(Almost) 30 Years Out: Kiss!
Photo by Art Meripol. Check out his great photo blog here.
Way back in 1975, somebody told me about this crankin’ rock band that wore weird makeup and devil costumes. “Oh but they can reeeeallly play,” said this dude. He was trying to reassure me that I wasn’t making a mistake by going to see this band Kiss.
So I went, and Kiss were a bit much for good old McDonald Gymnasium at Lamar University. For one thing, they had a big ass sign behind the drum riser that said “KISS” and when the monstrosity was fully lit it blinded everyone in the audience and totally white-d out my photos. I was kinda broke so I only had one roll of film … here is my only good photo, this shot of Ace Frehley and his smokin’ guitar.
Anyway, jump to 1979 and I knew all about these Kiss boys. I’m a reporter and I’m waiting for Gene Simmons to give me a telephone interview – a “phoner.” (I later told a date that Gene Simmons once gave me a phoner. She misunderstood, and never dated me again.) He calls, speaking very softly, and the first thing he wants to tell me is not to tape-record the conversation. Geez, I hadn’t thought of that, and he tells me that’s bad because it can be sold and he wouldn’t make any money off it. He explained that Kiss didn’t stand for “Knights In Satan’s Service,” which my douchebag holy-roller editor insisted, but did observe that it would be more accurate if each “s” in the band’s name were replaced with dollar signs. “We just want to play rock and roll,” Simmons said.
A few days later I commandeered ace photographer Art Meripol and we headed over to some college barn in Louisiana to see Kiss. Although nobody knew it at the time, Kiss were on the downhill side of the commercial peak they had with Destroyer (1976), Love Gun (1977) and Alive II (1978). They were touring behind Dynasty, which had the rock/disco holocaust “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” which nonetheless was a big hit. Attendance for “The Return of Kiss,” as the tour was called, was nowhere near as big as those in previous years.
Another thing not many knew at the time was that Kiss was falling apart. Frehley’s drinking and drug abuse was out of control, and Peter Criss’ drumming skills had eroded so badly that he could barely keep time. So, basically, the concert in late 1979 was horrible. Ace did his solo hit “New York Groove” and I recall the entire band had a nice moment with their cover of the Stones’ “2000 Man.” But when they wheeled out their disco smash “I Was Made For …” everyone booed. Art got some nice photos (check out his blog post) and I found a pirate T-shirt.
We went to another Kiss show, in 1982 with the Plasmatics opening. We had to break through the religious protesters and I got roughed up by Civic Center security. A little too much trouble for rock and roll, if you ask me.