What KISS really should have done at the Rock Hall of Fame induction
Admit it. A part of you is a KISS fan. And you were probably conflicted as hell when Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter were inducted in the Rock Hall of Fame recently. Tampa Bay Times sports reporter Joey Knight, who was reared on '80s rock but abhors the term "hair metal," says KISS missed an obvious opportunity to do right by fans at the induction ceremony. And he offers up his own KISS top 10 list.
Like most enlistees in the KISS Army, I was disillusioned by the original members' recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those of us who have remained on the group's figurative front line all these decades -- amid the snickers, unwatchable movies, shameless merchandising and four-too-many studio albums -- wanted closure.
We got a cameo.
Instead of providing what could've been a seminal moment in the band's history, Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter instead delivered an underwhelming sequence of acceptance speeches ranging from dull to defiant in tone.
Then, they were gone. No greasepaint, no protruding tongues, no pyro. An Amish wedding night has more fireworks. Then again, if you're up on your Kisstory and understand the band's Kardashian level of dysfunction, you're likely aware the night was set up to fizzle.
Bassist Gene Simmons and front man Paul Stanley, legally the only two members of KISS, wanted no part of a poignant final jam session -- in or out of makeup -- with fellow founders Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, neither of whom have been in the band for more than a decade.
Based on what you believe, Simmons and Stanley: (A) were offended the Hall of Fame refused to enshrine any of the band's seven other current/former members; (B) had no interest in even a fleeting one-off reunion with Criss and Frehley, accused by Stanley and Simmons of being everything from substance abusers to anti-Semites; or (C) didn't want to risk damaging the band's current incarnation, which features two guys slathered in Frehley's and Criss' makeup.
Based on Simmons and Stanley's marketing psyche, I gravitate toward 'C.'
KISS is embarking on a 40-year anniversary tour this summer, with Def Leppard as co-headliner. Simmons and Stanley, who never met a dollar they didn't like, likely feared even a two- or three-song set with their old bandmates would prompt another clamoring for yet another reunion of the original four and tarnish the current product.
How little they know their legions. It wouldn't have.
All four original members passed age 60 several mile markers ago. The vocal range of Stanley, who once possessed one of the most unappreciated sets of pipes in rock, seems to dissipate with each tour. As far back as the group's initial 'farewell' tour in 2000, it was clear even to the untrained ear the musicianship of both Frehley and Criss had deteriorated.
No other bona fide fan to whom I've spoken wants another farewell tour.
A plain-and-simple farewell would've sufficed.
If KISS had really wanted to steal the ceremony, had they truly wanted to upstage everyone from Cat Stevens to Little Steven (fellow inductees) and provide the type of bombast they've mostly delivered since the Nixon Administration, they would've followed a simple, poignant, impossible-to-top script:
Apply the makeup and platform heels. Perform three classics. Announce their retirement.
Imagine the fallout. The Hall of Fame elitists, whose glaring snobbery kept KISS out of its corridors for 15 years (the band only went in after fans became part of the voting process), would've been appalled.
Why? The announcement would've relegated all the other enshrinees -- most of whom are adored by the nominating committee -- to footnotes on the evening.
And Simmons could've wagged his elongated tongue at the Hall's establishment on the way out.
Alas, it never transpired. The fans who have financed KISS for generations get no memorable benediction, the Hall gets no egg on its countenance and the Stanley-Simmons tandem keeps tarnishing the band's legacy with another half-baked tour (I think I'll pass).
Instead of a Barnum & Bailey finish, we get a few more feeble renditions of Psycho Circus.
The onetime 'hottest band in the world' keeps plodding along on fumes.
JOEY KNIGHT'S TOP 10 KISS SONGS:
(Disclaimer: I'm a child of the '80s, the heart of the band's non-makeup era)
1. Deuce: My KISS orientation occurred around 1977 at Brian Crosby's house. I put the Alive album -- in all its shimmering vinyl glory -- on Brian's turntable, then snugly fastened some padded headphones over my 9-year-old ears. Deuce was the first song. I've been hooked since.
2. Detroit Rock City: Because the first three KISS studio albums were so wretchedly engineered, their songs -- which include some classics -- only can be appreciated live. Destroyer was the first album produced by anyone with a pulse (rock icon Bob Ezrin), and Detroit Rock City is its jewel.
3. I Stole Your Love: Some songs just connect with you. I love how this one smacks you in the solar plexus from the opening note. The introductory riff, followed by Peter Criss' rapid-fire, snare-drum segue into Gene Simmons' base groove, is KISS at its instrumental apex. If I were a big-league baseball player, this would be my walk-up song.
4. Creatures of the Night: After ill-advised forays into disco and concept rock (see The Elder), this was KISS returning to its ballsy rock roots. Sadly, the band was woefully out of style upon this song's 1982 release and few were listening.
5. Calling Dr. Love: Like a plethora of KISS songs, the studio version doesn't do it justice. But in concert, it's a powerful, provacative treat in what has become a repetitive set list.
6. I'm a Legend Tonight: See I Stole Your Love. Some songs just connect.
7. Who Wants to be Lonely: Unappreciated track from one of KISS' most unappreciated albums (Asylum). Groove is somber, yet powerful. And Stanley's at his apex as a vocalist.
8. Tears Are Falling: An anthem during my senior year of high school. What can I say?
9. Shandi: With apologies to Beth (and none to Forever), this is the best ballad the band ever did. Still holds up today.
10. Love Gun: Only because my fellow KISS Army platoon members would haze me to no end if I didn't include this one.