Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Winners' History of Rock and Roll, Part 2: Kiss

Kiss @ 40:

How four men in face paint made rock real for a nation

By Steven Hyden/Grantland

Casey Burns

We got wars going down in the middle-western states." —The Hold Steady, "Knuckles"

"I am a fan of Middle America. Remember, it was mass culture that created rock 'n' roll. Our tastes happen to coincide with theirs." —Gene Simmons, 1977, in Rolling Stone

The video begins — the 17-minute-and-18-second version that's posted on YouTube, anyway — with a medium close-up of a carnival barker carnival-barking at a group of gawkers outside of a freak show. The tape is blurry but the metaphor is clear to the point of obviousness. And yet Edwin Newman, the unflappable veteran reporter carved out of hickory and tweed who has been dispatched by NBC News to get to the bottom of this evening's investigation, isn't afraid to underline it several times. He alludes to P.T. Barnum and the suckers who are born every 60 seconds. He warns against a "vast machinery of hype" threatening to sucker the suckers of today — which in the video is 1977 — into mindless oblivion. Even by the murderously lax standards of the network-news hatchet job, Edwin Newman has dispensed with all subtleties. He is out to bust balls.

Hype is this newsman's primary concern. Hype is the subject of his special report, helpfully titled Land of Hype & Glory. Suddenly, the setting shifts to a rock concert, and we meet Newman's Exhibit A. "These four men have been performing for four years. In that time they've been responsible for selling records worth $30 million," he intones grimly. "By some accounts, they are the favorite rock group of American teenagers. Their name, for no reason immediately apparent, is Kiss."
Kiss is playing "Black Diamond," the final song on the band's self-titled 1974 debut. "Black Diamond" is sung primarily by drummer Peter Criss, the Catman, but the Catman is the one member who is not in view. Instead, we see Gene Simmons stomp from stage right to stage left like Frankenstein doing the funky-chicken. We whizz by Ace Frehley playing a guitar solo with his Gibson held at a mathematically precise 45-degree angle. We venture to the outskirts of Paul Stanley's black forest of mossy chest hair.

Continue Reading: Here.

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