Kiss didn`t get a good review in NME after their first tour in England. The journalist wanted to like them but appreciated their albums more than the live version of the band. It didn`t matter for Kiss, as they were used to bad reviews and built a very successful career, despite their critics, that lasts until this day. They are still a very successful live band and, as they say, definitely got the last laugh.
What is interesting about this review is the praise Mr. Bell gives to the drummer Peter Criss. Many Kiss fans argue, even today, about if he is a “good” drummer or not. Bell gives him credit for his his style, and I personally agree with this. A very important influence of the Kiss sound was Peter`s jazz-style drumming and also his voice. Without Peter I think Kiss would have been a poorer band on record and may not even have got as big as they did.
Here`s a toast to the cat-man! You may be retired these days, but the true Kiss-fans miss you!
Young folks having fun
By Max Bell
The lady on the door was most persuasive. “Would you take a Kiss mask? Please… go on have a couple, we`re trying to get rid of them”. I obliged and made my way upstairs to the bar which was shut, in keeping with the Odeon`s policy of guessing the average age of the night crowd. In this instance they were right. The audience being mostly composed of young folk covered in thick Kiss copy make up, parents with their offspring, haughty queens in tight trousers that left little to the imagination and rather bemused looking punters who`d come along on the surmise that we`ve all heard so much about Kiss that they must be worth seeing once.
At the top of the stairs belligerent and tanked up youths ripped off large promo cardboard cut outs and posters while good natured Sturico men tried to pin them back to the railings. Stray were finishing their set to much applause and the D.J. cranked up his heavy rock collection as unknown happenings took place behind the Safety Curtain.
Kiss are due on at 9 p.m. but owing to the exigencies of G.L.C. fire regulations they don`t make it until 9.40; the natives, not knowing the impossibility of trying to persuade irate officials that fire balls on side stage are O.K. fun, are understandably restless. The excellent Keith Peacock from Casablanca passes on the information and tells me that Kiss had played a blinder at Birmingham the night before. Still, it seems ironic that a band with such a cast iron S.M. reputation, that you wouldn`t let your kids within a thousand miles of, are stymied by the safety rules that operate with regard to large concert venues. Could have something to do with the fact that anyone sitting twenty feet from the stage stood a fair chance of having their eyebrows singed.
Kiss and the Dresden fire storm are synonymous in… uh… heavy metal circles.
Jonathan Richman slurped off the turntable and suddenly the lights had dimmed and these four munster figures lurched on. Wall to wall amps and an elevated drum kit flanked by candles and police sirens loomed into view. Whoomph… zonk… the famous Kiss are off. They are about the loudest band I`ve ever heard. The noise is excruciating, a warped wave of wattage cascades over every inch of the hall, only trouble is the opening two songs are unintelligible. Paul Stanley, he of the Marc Bolan curls, star on eye, is front man. Their opening gambit is to stand in line and then leap into the air. Three guys in Marvel comic strip costumes and a drummer who thinks he`s a pussy cat. Fascinating.
I really can`t believe my eyes, or ears. Kiss are zipped into their volume saturated time warp with all the trappings that British glam rock made redundant at least two years ago. Platform boots, silver epaulettes, lipstick, the whole movie.
So far so funny. I like some of their records in the way that I like any kind of trash music that has no pretensions to being sophisticated. While the aura always seems contrived it is occasionally amusing. Everyone is susceptible to a bit of hype and chintzy glamour so I`m waiting for things to liven up. Y`know Kiss aren`t Yes or Johann Sebastian`s four younger brothers but people tell me what good musicians they are underneath that hideous black and white cake. The bands I`d reckoned they owed most to, The MC5, Dolls, Stooges all had a lot extra to offer besides Power On destruction. The last vinyl jungle, `Destroyer`, (produced by Alice Cooper`s buddy Bob Ezrin) was an indication they might be moving a few rungs up the ladder. Start off crass boys and the let`s see what you can do.
`Flaming Youth` stun guns the auditorium. Stanley, Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons of the Seven Samurai top knot are still leaping up and down or striking guitar hero poses. I like the song cos it`s dumb but under the kerosene riffing I don`t detect too much inspiration. Maybe Kiss are on a bad night or maybe if you took away the Marshalls and the image they`d have nothing left.
On one level their music doesn`t really matter. Kiss stand or fall on the quality of their much vaunted theatrics and their manner of presentation. I`m a trifle miffed that nothing other than fractured ear drums has yet left them there boards. Stanley starts one of many obnoxious raps. “This is going to be one of those rock`n`roll parties, I can feel it London. We`re gonna get this place `Hotter Than Hell`.”
He and Frehley fuzz and masticate lead licks. Stanley dons a Fire and Brimstone Chief`s helmet and Simmons leers outrageously for the camera men then shakes his Kamakazi bun like a poodle after a bath. Chord breaks which have very little to do with music, and never ever rubbed shoulders with the word tune, drown out the vocals.
The sirens spin to muffled cheering and then Simmons staggers over to his candelabra, selects the wax and ignites a mouth full of lighter fuel. It is simultaneously the most contrived piece of overkill imaginable, actually performed very sheepishly and utterly lacking in intimidation. Alright it doesn`t matter that Arthur Brown did this in 1966 or that stage props are excusable as a means to entertaining but you expect to be pinned to your seat in amazement, at least hold your breath for a few seconds, but the deed is merely feeble. Over in a flash. Puh!
The girls in front of me with Kiss scrawled on their cheeks, and who can`t be a day over twelve, aren`t that impressed either. Under all the guff I got the feeling that Kiss were condescending to the audience. Give `em what they want and then put the takings in the bank quick. Their moves are professional enough only to gratify the noise lust of the lowest common denominator open to rock. I don`t care that they wear their kinetics so far out you know they haven`t got a single original lick, but once the energy graph dissipates and you begin to study their ability to even play what simple ideas they do possess, the shortcomings are tremendous.
For starters they aint even sexy. Ace Frehley moves with the approximate grace of a third degree advanced numbskull. A guitar by rote. It`s no surprise to learn that he exists in a permanent heat haze of zonked vacancy. Simmons` bass playing is basic, and that`s being kind. He played a one note solo which was good. The audience voice their approbation accordingly. He sticks his tongue out about seven inches like a proboscis but him and butterflies aren`t too compatible. It probably stands him in good stead for various sexual practises though.
Stanley`s in between raps become more tedious. There`s plenty talk about rock`n`roll, all the songs feature those much maligned words when the lyrics need a bit of credibility. Alan Freed and Bo Diddley have got a lot to answer for.
Frehley plays a solo that reminded me of visiting the dentist. At the end of same a flame scuds into the front row, exit one owner of a good stall seat in a puff of smoke.
The stormtroopers blast into what is recognisably `Nothing To Lose`. The title is on the nail. Kiss drench the sacks with no regard for variation or taste, the material is indistinguishable. `Nothing To Lose` pummels like nothing you`ve ever heard before into `Shout It Out Loud`, a veritable scumbag of a number. The audience are still pretty sedate. None of the seat mangling and whole scale freak out they are purported to wreak in darkest Manhattan.
What with the gear and the noise and the monotony they remind one of vintage Slade except they aren`t as competent. Only drummer Peter Criss looks like he could get his stash together doing another kind of music. Besides his cat whiskers are cute. He has something recognisable as style. All that nonsense about stalking his prey as he flails the skins. A plane crash that turned him into a sabre toothed tiger whose mother weaned him to recovery. “I must have been a cat in an earlier life”. Says Criss. Guess that`s more than likely.
Things are beginning to happen down there. Simmons is now playing a two note bass solo and chewing on a blood capsule at the same time. What virtuosity. Weenies squeal in terror as a liberal splattering of red saliva drips slowly onto his feet. It`s grizzly enough to make anyone with an ounce of sensibility leave their lunch on the person in front of them. They begin something that sounds like `Schools Out` speeded up. Those rip-offs are right out front, they should be paying royalties to every H.M. division on the planet.
Criss gets his moment of glory as is the way with drummers. Lights are vibrating. He could take a few hints from Albert Bouchard on how to make the drum solo humorous. He hits each piece of the kit. These soldiers really have their act together.
The show hit the bottom most pits from thereafter. “Are you with us tonight,” says Stanley, and starts rubbing himself off. Real subtle. “How many people here like to get stoned?” The girls in front of me apparently do. “Do you believe in rock`n`roll?” Jesus Christ if he went through that routine once he did it four times. It does however get the kids on their feet.
They do `Fire House` or was it `Cold Gin`? The resultant sound was rough. Sophisticated they ain`t. If you`ve ever had someone drag new sandpaper up the inside of your leg you`ll know what I mean. The drum kit hits the roof, literally, a device that Earth, Wind and Fire are also partial to.
Stanley goes on about how cool the audience is which is much appreciated. Kiss are pleased with the flak they get back.
Finally they do `Detroit Rock City`, the very passable opening to `Destroyer`. Live they muff the dual lead runs, even the chord change they borrowed from The Cult. It seems plausible that they are using tapes as some of the time voices or guitars emerge even when no one is near a microphone or has his hands on the relevant fretboard.
After that the hall erupts. Three encores including the mundane `Rock`n`Roll All Nite And Party Every Day`. Confetti pours over the lads, all hell lets loose and I haven`t even told you about the dry ice, the strobes, the mirror ball and the exploding neutron pods.
Look, I want to like Kiss. Their albums reveal they have something to offer but on this showing, live, in person, stalking before the people who pay their wages, they cannot be taken seriously. When the shit hits the fans Kiss have nothing except the clothes they stand up in and their volume controls. Every effect they use is someone else`s cliche taken to the furthest possible point. They aren`t bizarre, they`re obvious and hideously self-indulgent.
Outside pavement touts are flogging cheap trash, scarves, badges at extortionate prices (the official programme was a pound!). The thin end of the wedge, this senseless rock capitalism. Thank Christ they shut the bar. I went home and threw up.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, Patti Smith, Elvis, David Essex, Strapps, Steve Miller Band, Lee Garrett.
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