Kissing Ass

When the Rolling Stones staged the first genuine rock-and-roll circus in 1968, they distributed gold-embossed metallic tickets to the members of their fan club, fed them, gave them twenty hours of music, clowns, and amusements, and then arranged for buses to take everybody home.

All free of charge!
In stark contrast, anyone attending Kiss's overpriced traveling carnival would've been soaked nonstop for their last remaining dollars. Just look at the shameless merchandise huckstering packed inside the band's new Psycho-Circus CD: "Limited Edition Commemorative Psycho-Circus Silver Proof Coins" ($279.00), "Psycho-Circus Throw Blanket" ($70.00), "Kiss Army Jacket" ($650.00). Then there's that damn Kisstory book -- naw, wait, now it's KISStory II! The Kiss Collector's Bible, packed with all sorts of crazy extras: "Hardcover and Bound"! "Nine Pounds per Book"! "Shipped to You Direct"! Gosh! Imagine paying $158.95 for a book and then having to go pick it up at the airport! What value!

Kiss never gives anything away for nothin'. Even the sweepstakes card enclosed with each CD requires that you make a $1.99 phone call to enter. So when the costumed creeps sing "You are me, I am you" on their new album, you feel like saying: If I am you, why don't you cheap-ass chiselers pay me?

The members of Kiss are also no strangers to frivolous litigation. After all, didn't Gene Simmons take the concept of rearranging someone's face to new heights when he dragged Kiss copycat act King Diamond into a court of law, forcing him to change his original unoriginal makeup design?

Ironically, in the early Eighties, when Kiss's career was going down the toilet, Paul Stanley's dad, the president of 2000 Flushes, sued the Clash for sampling his sparkling bowl commercial on "Inoculated City." There's even a ska band named 2000 Flushes. Go to it, Stardad!

No one, not even the self-appointed "Hottest Band in the World" is above trafficking "hot" ideas. Kiss's original concept of being four Alice Coopers onstage instead of one has always been acknowledged by the band, most recently in the last issue of Goldmine. So when word filtered out that Paul Stanley was being sued by Six Palms Publishing for ripping off Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen," it was easy to regard it as a form of poetic justice, with the possibility of Kiss's spiritual debt to the Billion Dollar Baby transferred into cold hard cash.

"Alice isn't suing Kiss," Cooper's personal assistant Brian Nelson is quick to stress. "Six Palms Publishing, which owns the controlling percentage of Alice's early songs, is suing Paul Stanley of Kiss and [former Kiss guitarist] Bruce Kulick. In fact, Alice had no idea about the song "Dreamin'" sounding like "I'm Eighteen" until he heard [a disc jockey] comparing the two songs on his morning show."

Nelson, however, cautiously steers clear of engaging Cooper in any mudslinging toward Kiss. "If nobody imitated Alice after he came out, he would've just fallen off the edge of the earth," Nelson says. "Alice always looked at what he was doing as opening the door for others to walk through."

One wonders, did Kiss merely walk through the door and make a beeline straight for Alice's fridge? We owe it to Kiss to put that lame Stanley-Kulick song through every conceivable evaluation. If there's a DNA probe that can incriminate a guilty song-stealing party, we'll find it. First, let's examine the motives:

Paul Stanley's Motive: After ditching the makeup and scaling down its live show in 1983, Kiss found itself with an identity problem, or what guitarist Ace Frehley once termed "a musical vasectomy." The group could no longer pen superhero anthems or rely on the celibate altar-boy hymns of its disastrous (Music From) The Elder album. Instead, Kiss focused on the smutty sexist ditties that ignited its predominantly young male fans in the past.

The recent return of the makeup-clad Kiss (and the band's original lineup) came with the hidden responsibility of having to be larger than life again; they couldn't just sing about human-sized hard-ons.

Possibly as a return to their roots, Stanley and company ransacked Cooper's crib for inspiration. While "Dreamin'" plunders Alice's earliest hit, the Psycho-Circus album and comic book -- created by Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame -- voraciously feed off Alice Cooper's most recent studio album, The Last Temptation, and its corresponding Marvel comic book.

Cooper's album opens with a song called "Sideshow," itself an homage to his earlier "Hello Hooray." Both songs have an I-can't-wait-for-this-show-to-begin undercurrent which, surprise, surprise, turns up in Psycho-Circus's title track as well.

Bruce Kulick's Motive: There's no $70 throw blanket with Bruce Kulick's face on it! Quite simply, the former Kiss guitarist's motivation was to get his share of the giant cash bonanza that has ensued since he was shunted aside while the original Kiss was reactivated.

For more than a decade, Kulick was a salaried sideman for the sans-makeup Kiss, a thankless job not unlike being a regular on The Andy Griffith Show after Don Knotts left. Early Kiss was a tough act to follow and now it's put him out of full-time employment. The best he's managed is in forming a virtually ignored band with erstwhile Mstley CrYe vocalist John Carobi called Union. Now if they called the band Reunion, that would be funny.

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