Awesome night, KISS ARMY Melbourne! Thank you!
Photo by Dean Snowden
40 years on, people still relive the days of a Northern Michigan event when mega-band KISS visited Cadillac High School with a homecoming concert. Read on for the story originally featured in the October 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine by Lou Blouin.
This story sounds made up. But it isn’t.
There’s no doubt in Jim Neff’s mind that the Cadillac High School gym held only about 1,500 people in 1975. So the tens of thousands of people who claim they were there the night KISS played Cadillac are, frankly, inserting themselves into rock ’n’ roll history. As are the ones who say they partied all night with KISS after the concert. “I was with the band the whole night, and they slept maybe just three or four hours,” Neff says. “So if they were partying, I’m wondering why I wasn’t invited.”
But that’s the way it is with legends. When people want to put themselves in your story, that’s how you know you’ve really got one deserving of the word legend.
This is Jim Neff’s story. And there’s no dispute about that. In the fall of 1974, Neff was a 28-year-old English teacher and assistant football coach at Cadillac High School. The football team was coming off an undefeated season the previous year, which earned it a top-five statewide ranking among Class A teams. The 1974 team looked just as promising, but when the season started, the Vikings surprised everybody by dropping their first two games.
“It wasn’t a lack of talent,” Neff says. “The kids were just so tight trying to live up to the 1973 legacy that they just weren’t playing the game that they were capable of playing.”
In 1975 KISS rocked the town of Cadillac when they came to their High School's homecoming and October 9th & 10th marks the KISS Cadillac 40th anniversary.
Wednesday morning 7&4's Alyssa Hearin was live at Cadillac High School to show us how they're reliving the legendary day KISS rocked their school.
It all started when assistant football coach Jim Neff began playing their music in the locker room the year before and the team started winning.
Neff reached out to the band and asked if they would come to homecoming, and to his surprise, they did.
By John Hogan, WZZM
CADILLAC, Mich. (WZZM) -- On a sunny October afternoon 40 years ago, this northern Michigan vacation destination became center of the universe for fans of the rock 'n' roll band Kiss.
The New York band, known for its lavish costumes, face paint and pyrotechnics, rolled into town to meet the Cadillac High School football team, which credited its winning season a year earlier to the band's pounding sounds.
The Oct. 9-10, 1975 visit left an indelible mark on the town of 9,200 nestled beside Lake Cadillac. And it's widely acknowledged as one of history's most famous rock 'n' roll publicity events, even though publicity came primarily after Kiss left Cadillac.
It also left an indelible mark on the band, which last year was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"It's so deeply engrained and the visions that come forward with Cadillac Michigan, it's an honor to have been part of this,'' band member Paul Stanley said in a telephone interview with Traverse City radio station WKLT-FM.
Cadillac will celebrate the 40th anniversary this weekend with a Kiss tribute band concert Saturday afternoon and the unveiling of black granite monument beside the football field to commemorate the historic event.
"When the band started playing, it was so loud, one person said it was like swimming against the current,'' said retired assistant football coach Jim Neff, who spearheaded the Kiss visit in 1975. "People in town got to hear the concert even if they didn't attend.''
Ringing eardrums wasn't the only thing the band left behind. A "battle-ready'' helicopter landed on the 50 yard line the day after the concert to spirit Kiss away. As it lifted 100 feet off the ground, members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley unleashed 4,000 jumbo postcard-sized leaflets that read: "Cadillac High – Kiss loves you. Peter, Ace, Gene, Paul.''
"I think everybody thought somebody was throwing garbage out of the helicopter and you didn't know what it was until you got one in your hand; and it said Cadillac High – Kiss Loves You,'' said David Schemmel, 56, of Rockford, a junior running back at the time.
By PATRICK McDONALD / The Advertiser
If 1970s superhero band KISS wrote the handbook on rock’n’roll theatrics, then its 40th anniversary tour not only tears out the pages but sets fire to them, blows them up, shoots them with laser beams and sends them on a skyrocket to hell and back.
Its gigantic mechanical Spider, making its first appearance Down Under, descends from the ceiling with its legs arched across the stage, the band riding on its steel back while hammering out the unmistakeable opening riff of Detroit Rock City. .
Red spotlights scan the rabid crowd from its eyes and fireworks explode from its underbelly while balls — no, make that walls — of flame envelop the backdrop, sending forth waves of heat that threaten to barbecue the front rows of fans.
It was like an entire concert’s worth of effects crammed into one song.
This old rock dog might not have learned any new tricks — bassist Gene Simmons still breathes fire, spits blood and flies to the rafters to prove he’s the God of Thunder, singer Paul Stanley sails on a wire over the crowd to fire his Love Gun, Tommy Thayer shoots sparks from his guitar into the lighting rig and Eric Singer’s drum kit rises as he roars out Black Diamond — but like a great Cirque du Soleil show, the band has learned how to wrap the same stunts up in a shiny new package.
On top of this, the current line-up plays fast, furious and incredibly tight, injecting new-found energy into standards like Calling Dr Love or Lick it Up — which morphs into The Who’s Won’t Be Fooled Again — and dusting off such live gems as Cold Gin and the extended outro from She.
KISS are about to hit Australia on their 40th anniversary tour, and if there’s one thing you can rely on in music, it’s that KISS are going to put on a big, big show. But this time they’re bringing their biggest: their ‘Spider’ lighting rig is coming with them to tower over the band and be even more menacing than Gene Simmons’ famous blood-spewing bass solo. And on stage left you’ll find Tommy Thayer inhabiting the role of the Spaceman as he has done since 2002. In the 13 years since Tommy started donning the iconic makeup and costume he’s gradually added hints of his own character to the icon. You can hear it in a certain confidence to his own solos, and see it in his choice of guitars, which diverge from the three-pickup Les Pauls Ace Frehley used when he was the Spaceman.
So KISS is returning to Australia. Now, the show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was one of your first KISS gigs, right?
It really was! It was my first official gig, in February 2003. I had done a couple of other gigs with the band prior to that but they were more really fill-in shows. It wasn’t quite defined who was playing guitar or not. (Laughs) So that was a transition period and we didn’t do too many appearances. So February 2003 I was officially in the band as the new KISS lead guitar player. It was a big gig, at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, and it was a big deal because it was being filmed for a DVD and live album. There was a lot going on and it was a little stressful but I took it all in and made it happen, and it turned out great.
Tell me about your latest Epiphone signature guitar.
It’s a striking guitar and everyone who sees it reacts the same way. It looks really flashy and it really pops. I’m really happy with it. I was thinking about a new Les Paul to play on the road with KISS last year and our drummer Eric Singer is a really big guitar collector so he suggested a white guitar. We came to the conclusion that a metallic white guitar would be great, a real Alpine White with a metallic flake in it. He also suggested chrome hardware. Originally the idea was to do a chrome binding as well but they had a hard time figuring out how to do a chrome binding. So we went back and forth and in the end I ended up doing a three-ply binding, the kind they mostly put on Customs. And I’m really happy with the way that looked.