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April 09, 2014 • 10:01 PM

KISS ALIVE IV: THE KISS ARMY DEFEATS THE ROCK HALL

Even though Kiss is deservedly being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame today, it’s long overdue and the delay can be attributed entirely to the guys on the Rock Hall’s nominating committee. Since the Hall’s creation, there’s been an active effort by the guys who run it to exclude artists they do not like, and the way they’ve done was to prevent said artists from even being nominated. 15 acts are nominated each year, and the top 5 vote-getters are inducted. (Around 700 old-school music industry executives comprise the voters, and the list is not public.) A lot of what the Rock Hall doesn’t like are found in the hard rock, heavy metal and “prog-rock” genres, but around 2005 or so the justified complaints grew loud enough that a handful of “critic-approved” bands began to trickle in: Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, Ramones, Van Halen and Metallica all made it. But many more remained on the outside, and the Hall’s rep also took a major body blow when word got out that someone at the top ordered a revote of the final ballot in 2007 when they did not like the results. Eventually the Rock Hall knew they had to do something to “fix” this, so they introduced a way for artists to get in through the “back door”: an online “fan ballot” was introduced, where anyone can vote once. All of each year’s 15 nominees are listed, and the winner of the “fan ballot” (it technically counts as one of the 700 votes) will essentially be ensured induction as many of the actual voters will now include the fans’ top choice as one of their five votes. In 2013 Rush made in on the back of their (unsurprisingly organized) fans’ voting, and this year the Kiss Army got their guys in at long last. 

As a quick aside. here’s something that has continued to mystify me: if you think about it, the active exclusion of so many successful rock and metal artists (many of whom are still active) is just one bad business decision after another by the Rock Hall. By putting these (deserving) artists in, their fans will come to the induction ceremony and come to the museum and be massive fans and buy souvenirs and buy music and buy concert tickets and buy merchandise and listen to the radio...and so on. And if anyone is uncomfortable about looking at the situation in this way, make no mistake: the term music business is made up of two words, not one.

On top of this Kiss had the dual problem of 1.) not being a band that the Rock Hall brass liked and 2.) personal bad blood between Kiss and the Rock Hall, which has played out very publicly over time. Kiss have been vocal critics of the Hall and its processes since it opened in 1983, and the acrimony dates back all the way to the mid-70s when some of the Rock Hall bosses and majordomos were then the mainstream rock press. When those guys weren’t ignoring the band altogether, they were slamming them in print. So really, the fan vote was probably the only way that Kiss were ever going to be inducted. 

So now that Kiss is getting in, everything’s cool, right? Nope. The powers that be at the Rock Hall sent word back to the band that only the original Kiss lineup of drummer Peter Criss, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, bassist Gene Simmons and vocalist guitarist Paul Stanley would be enshrined, with the” justification” that nothing the band has done since 1980 warrants any kind of honor. Simmons and Stanley are the two members who’ve been there the whole time, so no argument there, but since the original lineup splintered for the first time in 1980, there have been two additional drummers (Eric Carr and current sticksman Eric Singer) and four lead guitarists (Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick and current axeman Tommy Thayer). The Rock Hall made the unilateral decision that none of these men deserved to be inducted as members of Kiss and neither does their work, and that’s very interesting, because just about every other band who’s been inducted received at least some form of consultation rights in these sometimes-thorny-and-complicated matters. As Paul Stanley pointed out in a recent interview, the Rock Hall’s treatment of Kiss in this situation is a double-standard of the highest order, because when the Grateful Dead was inducted, the Rock Hall asked the band which current and former members they wanted to have inducted. That’s who got in, and that’s good.   

Stanley and Simmons were justifiably upset that these current and former members of Kiss were excluded. Then the Rock Hall threw down a second gauntlet by that decreeing that only the original lineup was welcome to perform at tonight’s induction ceremony and that the current lineup would not be welcome onstage. Stanley and Simmons responded by declaring that Kiss would still turn up to be inducted, but now they would not perform at all. Are Stanley and Simmons right? I say yes. Let’s shine some bright light on this and see exactly who the Rock Hall is excluding. If Kiss had received equal treatment with the Grateful Dead and many other artists at this juncture, here’s what I think Stanley and Simmons should (and would) have done: Eric Carr, Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer all get enshrined, but Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John do not make it. Allow me to put on a lawyer’s hat for a minute and make a few arguments on behalf of the non-original members of Kiss:

First, the former members:

 

Eric Carr: He should get in. This one is a slam-dunk and the Rock Hall should be ashamed of themselves for excluding Carr, who replaced Peter Criss in 1980 and remained the group’s drummer until he passed away from cancer in 1991 at the age of 41. He was, quite literally, Kiss-for-life once he got the gig, and being a member of Kiss meant everything to him. He played on 8 studio albums (6 went gold or platinum), was a member in both the greasepaint era (as “The Fox”) and the non-greasepaint era, and only left the band when his life ended. The Rock Hall’s exclusion of Carr is a total Mean Boys decision.

  

 

Bruce Kulick: He should get in. He became the band’s fourth lead guitarist in 1984 after Mark St. John’s health problems forced him out. He remained for 12 years in the non-greasepaint era, but ended up on the outside when the original lineup reformed in 1996. Kulick played on 5 studio albums (2 platinum, 2 gold) and had a total of 20 co-writing credits on them, and also appeared on 2 live albums (both gold). That’s plenty.

 

Vinnie Vincent: He does not quite make it. There’s a long-shot argument for the lead guitarist, but given that his numerous fallings-out with Simmons and Stanley have been so severe even they would likely vote against his inclusion. Vincent ghosted for Ace Frehley on the “Creatures Of The Night” album and co-wrote three of its songs before adopting the “Ankh Warrior” persona and replacing Ace publicly. When the band decided to remove the greasepaint a year later for the “Lick It Up” album, he was heavily involved - he scored 8 co-writing credits and played a major role in the album’s direction. However, personality clashes got him sacked as soon as the “Lick It Up” tour was over and he was replaced by Mark St. John. Afterwards he sued the band (unsuccessfully) over unpaid royalties. Later Vincent mended fences temporarily and co-wrote three songs with Simmons for 1992’s “Revenge”, but he soon fell out with Stanley and Simmons again, badly, and that was that. (According to Simmons, Vincent has now filed over a dozen unsuccessful lawsuits against Kiss.) Vincent’s contributions were substantial when he was around, but he wasn’t around long and the personal politics work against him. 

Mark St. John: He does not make it, and he’s the hard-luck case here. He replaced Vinnie Vincent in 1984, and played on one album, “Animalize”, but did not receive any co-writing credits. Shorty after recording was completed St. John developed arthritis (Reiter’s Syndrome) in his hands and arms and was replaced by Bruce Kulick just three shows into the “Animalize” tour. St. John continued to make music before passing away from a cerebral hemorrhage in 2007.
 
And now let’s look at the current members of the band, both of whom were excluded:

Eric Singer: He should get in. He’s been Kiss’ drummer since 1991, barring the 6 years when Criss returned. He joined the band in the non-greasepaint era and subsequently adopted the “Catman” persona when Criss left again. What, somehow 18 years in the band isn’t enough? Come on. 

 

Tommy Thayer: He should get in. He’s now been a member of the band for 11 years in the “Spaceman” role, and his involvement with the band as a songwriter and behind-the-scenes fixer dates back over a decade before that. On his first studio album as a credited member of the band, 2009’s “Sonic Boom”, he had three co-writing credits, and on the bands most recent album, 2012’s “Monster”, he scored 9 co-writing credits.

 

  
  
The current lineup of Simmons/Stanley/Singer/Thayer has been together for over a decade, and that’s long enough that it matters. And unless you’re a purist, this lineup is legit and will likely remain intact barring a final go-round with the original 4, which looks increasingly unlikely, or until Simmons and Stanley retire and appoint replacements to their Demon and Starchild personas.
 
So, even though it may not be a perfect victory, it’s still a victory for the Kiss Army all the same. As of April 10th, 2014, Kiss are in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Congratulations all around. We won, and the 8-year old version of me is bouncing off the ceiling right now.
 

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