40 Years Ago: KISS Release Hotter than Hell
by Eduardo Rivadavia / http://ultimateclassicrock.com/kiss-hotter-than-hell/
Halloween came early for Kiss fans in 1974 on October 22nd, to be precise, in the form of Hotter than Hell, the sophomore album from New Yorks outrageously costumed and face-painted hard rockers.
Still a relatively unknown proposition at the time, Kiss had unveiled their eponymous first album only six months earlier, and though it turned some heads and arched some brows, its modest sales in no way suggested the decades of successes that lay ahead.
Instead, Kiss members Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss still had to convince both consumers, and the rock and roll establishment in general, that their striking image and powerful heavy rock sound was more than a passing novelty and Hotter than Hell would be their vehicle.
Or would it?
Right from the start, the albums recording was marked by difficulties most of them centering on the bands relocation to Los Angeles, where the production team of Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise (also responsible for Kiss first album) was then based. It would seem the duo were still coming to grips with the equipment at Village Recorders, if Hotter than Hells famously lacking production was any indication.
We hoped to remedy the sonic deficiencies we found in the first album, Stanley explains in Kiss: Behind the Mask. We were never as rock-n'-rolly or good-timey as we sounded on that album. We were much heavier live. So [for 'Hotter than Hell'] we tried to capture sonically how we sounded live. Unfortunately, the people that we were working with might not have been the right people to be doing it with.
To make matters worse, Stanleys guitar was stolen on their first day in town and Kiss record label, Casablanca, were too busy trying to stay in business to offer much hand-holding. Plus, the pastrami on rye at Canters Deli simply didnt taste like the one back home in New York.
Yet not even all of these problems could deter the recording of numerous bona fide future Kiss classics like Got to Choose, Let Me Go, Rock n Roll and the title cut, which went on to enjoy years of fan acclaim in concert.
Other Hotter than Hell notables included Simmons lecherous love song, Goin Blind, Watchin You, the Criss-sung Mainline, and no less than three songwriting contributions from Ace (Parasite, Strange Ways and, with Stanley, Comin Home), though Kiss lead guitarist still lacked the confidence to sing on any of them (all in due time). I wasnt ready for it at the time, Frehley explained to us recently. I was insecure about my singing voice. When I recorded my first lead vocal (years later), I recorded it singing on my back, with the lights down in the studio.
And completing the big picture (literally), Hotter than Hells cover art would go down as among the most iconic of Kiss career (no mean feat in such a large and visually arresting catalog!), thanks to its comic book-style design inspired by Japanese manga and the evocative (and provocative) rear sleeve glamor shots snapped by noted photographer Norman Seeff.
But as Kiss headed back out on the concert trail, the aforementioned Casablanca was all but paralyzed after cutting ties with their distributor Warner Bros., and thus hard-pressed to offer the band significant marketing support (just shipping albums to record stores was a major challenge), beyond a token radio promotion campaign and this now vintage television ad.
Not surprisingly, this unfortunate state of business affairs was largely to blame for the new albums positively paltry sales throughout the winter of 74-75, and eventually the decision was made to cut short the Hotter than Hell tour so that Kiss could quickly cut a third LP, Dressed to Kill, which would be properly distributed by Casablanca's new partners, Polygram.
This, as we now know, proved to be yet another baby step on Kiss patient road to well-deserved commercial breakthrough via the seminal Alive! double concert triumph, released in September of 1975. By then, and with the help of many songs discussed here, Kiss truly had become Hotter than Hell.