The 50th anniversary of KISS's self-titled debut album is being celebrated by the syndicated radio show In The Studio With Redbeard: The Stories Behind History's Greatest Rock Bands.
Redbeard shared this synopsis: To this day I still recall receiving in early 1974 the debut album from a largely unknown band called KISS, and my ambivalence on whether to take it seriously or not. It started right there with the startling high-resolution cover, before hearing even the first note. "Alice Cooper was the biggest thing in music in 1973," Cooper himself once told me here In the Studio, "so a band with four Alices? Couldn't miss." Kiss lead singer/ guitarist/ songwriter Paul Stanley told me about the band fraternity of groups with whom they shared the stage some fifty years ago, "The lovefest ended when we hit the stage, because we were there to destroy them." Gene Simmons agrees. "Putting on the make up was like putting on warpaint."
Few things from the mid-Seventies can totally freeze time the way that listening to Kiss Alive! does. While the world was weary of the Viet Nam War and Nixon's Watergate scandal, the puckered foursome had cranked out three studio albums in eighteen months, somehow managing to play every college gym and theater between their New York City base and the Rockies. Now they could perform the strongest of that material while making the leap to select arenas, such as in rock-and-roll-mad Detroit and Cleveland, and record their amalgam of testosterone-fueled comic book fantasy, horror movies, and good old teenage lust. How could it not work?
Yet, with the KISS legacy secured, would they even be allowed to develop over three studio albums in only eighteen months to get that shot at a "best of, live" album in the 21st century music business? "I think the record climate is very, very tough on bands," notes Paul Stanley. "What makes or breaks a band is their own heart and desire to rise to the top. Certainly the thing that made KISS in the beginning, which has kept KISS alive, is that nobody will ever decide when we come, when we go, what we do or don't. It's the inflexibility within a band, and their desire to stick to their own set of rules, that will make them...It's totally within a band's ability, if they have the goods, to succeed," assures Paul Stanley. "It's very easy to blame the record company, apathy, the climate, trends in music. There's ALWAYS room for something great."
Gene Simmons adds,"We had an advantage, I think. It was a little like the Wild West...We could play on bills with Dr. John and the Raspberries. I remember as a kid going to see The Chambers Brothers, a soul rock thing; Albert King; and Poco...You could see Led Zeppelin and the Woody Herman Orchestra on the same bill!"
KISS kollaborators Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons join me In the Studio for a remarkably frank, insightful look at the golden anniversary of Kiss. -Redbeard. Stream the episode here.