Ace Frehley, Animalize, Bruce Kulick, Clay Howard, Desmond Child, Eric Carr, Gene Simmons, Jean Beavoir, Jon Lowder, KISS, Mark St. John, Mitch Weissman, MTV, Music, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, PMRC, Tom Sholtz, Vinnie Vincent
34 years ago today, one of KISS’ best-selling 80s albums was released. That would be Animalize. It’s not my favorite of that era, but it isn’t my least favorite, either. It has some good songs that carried over to the live concert video they put out on this tour.
By the time KISS was putting this out, Gene was pretty much a ghost in the band. He was still very much a member because, hey, it’s Gene Simmons. But, he had gotten really into other projects that he was afforded both because he now had money and he wasn’t restricted by keeping his identity cloaked. During the recording of this album, he was starring in Runaway (1984) and producing or managing bands like House of Lords and Black N Blue (which, incidentally had future KISS member, Tommy Thayer). So, being the loyalist, perhaps sometimes to a fault, that he is to the KISS brand, Paul Stanley took over the whole deal and produced this album. I think he did a pretty good job.
It had been two years since an album was released as a “makeup” album and only a year (almost to the day) of the unmasking of the band on MTV, which also was the release date for Lick It Up. KISS fans were still riding the high that was the return of the hard rock KISS that they had loved as a kid before the disco-ing down and artification of the band. Don’t hear me wrong, I loved that stuff, too. But, they lost a big part of their “Army” with those things. I recognize that. This album came out and it was still punchy, still heavy and still cool.
The song “Heavens on Fire” was a huge hit for the band and was on heavy rotation on MTV. For anyone under the age of 30, MTV was a channel that played music videos 24/7. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not. There’s some other channel now that calls itself MTV but it’s nothing like that MTV. Anywhat! They debuted new videos at 5-minutes past each hour. The “world-wide” debut of “Heavens on Fire” was at 1:05am on a Saturday night. In 1984, I lived in WV and we had 7 channels, MTV wasn’t one of them. However, for whatever reason, I was staying at my grandmother’s house in a larger town that did have REAL cable television and had MTV. I fought dozing off and once the video came on, I was jarred up and ready to fight someone. I loved it. One of the funniest parts is when Eric Carr runs up behind Paul and sings a line with him. That wasn’t planned and Paul’s reaction was genuine. It’s cool.
This was the only album that “featured” Mark St. John on guitar. He replaced Vinnie Vincent who had replaced Ace Frehley. Mark was a talented player but really unreMARKable (see what I did there?). I remember looking at the album cover (on LP) and thinking who the heck is that guy? Of course, because I read all the rags and stuff, I knew his name but he looked like a big block of a guy, broad-shouldered and stiff. Looking at it now, it looks like he took Peter Criss’ Dynasty costume, painted it all black from the green it was and was wearing that. He wasn’t really, but he seemed like a piece of stone. And, in the video, he looked uncomfortable. He also used Rockman gear to record the album, which we know is the invention of Boston guitarist, Tom Sholtz. Paul had to do a lot of EQing to get that Boston out of it. St. John left the band just after the tour started because of Reiter’s syndrome, now called reactive arthritis. He was replaced by Bruce Kulick. Who you’ll hear about in a few days and next week.
Eric Carr’s drumming on this album was great! I loved it. Solid and heavy.
Paul’s songs were the best on the album, bar none. Three of the songs, “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire),” “Under the Gun” (co-written with Eric Carr), and “Heavens on Fire” were co-written with recurring collaborator, Desmond Child. “Thrills in the Night” was co-written by ex-Plasmatics bassist, Jean Beauvoir who also played bass on this album for “Get All You Can Take”, “Thrills In The Night” and “Under the Gun.”
Gene, while mostly absent, was there for some of it. He wrote “Burn Bitch Burn” and “Lonely is the Hunter” solo and co-wrote “While the City Sleeps” and “Murder in High Heels” with Paul McCartney look-alike Mitch Weissman, who co-wrote “Get All You Can Take” with Paul. Gene’s songs are cool for the fact that he’s a little tongue-in-cheek but Paul wins this album.
The story I always tell about this album is this: In 1984, the PMRC and its ridiculousness were in full-force (and no, I don’t mean Lisa-Lisa & Cult Jam with…) and Ma Mère fell for it hook, line, and sinker. She didn’t want me listening to “that rock and roll devil’s music.” Which, she herself did when she was younger. Anti-authority, satan, drugs, alcohol, etc. That’s what we kids were getting too much of. Anyhow, I wanted this album, really, really badly. I stood in front of the cassette case, you know, the old kind with holes in the plexiglass so you could hold the tapes and look at them but couldn’t get them out and steal them? I stood there and begged to get both this album and Prince’s Purple Rain. She made me promise that I wouldn’t worship the devil if I got them. It didn’t help that one of the songs was called “Heavens on Fire” and another one “Burn Bitch Burn.” I promised. I did her one better. Not only do I not believe in or worship the devil, I don’t go the other way either. I’m non-Prophet when it comes to my religion. But, I got them and wore them both out!
I still love the album to this day. Both, of them, as I’ve mentioned before.
I do want to also wish my two great pals, Clay Howard and Jon Lowder a very happy birthday. I love you guys! You mean a lot to me and my family.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“My eggs in one basket, but she threw me a bone. She was dealt a full deck, but she likes to live alone. Ain’t just talkin’ to myself, need a reason to stop (oh yeah). With a flower in her teeth, she drained the last drop. I said girls love money like bees the honey. But lonely is the hunter, you’re my one and only, and lonely is the hunter.” – “Lonely is the Hunter” (Simmons)