Monday, October 14, 2013


Love Gun cover
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

I got my first album when I was five years old. I don’t remember exactly why I got this album. I’m sure I didn’t really know the music. It was probably a decision made based on the album artwork.  Creating an album cover to capture a potential fan’s interest is of the many things I think is lost in the age of digital downloads. Anyway, I remember being five and looking at this artwork of four mythical creatures dressed in black with platform boots and full facial make up standing in the middle of some Roman coliseum with a group of similarly made up females at their feet, and thinking, this has to be the greatest album ever. The album was ‘Love Gun’ by KISS.

Looking back, I don’t know why my parents thought this was an appropriate album for a five year old to own. It didn’t actually fit in with my Sesame Street records. Though, I do think PBS is partially responsible for introducing me to KISS in the first place. There used to be a show called 3-2-1 Contact which, if memory serves, was the last show in the after school block of weekday programming. How many people remember The Bloodhound Gang? 3-2-1 Contact is where The Bloodhound Gang originated.  I remember there being a segment on the show where one of the hosts went behind the scenes of a KISS concert. Since YouTube has everything, here’s the segment.

Back in the late ‘70s – early ‘80s, KISS was THE band. At the local town festivals there were booths where you could get your face painted like members of the band. I was always a Peter Criss fan so I got the cat make up one year even though Eric Carr had replaced Peter the year prior. 

KISS sans makeup
Our cable system didn’t yet have MTV when KISS went on there and removed the make up. I remember seeing the video for Lick It Up several months later and thought Ace Frehley was a female, not knowing Ace had been replaced by Vinnie Vincent in the band. For the record, Vinnie isn’t a female.  KISS continued to be a dominant force during the ‘80s as glam rock got a lot of radio and video airtime.

By the time the grunge scene started taking over the early ‘90s, KISS needed to do something to regain their popularity. In 1996, they got the band back together. Peter Criss and Ace Frehley returned to the group and KISS put the makeup and costumes back on to the delight of fans. Twenty-one years after buying my first album, I saw the reunited KISS in 2000 at the Southern Illinois University Arena for the first time. It was everything five year old me wanted.

The Kiss Demon
Photo courtesy: WWE
Around this same time, KISS had partnered with WCW to create a wrestler known at the KISS Demon who was based on the identity of KISS bassist, Gene Simmons. The Demon never really took off like I’m guessing KISS and WCW thought he would. Dale Torborg, the wrestler who portrayed the Demon is currently a trainer for the Chicago White Sox. 

In August of 2013, KISS founding members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley announced they had bought into the Arena Football League and were bringing professional football back to Los Angeles with the LA KISS joining the AFL for the 2014 season.  However, someone should get them a map, as the LA KISS will be playing their home games at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Guess the LA-adjacent KISS was too long a name for the uniforms.  I have purchased season tickets for the LA KISS and am looking forward to donning KISS face paint and cheering for the expansion team, especially against the Jon Bon Jovi owned Philadelphia Soul. Here’s hoping Tim Tebow accepts Gene Simmons’ 3-Year contract offer.

Still rockin'
KISS has been around for 40 years and show no signs of slowing down. Say what you will about their trend of slapping their name on any type of merchandise in order to make a buck. They’ve heard it all before and Gene Simmons will gladly tell you he’s a firm believer in capitalism.  Heck, he signs his name with the “S” looking like a dollar sign. Somehow four guys from New York took a wild gimmick and turned it into one of the most popular rock-n-roll bands in history. 

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