Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Kiss - Krossword

Kiss
Krossword


AOTM #107, April 2009ce
Print out and complete the Kiss Krossword (PDF, 576k).


KISS KROSSWORD was created by Julian Cope for the purposes of this review.


Alive Side
  1. Deuce (3.57)
  2. C’Mon and Love Me (3.05)
  3. Makin’ Love (3.13)
  4. Strutter (3.22)
  5. Got To Choose (3.58)
  6. Let Me Go, Rock’n’Roll (5.46)
  7. She (6.56)
Studio Side
  1. Parasite (3.04)
  2. King of the Night Time World (3.21)
  3. I Love It Loud (4.15)
  4. Goin’ Blind (3.39)
  5. Do You Love Me? (3.40)
  6. Great Expectations (4.24)
  7. Detroit Rock City (5.18)


You Wanted the Best, You Got Kiss!

The essential Kiss LPs as recommended by the Archdrude.

HOTTER THAN HELL

KISS ALIVE

DESTROYER

KISS ALIVE II

MUSIC FROM 'THE ELDER'

Okay, okay, so maybe you don’t have to own every pre-UNMASKED Kiss LP in order to be a true rock’n’roll lunatic. But without at the very least copies of HOTTER THAN HELL, KISS ALIVE, DESTROYER, KISS ALIVE II and MUSIC FROM ‘THE ELDER’ in your 12” vinyl collection, there’s a hot chance that next time you try to impress some fit babe with an evening of ‘All Back To Mine’, the piercing stare she gives your crotch will set off a right Dwindler. Think on this, motherfucker, or risk dying a death lonelier than Balzac’s ball sac1: much early Kiss is essential to the rock, nay, the Hard Rock library, and make no mistake. The hard evidence is contained within the sweaty’n’steamy, hammy’n’shammy grooves of this, my invented compilation. And I do guarantee those of you who’ve come to mock will remain to rock! New York Dolls fans will swoon at the wanton use of J. Thunders riffs that Ace Frehley daubs across ‘Strutter’ and ‘Let Me Go, Rock’n’Roll’; staunch 1970-obsessed proto-metal heads will snarl post-coitally at the sheer monotonous relentlessness of ‘Parasite’ and ‘She’; complacent Clash fans will squirm at the sheer out-ing of their heroes’ GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE-roots on ‘King of the Night Time World’; whilst on the so-beyond preposterous nausicon ‘Great Expectations’, Mott the Hoople freaks will cackle at Gene’s shameless take on MOTT-period Ian Hunter, adding such an unyieldingly Yiddish solipsism to Hunter’s always heartfelt-but-nevertheless-get-over-it Gracie Fieldness, that our loveable Demon leaves the Hunter looking like a prim Edinburgh landlady eyeing a coffee mug ring on her table. Ooer, or what Missus… Meanwhile, confident (and nonplussed) music heads the world over will simply look at each other quizzically, shrug their shoulders and comment: “No wonder Nirvana and the Melvins did such great versions of DESTROYER’s ‘Do You Love Me?’ and HOTTER THAN HELL’s ‘Goin’ Blind’; they wuz … ahem … classics all along.”

That the Kiss canon is barely more than a shameless Bubblegum re-working of all the 1969-73 Heavy Rock that preceded Gene & Company should by now be common knowledge. But even at this late stage in Rock’n’roll, Kiss’ mere presence don’t half wind some fuckers up! Yup, still there be legions of 21st Century Spewdo-intellectual Kiss detractors across the world who feel obligated to disparage Gene & Co. for making horribly patchy and inconsistent LPs until their fourth release (1975’s immense double KISS ALIVE), ignoring the fact that fave raves such as the Monkees, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad and Aerosmith before them delivered even more (and even patchier) LPs on their various routes to Rock Immortality. So are Kiss judged differently to those aforementched bands on account of Gene Simmons’ avarice? Is this the reason a classic like KISS ALIVE is regularly and comprehensively slagged off for its post-production guitar and vocal overdubs, even though the KISS ALIVE songs are serpently no more overdubbed than such beloved live LPs as the Seeds’ RAW AND ALIVE and Thin Lizzy’s LIVE AND DANGEROUS (both of which are said to have needed even more fundamental studio re-working)? Yes, I agree that the Gene is a cunt of epic proportions2, but I personally never needed heroes to be nice - they ARE meant to be world figures after all. Even U2 fans hate Bono; even Police fans hate Sting. And for shit-damn-sure M. Jagger deserves a bullet in the head 1,000 times more than Gene Simmons, even if it’s just for introducing Lennon to Alien Klein and being the architect of Altamont.

Anyway, back to the action and the entertainment. For this Kiss music is Sat’day Night Entertainment at its wooziest, our (anti-) heroes – like Noddy & Co. on SLADE ALIVE and Sweet around SWEET FANNY ADAMS - half-inching hoary old ‘Serious’ Heavy 60s riffs from such dullard long dead ancestors as Mountain, Cream, Steppenwolf and Ten Years After (sheesh!), then regurgitating them with mucho Tin Pan Alley aplomb as brand new originals. Hold on, am I describing Kiss or David Bowie? Anyway, what made The Gene & Co. so smart, was how well they understood what mid-70s US youngsters DID NOT WANT! For, just as young white 60s kids were quite happy to hear rampant declarations of impending fucking just so long as those songs were sung by pretty young white boys, and not by the scarily horny mid-40s Negro originators, so were mid-70s white kids still quite happy to receive a carbon copy of their older siblings’ Heavy Music just so long as it was delivered to them not by Sweaty Arsed Leslie West and Leicester’s Graham Barnes, oops, sorry, Alvin Lee, but by the Rock equivalents of Batman and Spiderman. The Monkees TV show was followed by the Banana Splits, who also released LPs and singles, and had songs written and performed on their behalf by such luminaries as Al Kooper, Barry White and Gene Pitney. Kiss was just the next obvious step, replacing Snorky the shit elephant with Starchild Paul, and Drooper the lion with a sub-sub-Alice Cooper figure in Gene’s Demon. Ace Frehley’s Space Ace character was a 50/50 hybrid of Bingo Banana Split and Mott the Hoople’s Aerial Bender (YouTube Link) while who the fuck knows or cares what Peter Criss’ Cat Man was about … taking Gene’s early Banana Splits pep-talks a little too seriously, Criss delivered ‘the guys’ nothing more than a feline Fleegle re-written. Useless? I should cocoa. But, brothers’n’sisters, when rock’n’roll is this Arch, this clod-hopping, this shocked, you just gotta give yourself to the toons. Like the Norse Myth that involves Thor wearing a wedding dress to help Odin win a dowry from a rich farmer, I know that believing the Kiss myth is problematic. For it involves believing in a Starchild with Victor Mature’s physique, gorilla-level hairy chest, more-head-shaking-pixie-curls-than-Marc-Bolan AND forever proclaiming unnecessarily that he’s no longer ‘a baby’. No shit, Sherlock. But when you cut through the Boy Child, there’s a Man Woman trying to get out, which is probably why Kurdt the Blond One clued into covering ‘Do You Love Me?’


We’re An American Band

Now, as Kiss made it predominantly on the success of their first concert album, it would be easiest for me to cull a bunch of songs from ALIVE and ALIVE II and offer them up as best representing the band. However, on certain studio songs from their early LPs, there was something very charming about the dry boxiness of their sound that really should be included on this here compilation, so I’ve been careful to represent studio Kiss as well as possible. KISS KROSSWORD commences with the eternal greatness of Gene’s ‘Deuce’, the opening lyric of which will remain forever as a barbarian classic of Little Richard proportions:

“Get up, and get your grandma out of here.”

How they rendered this stone biker anthem so damned 50cc moped on their debut studio LP I’ve never quite worked out, for its bucking bronco lead guitar and ‘Do It!’ refrain make ‘Deuce’ one of the All Time great album openers. ‘C’Mon And Love Me’ follows, for all the world like Paul is singing over Roky Erikson & the Aliens’ backing track for ‘Creature With The Atom Brain’, only Paulie is crowing about this lucky chick in the front row seeing “my picture in a music magazine”. ‘Makin’ Love’ borrows its staggered riff from the Ronnie Montrose school and its chorus vocal FX from Led Zep’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, but the classic opening line (“I just hate when the girl says Wait!”) are all the Starchild’s own. ‘Strutter’ is a hobbling, in-grown and crippled Stones boogie of the kind the Heartbreakers would later turn up, again Ace’s merciless proto-Steve Jones ernie-ernie-ernie sub-sub-C. Berryisms bludgeoning listeners’ senses with its artlessness. ‘Got To Choose’ is even slower and stodgier, as Paul coos and pleads: “Who’s your baby?” Kiss break out into a mild’n’boogie Trevor Bolder Spiders Stomp for ‘Let Me Go, Rock’n’Roll’, the breakdown of which the Dolls S. Sylvain and J. Thunders woulda killed for. Our Alive Side now concludes with the hoary unison riffery of HOTTER THAN HELL’s ‘She’, its transmission here extended and lowered, and its previously shiny and chromed South Bend exhausts replaced with the dull painted pipes of some Soviet tractor. There are many reasons to hate Kiss, kiddies. But judged on this first bunch of songs, you gots to admit they exhibited a crass charm. It should be noted, at this convenient juncture in the narrative, that one of Kiss’s Primary Metaphors was sourced from one song alone; that being Grand Funk Railroad’s biggest hit, 1973’s ‘We’re An American Band’, on which we can hear the familiar Kiss drumming style, the fussy between riff-riffing and even the ‘we’re coming to your town’ narrative song style. Just add the Gene’s Demon Baritone and “we’ll drive you crazy” becomes the inevitable next verse. And if it wound up Grand Funk’s leader Mark Farner that it took a song by his drummer/compadré Don Brewer to best sum up succinctly Grand Funk’s most enduring function, then it must also have wound up Don himself when these painted New Yorkers went Super Kiss in his own home town of Detroit far earlier than anywhere else in the States, especially after Grand Funk (‘The People’s Band’) had been ignored by their home audience for so long.

Back at the beginning of the Studio Side, the robotic Gatlin Gun riffage of Ace Frehley’s Stentorian proto-metal assault ‘Parasite’ commences proceedings, exhibiting a moronic shoegazing attitude that’s even sub-Patrick Star. Gene sings Ace’s lyrics but they’re still obviously the product of a mindset far stupider than those of usual songwriters. I wish I coulda justified laying Ace’s ‘Shock Me’ on y’all, but that’s even dumber and you might have thunk I was just taking the piss. Then, it’s the exhilarating proto-GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE of co-writer Kim Fowley’s ‘King of the Night Time World’, originally co-written and released by Mark Anthony’s LA glam failures the Hollywood Stars. Coming on like a Blue Oyster Cult backing track, Kiss’ Bob Ezrin production kicks the originals so deep into the dust that they had to get Bronze Age archaeologists with extra sharp tools to dig those suckers up3. We follow this with the only Kiss offering not taken from their Main Sequence of albums. For ‘I Love It Loud’ was the sole classic from 1982’s CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, and its J. Bonham-as-Thor drum fundament has gotta be one of thee most colossal pounded in many a year. Long gone was Peter Criss by the time ‘I Love It Loud’ hit the shelves, replaced by the Fox AKA Eric Carr. Even the video was damned fine for its time, but those drum stops still sound like Ragnarok to me every time. Next up, we dig deep into the undergrowth for the plaintiff mewling of HOTTER THAN HELL’s epic ballad ‘Goin’ Blind’, the tragic Mountain-esque tale of a 16-year-old girl and her 93-year-old would be lover. Pete Townshend might have made the guy 45 and we’d shiver; Gene makes him 93 and the cartoon’s intact. Like their versh of Alice’s ‘Ballad of Dwight Fry’, the Melvins’ rendering of ‘Goin’ Blind’ was totally, rigorously true to the original. Kiss got it right. Then, we’re off to Hollywood for ‘Do You Love Me?’ the second Kim Fowley collaboration of the compilation across the nation (sorry). And a right kerb crawler it turns out to be. Commencing with the Cat Man’s drums, Paul preens and purrs out a list of materialist things his groupie girlfriend likes about him, then asks over & over: “But, do you love me?” interspersing every few questions with the truly inspired “I mean like Do ya?” (now there’s a Fowley lyrical installation if ever I saw one)4. Sitting there rusting in the Boneyard, ‘Great Expectations’ is the Edsel of Rock’n’Roll, 1666 London just before the Great Fire, a sequinned and painted gargoyle of a ballad, a corpulent boneless sac right on the edge of rotting (but far too delicate to remove), a song in which the groupie plays Job to the Gene’s Narcissistic Jehovah. What will you have me do? But, again, it’s so far up its own Arch that you can only sing-along-a-Demon and grin inanely at Gene’s cheek. Staying true to the Superkiss metaphor of the Studio Side, we conclude this compilation with producer Bob Ezrin’s mightiest Kiss moment, ‘Detroit Rock City’. From the moment the radio FX and talking start, you know it’s gonna be one of THOSE songs … a beast, a slippery beast that prowls around your mind on staccato legs made from Gene’s brassy bassline. The Starchild sets us up with a perfect description of a kid out on a Sat’day Night (‘first I drink, then I smoke’) before killing our hero right before our eyes. Elsewhere on the same album, Ezrin was off recording his kids being demons for Gene’s ‘God of Thunder’, in a bizarre echo of his behaviour on Lou’s ‘The Kids’ during the BERLIN sessions. Too much time spent making KILLER and BILLION DOLLAR BABIES with the Coop? I guess. But it don’t half make for dramatic rock’n’roll. Besides, they ain’t my kids.


In Conclusion

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once commented that: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. The most obvious contemporary example of this must surely be in the way that we English say ‘Coldplay are an abortion’, while Yanks choose to say ‘Coldplay is an abortion”. In America, therefore, Rock’n’Roll bands are a singular entity, and ye don’t get more singular than Kiss. But they probably take too much blame for adding the H.P. Barnum element, when UK bands like Slade were doing it way before. So listen to this compilation with compassion and I’m sure you’ll (churlishly) agree that, considering their bass player was, throughout the ‘70s, mostly out designing promotional lawn-mowers and suchlike, the music contained herein not only ain’t half bad – but – here and there, it’s surprisingly The Bollocks. Damn!



FOOTNOTES:
  1. Although the French playwright Honoré de Balzac had been married only five months when he died, his mother alone attended his final moments, as his new wife Ewelina Hañska had already gone to bed.
  2. Or is he? Can this Gene guy really be quite the bastard he’s purported to be, when he shared decades of licks with a Brainiac such as Ace Frehley, a man who took an LSD trip and a bunch of hard liquor, then drove his Porsche at 85mph the wrong way down the Long Island Expressway?
  3. The lyric about her being his ‘headlight queen’ is on account of Mark Anthony’s girlfriend insisting on giving him head by the side of the road in front of their parked car. Listen to the original here.
  4. Search out Nirvana’s versh on the ‘tube and you’ll see another perfect re-make unfolding before you.