Friday, October 21, 2011

Kiss and Tell



From 1977 to 1979, I was a huge KISS fan. (Thinking back, I'd assumed my obsession lasted a lot longer than it did, but in reality it was only from 7th grade through the first part of 9th grade.) Thanks to my "cool" friend Debbie for getting me into them. Debbie was so cool because when she was 12 she was already reading "Creem" magazine and getting to stay up late to watch "Midnight Special" on Friday nights and "Saturday Night Live." (I, on the other hand, still had to go to bed at 9pm on school nights and 10pm even on weekends; the only time I got to watch those shows was when I spent the night at her house.) And she had quite the interesting, mature rock record collection for a junior-high kid -- stuff like Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones and Patti Smith and The Runaways, along with KISS -- while I was still just coming off of the Bay City Rollers and Shaun Cassidy. (Though I've got to "out" Debbie -- my mom accompanied her and me to our mutual first live concert ever in 1977, and it was...SHAUN CASSIDY!) :)

At the peak of my KISS fandom, I had a Gene Simmons-face birthday cake one year, 2 KISS T-shirts, a KISS belt buckle, tons of posters covering my walls, and a membership in the KISS Army. Debbie and I would frequently don KISS makeup at her house (with me always Gene and her, Ace), and then I exported that habit to the more prosaic kids in my own neighborhood during summers, with me still Gene and my next-door neighbor/friend Marla being Ace and us enlisting our little brothers to be Paul and Peter. Before we figured out that the band used something called "greasepaint" and that this could be purchased relatively cheaply at the Fort Worth mall's pseudo-head shop "Spencer's," we invented our own makeup: The white part was toothpaste spread all over our faces for stickiness, with baby powder then thrown on to it. The black part was... magic marker!! :) When we put on concerts to "Alive II" in my bedroom, the guitars were tennis rackets and the drumsticks, pencils.

The picture shown here is from my 14th birthday, 1979 (when I for the only time switched over to being Paul -- though I still kept my Gene T-shirt -- and we all had real greasepaint), with some "straight" friends from school who weren't that into KISS whom I persuaded to get made up just for something to do at a slumber party! Funnily, there was a fourth friend at this particular sleepover... but her religion precluded her from dressing up like these alleged "devil worshippers" -- at that time, there was a rumor rampant that "KISS" stood for "Knights In Satan's Service" and she didn't want to take any chances! :) (I'd invited Debbie to this same party, but she made up an excuse and didn't show at the last minute; I was crushed! I hated her for dissing me for a long time and only later figured out that she just didn't feel comfortable with this group of people, though they were all very nice. Maybe the "nice" was the problem!)

I never owned all of their albums (my weekly allowance was tiny, and birthdays/Christmases only came so often), but at one point I had:

Hotter Than Hell (bought for me at the mall by my dad after the parents' divorce; when I brought it home, my mother was angry at him about the suggestive pictures on the back cover!)
Rock and Roll Over
Love Gun
Alive II
The Ace and Gene solo albums
Double Platinum
Dynasty

By the time the bad/disco-y "Dynasty" came out in '79, and today, KISS was/is thought of by some to be a gimmick band, but prior to the solo albums, they were pretty raunchy and dark. Gene dark, especially, with songs like "Goin' Blind," "Watching You," "God of Thunder" (written by Paul but performed by Gene); and raunchy, especially, with "Calling Dr. Love," "Ladies' Room," "Plaster Caster," "Christine Sixteen." Paul wrote or co-wrote and performed more of my favorite pop-y and anthemic and sometimes equally sexy songs ("C'Mon and Love Me," "Do You Love Me," "Shout It Out Loud," "Detroit Rock City," "Comin' Home," "I Stole Your Love"), but Gene was the one whose songs we -- Debbie and I -- listened to much more solemnly, via candlelight after midnight on those weekend sleepovers, as I'm sure many Beatles fans solemnly listened to "Sgt. Pepper" and the White Album in their day... There was something semi-spooky, something "deep" about "real life," going on, and we wanted to get down to the mystery of it...

A p.s.: Debbie moved away from my town after our sophomore year, around 1981. I didn't speak to her again until 2007, after I'd moved to NYC and found out she lived in Brooklyn. When we met up there, she told me, in KISS-related news, that she'd gone on after high school to be an actual groupie for a time (mainly hanging around heavy/death metal bands, but also some '80s hair bands like Motley Crue) -- and... she'd slept with Gene Simmons!! Of course, I was impressed! She said he was a dick, though. Why?, I wondered. Was he mean to her? No, not really. And he talked to her about her going back to school. Never could get it out of her what was so dick-like.



I feel uptight on a Saturday night
Nine o'clock, the radio's the only light
I hear my song and it pulls me through
Comes on strong, tells me what I got to do
I got to

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody's gonna leave their seat
You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody's gonna leave their seat

Getting late
I just can't wait
Ten o'clock and I know I gotta hit the road
First I drink, then I smoke
Start up the car, and I try to make the midnight show

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody's gonna leave their seat

Movin' fast, doin' 95
Hit top speed but I'm still movin' much too slow
I feel so good, I'm so alive
I hear my song playin' on the radio
It goes

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody's gonna leave their seat

Twelve o'clock, I gotta rock
There's a truck ahead, lights starin' at my eyes
Oh my God, no time to turn
I got to laugh 'cause I know I'm gonna die
Why

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get up
Everybody's gonna leave their seat



She's a dancer, a romancer
I'm a Capricorn and she's a Cancer
She saw my picture in a music magazine
When she met me, said she'd get me
Touched her hips and told me that she'd let me
I took her hand, baby this is what I said
I said baby, baby, don't you hesitate
'Cause I just can't wait
Lady, won't you take me down to my knees
You can do what you please
Come on and love me

I'm a man, I'm no baby
And you're lookin' every inch a lady
You're good lookin' and you're lookin' like you should be good
You were distant, now you're nearer
I can feel your face inside the mirror
The lights are out and I can feel you, baby, with my hand

So baby, baby, don't you hesitate
'Cause I just can't wait
Lady, won't you take me down to my knees
You can do what you please
Come on and love me
Come on and love me

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