Saturday, September 8, 2012
Music: Confessions of a Kiss fan
By Mark J. Price
Beacon Journal staff writer
All I really need to know about music, I learned in middle school.
Rock and roll all night. Party every day.
Could the guidelines be any simpler than that?
I owe my questionable taste in loud, flamboyant rock to Billy Barath, a seventh-grade classmate at Manchester Middle School who changed my life in 1976 with a startling pronouncement.
“Kiss is the best,” he told me.
What?!?! Those weird guys in the makeup? Better than Bachman-Turner Overdrive? Better than the Captain and Tennille? Better than K.C. and the Sunshine Band?
This merited investigation. Listening intently to the radio, turning the knob from station to station, catching songs like Rock and Roll All Nite, I determined that Billy was a genius.
The first album I ever bought — actually, it was an eight-track tape — was Kiss Destroyer, which included such classics as Detroit Rock City, Shout It Out Loud, God of Thunder and, of course, Beth. I played it every day after school, blasting the speakers of my home stereo, memorizing the words to each song, strumming air guitars and pounding imaginary drums.
Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss became my heroes.
I worked my way backward through the Kiss record catalog, buying Alive, Dressed to Kill, Hotter Than Hell and the self-titled debut Kiss. I spent countless hours blaring music, analyzing album covers and reading liner notes. I recall studying each face in the crowd photo on the back of Alive and thinking that the two girls holding the Kiss sign were total foxes. Decades later, I was shocked to learn they were boys with long hair.
As my obsession grew, I plastered Kiss posters on my bedroom wall, scoured magazine racks for Kiss issues and raided candy stores for Kiss bubble-gum cards. My friends and I debated and exchanged the latest Kiss gossip. Did the band’s name stand for Knights In Satan’s Service? Did Simmons have a cow tongue surgically grafted to his own? Was the band killed in a tour bus crash and replaced by imposters in identical makeup?