Admittedly, I’m not a KISS lifer. My first real introduction to the band was when I was 22, when a good friend thrust their first record into my hand and basically said, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like rock and roll.” He was right. Once “Strutter” was over, I never looked back. I couldn’t get enough, and to this day, I still can’t.
While I celebrate KISS’s entire catalog, I understand that for as many rabid fans as they have across the globe, there are just as many people whose hatred runs as deep as the KISS Army’s fandom. Those with a distaste for the band generally have three universal gripes. In honor of KISS’ 40th anniversary, and in advance of their show with Def Leppard at Sleep Country Amphitheater tomorrow night, I consider it my duty to dismantle and discredit each one.
1. KISS's make-up and theatrics are an over the top spectacle that can’t be taken seriously.
Ever want to just let down your guard and have a good time? It’s a goddamn show, fools!! Enjoy the spectacle!! Before Paul, Gene, Ace, and Peter even set foot on a stage, they knew they wanted to create a stage show unlike anything anybody had ever seen before. They wanted to outdo everyone. So, they adopted outlandish personas, and got pyrotechnics before anyone really knew how to control them. Does Angus Young walk around all day in a school boy’s uniform? Does Alice Cooper decapitate himself every night before he goes to bed? Is Jimmy Page really as mystical as he seems? No, no, no. Every member of any big-time, legendar, arena-rock band has a persona. There are zero exceptions. KISS’ alter-egos just happen to be eight feet tall, spit blood, breathe fire, and come from other planets. Furthermore, why doesn’t anyone ever give Sir Elton John any shit for his peacock'ed wardrobe? At least KISS can write their own songs…
2. KISS’s music is sub-par, and their lyrics are silly and meaningless.
KISS plays simple rock 'n' roll music. It’s the foundation, not the tall, fancy buildings. It’s just supposed to move your hips and make you smile. That’s it. As far as their lyrics are concerned, KISS never wanted to be the voice of their generation. They were never part of a movement, they never dealt with politics, and they never tried to touch any other downer subject matter. Once again, it’s all about leaving your hang-ups at the door. Do “Tutti Frutti” or “My Ding-a-Ling” have any great, deep meaning? No, because Little Richard and Chuck Berry weren’t poets. They wrote catchy, brain-worm rock 'n' roll tunes so people could cut loose and boogie. Turn off your brain and turn on your body, man.
3. The merchandising and commercialization of their image is out of control. KISS will take any opportunity to fleece their fans.
Is KISS’s merchandise out of control? Yes, it most certainly is. They’ve licensed themselves to things they have no business being a part of. A short list of missteps would be the Hello Kitty meld, the KISS Kasket, and LA's recent KISS arena football team. As dumb as some of their endeavors may be, will you really stand in the way of aging KISS fans who want to share something they love with their children or grandchildren? If a devoted KISS fan wants to wrap his or her corpse in full KISS regalia for eternity, do you really have any business trying to talk them into cremation? And arena football… it needs any help it can get. There must be a market for all the swag or it wouldn’t exist. If you don’t understand it or want it, don’t fucking buy it!
In short, KISS is amazing and have been the hosts of an endless party that’s lasted for 40 years. For all the squares out there who don’t know how to shout it out loud, rock 'n' roll all night, and party every day, we don’t want you at our party anyway.
KISS play with Def Leppard tomorrow night (Fri June 27) at Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 NE Delfel, Ridgefield, WA. It will rock.