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Just a nice Jewish boy: A young Gene Simmons on ‘The Mike Douglas Show,’ 1974


 
A couple of weeks ago, DM’s Amber Frost showed us a pretty ridiculous TV news feature taking the gargantuan ‘70s arena rock band KISS to task for having the temerity to market themselves. The whole thing was full of tedious old-fart tut-tutting, and it frankly felt like the band wasn’t actually being scolded for their publicity machinery, but rather for being young and nothing at all like Tony Bennett.

So when I ran across this Gene Simmons interview on the old Mike Douglas show from 1974, I expected more or less the same vibe—the show, after all, was one of the champs of a soon-to-be-obsolete style of daytime variety programming that gave a reliable home to fading stars and alter kocker holdovers from the late vaudeville and early television eras for a demographic of stay-at-home housewives that was about to shrink significantly. So when it turned out that Douglas and his other guests reacted to Simmons’ startling kabuki-ghoul appearance in stride and just joked with him like anyone else, it was quite a surprise.
 

 
This was in the early days of KISS, so Simmons didn’t really have his schtick nailed down yet, and his efforts to project a menacing, demonic character fall WAY flat, as if to answer the question of what shock-rock looks like without shock. His professed desire to drink the audience’s blood and his self-characterization as “evil incarnate” barely seem to elicit much more than a shrug from the audience.

The interview is saved by a pretty amazing exchange between Simmons and old-school comedienne Totie Fields, who joked that it would be funny if Simmons, under the makeup, turned out to be “just a nice Jewish boy.” Simmons, of course, is not just an actual Jewish boy, but an Israeli sabra born Chaim Witz, and he drolly (and pretty Jewily) retorted “You should only know…” Fields owned the moment by interjecting “I DO! You can’t hide the hook!” Fields herself was born Sophie Feldman, and could probably spot a Member of the Tribe using a showbiz pseudonym a mile away.

The appearance also includes Douglas interviewing the winners of a kissing contest (*eyeroll*), and a band performance—as in an actual live-in-studio performance, it’s not mimed—of the early song “Firehouse.”
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
NBC explains KISS to old people, 1977
07.31.2015
06:56 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Kiss
1970s
KISS
news
NBC


From Kiss’s 1977 special edition Marvel comic. They said that drops of the band’s own blood had been mixed in with the ink.
 
Gimmicks get a bad rap, and the music snobs who supposedly abhor them tend to be very inconsistent in their denouncements. No one would talk shit on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ manic voodoo schtick for example (unless, I guess, they’re just openly anti-fun). Likewise, “serious” music nerds love bands like The Spotniks, and “Swedish science fiction bluegrass surf” is about as “novelty act” as you can get. But mention KISS in a Pitchfork crowd and you will inevitably encounter at least one disdainful scoff—if not the entire room—but if you can’t appreciate a man in glam rock alien makeup vomiting blood onstage, I feel sorry for you. Take this 1977 NBC mini-doc—“Land Of Hype And Glory”—as your cautionary tale.

The piece starts with scenes from a carnival, which is actually a decent metaphor for the band (carnivals are fun! People love carnivals, and people love KISS!). But the narration goes for the P.T. Barnum angle—“there’s a sucker born every minute”—implying that KISS fans are somehow being swindled by enjoying a sensational live show. (Fun and entertainment? Whatta bunch of suckers!) The reporter goes on to ask the band if they’re “bludgeoning rock to death,” and interrogates Gene Simmons on KISS’ “less-than-average” music. Simmons is quick to point out that their songwriting is intended to be “accessible,” rather than “self-indulgent.” Intended as a denunciation of hype, the entire feature comes off as a besuited old man scolding a group of professional showmen who aren’t taking themselves too seriously.

You don’t have to be a fan, but KISS are dumb, loud and easy, and if you can’t appreciate that, you’re really missing something fundamental about rock ‘n’ roll. And now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to run away before I am pelted by Sleaford Mods and Brian Eno CDs…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
KISS: Their X-rated early days
07.23.2015
09:30 am

Topics:
Art
Music
Sex

Tags:
KISS


 
Before KISS became a kid-friendly marketing machine with their own line of dolls and comic books aimed at the eight-to-sixteen demographic, the group maintained a darker, edgier, and more decidedly adult image. KISS, after all, came from the same sleazy New York scene as the Dolls and were demonstrably more musically aggro than most of their early ‘70s contemporaries—and let’s not forget the lyrical themes of alcohol abuse, prostitution, pedophilia, and anal sex

It was during these early years that KISS recorded their second album, Hotter Than Hell. Though it contains some of KISS’ best songs, the record suffered from notoriously muddy production. The cover artwork, while striking with its Japanese-inspired visuals, also suffers from a degree of print-muddiness in the photo images of the group. What ended up on the album sleeve barely hints at the debaucherous photo session that spawned those images. Some sources have described this shoot as having devolved into a full-on “orgy,” although Peter Criss’ ex-wife, Lydia, has played down those allegations.
 

 
Kiss Fan Site has reprinted some outtakes of the Hotter Then Hell photo session, along with quotes from the band members describing the wild shoot. One wonders how history would look back on KISS if they had kept with the Bacchanalian “sex and drugs and rock and roll” image implied in this shoot. Photographer Norman Seeff emerges as the character responsible for much of the insanity. Apparently everyone was wasted, except for life-long tea-totaller, Gene Simmons.

This is definitely not the kid stuff we saw a few years later with Marvel Comics and Hanna-Barbera TV movie productions. The mise-en-scène of furs and rugs and glitter and skulls and ropes and Coors cans with drunkenly splayed, mugging, groupie-groping band members is, if nothing else, a beautiful rock and roll mess.
 

 

Gene Simmons: We did a photo session with Norman Seeff in Los Angeles. Norman was a very bright but strange guy who believed that photo sessions should be this other thing. So he would create a climate and bring down everybody and anybody. Girls who would blow you, anything that would happen just to get a sense of something.

 

 

Peter Criss: It was a wild photo session for the back cover. I was sitting in the armchair there with this broad giving me head with this mask on. It was really fucking wild. Paul was in bed with a bunch of broads and me in a robe over this big knight’s table’s chair. The photographer [Seeff] got us all drunk. That was the idea. He got us all loaded. Everyone was drunk except Gene but Gene had to be drunk on the whole room being drunk. Even the models and the people in the room were drunk. No one was sober but Gene but he had to be intoxicated from just the intoxication of the whole vibe.

 

 

Paul Stanley: I don’t know if anybody can make out the back cover of the album but we were having this wild, wild party with tons of people in weird outfits. Ten minutes after that picture was taken I passed out. I cut my hand, I don’t know how I did it. It was pretty strange. I was so drunk that they locked me in a car and I couldn’t find my way out. Like any of the Fellini films, Satyricon, it was bizarre but it was really great too. It was a party unlike most others that I’ve been to. A lot of the pictures taken for the back cover have never seen the light of day because some people didn’t want to be incriminated by the pictures. Someone would go, “Oh, I can’t let so-and-so see me at that party.”

 

 

Norman Seeff: The Hotter Than Hell photo shoot was done at the Raleigh stages in Hollywood. The front and back cover were shot on the same day. I had just come back from Japan and met one of the great Japanese artists, Tadanori Yokoo. He was a combination of Timothy Leary, Andy Warhol, and Picasso. I think the way KISS were dressed and who they were suggested to me that Yokoo’s work would be an ideal direction for them. As we went further, I thought “Why not put the title in Japanese as well?” I called in a brilliant designer, John Van Hamersveld, to do the design. The album’s title dictated the party shot, the Satyricon fantasy concept for the back cover. My whole approach is forging a creative partnership with people, it’s very free-form. I made it clear that this is a stage for creative improvisation. KISS were doing a rock ‘n’ roll ballet for the shoot where each of the individuals were playing a part. It was incredibly exciting, they worked so well off of each other. They came in and they delivered.

 

 

Gene Simmons: That session was one of the few times that I’ve seen Paul drunk. He was blitzed. The only thing that was missing was Rod Serling going [imitates Serling’s voice] “Witness Paul Stanley entering the Twilight Zone.” There was a photo of him with a girl who had nothing on, sort of painted like Goldfinger with silver stuff. I don’t even think Paul was aware that there were forces of gravity. So he reached over and in one shot you sort of see him nuzzling with this chickie and the next second he’s over the bed. He’d fallen over. At the end of the photo session I had to carry him to the car and lock him in the back seat.

 

 

Ace Frehley: For one photo session we did for the Hotter Than Hell album, this doctor told me I could only put makeup on half of my face. So all the shots were profiles [laughs]. I got into a car accident. Something pissed me off. I got drunk one night and I kept driving around the Hollywood Hills. I kept going around the same block faster and faster [laughs] until I lost control and hit a telephone pole. I think I was just testing destiny. I got out of the car and I had cut my head. I walked back down to the hotel and I knocked on my road manager’s door and there’s blood running all down my face. He said, “Oh God, what happened to you?” I go, “I wrecked a car.” One of many [laughs], it was like the beginning of the saga.

 
More photos after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
KISS, without makeup, play Ace Frehley’s wedding reception in 1976
06.09.2015
07:00 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
KISS
Ace Frehley


 
When Ace and Jeanette Frehley got married in 1976, the members of KISS used the opportunity to take the stage and instruments of the wedding band (St. James Infirmary) and play some songs at the reception. After playing one song, Ace’s new father-in law asked the band to stop—as all the attention was going to the band instead of the wedding activities. The band played two more.

The book Kiss and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup by C.K. Lendt, who worked with KISS’ financial team, gives an insight into the vibe at the reception:

Ace’s May 1976 wedding to Jeanette Trerotola, an Italian girl from suburban New York, was a huge affair at New York’s Americana hotel that attempted to link two sharply different worlds. Jeanette came from a large family. At the wedding, many relatives showed up, including her grandfather, one of the highest ranking officials in the Teamsters who was known as Joe T. Her father was also a Teamster official. At times, the two camps reportedly appeared to face off against each other, with each group congregating on opposite sides of the ballroom. One friend of the band, a gay musician who came dressed in a black leather motorcycle jacket and knee-high boots, supposedly came close to inciting a riot when he congratulated members by giving them bear hugs and huge kisses.

Luckily someone captured part of the impromptu wedding jam. The band performs “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Shout It Out Loud” in a short super 8mm reel. According to this site, “Nothing to Lose” was also played. The sound quality is rough, and the performances are a bit sloppy, but that could be attributed to either free-flowing wedding booze, or, more likely, the hypothesis put forward in the 1978 documentary KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, that without their magic talismans they are just ordinary human beings with no mystical powers (or ability to keep in tune).
 

“I’d heard about your talismans, but I didn’t think they really existed. What’s that humming noise?”
 
If you are a fan, this 8mm film footage, albeit rough, is gold. Remarkably, the band seem to really actually kind of like each other in the clip.

It’s also remarkable to see footage from this era of the band without makeup. The identities of the members were closely guarded by the band and management at this time. Even when a magazine of the day could snap photos of the band, they’d never actually print them, for fear of losing access to publicity materials from the “hottest band in the world.” Creem magazine’s art director, Charlie Auringer, snapped these photos back in 1975 —of course they weren’t printed!
 

 

 

 
And now, you wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest wedding band in the land, KISS:
 

 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Lou Reed’s collaboration with KISS
01.23.2015
06:04 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
KISS


 
Decades before Loutallica, there was KISS’s Music from “The Elder,” “the best concept album ever” (Julian Cope). There are a lot of strange things about Music from “The Elder”: recorded with an orchestra and a choir, collecting triumphant songs that sound more like the Who than KISS, the album is the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. Also, three of its songs boast lyrics by Lou Reed.

KISS recorded Elder with big-time 70s rock producer Bob Ezrin, who had produced a number of superb Alice Cooper records, along with KISS’s own Destroyer, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Reed’s Berlin. (It’s always fun to compare the strings on Reed’s “Sad Song” with those on Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”) In the words of the “official authorized biography” KISS: Behind the Mask:

In a last-ditch effort to regain their popularity and break new artistic ground, KISS reunited with Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin for 1981’s Music from “The Elder.” The concept, initiated by Gene Simmons, centered upon a young boy’s rite of passage, a heroic life’s journey through personal discovery, doubt, and ultimate self-realization.

 

 
At some point during the lengthy sessions for Elder, a phone call was placed to the King of New York. This upbeat quote from Paul Stanley doesn’t make it sound like Lou’s contribution to the project was, shall we say, labor-intensive:

Lou was so into our “Elder” project, that when we called and explained it over the phone to him, he said, “I’ll get back to you in an hour”. And he called back an hour later with good basic lyrics to “Mr Blackwell”, “World Without Heroes”, and a lot of other stuff that hasn’t been used yet.

I think the finest of the album’s three Lou songs is “Dark Light,” which wound up on the B-side of the first single, but then I’m partial to Ace Frehley. The A-side of the first single was reserved for “A World Without Heroes.” Now, if Lou Reed spent more than ten minutes writing this turkey, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Below, KISS humiliate themselves on the ABC cult comedy series Fridays.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
The story of KISS’s Ace Frehley and his (former) ultimate fan
12.29.2014
08:55 am

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
KISS
Ace Frehley


 
Don’t ask me how (or why) I happened to stumble across this oddly fascinating narrative of how Ace Frehley tribute band leader Bill Baker first idolized and then became buddies with the original KISS guitarist… but I did. Baker is a luthier—guitar craftsman—and formerly the head honcho of Fractured Mirror, a Frehley-flavored tribute act.

I don’t really want to say too much about this, and I think it speaks for itself, other than to say that this story would make a good indie film or an even better Peter Bagge graphic novel. Bill Baker self-published a book, Ace Frehley: The Ultimate Fan Scrapbook which is nearly sold out. You can buy it at his website, which features all manner of Ace Frehley memorabilia and videos.

These two clips, from a documentary titled KISS Loves You, tell the story of how Bill and Ace met and… what happened next.

The good times:
 

 
The aftermath, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
At long last, Paul Stanley’s ridiculous Folgers coffee commercial surfaces
12.21.2014
12:39 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Drugs
Food
Music

Tags:
KISS
coffee
Paul Stanley


 
In 2000 Paul Stanley taped a commercial for Folgers coffee that never made it to air—it’s been hotly sought after for video scavengers ever since. Audio of the commercial has been on YouTube since 2008, but not the video. Yesterday, a YouTube user named John DiMaggio uploaded it for all to see. It’s a bizarre commercial set in a big top circus tent that doesn’t play to Stanley’s delirious, voluble strengths—in other words, why is Paul Stanley in this commercial and not Paul Williams? No reason that I can see.

The same year that he shot the commercial, Stanley discussed the commercial in an interview: “Life is strange. I got a call asking if I was interested in singing a Folgers commercial. And, like many other things, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wasn’t at all concerned with who thinks it is okay or not okay, cool, not cool, rock ‘n’ roll or not. I had a blast doing it, and, like I said, isn’t that what this is all about?”

The word (as related by John DiMaggio) is that “focus groups asked ‘who is the old, creepy guy?’ and the agency pulled it.” Seems plausible enough. The soft-focus business with the trapeze artists reminds me of nothing so much as a Cialis commercial.
 

 
via Ultimate Classic Rock/Thank you Annie Zaleski!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
KISS rocks out on ‘The Paul Lynde Halloween Special,’ 1976
10.28.2014
07:02 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Television

Tags:
Halloween
KISS
Paul Lynde


 
Nothing better exemplifies the “everything but the kitchen sink” entertainment mentality of the 1970s than “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special,” which includes the following components: swishy comedian Paul Lynde, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch, Florence Henderson, Billy Bartie, Tim Conway, “Pinky” Tuscadero (no, not “Leather”), Donny and Marie, Betty White, Sid & Marty Krofft’s Witchiepoo, and ... KISS!
 

 
In addition to being Samatha’s campy Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, and supplying the voice for Templeton the Rat in Charlotte’s Web, Lynde was best known for being the “center square” on the Hollywood Squares, from which perch he would uncork as many double entendres as the format could sustain. He was gay and didn’t apparently seem to care if anyone knew about it, meaning that the home audience could be assumed to be pretty much clueless on the matter. (At the wrap party for Bye Bye Birdie early in his career, Lynde quipped in a toast, “Well, I guess I’m the only one here who doesn’t want to fuck Ann-Margret.”) In any case his jokes are super corny—only masochists will want to sit through the whole thing.
 

Ace Frehley hanging out with Billy Bartie
 
Apparently this was the first prime-time network appearance for KISS—anyone know?

Here’s the part you want to see—KISS doing “Detroit Rock City”:

 
The entire special after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Goofy commercial hawking KISS makeup kit, 1978
09.26.2014
09:51 am

Topics:
Amusing
Pop Culture

Tags:
1970s
KISS

Kiss kids
 
By the late 1970s, KISS mania was in full swing, and many products bearing the band’s logo were available. Some of this stuff—trading cards, action figures, even a pinball machine—had little to do with rock-n-roll, but were a perfect fit for a band now seen by many kids as superheroes.
 
KISS comic book
 
Those same kids were amongst those attending KISS concerts made-up to look their favorite member of the group, so one piece of merchandise that made total sense was the KISS Your Face Makeup Kit.
 
KISS fans
 
KISS fans
 
Check out this 1978 commercial for the makeup kit, which partially succeeds in attempts at self-conscious humor, but is also just plain goofy.

Halloween will be here before you know it, KISS fans—get yours NOW!
 

 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘Beth, I hear you calling’: The totally made-up, not true story behind the biggest KISS hit ever had
12.27.2013
09:05 am

Topics:
Amusing
Movies
Music

Tags:
KISS

Beth
 
Conduct a casual poll of the hardy troops that make up the KISS Army as to their favorite KISS songs; I’d wager you’ll hear a lot more votes for “Strutter,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” or, hell, even “Lick It Up” than you will for Peter Criss’ 1976 power ballad “Beth.” KISS fans don’t exactly know what to do with “Beth,” a syrupy piano number (with flute!) about puttin’ in those long hours in the studio that was the biggest his KISS ever had, clocking in at #7 on the Billboard Singles chart. No other KISS song ever cracked the top 10 until 1990’s “Forever” (which I wouldn’t be able to hum for you on a bet).

Director Brian Billow of Anonymous Content has brought to life a short script by Bob Winter, an advertising creative director based in Miami, that asks the compelling question, “But what of Beth’s side of the story?”

As with any undertaking like this, the trick is nailing the details. Beth’s colorful frock and wood-paneled kitchen accurately capture a certain 1970s je ne sais quoi that permits “Beth,” however brief, to be placed honorably alongside Boogie Nights and Almost Famous and The Last Days of Disco and 54 and all those other movies about the 1970s that came out in the late 1990s. The concept of KISS laying down tracks in full costume is just the right preposterous touch—but then again, maybe it isn’t that preposterous. This picture comes from the Destroyer sessions—the same album that “Beth” is on!
 
KISS in the studio
 
For the record (the movie has no credits), Criss is played by Steven Olson, and long-suffering Beth is played by Lilli Birdsell.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Beth’ by KISS: The Story Behind The Song
04.26.2013
03:32 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Amusing
Music

Tags:
KISS


 
A clever comedic dramatization of the inspiration behind KISS’s biggest hit single, “Beth.”

The less said about this the better. Just watch.

Directed by Brian Billow of Anonymous Content.
 

 
Via Cherry Bombed

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
KISS THIS: 45 shitastic minutes of Paul Stanley’s stage banter
04.19.2013
01:22 pm

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
KISS
Paul Stanley


Why?

Sorry folks, I couldn’t help myself: Here’s 45 minutes of Paul Stanley stage banter. Or, better yet, 45 minutes of pure fucking hell!

As WFMU described it via Twitter:

Great for ruining parties and torturing anyone who’s trying to sleep.

I’d have to agree.
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Beth’ by KISS: Best/worst music video ever?
04.08.2013
09:04 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
KISS


 
Personally, I’ve always hated KISS—even when I was a little kid, I saw no appeal to them whatsoever, they just seemed moronic to me (and not in a good way)—but that didn’t stop me from using their 1976 hit single “Beth” as a deliberately annoying ringtone until it annoyed even me too much (so I switched over to the banjo break in “Squeeze Box” by The Who, arguably even more annoying!).

Here’s the pre-MTV era music video for “Beth.” I saw this for the first time this morning and LOL’d at how utterly pathetic this is. Aside from Peter Criss (and Paul Stanley to a certain point, I suppose) the band dosen’t really have anything to do. It’s just ridiculous.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
KISS plays Michigan high school’s homecoming in 1975
04.01.2013
06:56 am

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
KISS

KISS Cheerleader
 
I had never heard this particularly piece of KISStory, but it’s such a teenage fantasy come true that I hope there were at least a few members of the Kiss Army there to extra appreciate it.

Assistant Coach of the Cadillac High School Vikings Jim Neff tells the story:

In 1973 the Cadillac High School Vikings football team finished undefeated with a perfect 9-0 record. Spirits were soaring as the 1974 season began, but the Vikings lost the first two games of the season. We coaches knew that the team was talented, but we also knew that the pressure of living up to the accomplishments of the previous year were causing the team to play below their abilities. We were looking for something to lighten the atmosphere and playing Rock and Roll in the locker room before practices and games was suggested.

As the resident Rock and Roll expert, head coach Dave Brines gave me the task of picking the music. I chose a new and outrageous band—KISS. They were wild, bold, and loud. Plus, their name invoked an old football credo—Keep It Simple Stupid. It was a match that was meant to be. The 1974 team won its final seven games with KISS as an inspiration. The band heard about what we were doing and instantly adopted the Vikings as their team. Then in October of 1975 the unbelievable happened, KISS came to Cadillac High School and played a homecoming concert in the high school gym. It’s an event that has become a cornerstone of KISStory and a legendary event in Rock and Roll.

Even as an ex-marching band kid, I can appreciate the beauty of this rock/jock marriage. If you click here, you can flip thru a 1975 issue of Lisa and Richard Robinson’s Rock Scene magazine that tells the entire story in detail with a lot of photos.
 
KISS touchdown
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
KISS really look like shit these days
11.26.2012
08:49 am

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion
Music

Tags:
KISS


 
It’s KISS meets Menudo meets The Warriors.

And if you really want to own Los Cau’s Salten Todos…, it’s on eBay with a price tag of $100.00.

Via Awkward band and musician photos

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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