Paul Stanley's New Book Looks Like the Most Reliable KISStory to Date

Photo courtesy of HarperOne
Frenemies for more than 40 years: The Demon and The Starchild today.
In fact, Stanley pulls no punches in his sometimes withering views of his bandmates.

  • Gene Simmons is an egotistical, greedy, self-promoting blowhard and undeserved credit-grabber for music and marketing far more interested in the "I" than the "We."
  • Peter Criss was a none-too-sharp drunkie/druggie, and a barely competent drummer who had to be taught his parts like a child. He also made outrageous demands while constantly threatening to quit the band and brought in an overbearing wife into the reunion years.
  • Ace Frehley was a self-destructive drunk and drug addict who squandered his talent, exhibited bizarre behavior (even by KISS standards), and was incredibly lazy in life and music. But, hey, Stanley writes, he was usually funny as shit!

In the beginning, the makeup, costumes, special effects and member personas were a way to get KISS noticed in addition to their hard rock music. And it made them big. Really big, all over the world as records sold in the millions and concert tickets by the tens of thousands.

The visual image of KISS had arguably as much to do with the band's success as the band's music. But when the merchandising begins to spin out of control with toys, and the ill-fated TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park is a horrid mess -- though I remember rushing home from a fifth grade school carnival to catch its initial airing on TV -- Stanley has incredible doubts about the band's direction.

Photo courtesy of HarperOne
Oh nurse! It was good to be Paul Stanley in the '80s.
He sees the audience lined up to see the band on the Dynasty tour, whose accompanying album featured a (gasp!) disco hit, filled with kids and their parents instead of Zeppelin-loving hard-rock enthusiasts, and writes that those people might as well have been "lining up to see the circus." His feeling was buoyed by the KISS's stage costumes which now included Technicolor feathers and frilly stuff.

Soon, the band is barely selling 1,000 seats in venues that they could have sold out at 18,000 years earlier. Facing hair metal and grunge, Stanley says he was afraid to throw his guitar pick too far into the crowd for fear of it hitting empty floor.

KISS would famously take off their makeup and begin to rebuild their fanbase. But ultimately, the popular (and financial) pull to reunite with the since-dismissed Ace Frehley and Peter Criss proved too strong. It led to massively successful tours. Though, later, Frehley and Criss' old problems resurfaced, leading to another parting.

The current KISS lineup, whose summer tour with Def Leppard will end August 31 at the Woodlands Pavilion, finds Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer donning the ousted pair's distinctive Spaceman and Catman makeup and costumes, to the disdain of many of their most hardcore fans. Stanley argues less than convincingly that KISS is a brand and a feeling, and it doesn't matter who wears the outfits.

There may be some validity to that. Simmons has envisioned "KISS" bands playing across the country after he and Stanley hang it up like touring companies of Broadway musicals. But whatever the future holds for KISS, Face the Music is a fine summation of the band's past, written by the member who is the most reliable narrator.


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