It was with a heavy heart that I learned this week that Kiss are disbanding after they finish their current world tour. This saddened me more than it should.
I was never a big fan of the studio albums. The sound was way too thin. Given when they came on the scene, they needed some producer with bigger bollocks. Allen Lanier, maybe, but an obvious match was Adny Shernoff who produced The Dictators. He could produce a mix so dense you could hardly see through it. Kiss needed the Dictators sound when they were in the studio. Kiss, Hotter then Hell, and Dressed to Kill were insufferably lame albums. A hard rock band should break windows and threaten the structure of your house when you crank things up.
However, Kiss were the mutts nuts as a live band. Check out the inner gatefold of 1975’s Kiss Alive! and you’ll see what I mean. This title was an homage to Slade Alive! Slade heavily influenced Kiss, and boy does it show. Slade were a hard rock bunch of glammers (and great fun) but Kiss took the idea of hard glamrock and cranked it up to 11.
Alive! centre gatefold said it all. Mountains of PA drivers that Ted Nugent would later wish he had. I do mean mountains. Back of the stage, wall to wall Marshall amp and speaker combos, popularised by The Who. Your ears start to bleed when you just look at the sound setup.
Lighting gantries tooled up with lights that could illuminate a small Third World town. Fireworks cascading down from separate gantries. Dry ice smoke everywhere, strobes strobing. Jetpods erupting, spouting the plumes of flame now common at outside sporting events. Kiss’s techies just about invented the jetpod concept and used it indoors. A show to be reckoned with.
Then the band themselves, a bunch of clowns playing heavy metal. Everybody will maybe recognise the facepaint sported by Gene Simmons, Peter Kriss, Paul Stanley, and Ace Frehley. But it didn’t end with the makeup, or the ludicrous hair. Nine-inch platform boots, spray on leather costumes with so many studs you’d never make it through a metal detector at an airport. Then there was Gene Simmons’s tongue and codpiece. And the flamethrower and rocket launcher in the neck of his bass. The music was crap though loud enough to pin you to the back wall, but they did put on a good show, that’s for sure.
They’ve been around for 47 years. I’ll miss them. So will Robbie Williams, I suspect. Ever seen the video for Let Me Entertain You?