You Wanted the Best, You Got the Drama: Kiss and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Media Merry Go Round
Kiss Enters the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame with Kontroversy
After four decades, KISS is still in the news again. And all of the press is bad. Long time KISS fans know Ace and Peter and Paul and Gene are not fond of one another. The feud has been blown wide open into the mainstream press thanks to all the absurd drama surrounding the foursome's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
The short story is the on/off relationship (probably forever off) between founding members Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, and Ace Frehley is off once again. A significant amount of bad blood exists between the members, and the band will not play together at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, breaking tradition at the event. The reasons for the fiasco include:
The Hall of Fame only wishes to induct the original lineup of KISS and not subsequent members such as the late Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick and current KISS members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Gene and Paul feel this is unfair since other bands in the Hall of Fame had members outside of the original lineup inducted.
Peter Criss despises the notion that someone else wears the makeup of the Catman persona and also is upset over money he feels he should have received over the original reunion tour. He still harbors ill feelings about how he was fired from the band when he last went on tour with KISS.
Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley long ago grew weary of what they perceived as unprofessional conduct from Criss and Frehley.
There may even be a money motive.
Radio host Eddie Trunk speculates that KISS is currently enormously successful as a touring act with Thayer and Singer in the makeup. Presenting Criss and Frehley without the current lineup could create the impression the new KISS is little more than a cover band. Business could take a hit if that became the dominant impression.
All of this may be playing out like a surprising soap opera to those who are not long time KISS fans, but those who have followed the band for any length of time would be disappointed if NO drama occurred.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Kiss: Late to the Party
Let the truth ring clear: no one at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever wanted KISS to be inducted. Strange considering the band struck such iconic imagery in the 1970s and sold out venues all over the world while selling millions of albums. The band may have had its heyday in the 1970s; the group was incredibly successfully throughout the 1980s with only a few lulls here and there. While the original lineup was long gone by 1982, Gene and Paul not only survived, but they thrived (for the most part) in the 1980s. Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits was a multi-platinum seller. Seven years after everyone said KISS would not last, Hot In The Shade went on to sell a million copies in 1989.
The early 1990s saw Revenge go gold, and the tour was relatively well-received. Then there was the amazing reunion tour of the late 1990s when the original line up returned once again to sell-out arena after arena and more than a few stadiums, too.
Why would the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame be so down on KISS?
KISS was always looked at as a crassly commercial gimmick act by those in the music industry that take themselves too seriously.
Say what you will about the group, KISS never did take itself too seriously. The goal of the band was to put on a fun show and make a lot of money doing it. Gene Simmons never hid this fact in his refreshing honesty. Other bands and musicians wanted as much money as they could get, they just pretended otherwise. Such honesty did not endear them to music critics and certain historians. At some point though, you just have to look at the $$$$ the band made along with KISS' longevity and realize they are Hall of Fame-caliber act.
By the way, A LOT of KISS' music is good. The critics were way too harsh on the band since all incarnations of KISS were able to release NUMEROUS fun hard rock songs. Granted, fun hard rock songs are not what rock critics and reporters find all that appealing.... primarily when it sells huge.
The truth is, KISS was hated even when the band was the hottest act on earth. In a lot of ways, this is what they wanted.
Kiss: Louder Than Loud and On Top of the World
Gene Simmons once said to Henry Rollins, ''There are no rock stars left.'' What he means here is there is no one in rock (do they even call it rock anymore? Or is everyone on a quest to be a pop star?) who wants to be larger than life. Musicians seem to run away from the excesses of fame barring one or two here and there. Not so was the case in the 1970s when KISS was the quintessential band that defined the era.
Outrageous, over the top, and the antithesis to both bubblegum bands and those supergroups that saw themselves as artists. Simmons once mentioned he would look at John Denver and cringe that people saw the folkish singer as the face of rock and roll. Simmons said something to the effect he wanted people to see him on stage and think he crawled out from under a rock.
KISS had a rocky road to the top and was mostly a successful touring band until Alive was released and went platinum. KISS came out from the underground and became the hottest act in the land overnight after four years of hard work.
Yes, some bands sold more concert tickets during the 1970s. Other bands had major album success. KISS remains the most remembered and iconic bands of the "Me Decade" because KISS and the 1970s were perfect for one another.
The 1970s were an era of excess. Excess is not always a bad thing. When $50 million (A massive sum in the late 1970s) was spent on the budget for Superman: The Motion Picture, the excess created a unique new motion picture event everyone had to see. Today, movies almost HAVE to have huge budgets, and they lose a lot of what makes them unique. In the world of rock and roll, things are way worse.
In the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, many wanted answers. Others just wanted to have fun and forget, so a lot of the 1970s became an era known for just having a lot of mindless fun. KISS helped those looking for it.
And then there was the dark imagery that set KISS apart from the glam pop look of 1970s music.
Somewhat overlooked when it comes to the popularity of KISS is the role classic horror movies played in their appeal. Simmons' persona of a Bat Demon has horror roots, and Frehley's Space Ace persona draws from science-fiction. The Ultimate Star and The Catman are no so much horror influenced, but the black and white makeup certainly had a dark, gothic overtone to it. While the Shock Theater TV package horror movie fad of previous generations was over, a lot of 17 kids and 27-year-old young adults who made up a large number of KISS' audience in 1975 remembered those old horror films they loved on late-night TV at the age of 7, at least subconsciously.
Kiss' was prominently featured playing songs from Destroyer on the 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween Special, so the horror film imagery and the connection is not exactly one that is far fetched. Someone at ABC saw the link.
Many factors tied to the success of the band, but it was overexposure and market saturation that caused the decline in 1978/1979. The low years of the band from 1980 to 1983 indeed were also the result of the original lineup leaving and Criss and Frehley being replaced.
A lot of the turmoil between the original members has been well documented.
Books, Sniping in Print, and Cocaine Blues
The first time I came across sniping in print was in the old Rock and Roll Comics three-part KISS bio. There was a Gene Simmons interview and he was quick to mention that Ace and Peter were terminally lazy during the early days when the band was just playing clubs for pocket change. The interview was also where I first learned Criss and Frehley were fired from the band. Drug and alcohol issues played a role in the schism between Criss and Frehley and Simmons and Stanley, with Criss admitting he was hopelessly addicted to cocaine. During his interview with Eddie Trunk, Criss noted in the 1970s, an enormous amount of people were using cocaine, and he never even realized there was a problem with doing the drug until things were far too late.
In time, the members of the band started to go public with their complaints about each other.
Gene Simmons cut loose on Ace and Peter in his book KISS and Makeup, an entertaining memoir, albeit one lacking in depth.
Paul Stanley's Face the Music: A Life Exposed is the newest KISS autobiography to be released, and it follows 2012's outstanding memoir from Peter Criss, From Makeup to Breakup. Even Ace Frehley offered up a less than memorable one some time back as well.
And then there was last year's Nothing to Lose, a memoir focusing on the very early years of KISS from 1972 to about 1975. Scores of other books have been written about KISS, many of them being worth the investment.
If there was one common thread among all of them, you quickly realize Gene and Paul do not exactly care very much for Peter and Ace. Peter does not like Gene or Paul very much. And Ace, well, Ace is Ace.
There will undoubtedly be more books, more drama, and more feuding. To paraphrase Mark Twain, at least people are talking.
And come on, you know all four members relish all the free publicity. The would not be Kiss if they didn't.
The drama was all worth it. Ace's solo CD and subsequent tour exceeded all expectations. The CD ranked quite high in the Billboard charts. Gene and Paul went on tour with KISS and shattered box office records. The "new version" of KISS with Tommy Thayer and Erik Singer draws in audiences and has been doing so for many years.