Ace Frehley, Adam Mitchell, Bill Aucoin, Bob Kulick, Bruce Kulick, Bryan Adams, Casablanca Records, Dave Clark Five, Frehley's Comet, Gene Simmons, Happy Days, Jim Vallance, Joanie Loves Chachi, KISS, Mercury Records, Michael James Jackson, Music, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Robben Ford, Steve Farris, Vinnie Vincent
My Saturday was awesomely fun, but it didn’t include Underdog Records, so instead of a haul for today, we’re going to talk about (as promised yesterday) two major KISS records that have anniversaries this weekend.
Yesterday was the 36th anniversary of the “comeback” album from KISS, Creatures of the Night. After the publicly-admonished “disaster” that was Music from ‘The Elder,’ KISS realized that had a lot to atone for.
The guise was that Ace was still part of the group. He took pictures for the cover, did a video for “I Love It Loud,” and did some appearances, but the truth was, he was nowhere near the album, at all. He had had enough with being outvoted and really, he absolutely knew that The Elder was a mistake. Take those factors with the fact that he was a slave to substances (just listen to “Rock Soldiers” from the debut Frehley’s Comet album) and he was either done on his own or done from Gene’s and Paul’s perspective.
Also, removed from the mix was long-time manager Bill Aucoin. Bill had basically hyped Gene and Paul to make The Elder and really, the Unmasked album, too. Paul, in his book, has called them both “disasters.” I disagree, but, I can see where they alienated the fan base or “KISS Army.” Bill was dismissed.
Here they were, three main components of their history, their success, all gone. First Peter, then Ace, then Bill. So, what next? Paul says he wanted to take the makeup off and Gene wouldn’t have it. Paul suggests that he wanted to make a clean sweep, a whole new beginning. Truth be told, while I don’t believe everything Paul wrote in his book, I have to agree with him that it was probably time to remove the disguise at that point. However, if they had, we’d not have one of the most iconic album covers in KISStory (or to me, even ever – across all albums).
So, here they were in search of yet another replacement member. They held auditions in the industry but the public didn’t know. Again, Ace was still “officially” in the band. So, in essence, the auditions for a new guitarist was executed by the players actually playing on the album.
With that, they got Steve Farris, who went on to found and play with Mr. Mister. He did the solo on the title track, “Creatures of the Night.” They got Robben Ford, a well-known blues guitarist doing the solos on “Rock and Roll Hell” and “I Still Love You.” Adam Mitchell, who was best known for writing poppier songs and who ended up co-writing “Creatures,” “Keep Me Comin'” and “Danger” with Paul on the album doing some guitar work on “Creatures.” Bob Kulick, from Paul’s solo album, did guitar overdubs across the album, which I figure includes a good bit of rhythm guitar. And, the one that got most of the solo work on the album was a mostly-unknown smoker on the axe, Vincent Cusano. He played the solos on “Saint and Sinner,” “Keep Me Comin’,” “Danger,” “I Love It Loud,” “Killer” and “War Machine.” At one time, was the staff writer for both Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi.
Cusano also got the gig with the band. As Mick Fury! No, not really. That’s what he wanted to go by but Paul nixed that idea (according to him). They decided on Vinnie Vincent and Paul designed the Ankh Warrior makeup. No one knew what the Ankh was all about. Not Vinnie, not the fans, not even Paul who designed it. That should have been more an indicator to the band that the makeup needed to go.
The songs, though, they were really fantastic. They made it heavy; the heaviest they had done to that point. They needed to let the fans know that they were back! They were ready to rock and rock. They were ready to rock and roll hard! They were ready! THEY WERE READY!
The problem was, the fans didn’t care. They weren’t ready. They weren’t ready to let KISS back in. They had a hard time letting go or forgiving KISS for the Dynasty, Unmasked and especially The Elder. I wasn’t one of those, though. I still loved it. I didn’t realize (I was 11) that Ace wasn’t there. I did, however, know that this was a heavy album. It was booming, even on my crapola cabinet record player (but I wish I still had that).
At the time, there were a few songs that I didn’t like. I didn’t care for “Danger,” “Keep Me Comin’,” or “War Machine.” I loved the title track, “Saint and Sinner,” “Rock and Roll Hell,” “I Love It Loud” and “I Still Love You.” “Rock and Roll Hell” and “War Machine” were written by Gene along with Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams. The album was produced by Michael James Jackson who had done some poppier things and co-produced by Gene and Paul.
More indicative of the fact that the fans had given up was the tour that followed. The same stadiums and arenas that KISS had been selling out, ones that held 18,000 people or more, were now only selling 1,000 tickets or so. Paul said in his book you could tell by how loud the opening bands were or the announcements were how empty the arenas were. Also, Paul would flick his pick and it would sail over the heads of the audience and land on the floor. Sad, really. They canceled the rest of their North American tour.
That was in North America. In South America, they played to record (for them) crowds. They played at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with over 250,000 people in the audience. Still, they knew their home fans (US) were giving up. They had to change something and that something was the makeup. Get back to music. It worked.
Mercury Records, who had bought out Casablanca Records, had some weird notion that they wanted to upgrade the awesome Creatures cover to something more “indicative” of current KISS in 1985. They changed it to a group photo of the 85 lineup with Bruce Kulick. So, both covers featured members that weren’t on the album. At least Ace was still technically part of the band. The closest Bruce was to being in the band was his brother Bob’s overdubs.
Now, I love this album and think it’s one of their best of the 80s. One of the best of the catalog, really. And, the tables turned. I went from not liking the songs mentioned earlier to really liking them and, now, “I Love It Loud” is one of the “big three” that I wish I never had to hear again (along with “Detroit Rock City” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” even though DRC has re-grown on me). The album was just a victim of circumstance, I think.
Today, however, is the 41st anniversary of my favorite of the “Alive” albums, KISS Alive II. Do I think it’s the best of them? Not really. I just love that era. The costumes, the feel, etc. The songs from Alive II were all from Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun.
As far as live albums go, it’s hard to even call it a “live” album. A lot of it was live, recorded at the Los Angeles Forum. Then a few of the songs were recorded from soundchecks at those shows. Notably, “Hard Luck Woman” and “Tomorrow and Tonight” were both soundcheck recordings and weren’t actually played on that tour. But, also, “I Stole Your Love,” which was the opener of the shows. Eddie Kramer just went in afterward and put in canned crowd noise.
The energy was up but it seems they weren’t as hungry as they had been on Ailve! The sound on the album wasn’t as full. It seemed a little thinner. I’m still confused as to why they started the album with “Detroit Rock City” when it was “I Stole Your Love” that started them actual shows. I know it was “Detroit Rock City” that went into “King of the Nighttime World” on Destroyer and perhaps they wanted to recreate that. That’s all I can figure.
Another odd thing to me was the fourth side of the album. It was five studio songs, including a cover of the Dave Clark Five tune, “Any Way You Want It.” It was claimed that it was all the original members, but in reality, it was Bob Kulick playing Ace’s parts except for “Rocket Ride,” which he played all guitars and bass. That was the beginning of the end for Ace. I love “Larger Than Life” which I just think sounds bad arse. I also dig “Rockin’ in the U.S.A.” that I kind of “borrowed” from to write “She’s Got What It Takes” on Heavens Sake’s debut album. “All American Man” is also a good song.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the side four songs but why not give us more live songs? Perhaps they could have done some more in soundcheck? With that, though, three songs (that I know of) were soundcheck songs, the five studio songs, if they knew they didn’t have enough to do a full live album, why not strategize the setlists better?
Couldn’t they have done “Do You Love Me?” or left “Take Me” in there? If they were going to do soundcheck recordings anyway, why not “Mr. Speed” or “Almost Human?” “Hooligan” was in the set for the “Love Gun Tour,” they could have left that in. I don’t know. There seemed to be more options that they didn’t take advantage of. Then again, when I was 8-years old, I loved the album. I really didn’t listen to the fourth side much but as I got older, I appreciated it more and more.
So, happy anniversary to Creatures of the Night and KISS Alive II. I love ya both.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Wanna bite the hand that feeds me, wanna turn the tides. Set the demons free and watch ’em fly. Strike down the one who leads me, I’m gonna take his place. Gonna vindicate the human race. Better watch out ’cause I’m a war machine.” – “War Machine” (Simmons/Adams/Vallance)