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KNIGHTS IN SATAN'S SERVICE
A KISS TRIBUTE

Pop culture 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.

However, 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 Dolls, 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 youth.

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.

Listening to “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!

Now, that’s 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 …

My Christian 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.

Of course, 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.

Maybe they 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 …

Something in Satan’s service.

Hell, every 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!

And the 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.

Knights in Satan’s Service banging on your door!

Weirdo teenagers in bisexual Liberace-like costumes and transvestite make-up begging for candy!

Your sons and daughters spitting blood and eating fire on All Hallows Eve!

And me? 

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

“I … wanna rock & roll all nite …”

“I … wanna rock & roll all nite …”

“I … wanna rock & roll all nite …"

-Bradley Mason Hamlin
brad@retrocrush.com

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