gimmicks come and go, but the acts that don’t have the complete
package are usually the shortest lived. Consider the Teletubbies.
They had the look, psychedelic and aesthetically pleasing with an
abstract setting, but sadly, they didn’t have the music. The Tubbies
con was just good enough to cash in on while children’s eyes spun
temporarily hypnotized, and hey, for the producers that’s probably
more than just good enough.
some acts give us more than a gimmick.
KISS was a
rock & roll, glam, hard rock band that truly had the whole package,
whether you liked it or not. They borrowed the “glam” look from the
likes of The New York
David Bowie, and Iggy Pop. My cousins liked David Bowie and I would
later love Iggy Pop, but KISS added a whole new dimension to the New
York look, demonicism! Hey, I just made that word up, not bad, eh? Or
how about demonica! Anyway, you know what I mean. KISS added an evil
persona to the long-haired weirdo with make-up look and truly created
something no one had seen in rock & roll before. Sure, we already had
Black Sabbath, and they were still popular at the time, but they
didn’t have as much over the top presence and theatrics as KISS. They
didn’t have costumes. Black Sabbath seemed like scary English hippies
to me. KISS seemed more like a bisexual orgy aimed at America’s
But I really
wasn’t sure what to think of KISS when they first became popular in
the mid 1970s. Their first album, the self-titled, KISS was
released in February of 1974, but it would take a few years for KISS
to reach the northeast end of Los Angeles. By the time my friends
were breaking out the KISS make-up, KISS had released its fifth album
ALIVE! in 1975, and by 1976 KISS MANIA was in full swing. Pop,
disco, and a new harder edged rock & roll were the musical tastes of
the time. The Ramones were stirring up the best dust in New York and
would soon take over my mind, heart, and soul, but at the time my
favorite bands were The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin, which means I
was a California boy who smoked pot.
You know, my
mind was fairly open, but replacing Brian Wilson or Jimmy Page is no
easy task, so when KISS appeared on the scene I wasn’t overly
impressed, but the first thing that did tell my teenage brain that
this band had something was the parental reaction.
“Rock & Roll All Nite” right now and it’s pretty hard to believe that
parents would have been intimidated by KISS at all. But times were
different. In 1976 you could still let your kids go outside and play
by themselves and not worry if they were going to be abducted by
child molesters. And in the hypersexual climate of the 70s parents
still liked to pretend they believed in God and that all was well and
forgiven on Sunday morning. What you did at the disco stayed at the
disco. But this new band KISS seemed to actually embrace evil. Gene
Simmons was heard to say (on The Mike Douglas Show) that he
was, “Evil incarnate.”
YOU CAN PUT THEM IN ANY CRAZY POSE YOU WANT!
a pretty cool thing to say on any TV show, but Mike was and is a big
fucking square, so all the better, and the urban legends/rumors began
brother told me that KISS stood for “Knights In Satan’s Service” and
that KISS music was obviously “devil music.” That’s the kind of
thing that really freaks out the Christian parents, the other
religious parents, and even some of the regular parents.
that sense of malevolent mystery only served to fuel the blaze KISS
was building to attract teenagers like demonic fireflies. If it
pisses off your parents—it must be good.
are evil. Sure, that’s why they’re so popular, couldn’t be the
creative image and fun sound. No, kids don’t go for originality, must
be something Satanic …
good parent knows the history of rock & roll came out of the
demonized music of blues and jazz. KISS must have been preparing up a
massive sacrifice for their master, a universal mind control of
glue-sniffing teenage brains. Sure, they even arranged to have their
own blood mixed with the ink that went into the KISS Marvel comic
book, a surefire trap for juvenile delinquents. A few years later in
1978 the Mego Corporation would release 12 ½ inch tall dolls of the
band—potential voodoo dolls in the making!
spell must have worked (even before the release of the dolls) because
a lot of my friends dressed up as Peter Chris and Gene Simmons,
Halloween 1976, while KISS ARMY soldiers roamed all over America,
demanding tricks or treats.
Satan’s Service banging on your door!
teenagers in bisexual Liberace-like costumes and transvestite make-up
begging for candy!
and daughters spitting blood and eating fire on All Hallows Eve!
I hid in the
shadows as always, wearing a Creature From the Black Lagoon mask and
waiting for the madness to pass. However, as I smoked that fat joint
in the bushes on 52nd Avenue, the smoke drifting out of
the rubber nostrils … I couldn’t get that evil song out of my head