BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL
April 01, 2014 • 07:14 AM
I can still remember the exact moment when Kiss became my first “favorite” band at the age of 8. My sister Laura and I, then respectively in kindergarten and second grade, were watching some sort of music awards show with my Dad on our little 12-inch black and white TV. We were allowed to watch the first hour of the show, but 9:00 p.m. was our bedtime and that was that. Then about 5 minutes after Dad turned the lights out in our rooms he came back upstairs, opened our doors and told us to hurry down and see what was happening on TV. Hey, if Dad’s getting us out of bed to see something on TV it has to be good, so I tore down the stairs in my Star Wars pajamas and shot through the living room. There was Kiss, in all their costumed, made-up glory, rocking out, and Laura and I went predictably bonkers at the sound and the fury that played out over the next minute and a half. For my part, I was absolutely dumbfounded that someone could actually be allowed to do this, and the following conversation took place:
Me: “Dad, how much do those guys have to pay to get to do that?” (I was hoping I might be able to save up a few weeks of my allowance and do it too sometime.)
Dad: “It’s the other way around. They get paid to do that.”
Me: “Really? (Pause.) How much?”
Dad: “A lot. They’re making millions of dollars.”
Me: (Stunned silence.)
At this point the camera panned onto lead guitarist Ace Frehley rocking out with his Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, and all of a sudden I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Let me get this straight. You dress up like that, play music like that, and also get paid so much money that you could buy every Star Wars action figure 10 times over, even the Jawa, and still have enough left to buy a pinball machine to put in the basement? Well, then. Where do I sign up? And from that day on, life was not just about Star Wars. Now it was about Kiss and Star Wars. Of course there was plenty of room for both, and I’d still have plenty of enthusiasm left over for Mrs. McKinley’s GATE class on Mondays. No problem. We’re good here.
Then it became a case of getting some of their music. The first sliver came in the form of a 2LP K-Tel Records compilation my Dad brought home, which happened to have one Kiss song on it, “Christine Sixteen”, and so that song got played over and over. Then a really big assist came from a kid across the street who “borrowed” his older brother’s copies of the “Destroyer” and Love Gun” albums to listen to on the little record player I had in my room. Later on he “borrowed” the Gene Simmons solo LP and after that he “borrowed” the “Dynasty” LP too, so I ended up with 4 Kiss albums that I played incessantly.
Kiss became the soundtrack to life, which at the time was highlighted by the Pirates winning the World Series, the Steelers winning their 3rd and 4th Super Bowls, the USA hockey Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, and dozens of Hardy Boys mystery books. The Kiss logo turned up anywhere I could draw it, especially in art class and on school textbook covers, and every trip to the shoe store with Mom resulted in slight disappointment that Buster Brown had not yet not launched a line of children’s platform boots. And of course, I started asking for a guitar just like Ace’s the day after that TV show. After what must have been weeks of constant hectoring about it, my parents offered me a deal: if I really want to play guitar, then I have to take 2 years of piano lessons. After the first year, I’ll get the guitar and can start guitar lessons too, and at the end of two years it will be my decision to choose whether to stay with piano. I took the deal and was rewarded a year later with a Hondo II acoustic for my 10th birthday, and a year after that my last piano lesson was in the books. Three years and a paper route later I teamed up with my parents to get an Electra Phoenix guitar and an amp for my 14th birthday.
Now while the dream of playing guitar professionally ended six months later when I got into the electrical accident that cost me my fretboard hand, the influence that Kiss had on me as my first “favorite” band has stuck around. Although I drifted away from the band during the “Unmasked/Elder” and “Crazy Nights” eras, I’ve otherwise been voting with my wallet all along by buying their albums as they were released and going to the gigs, all while growing to enjoy the fact they’ve been tweaking the noses of the rock intelligentsia all the while.
And as far as that influence goes, it runs deep. Take a look at the Carter Cuff photos on this site, especially the first ones that were made out of leather. See any similarities between those and Kiss’ mid-70s stage gear? Riiiiiight. And look at the color scheme of this website: black and grey with hints of steel blue. Hmm. Can you think of anyone else whose signature colors those were? Riiiiiiight.
So, with Rock Hall induction coming, there’s no better time than now to get a 4-part post up about Kiss, because I support the band. Or, as Paul Stanley would say in between songs onstage, “BECAUTH EYE THUPPORT THAH BAYAND!!!”
Parts 2, 3 and 4 are coming over the next week and will consist of a review of the Kiss one-off acoustic show on Thursday, a blow-by-blow of the first home game of the LA Kiss Arena Football team on Saturday, and my take on Kiss’ current (and very public) fight with the Rock Hall induction committee.