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Posted on 01/30/2013
Forty years ago, on January 30th, 1973, KISS held their 1st public performance at a tiny club in Queens, NY. The club held 600 people. It's rumored that there were 3 in the audience that night. KISS (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) performed 2 sets that night. Included in those sets were "Deuce," "Firehouse," "She," "Love Her All I Can," and "Black Diamond," among others. Two years later, KISS were headlining arenas and selling gold records. I was born that winter and became a KISS fan at age 5. I got into KISS because, up to that point in my life, my understanding of records was this: They are the audio versions of visual stories. At age 5, that pretty much described everything I listened to, like "The Story of Star Wars" or the Hollywood musical soundtracks my Dad used to spin. My Dad was the catalyst, really; because of him, I knew about comics and music. I knew who Fred Astaire and Jack Kirby were before I knew how to add and subtract. So when I saw KISS' 1980 "Unmasked" record, with its jaunty comic-book cover art, I was spellbound. It was like Darth Vader and Flash Gordon had formed a rock band! I begged my folks for the 1978 Gene Simmons solo album on vinyl and they relented, bless their CPS-reportable hearts! I brought it home, put on my Dad's giant headphones, and fell in love. That record, with its haunting melodies and flawless pop production, was my introduction to everything that I still love about rock and roll music. Soon thereafter I got "Alive!" on vinyl and I was a member of the KISS Army. It's clichéd to say that KISS has been the soundtrack to my life. John Williams and my own thoughts notwithstanding, however, it's true. When Ritalin robbed me of my sleep at age 7, at least I knew there were other "Creatures of the Night." When I'd had my 1st kiss with Beth Aminoff in 3rd grade, I played "Beth" on cassette over the phone to her. When I was 22 and my brother was 11, I brought him to his 1st KISS concert. And when I defended my dissertation in 2005, I heard Gene Simmons in my head singing "Stand up. You don't have to be afraid." Membership in the KISS Army hasn't been without its bumps in the road. It's hard to rub elbows with other scholarly types who, upon discovering that your favorite band is KISS, want to ask you about Gene's NPR interview. It's tough explaining your love of KISS to REM fans and Sonic Youth fans and Talking Heads fans and jazzers. And it's not easy to defend "Let's Put the X in Sex." But here's the thing: I get choked up when Paul Stanley sings "Ain't you glad we got the time?" because I AM glad I got the time. Dialectical Behaviorism taught me how to pay attention to life, but KISS taught me how to celebrate it. I'd never have picked up a guitar had it not been for KISS. I don't think I'd have asked out my 1st girlfriend had it not been for KISS. I probably wouldn't have met countless fantastic people if it hadn't been for KISS. I'm so grateful for decades of wonderful and OUTSTANDING music. I'm grateful for 22 amazing concerts by hard-working showmen. I'm grateful for sharing this band with my brother. I'm grateful to my wife for tolerating it. Thank you Gene, Paul, Ace, Peter, Vinnie, Bruce, Eric S., and Tommy. R.I.P. Eric C. and Mark. I'm proud to be a member of the KISS Army. Gary Shaller, PodKISSt co-founder and co-host
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