan describes the piece which he claims to have seen over 30 times, as ‘vile and deceitful’.

That first piece of social media created an infinity of conspiracy theories. I see it as a reflection on his own youth. In his youth the repetition is easily performed. Now, at 79 Mr. Dylan only needs a single reading.

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free

This is my favorite line in the poem/song. Using Whitmanesque phrasing to connect Lincoln with Kennedy. Both men were after all the great hope of a wounded nation. Slavery in Lincoln’s era and Vietnam/Racism in Kennedy’s time. Both men were victims of murder most foul.

Mr. Dylan has undergone phases of life where he composed Christian influenced records. He has deep personal beliefs that crop up nicely here.

Declaring, ‘the Age of the Antichrist’ has just begun following the Kennedy assassination the nation saw a steep rise in cult activity, the crimes of Charles Manson, and satanic music also came into being in American culture.

Echoing the conventional wisdom that the nation had lost its soul are Mr. Dylan’s lyrics describing the Kennedy post mortem: ‘No soul was found where it should be.’

The Fourth Section

What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back”
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

It’s Mr. Wolfman Jack to you. Bob Dylan has reached a point in his career that he can compose a poem that includes 1970’s icon Wolfman Jack.

This is a reference to the alter—ego creation that he underwent in the 1960’s, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan; Robert Weston Smith became Wolfman Jack.

Also in the new age of the antichrist men were literally becoming beasts. It’s in this section that Mr. Dylan begins to recommend recordings using the word ‘play’ as a command.

It references his 2 years as a D.J. himself on satellite radio. Using famous titles/lyrics from the era’s violent refelctions include “Only The Good Die Young”, published in 1977, the year of the Son of Sam killings in New York.

Bob Dylan makes his listeners do a lot of history homework. I strongly believe this is why his work ranks so high.

Playing up the description of President Kennedy’s car of choice, ‘a long black Cadillac’, itself a coffin on wheels.

Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names

For my take these 3 lines set up why Bob Dylan has become such a master at connecting seemingly disparate ideas.

You see the ‘place where Tom Dooley was hung’ is in North Carolina, where the Wolfman took his last breath.

Being white, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack not a lynching. Tom Dooley became the subject of many folk songs, a genre that gave artistic birth to Bob Dylan.

Tom Dooley is part of a sad American tradition known as Appalachian Murder Ballads. A murder most foul.

St. James Infirmary references blues music. An alternate title for the song was “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”) about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes and then dies of venereal disease. The theme ties in with Kennedy’s death.

Then closing the section with a simple notation of why the name checking will continue unabated for the rest of the piece—to remember with clarity write down the names.

Only an artist of Bob Dylan’s caliber tells the listener his intent in writing this or any other song/poem is to preserve it for the ages to come beyond his mortal years.

The Fifth Section (Conclusion)

Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play “Tragedy”, play “Twilight Time”
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk

All that junk and “All That Jazz”
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds

Play “Cry Me a River” for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
Play “Down in the Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”

Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well

Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon”
Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June”
Play “Lonely at the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave”
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
Play “Deep in a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp

Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play “Love Me or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
Play “The Blood-Stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”

In this final section of this elegiac piece Mr. Dylan reminds us of the worst scene of racial violence in the nation’s history.

The Tulsa race massacre (also called the Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in TulsaOklahoma.

It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.

This awful history was dramatized on the Premiere of HBO’s ‘Watchmen’. Here the line takes us back to the scene of the original crime.

He connects it to the currents of hate/racism that from 1921 became a tsunami that killed another American President.

Then swirling through the American history of Jazz music and its iconic progenitors he adds crime figures like Bugsy Siegel who builds Las Vegas and on and on in a dizzying meter of names that arrives at “Love Me or Leave Me” by Bud Powell.

This is Dylan’s response to the hateful crowds that state, America love it or leave it.

The final line is perhaps the most stinging reminder of how far America needs to go to overcome its bloody past and present: Play The Blood Stained Banner , Play Murder Most Foul.

‘The Blood Stained Banner’ was a Confederate anthem and a version of the Confederate Flag presented in 1865. Bob Dylan is telling the nation to never forget this happened.

And to kindly play the song just ended, his American Elegy, Murder Most Foul.

A Quiet Place

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I stay at home because the most effective method of staying healthy is to enjoy a quiet place.

Our studio apartment is too small for two people. The size allows for easy cleaning. You learn how to share space.

My husband is so dedicated to my happiness. I always feel lucky to be with him. We share in the tasks of keeping our household together.

I have access to music of all kinds, books of all subjects, and movies/series of all genres.

As I evolved from arguing with people not equipped with a similar skill set I do not attempt the feat. People with set opinions never change. This is a life killing attitude.

I listen. Being quiet does not mean your mind is off. You are inside mostly. You tend to judge those around you. Winding up with a hard to tolerate level of noise is the price you sometimes pay.

All of the pointless uninformed opinions swirl like an infinite mass of absurd jokes.

Social media became a tool for the haves to show up the have nots daily. Now travel is seen as a risk one should not take lightly.

Crises exposes those with defaults on idiocy. The noisy vane overachievers have the largest burden. They must produce at all costs.

Constant pressure to reach for the brass ring results in stresses that can be deadly. The very few who must ride a nearly deserted transit system are risking all so that we may have a chance at survival.

I am loving my quiet place. I had just begun to work again before the stay at home order arrived. After completing the 5 day assignment the world changed.

Hey, I gave it my best shot. Now, I will stay happy at home. Making my husband happy makes me happy.

I know I must return to work someday. After nearly 2 months the solution is not clear. I think there must be a reform of society.

A stronger safety net should be created by cutting the military budget in half; going after corporations who have not invested in our way life.

The cosmos laughs at those who plan. Chaos has always reigned. We were just too busy taking selfies.

Rich nations need to have rainy day funds. Poorer nations need our help. If they suffer their hardships will spread until more fortunate lands feel the pain.

My coping skills are being tested. Each day I start with music. I have finally been able to grow into a lover of Jazz, Classical, and Opera.

Yes, dear readers, you are correct, I am done with Rock/ Pop. These times have made me take a hard look at myself. I am much more fulfilled with more mature art forms.

The small select group of artists I kept around include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Styx, Queen, The Eagles, Elton John, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Grateful Dead.

Bob Dylan has become my top favorite. His lyrics are peerless. All of these musicians are timeless in their messaging. We need to really listen closely.

Closing my decades long rock period does not mean I cannot appreciate the positive impact it’s lyrics/melodies have had on me. It just means I needed to make room for other music.

I have learned for myself that I change every ten years. Taste moves forward. Letting go of past distractions is quite liberating.

My afternoons are spent with a book. Currently I am finishing a Star Trek novel, “The Lost Years”, about the years following the end of the Enterprise’s five year mission.

I read non fiction too. A history of France and bio of President Grant are on my nightstand.

In the evenings my husband and I watch Jeopardy!, The Price Is Right, General Hospital and Friends and/or The Big Bang Theory. Movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Comedy specials on Netflix.

My husband cooks. I clean. We make a great team. Thankfully we have no kids. No pets. We have each other. In our quiet place.

I hope you are coping during this unprecedented pause in our go-go culture. Just remember that for most people around the world this struggle is a daily norm.

Thank you dear readers for stopping by Evan’s Gate. Please follow me if you like what I write about each week.

Stay safe. Keep informed. We shall be together again.

Western Stars/Bruce Springsteen

Western Stars is the 19th solo album by Bruce Springsteen.
Produced by Ron Aniello on Columbia Records.
13 Songs; 50 minutes

A wayfarin’ hitch-hiker takes a journey back out to big sky country to reflect on a life gone past. Along the way we learn he was a B-movie Stuntman whose proudest moment was a scene with screen icon John Wayne.

Painting a deceptively simple picture of creeping isolation, lost love, and futile attempts to outrun a road that has to end, Mr. Springsteen has composed a romantic yet melancholy tribute to the American ideals of the West.

Remembering good times at a local cafe where the work is left behind; ‘Monday is a million miles away’. Forgetting the mounting sadness of lost opportunity because the western stars are out tonight.

The thematic thread woven through are light and dark; sunrise and sundown; the sun and the moon.

Evoking this vision are understated orchestrations that support the vocals in even tempo. At times the sweeping beauty of the notes will fill you with longing.

This is because our western star is waiting for his lost love to return. He knows this is a fool’s errand. “Tuscon Train”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are songs of tortured romance literally gone south.

The album’s centerpiece track, “Drive Fast” (The Stuntman), shows a physically broken man whose wounds are his only companion. The steel rod in his leg walks him home each night.

The last song on the album is “Moonlight Motel”. A memory of lost lovers enjoying an afternoon delight in a derelict place. The physical structures have gone to seed while their love blossoms. A place once made for nighttime pleasures becomes the sight of a self-made Eden.

Quite a beautiful album that is able to relate this tale of loss and loneliness without making its listener feel too sad. The melodies are uplifting; the vocals are empathetic.

In the daylight chasing wild horses, running for countless miles is enough to outrun the impending gloom. There is a deep abiding respect for this rugged place by the man at the center of it all—The Boss.

In lieu of a tour for this record, Bruce Springsteen makes his directorial debut on October 25, 2019 with “Western Stars”.

The film is a performance of the album with orchestra before an audience. An album, “Western Stars” Film Version will be released. It’s the same track list as the studio LP except for the addition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

“Sundown” is the first single released from the film version album. The new versions seem to have even more developed orchestration.

Western Stars opens in theaters on October 25, 2019. The concert film premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival.

E Street Stardom/Solo Magic

For decades now Bruce Springsteen has piece by piece constructed a music career that continues to inspire longtime listeners and attract newcomers.

He has enjoyed commercial success but did not count only on selling his music but by creating a persona that was larger than his self but true to who he is offstage.

After listening to “Western Stars” over and over digitally I found my own take. His E Street albums are the rockstar track built with hits like “The River”, “Born To Run”, and “Born In The USA”.

The solo albums have been allowed by an audience that deeply appreciates his hard work in not just entertaining them but making them think too. This is the internal track of non rock Lp’s that delve into Americana, Folk, and Protest music.

His catalog is like a puzzle with thousands of pieces. For years I was distracted enough not to see what he was doing. Building his following slowly in bars/clubs on the Jersey Shore then reaching a zenith with sold out stadiums. He never relies on just hit singles. He becomes by word of mouth a legendary presence. His audience bestows the nickname, The Boss, to signify to them what he represents in the music world.

The solo work allows Bruce to work on music that he knows will not sell stadiums nor spend weeks at the top of the chart. It’s material he hopes will alternately take listeners down musical byways that cannot fit into the mainstream rock frame of the E Street Band.

I feel there are few solo artists doing such consistently fine work as Mr. Springsteen. Bob Dylan comes to mind. The Boss seeks long term attachment with his audience. He gets it because of the trust built upon decades of great work both rocking and reflective.

I hope the puzzle is not near completion.

Bruce Springsteen is performing at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5th. A benefit for Stand-Up For Heroes.

TOOL’s Fear Inoculum

Each new decade begins with a clearing out of the sounds that animated it. Following the 1980’s metal stampede record labels embraced Grunge. This was the early 1990’s.

Then bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains were on top. Following their short-lived reign came a sight & sound nobody saw coming.

Industrial. Heavy. Nuanced. Not really traditional metal nor hard rock—alternative metal?

TOOL. The name was mono-syllabic. The logo was cool. The sound was enigmatic to its core. Songs were long. The vocals did not come in for two minutes! Their videos used animation of the stop-motion kind; thematically dark.

The first four albums have amassed three Grammy awards; sold millions of copies; topped the US chart twice. Then for unknown reasons the band disappeared from the music scene entirely.

13 Years later since their last record something truly amazing happened—TOOL’s social media page lit up with a post announcing a new record. The music listening public did not forget this band. The response has been quite large.

Legal problems and label disputes aside, the band’s music appeared on digital streaming services for the first time.

“Fear Inoculum” carries the band forward nicely. The running time on the digital format is 1 hour, 26 minutes.

The 10 tracks are formatted with 6 epic songs and 4 instrumental passages that form a type of connective tissue that support the lengthier songs.

This is an expertly crafted record. The band’s consistent sound serves the listener well.

Going underneath the surface of human physiology to dig deep into unanswerable questions of spirit and mind are TOOL’s strength as musicians.

I have the digital album on Amazon Music Unlimited. The vinyl version of this record is to be released this Fall. The CD had innovative packaging.

A 4X4 screen built into the three panel cardboard sleeve contains exclusive video images. It comes with a speaker and a cord for recharging the screen. The price for the CD was $30. Amazon sold out in minutes.

This is a review of all the tracks on the digital streaming format.

On the day of its release the band uploaded all eight of their music videos to YouTube for the first time! Click here for their channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wUo-29zS7m_Jp-U_xYcFQ/videos

inoculum – a substance (a virus or toxin or immune serum) that is introduced into the body to produce or increase immunity to a particular disease.

“Fear Inoculum” opens with Buddhist chimes. Opening with this title track is an explicit mission statement. Fear is a disease/malady that will be reduced.

Maynard James Keenan’s laconic style of vocals have lost nothing to the years. His delivery makes you listen closely. The lyrics are among the best this band has ever delivered.

The music throughout is hypnotic. The length of each track will not matter if you allow yourself to tune into the depth of meaning here.

“Pneuma” literally means breath. In theology, the soul or vital spirit. The lyrics exemplify what it means to live. We must become our best selves over a lifetime.

At 11:53, it’s one of the longest tracks here.

At the 7:30 mark comes a theramin driven instrumental passage that is quite beautiful.

“Litanie contre la Peur” is the first of the four short instrumentals that act as connective tissue/support for the six epic tracks contained on the album.

It translates “Litany of Fear”. A relaxing depth takes hold by this point that will not let go until the end.

“Invincible” (12:44) opens with the sounds of tapping on an empty water jug. The guitars have a nice timber here. Evoking the mythical search for everlasting youth with the “chasing of Ponce De Leon’s phantom”.

A warrior’s lament. Reflecting on the epic of battles fought. Trying in vain to remain relevant as a soldier in our new age. “Tales told of battles won, things we’ve done, Caligula would grin.” Now time is bearing down on the pawns (tools?) of war.

“Legion Inoculant” (3:06) is a phase shifting instrumental that drifts into and out of distant sounding voices that struggle to be heard.

“Descending” (13:30). Opens the second half of the record with sounds of waves crashing on a beach. This invocation that we can rouse ourselves from a self inflicted sleep before it’s too late.

The lyric repeats”Falling is not flying”. Each of these six epic tracks have instrumental passages that are sweeping and understated.

The drone of guitars snarl into spiral patterns of harmonic riffs. A wake-up to our “wanton slumber” to “mitigate our ruin”.

“Culling Voices” (10:05). This track describes being in a state of psychopathy— a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.

A melancholic track with great pathos into the psyche of “imaginal interplay”. The voices in our head are misleading. The repeated refrain of “don’t you dare point that thing at me” allows its listener to fill in their own blanks.

“Chocolate Chip Trip” (4:48). A connective instrumental. Out of left field is TOOL’s default position. A quirky buzz of beats and repetitive keys.

Those culled voices are being scrambled up into something else. The percussion and keys are quite hypnotic.

Realigning the synapses perhaps in its dive towards the final epic contained here.

“7Empest” (15:43). The band is obsessed with the number 7. It appears in some way on each of their 5 albums. The music reflects the lyrical meaning. Starting off slow with those Buddhist chimes mixed into the riffing it builds into the promised fury.

An examination of the mind gone off its hinges. A tempest in a teapot. TOOL takes the most cliche of metal ideas bending it toward the meaning needed to fit this inoculation of fear. “We know your nature…Calm before the torrent comes.” The ‘We’ is authoratative.

At 4:30 we get the most furious sounding riffs on the album. This rage up is the most straight-forward of all the tracks. It harkens back to “Sober” on their debut record, “Undertow”.

After eight minutes it churns and wends around you with guitars blazing. Like the abstract serpent on the cover art it twists and turns beautifully. You never see it’s eye. But the musical storm is omnipresent. It cannot be controlled.

The album closer is the final instrumental. A gentle outro to the proceedings of the past 90 minutes! “Mockingbeat” (2:05).

The final pitch from left field. Artifice or real bird sounds, voices, constant chirps all culminate in a soundscape you are not prepared for based on the previous 9 tracks. But this is what TOOL are all about. After the final chirp it’s over.

TOOL fans will love this record. For the new listener it may take awhile to get into this epic. After 4 listens, I love it.

The group’s line-up includes drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James KeenanJustin Chancellor has been the band’s bassist since 1995, replacing their original bassist Paul D’Amour.

Top L-R: “Undertow” (1993); “AEnima” (1996) on Zoo records.
Middle: “Lateralus” (2001) on Volcano records.
Bottom L-R: “10,000 Days” (2006); “Fear Inoculum” (2019).
Both also on Volcano records.

TOOL is on tour this October & November in the US with Killing Joke opening. For all dates and ticket info go to http://www.ticketmaster.com

Tue • Nov 19 • 7:30 PM Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Superman is 80

The summer of 1939 was a milestone in American entertainment.

The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind premiered in movie theaters.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics.

In the first story told by creators Joe Schuster & Jerry Siegel our hero could not fly! He could jump a building in a single bound and lift cars over his head.

Over the next 7 decades there would be many creative teams assigned to Superman. In recent times DC comics restarted their comics at issue #1. So many changes over time. I will relate what Superman meant to me as a kid and now.

Television, Movies, Comic Books, and collectibles are the focus of this entry. Just some memories of how this character impacted my life.

In my early childhood television showed reruns of series broadcast in the 1950s and 1960s. There were sitcoms like “I Love Lucy”, “Father Knows Best”, “Dennis The Menace”, and “Bewitched”, sci-fi like “Star Trek” and “Lost In Space”, and then there was a comic book based series—-“The Adventures of Superman”.

I remember watching this series in black and white. George Reeves played Clark Kent/Superman and Noel Neill played Lois Lane. The opening titles were great. A voice over coupled with images described his powers as “faster than a speeding bullet, strength like a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it’s a bird, no..it’s a plane..no..it’s Superman!

Super TV

Watching all episodes of the series made me want to read the comic magazines from DC. The impact this made on me as a child was greater than the mark made when Jor-El, Son of Krypton, crash lands on the Kent farm in Smallville.

Described as mild mannered Clark Kent, he would report for the Daily Planet newspaper. His change into Superman was Clark dashing into a storage room at the newspaper or using a phone booth. He would loosen his tie and remove his eye glasses to cue the audience.

The narrative importance was lost on me back then but today has great meaning. The creators were Jewish kids from Ohio who used the ultimate immigrant story, Jesus or Moses, as their source material.

Like Moses placed in a basket, the baby Jor-El is placed in a space capsule. He is launched into space to escape the destruction of the planet by their sun. The baby lands on earth. Raised on a farm by the Kents, his secret is kept by them.

When Clark matures he is sent to the big city to begin a mission to “fight for truth, justice, and the American way” as Superman. The costume is made by his surrogate mother. The ‘S’ on the Chevron is a Kryptonian letter meaning hope. The comic books were crucial in discovering all of the details in this narrative.

You can see why these ideas would sail over the head of a child. The adventure was good enough for my imagination. The effects of flying were all done by green screen on TV. Superman flew at steep angles due to this limitation in effects. The sound mix was cool. Right before he flew Superman would take a few running steps then a sound effect would cue us sitting at home. It sounded like a lid being released from a power vacuum.

Super Animation

Through animation Superman became the hero you saw in print.

The Max Fleischer series was captivating. In the 1970s the Saturday morning series, “Superfriends” added Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman to the mix. As a kid I loved the cartoon, but later appreciated the animated series to be quite superior in quality.

Super Movies

In 1978 Warner Brothers brought Superman to the silver screen. Christopher Reeve, a mild mannered star of stage, became a movie star. Margot Kidder was Lois Lane. Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor. Ned Beatty as Otis, the dimwitted sidekick. Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Editor of the Daily Planet. And perhaps the greatest feat of casting at the time—Marlon Brando as Superman’s father.

The movie featured a score by John Williams (Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., Indiana Jones, and many more classics) that was groundbreaking. His “Superman March” would stay as the theme of the series to come. There were 3 sequel episodes.

In the debut feature the arch villain Lex Luthor plans to blow up the San Andreas fault in Southern California to trigger a devastating earthquake. Lois meets Clark. Lois interviews Superman. The Fortress of Solitude is introduced.

Superman II brought back the entire principal cast. It focused on the three Kryptonian villains sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone at the start of the previous film.

Superman saves the Earth from a hydrogen bomb at the Eiffel Tower. He hurls the device into deep space. The ripples of the shock wave caused by detonation shatter the Phantom Zone barrier. Ursa, Non, and General Zod are set free with the same powers as Superman.

Terence Stamp (Billy Budd, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) is imprinted in my memory forever as Zod. Commanding all of humanity to “kneel before Zod” as he takes control of Washington, DC is quite a scene.

Despite Superman III being quite comic with Richard Pryor the story lacks in compelling elements. And Superman IV—The Quest For Peace is just dull. The franchise went dormant after this series. The next feature, “Superman Returns” featured newcomer, Brandon Routh. Then more recently, Henry Cavill starred in “Man Of Steel”.

There were crossover features like “Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” that failed to catch the public imagination. The future of this character is more certain in the weeklies published. The movies are demanding. In my opinion, the impression made by Christopher Reeve was indelible.

The late Christopher Reeve is my Superman.

In my young adulthood the man of steel returned to the small screen. ABC TV ran “Lois & Clark” Starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Comic book artist John Byrne’s modern retelling of Superman’s origin where Clark is the dominant personality was the series’ inspiration.

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 12: LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN – Pilot – 9/12/93, The “Superman” story, focusing primarily on the relationship between Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman/The Man of Steel (Dean Cain), and his fellow reporter Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher), continued in this 1993-97 ABC series. In the two-part pilot, the reporters worked on a story about the space program being hijacked., (Photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC via Getty Images)

John Shea played Lex Luthor as a business tycoon with unethical methods. Lane Smith was Editor Perry White. The role of Jimmy Olsen changed hands from Michael Landes to Justin Whalin after season one. The show would run from September 1993 thru June 1997.

Super Culture

Since his first appearance on a comic book page 80 years ago Superman has become an iconic presence. Thousands of books, magazines, toys, games, trading cards, playing cards, clothing, and any matter of object imprinted with his image/logo are now a billion dollar industry.

Mego toys produced Superman action figures. Ben Cooper provided Halloween costumes. Our imaginations took care of the rest.

Super Books. The panels in a comic book provide more detail than any screenplay. I did not consider the artists when I was a kid. That is a focus you do not get until you are much older.

Curt Swan drew Superman in the 1970s. This portrait of the character became the standard for modern renderings of Superman. The Mego figure was based on this look. The costume in the first 4 films were also this design.

These stories were tales of adventure no movie could ever match. The Fortress of Solitude was my favorite. Although the rendering on film was quite beautiful I prefer the detail of the page.

Thanks for Reading!

Batman Turns 80

May 1939 was the debut of The Batman in National Comics.

Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced the world to their crimefighter 80 years ago. This blog entry are just my thoughts about the character. Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, or World’s Greatest Detective are all fitting monikers used over the years.

38 years on there would be the television debut of the Batman character in a primetime series that would air twice a week. Several episodes would be two parts long featuring a cliff-hanger ending in part 1 and concluded the next night. ABC aired the show for 3 seasons. This was my first memory of Batman. My generation saw the reruns on New York’s local stations WPIX 11 and WNEW 5 during the 1970s.

After school the reruns of Batman were always fun to watch despite not seeing the program in color as intended until the 1980s! We had a black and white set even after the networks were broadcasting in color. As a kid I did not care because the show was great. Several of the episodes were based directly on Batman comics published during the 1940s–1950s.

  • The episodes “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle” were adaptations of “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler” from Batman #171 (May 1965), written by Gardner Fox; in it, the Riddler, jealous of the attention Batman is giving the Mole Hill Mob, arranges a trap so Batman will apprehend the gang and give the Riddler the Caped Crusader’s undivided attention.
  • Many events of the episodes “The Joker Is Wild” and “Batman Is Riled” are based on the silver age comic book story “The Joker’s Utility Belt” from Batman #73 (October 1952) by David Vern Reed.
  • The episodes “Instant Freeze” and “Rats Like Cheese” were inspired by “The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero” from Batman #121 (February 1959) by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff.

The series was so popular that a movie was produced for theatrical release. This would air during Superhero Week on ABC-TV’s 4:30 movie in New York. I watched it many times in my childhood.

Adam West’s Batman was funny, living pop art, and corny. For a kid it was perfect. I think the 1966 series is the most enjoyable of all the screen incarnations of the character.

The fight scenes between Batman & Robin and their nemesis plus henchmen were filmed at an oblique angle (aka Dutch) to literally show they were crooked! The animated comic balloons appeared on screen to spell out the sounds like in the comic books—Biff!, Pow!, and Splat!

The Greenway Productions team captured what comic books look like on the page. Never taking itself too seriously was the key to unlocking the imagination of its viewers. A line-up of movie stars all played the villains that to this day are hard to match. The later features on film in the 1990s attempted to place big stars as Batman and as various villains to mixed results.

On the small & big screen.
Top Row: Adam West, Michael Keaton and Christian Bale as Batman.
Bottom Row: Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Oscar Winner, the late Heath Ledger.

When the dynamic duo climbed up building walls there would be a cameo by a star or a fictional character looking out their window. They would have some chit chat that was quite funny. On YouTube their listed as “Window Cameos”.

You never knew who might open their window during a bat climb. Dick Clark meets the dynamic duo!
Edward G. Robinson makes a cameo!

Nelson Riddle provided a jazzy music score to accompany the action in Batman. Unfortunately the attempt to spin-off a Batgirl series failed.

However Green Hornet and Kato did get a full season of episodes. And the only characters billed as guest heroes! Yvonne Craig as Batgirl was the first time on television that a female superhero was featured in an ongoing role. Today, “Supergirl” is a prime-time series.

Created by William Dozier who was also the show’s narrator, Batman aired on ABC at 7:30pm between 1966—1969.
Van Williams as Green Hornet & Bruce Lee as Kato. It ran 1 season; 1966-1967.

I always thought that Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s creation had the best rogues gallery. The Joker (Cesar Romero) , The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and Catwoman (Julie Newmar) were the tops for me.

Many of the villains were taken directly from Batman comic books. There were also original characters featured since many celebrities of that time wanted to appear on the show. Milton Berle (TV’s first star) as Louie The Lilac, Carolyn Jones as Marsha Queen of Diamonds, and Victor Buono as King Tut are just a few of the many colorful villains added to the rogues gallery of Gotham.

37 villains appeared on the show. Click here for a full list: https://batman.fandom.com/wiki/Villains_of_Batman_%281960s_series%29

In 2016, television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked Batman as the 82nd greatest American television show of all time.
Mr. Sepinwall is my hiusband’s cousin and the best TV critic in the USA

Because of the series I then followed animated series that featured Batman. Bob Kane created the animated series “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse” as a comedic series based upon his Batman characters.

The catmobile would roar out of a cave with Courageous Cat pointing his sky writing gun at the sky to reveal the opening title.

Superfriends was a weekly show featured on Saturday mornings in the 1970s. I also began reading the comics. Reading the Batman comics from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970s I saw the evolution of the characters.

Frank Gorshin (Left) and John Astin (Right) as Riddler on “Batman” (1966)
Cory Michael Smith as Riddler with
Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin on “Gotham” (2019)

I found out the series’ first season made most of the episode titles rhyme, “Hi Diddle Riddle, Smack In The Middle” was the premiere. It was a 2 parter that featured Frank Gorshin as The Riddler.

Later, in the 1990s, Warners produced Batman The Animated Series featuring the voice of Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as The Joker. This show captured the noir look of the 1940s Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. Developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it originally aired on Fox Kids from September 5, 1992, to September 15, 1995, with a total of 85 episodes.  For the final fifteen episodes, the series was given the on-screen title The Adventures of Batman & Robin, which was also used for reruns of earlier episodes. The series became the first in the continuity of the shared DC animated universe; spawning further animated TV series, feature films, comic books and video games with most of the same creative talent.

During the 80 years of Batman comic books different creative teams were entrusted with the growing legacy of Batman. When it began there was no Robin. The Batmobile looked different than it does now. Renderings of villains changed as well from era to era. Gadgets were added like the Bat-arang, Bat-rope, and everything else that you can think that fits his crimefighting techniques.

In the printed issues of DC comics Batman was known as The World’s Greatest Detective. Take that Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple! Then I discovered how much better the actual stories could be when produced in serial form week after week. In fact, Batman was the only prime-time show to air twice a week in its first 2 seasons other than the Soap Opera, “Peyton Place”.

The Bat-Copter, Bat-Boat, and Bat-Cycle were added over time. The series featured them when the series’ ratings began to fall in Season 3.

My first encounters with Batman on the page was in the 1970s. Neal Adams was drawing him. I was shocked how dark the stories were compared with the bright TV show. I think there are many interpretations I like but my first sight of it was that splendid TV series. The serialized format of the show evoked the movie serial of Batman appearing in theaters in the 1940s.

Just look for the word Omnibus in the title to find a collection of a specific artist.

Grant Morrison was the most recent series I read in the last few years. I loved this updated version. There was even a run of comics called “Batman Incorporated” in which every nation got their own Batman to fight crime.

Issue #1 of Batman Incorporated.

Over the last 80 years Batman has refelected our deepest fears of a world too chaotic to tame. Every generation has their Batman. For me it is the late Adam West. Then screen actor Michael Keaton starred in the feature film directed by Tim Burton in 1989. Following a sequel, “Batman Returns”, Val Kilmer (“Batman Forever”), George Clooney (“Batman & Robin”), Christian Bale (“Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, and “The Dark Knight Rises”), and Ben Affleck (“Batman vs Superman”, “Justice League”) have played Batman in the movies.

Despite initial worry from fans, Michael Keaton was fine as Batman.
In 23 years time the Batcave went from technicolor to dark.
A Dark Knight of the media age emerged on screen.

********************************
Warner Bros featured the music of Prince, their biggest music star at the time, in the film.
Despite negative critical reaction, the film was a blockbuster.

The look Warner Bros. created with Tim Burton’s dark vision of the world of Batman stood in deep contrast with the TV series. This more serious treatment would be favored in the 1990s and 2000s.

Imagination is a powerful tool that develops in childhood. I had Batman toys in the 1970s. Played out adventures with friends in the park. The reason it’s important to read at least some of the stories on the page is simply because there are thousands to choose from each decade. You can see what each passing era was like for the characters and each creative team that was used to animate the adventures.

Every time Batman celebrates a milestone anniversary the comic book shops have compilations of the best Batman stories from each decade. There have been numerous comic book series devoted to the characters featured in Batman stories. Even Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father had his own series of comics.

The Batman character has appeared in TV, radio and movie serials, feature films, video games and animation. When he debuted in 1939 all of the new forms he would take only happened because audiences have been attracted to the stories. The people that got Batman on the air in 1966 were fans of the character.

Where does he get those wonderful toys?” is a line from the movie “Batman” in 1989, spoken by The Joker, played by Jack Nicholson. This line is probably the most memorable in the script. It evokes the countless number of toys based on the characters in Batman produced over 8 decades. There are Billions of dollars worth of toys every year dedicated to this enduring legend.

Since the 1940s Batman action figures have been produced. Above is pictured an 8 figure tribute.

The past 5 years, “Gotham” has aired on Fox as the latest TV version of Batman. For the first time the Batman character is not shown until the final episode which just aired a few weeks ago.

Focusing on the anarchy of a city wracked by serial crime and a crimefighter named James Gordon. The origins of the classic villains are depicted. Penguin, Riddler, and Selena Kyle (Catwoman) are present during the entire series. The origins of The Joker, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, and Bane are depicted.

The noir series was so dark I had to watch with the lights off to see it! There was a viewer discretion bumper at the beginning of every episode. The stylized violence was still the most graphic I have ever seen on a network show. The times did indeed change a lot.

Gotham is an American crime drama television series developed by Bruno Heller and based on characters published by DC Comics and appearing in the Batman franchise, primarily those of James Gordon and Bruce WayneDanny Cannon directed the pilot, and he is an executive producer along with Heller. The series stars Ben McKenzie as the young James Gordon. It premiered on Fox on September 22, 2014 and concluded on April 25, 2019.

No matter how the fortunes have changed for this enduring character in recent times there will most certainly be many more adventures written and performed in the next 80 years.

Warner Bros. announced a new feature film, “The Batman”, to premiere in 2021. Robert Pattinson (Twilight) will become the youngest actor to play the Dark Knight.

72 Years of The Batman. (Above) Every Bat symbol drawn to represent the enduring legacy of The World’s Greatest Detective

ELTON

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.

Released
30 May 1983
Recorded
September 1982 – January 1983
Studio
AIR Studios (Montserrat) and Sunset Sound Recorders(Hollywood, CA).
Genre
Rockpop rocknew wave
Length
44:06
Label
Geffen (US)
Rocket (UK)
Producer
Chris Thomas

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.

The Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theatre on 1 October 2008 in previews, and officially on 13 November 2008. The London production’s creative team directed and designed the Broadway production.  The title role was rotated among three young actors, David ÁlvarezKiril KulishTrent Kowalik, the last of whom had previously played the role in London.[25] The supporting cast included Haydn Gwynne, reprising her role of Mrs. Wilkinson from the London production, and Gregory Jbara as Billy’s father.
The production received rave reviews: Time called it a “triumph”; critic Liz Smith termed it “breathtakingly brilliant” and “absolutely, unequivocally awesome”; the Daily News said it was “so exhilarating that at times you feel like leaping”; the New York Post said it was “almost like being in love” and termed it “amusing, perfect and passionate” and “the best show you will ever see”; and the Los Angeles Times called it a “global theatrical phenomenon”. It has also been very financially successful, with $20 million taken in advance ticket sales. The production received fifteen Tony Award nominations, tying with The Producers for the most nominations ever received by a Broadway show,and winning ten. The original three boys in the lead role jointly won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. The production sold strongly and recouped its original investment of $18 million in 14 months. The Broadway production closed on 8 January 2012 following 40 previews and 1,312 regular performances.

“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.

Elton is also known as ‘Captain Fantastic’ and Bernie Taupin is called ‘The Brown Dirt Cowby’.
32 Studio albums. I have a lot more listening to do!

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.

Face To Face Tour Book 1995
Elton John and Billy Joel

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: Hard Rock’s Fab Four

R-L: Gene Simmons; Bass (The Demon), Peter Criss; Drums (The Catman), Ace Frehley (Guitar) (Spaceman), and Paul Stanley; Lead Vocals, Guitar (Starchild).

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”.

The puzzle posters formed one image of the band when put together.

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.

Paul Stanley produced 9 original tracks. The only member without a cover.
Ace Frehley recently performed this album in its entirety for the first time. The LP features a cover of British glam group Hello, New York Groove. This was the best selling single of the solo lps.
Gene Simmons (1978) had the best chart showing for his record.

The 4 Solo Albums drove a wedge between the members of the group.

Instead of unifying them, they were driven farther apart.

Featuring mostly songs written for Peter’s previous band Lips.
The Catman had the poorest showing of the four.

The band’s prog effort was a flop.

“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.

The final studio album of the unmasked era which lasted 13 years.

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)

Unholy (Simmons, Vincent)……………………………..Revenge (1992)

Heart Of Chrome (Stanley, Vincent, Ezrin)…………Revenge (1992)

I Walk Alone (Simmons, Kulick)……………………….Carnival of Souls (1997)

Childhood’s End (Simmons, Thayer, Kulick)……….Carnival of Souls (1997)

We Are One (Simmons)……………………………………..Psycho Circus (1998)

You Wanted The Best (Simmons, Stanley, Criss, Frehley)….Psycho Circus (1998)

Russian Roulette (Simmons/Stanley)………………………………Sonic Boom (2009)

Stand (Stanley/Simmons)………………………………………………Sonic Boom (2009)

Wall Of Sound (Simmons, Thayer, Stanley)………………………Monster (2012)

All For The Love Of Rock N Roll (Stanley)………………………..Monster (2012) Lead Vocals by Eric Singer

KISS Catalog. In 2015 the band’s albums were remastered on vinyl for the first time since 1985. They included all of the original inserts and extras. Kissteria, a vinyl box set was also issued for a high end price of $3,000.00.

KISS
L-R: Tommy Thayer (Guitar), Gene Simmons (Bass), Paul Stanley (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Eric Singer (Drums).
This is the final line-up of the band which has been together since 2006.
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Below L-R:
KISS (1974) First studio effort features “Strutter”, “Cold Gin”, “Firehouse”, “Deuce”and “Black Diamond”.
These songs remained concert favorites throughout their career. The middle image is the reunited group in 1996.
And “Monster” as of this blog entry, the final studio effort.

You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best. The Hottest band in the world….KISS!