08/22/2013

NOTHIN' TO LOSE - THE MAKING OF KISS (1972-1975)

by: Chris Alexander

Last year, FANGORIA published the official KISS Monster Magazine (issue #1 is still available in our store here, while the 3D issue #2 is sold out) and itís no secret that this writer/editor is obsessed with but two things: horror movies and yes, KISS. It was a fixation that locked in preschool, and it was seeing Gene Simmons with fangs, leather, metal and bat wings on the cover of 1977ís LOVE GUN that drew me to Dracula. After the swoon of discovering garish and bloody perversions of gothic horror ebbed, I later fell in love with KISSí patented brand of trashy 70ís rock níroll and itís that adoration of Paul Stanleyís scream and Simmonsís stomping, spitting persona that Iíve carried with me and will keep close to my heart until I die, whenever that may be.

And though I swear I know everything about the bandĖIíve written about them extensively, and have met them all on multiple occasionsĖIím really just an amateur compared to some. Compared to Ken Sharp, Iím positively Cro-Magnon. Sharp has been interviewing KISS (and many other noted classic rock figures) and putting pen to page about their ever-morphing legacy for three decades-plus and along with writer David Leaf, wrote the official authorized KISS biography BEHIND THE MASK a decade agoĖa tome widely recognized as the most thorough collection of KISSstory facts yet published. This September, Harper Collins is publishing Sharpís latest investigation into the bandís legacy with NOTHINí TO LOSE: THE MAKING OF KISS (1972-1975), created in collusion with Simmons and Stanley. And man, is it an epic.

The book indeed charts the salad days of Simmons, Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. From the first meetings of a hirsute, heavy and arrogant Simmons (then Gene Klein) and the scrappy teenage Stanley (then Stanley Eisen), to their session time at NYCís Electric Lady Studios while sculpting the KISS prototype band Wicked Lester, to their first ill-attended gig at the Coventry nightclub, this is in essence a sex and fantasy soaked story of the American Dream trying desperately to turn its motor over and eventually succeeding beyond all expectation.

Sharpís task with this book is not an easy one. Serious fans of the band have heard the narrative arc of KISSí rise before. Of Geneís love for horror movies and comic books defining his physical presence and worship of Paul McCartney informing his evolving ďwalking bassĒ style. We know of Paulís unfettered addiction to Led Zeppelin. Aceís mis-matched sneaker demeanor and sci-fi tinted outlook. Peterís ďdirty livinĒ and love of Gene Krupa. Itís all here; their Alice Cooper influenced experiments with make-up design and shocking, cinema-stained stage antics, the flop of their first three albums even while concert arenas were selling out, the climactic release of their game changing 1975 monolith ALIVE! and all the feast, famine and post-60s excess in between.
by: Chris Alexander

Last year, FANGORIA published the official KISS Monster Magazine (issue #1 is still available in our store here, while the 3D issue #2 is sold out) and itís no secret that this writer/editor is obsessed with but two things: horror movies and yes, KISS. It was a fixation that locked in preschool, and it was seeing Gene Simmons with fangs, leather, metal and bat wings on the cover of 1977ís LOVE GUN that drew me to Dracula. After the swoon of discovering garish and bloody perversions of gothic horror ebbed, I later fell in love with KISSí patented brand of trashy 70ís rock níroll and itís that adoration of Paul Stanleyís scream and Simmonsís stomping, spitting persona that Iíve carried with me and will keep close to my heart until I die, whenever that may be.

And though I swear I know everything about the bandĖIíve written about them extensively, and have met them all on multiple occasionsĖIím really just an amateur compared to some. Compared to Ken Sharp, Iím positively Cro-Magnon. Sharp has been interviewing KISS (and many other noted classic rock figures) and putting pen to page about their ever-morphing legacy for three decades-plus and along with writer David Leaf, wrote the official authorized KISS biography BEHIND THE MASK a decade agoĖa tome widely recognized as the most thorough collection of KISSstory facts yet published. This September, Harper Collins is publishing Sharpís latest investigation into the bandís legacy with NOTHINí TO LOSE: THE MAKING OF KISS (1972-1975), created in collusion with Simmons and Stanley. And man, is it an epic.

The book indeed charts the salad days of Simmons, Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. From the first meetings of a hirsute, heavy and arrogant Simmons (then Gene Klein) and the scrappy teenage Stanley (then Stanley Eisen), to their session time at NYCís Electric Lady Studios while sculpting the KISS prototype band Wicked Lester, to their first ill-attended gig at the Coventry nightclub, this is in essence a sex and fantasy soaked story of the American Dream trying desperately to turn its motor over and eventually succeeding beyond all expectation.

Sharpís task with this book is not an easy one. Serious fans of the band have heard the narrative arc of KISSí rise before. Of Geneís love for horror movies and comic books defining his physical presence and worship of Paul McCartney informing his evolving ďwalking bassĒ style. We know of Paulís unfettered addiction to Led Zeppelin. Aceís mis-matched sneaker demeanor and sci-fi tinted outlook. Peterís ďdirty livinĒ and love of Gene Krupa. Itís all here; their Alice Cooper influenced experiments with make-up design and shocking, cinema-stained stage antics, the flop of their first three albums even while concert arenas were selling out, the climactic release of their game changing 1975 monolith ALIVE! and all the feast, famine and post-60s excess in between.

What the author has done here, miraculously and creatively, is tell that tale and tell it well, serving as an ideal entry point for new KISS fans looking for a peek into the past, while going deep into the vaults and offering insight from those who circled in the KISS orbit. Here we have not only living KISS family members like Sean Delaney and Neil Bogartís widow, Joyce, supplying anecdotes, but the book is saturated with recollections by a stack of bands that KISS played with and opened for (and admittedly, almost always assassinated) like Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Iggy and the Stooges, Ted Nugent, Blue √Ėyster Cult, Cooper and many, many others. He also includes comments from tech guys, FX people and fans that were there to witness the slow, steady rise of one of historyís most recognized pop culture entities. Itís all thrilling, funny, revealing and compulsively readable stuff.

But thereís another thing at play here which, for the ardent KISS fan thatís stayed with them for 40 years of triumph and tragedy, is a rare treat: a respect for the way things were. Itís no secret that Ace and Peterís sour attitudes and endless battles with addiction, coupled with Gene and Paulís focused and sometimes perhaps overbearing control and protection of the band/brand have lead to ample wars of words and ugly ink spilled. But here, more often than not, we simply get warm, wistful recollections from four very different men who for a brief time came together to form a brotherhood, making something incredibly special and unprecedented. Four broke kids who tempered their passions with practicality and changed history and had a blast while doing so.

And whether intentional or not, with NOTHINí TO LOSE, Sharp has also clearly laid out the blueprint for what could be, if any savvy Hollywood schmoe is paying attention to this, the best goddamn rock and roll movie ever made. So someone make it alreadyÖ
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