September 05, 2009
Rock group's CD blitz includes Mr. Potato Heads

By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How many Kiss Mr. Potato Head kollectibles are you going to need?
For many fans, the answer will be two of each -- one set for you and one for the kids to play with, and lose all the pieces.

The Kiss Mr. Potato Head -- sure to be the most entertaining piece of merchandise the band has ever issued -- will take its place in the Kiss Korner at Walmart on Oct. 6 as part of a merchandise blitz that accompanies "Sonic Boom," the band's first album in 11 years.

The pitch for merch has intensified, but Kiss is taking it to the next level. The Kiss Korner will include T-shirts ($5), a fleece blanket ($10), limited edition Kiss M&M candies, catalog CDs ($5-$9) and makeup kits, masks and wigs (at select Walmart stores, $5).

"Sonic Boom" will be a three-CD package ($12) with the new 11-track CD, a re-recorded greatest hits CD with classics like "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Deuce" and "Black Diamond," and a live DVD shot in Argentina during the "KISS ALIVE 35" South American tour. One new track, a vintage-style rocker called "Modern Day Delilah," is already making the rounds of YouTube.

In 2005, Garth Brooks signed the first exclusive distribution deal with a single retailer, Walmart, for "The Limited Series," a boxed set that quickly went platinum. Walmart delivered more platinum for The Eagles comeback "Long Road Out of Eden" in 2007 and AC/DC's "Black Ice," the second biggest-selling album of 2008. Like with Kiss, there was an AC/DC store-within-a-store with T-shirts, hoodies and other items. Industry people estimated AC/DC sales more than tripled because of the Walmart connection.

"It was a game-changer for the music industry," says Ed Christman, retail editor at Billboard magazine. "And Kiss lends itself even more to this type of merchandising."

The Beatles and Kiss are among those bands to be immortalized already with action figures, but Kiss, once feared to be "Knights in Satan's Service," is the first on the block with its own Mr. Potato Head and package of M&Ms.

The only downer news for Pittsburghers in this whole Kiss "Boom" is that the KISS ALIVE 35 tour, supposedly determined by an online fan vote, is not coming here. The closest stop is Cleveland on Sept. 28.

We'll hope for a second leg while we pull off Gene Simmons' Potato Head tongue.