KISS WEEK! KISS under kover

Friday, November 20th, 2009 | musiX | 2 Comments

KISS has been covered by hundreds of artists in different languages from all over the world on dozens of tribute albums. The short list:

The Smelly Tongues, Garth Brooks, Freddie Frehley, The Melvins, Metallkvartetten, Anthrax, The Hard-Ons, Lenny Kravitz, Motörhead, Aced Out, The Lemonheads, Scooter, Pansy Division, Nashville Pussy, Megadeth, Skin Yard, Pantera, Iced Earth, The Replacements, Clean Cut Plan & the Mobile Whorehouse, Metallica, Ace In the Pole, Maki Nomiya, Skid Row, Hayseed Dixie,  Girlschool, The Donnas, Nirvana, Motorpsycho & Dag Ingebrigtsen, Spaceman Spiff, Death, Golden Showers, Dinosaur Jr., The Moog Cookbook, Kvikksølvguttene, Foo Fighters, Chamarras Negra, Red House Painters, Die Ärzte, No Use For a Name, Gin Blossoms, Good Riddance, Jonah, Metal Morfosis, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Hellacopters, Entombed, The Huckleberrys, Cher, Tony Gorilla, Hammerfall, Helloween, The Torpedo Girls, Extreme, Scary German Guy, Zeke, Cosmic Dropouts, Poison, Graceland & Dead Joe, and Redd Kross.

Mmm … love that last Kvikksølvguttene record. KISS has done a few covers in its day as well—tapping into some of the early British Invasion records as well as bubble gum pop and punk … even a Disney song. As part of the magic that is KISS WEEK, TDoL brings you all of the songs that KISS made their own … well, they definitely turned a few of them into something all right.

“Kissin’ Time” – Released in 1974 on debut album KISS
Original: Bobby Rydell, 1959

This little ditty didn’t originally appear on the band’s debut, but was added to later pressings when Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart pushed the members of KISS—against their will—to record it in hopes of snagging a hit single. It peaked at No. 79. But it’s a hit single in my book.

“Kissin’ Time”KISS

“Kissin’ Time”Bobby Rydell

“Then She Kissed Me” – Released in 1977 on Love Gun
Original: The Crystals, 1963

KISS swapped genders for this cover of The Crystals’ 1963 hit “Then He Kissed Me,” a song that feels a bit out of place on a record that includes songs with titles like “Plaster Caster” and “Love Gun” (the latter of which, despite popular belief, is not about firearms). The Crystals’ version, of course, was produced by Phil Spector, who is all about firearms.

“Then She Kissed Me”KISS

“Then He Kissed Me”The Crystals

“Anyway You Want It” – Released in 1977, studio side of Alive II
Original: Dave Clark Five, 1964
This cover illustrating Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s proclivity for British Invasion bands. KISS stays pretty true to the original, which is not a bad thing—because the original is real good. I like the vocals on the KISS version, especially Stanley’s “It’s all right!” Should’ve played this one live instead of “Tossin and Turnin’.”

“Any Way You Want It”KISS

“Any Way You Want It”Dave Clark Five

“New York Groove” – Released in 1978 on Ace Frehley’s solo album
Original: Hello, 1975

What would begin a long relationship with British songwriter and Argent frontman Russ Ballard, who penned this song for UK glam rockers Hello in the early ’70s. Frehley’s became a hit and a live staple. He and KISS would go on to cover other Ballard songs in the future, including “Into the Night” and “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You,” which became a Top 10 hit for KISS in the UK and Germany.

“New York Groove”Ace Frehley

“New York Groove”Hello

“Tossin’ and Turnin’” – Released in 1978 on Peter Criss’ solo album
Original: Bobby Lewis, 1961

What, no Gene Krupa covers? Leave it to Peter Criss to take a great rock song and turn it into a funky R&B mess. KISS would later perform the song during the Dynasty tour, improving (slightly) on the cheesy studio version. Actually, let’s just pretend this never happened.

“Tossin’ and Turnin’”Peter Criss

“Tossin’ and Turnin’”Bobby Lewis

“When You Wish Upon a Star” – Released in 1978 on Gene Simmons’ solo album
Original: Pinocchio soundtrack, 1940

Gene Simmons will never live this one down—becoming perhaps the only rock star to ever cover a song by a talking cricket. I hear Jiminy tried to sue Simmons for skipping out on some royalty checks. And that’s just sad.

“When You Wish Upon a Star”Gene Simmons

“When You Wish Upon a Star” – Cliff Edwards, as the voice of Jiminy Cricket (video)

“2000 Man” – Released in 1979 on Dynasty
Original: The Rolling Stones, 1967

One of my favorite KISS covers, peeled from the Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request. “2000 Man” is one of three Ace Frehley contributions to Dynasty, a record that showed KISS following the disco trend along with everyone else and their mothers including, coincidentally, The Rolling Stones.

“2000 Man”KISS

“2000 Man”The Rolling Stones

“Is That You?” – Released in 1980 on Unmasked
Original: Gerard McMahon, 1980

Although Peter Criss’ cartoon image appears on the cover, it was actually session/Dave Letterman drummer Anton Fig who played drums on Unmasked, one of KISS’ poppiest records. “Is That You?” kicks off the album, and was recorded after KISS heard the demo from an unknown British singer named Gerard McMahon, whose song “Cry Little Sister” would later appear on the Lost Boys soundtrack.

“Is That You?”KISS

“Is That You?” - Gerard McMahon (video)

“Rock and Roll Hell” – Released in 1982 on Creatures of the Night
Original: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, 1979
Not many KISS fans know this is a cover, probably because the two versions sound completely different. Written by Bryan Adams (yes, the Bryan Adams) and Canadian producer Jim Vallance, “Rock and Roll Hell” appeared on BTO’s Rock n’ Roll Nights album and sounded very similar to the band’s hit “Takin’ Care of Business.” Three years later, Gene Simmons added a line, became a co-writer and threw it on Creatures of the Night, ironically one of KISS’ heaviest records.

“Rock and Roll Hell”KISS

“Rock and Roll Hell” - BTO (clip from Jim Vallance’s website)

“God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II” – Released in 1991 on soundtrack to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; 1992 on Revenge
Original: Argent, 1973

This became a decent hit for KISS across the pond, originally appearing on the second (and, of course, best) Bill and Ted movie. “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II” will always be a KISS song to me … just like Keanu Reeves will always be “Ted” Theodore Logan to me.

“God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II”KISS

“God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You”Argent

“Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” – Released in 2003 on We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to The Ramones
Original: The Ramones, 1980

This song works surprisingly well for KISS, and it’s actually one of the best covers on the We’re a Happy Family tribute. I love The Ramones. I love KISS. I love the song. I think KISS should do a cover of “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement.” And perform it live.

“Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”KISS

“Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”The Ramones

In memory of Mark Louis Arnone, Feb. 24, 1973 – Oct. 21, 2009

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KISS WEEK! Alive MCMXCIX

Friday, November 20th, 2009 | musiX, pdX | No Comments

Live: KISS and Buckcherry at the Rose Garden, 11.17.09

It’s interesting to think about the pre-show rituals for a KISS concert in 2009. There’s less beer swilling and doobie smoking in the parking lot, and a lot more face-painting with the fam before packing into the mini-van to head down to the arena.

I was standing in front of the stage with four other (real) photographers right before the show. I stared out into the large crowd … well, not just any crowd—the KISS Army! KISS Nation! Which is sort of the equivalent of Fast Food Nation (OK, maybe Applebee’s Nation). Lots of makeup. Lots of KISS shirts covering portly bellies. Lots of middle-agers and their kids. They forked out their dough (tickets are anywhere from $20-$126) and were ready for that 60-foot curtain in front of the stage to drop. As the final chords of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” rang through the house speakers, those famous words cut through the darkness and the curtain fell. I immediately turned into a teenager.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are large men—even without the heels. And 35 years in, they play their parts like seasoned actors in a Broadway production, rarely deviating from the script. If you’ve been to a KISS show before you know you’re going to get the classics: “Strutter,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “Cold Gin” (which these days is preceded by a PSA from Stanley telling audience members not to drink and drive) and “Detroit Rock City” (a song whose narrator meets his end after drinking and driving). All great songs. But how about “Love Theme From Kiss”? Or “Plaster Caster”? “The Oath”?

I’ve seen hundreds of KISS performances—four in person, many more on VHS and DVD—and I’ve heard the same between-song banter over and over and over. So I’m always looking for that rare break in the script. I finally got it about two-thirds into the show at the expense of a hooligan in the upper deck. Paul was about to go into his spiel about extended encores, when out of nowhere … “Y’all are gonna get to see me shove a light pen up a muthafucka’s ass.” Whoa. Paul, don’t forget there are children in the audience. Anyway, doesn’t this guy know that Stanley Eisen doesn’t tolerate lasers in his eye? After a short, one-sided exchange, the Starchild snapped back into character as if nothing happened.

KISS is a tighter band today than perhaps it’s ever been. Yes, it’s incredibly lame that drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer are wearing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley‘s makeup (couldn’t they have come up with new characters? Perhaps some sort of exotic bird? Maybe a panda?), but KISS’ new lease on life wouldn’t be possible without them. Especially Singer, who drums circles around Criss. Thayer’s a fine musician, too, though everything that came from his fretboard was lifted from the Space Ace.

Not to mention letting Thayer sing “Shock Me” is fucking sacrilege.

But it’s about recreating that classic show, which is still big and loud and fun. KISS has retained the best and most campy elements from the ’70s—fog, fireworks, ticker tape parades, blood spitting—brought into the aughts with banks of video monitors that flashed images of old album covers and graphics that followed along with the songs. At one point, the cover of Sonic Boom appeared overhead as Stanley directed those in attendance to head down to Wal-Mart and pick up a copy. A commercial? I guess it’s the KISS version of an indie band telling a crowd they have a merch table with shirts and 7-inches? Can we go with that?

But hand it to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley for still knowing how to rock ‘n’ roll all night—performing hundreds of shows a year, for more than two hours a night. And for a couple of guys approaching senior citizenship, they still get around pretty well in those 7-inch heels. These guys are the Kings of the Nighttime World. The Knights in Satan’s Service. And though I found myself cringing a few times, a KISS concert is still the greatest show on earth.

Photos by Mark Lore

In memory of Mark Louis Arnone, Feb. 24, 1973 – Oct. 21, 2009

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KISS WEEK! Best of … worst of

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 | musiX | No Comments

It was the best of times …

… it was the worst of times.

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KISS WEEK! The peck before the KISS

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 | musiX | No Comments

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 17. It only seems fitting to run it again as part of KISS WEEK. Besides, before I tell you about last night's KISS show at the Rose Garden, you should read about KISS before KISS was KISS. Right?]

KISS fans are a peculiar bunch—willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of their hard-earned dollars to see the band play in makeup 35 years on, or to get their grubby little paws on ultra-rare bootlegs or a still-sweaty Gene Simmons codpiece. Kooky, I tell you.

Any KISS fan can also tell you that there was life before the makeup and codpieces … it was more facial hair and bell bottoms. After all it was 1970 when Gene Klein (born Chaim Witz, who would later become Gene Simmons) and keyboardist Brooke Ostrander formed a band called Rainbow in New York. After recruiting drummer Tony Zarrella and guitarists in Stephen Coronel and Stanley Eisen (who would change his name to Paul Stanley), Rainbow began playing mostly covers and would play their only gig at Richmond Community College in Staten Island.

By 1971 the band changed its name to Wicked Lester and began writing more originals. Wicked Lester went into the studio later that year (after performing only two shows). In the process Coronel was given the boot, and session guitarist Ron Leejack was brought in to record the leads. The record—made up of mostly originals and a few covers—took a year to record. When it was brought to prospective label Epic Records, the album was turned away and would never be officially released.

The Wicked Lester record has circulated in bootleg form for years. Two tracks—“Lover Her All I Can” and “She”—which would resurface on KISS’ Dressed To Kill album in 1975—appeared in a box set a few years ago. I actually like the Wicked Lester songs. It just sounds like a band trying to figure out what the hell they’re trying to do … some sort of Motown-acid rock-psych concoction (flutes and horns fluttering and squawking over folky guitars and funky basslines). Which is probably why it didn’t last. I love the Simmons-penned “Simple Type” with vocals from both future KISSers and the cover of Infinity’s “(What Happens) In the Darkness,” an Ike and Tina-inspired burner punctuated by Stanley’s sassy (and underrated) vox. And “Molly” (“Molly, my pal, you’re my gal … “) reminds me of something you’d hear on The Electric Company, which was some of Morgan Freeman’s best work.

You know the rest of the story. Gene and Paul (second and third from left respectively in the photo) recruited Peter Criscuola (later the Catman Criss) and Paul Frehley (Space Ace) and conquered the world 10 times over, put their faces on pajamas and lunchboxes, had their way with thousands of groupies, released a concept album, dropped the makeup, reunited, did four, five farewell tours … there’s nothing left to do. So, Gene, when’s the Wicked Lester reunion? Could be a money maker.

“She”Wicked Lester

“Simple Type”Wicked Lester

“(What Happens) In The Darkness”Wicked Lester

“Molly”Wicked Lester

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KISS WEEK! Me and Paul … and Gene?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 | musiX | No Comments

It’s as if Geraldo Rivera taped this show 20 years ago specifically with my adult self in mind. The unlikely lineup of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley—who look like pasty Barbie dolls—and Willie Nelson took the stage together as Geraldo lasciviously probed them on who pulls in more tail on the road. Just kidding.

Gene discusses having his first child (longtime girlfriend Shannon Tweed would give birth to their son Nicholas within a few months of the show’s airing), AIDS, and the origins of “Plaster Caster.” Willie talks about life imitating Honeysuckle Rose before leading the crowd in a singalong of “On the Road Again.” And for this, Geraldo Rivera, you are brilliant.

Tomorrow: KISS WEEK continues with a review of tonight’s Portland performance at the Rose Quarter. And stay tuned for a look at the bands KISS has covered in its 36-year career. Hint: They’re far outnumbered by the hundreds of Smelly Tongues, Kvikksølvguttenes and Nirvanas that have paid homage to KISS. Plus much more …

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