This past Saturday was the 27th anniversary of the passing of Paul Charles Caravello. You may not know who Paul Caravello is by name, at least that name. Most of the world, even I, knew him as Eric Carr. He was the second drummer for my favorite band, my musical lifeline, KISS. I didn’t find out until November 25, though.
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I remember finding out all-to-well. But first…
Four days before, I turned 21 years old. Those same four days before, I came down with the flu. My 21st birthday, I had the flu. I was excited to get to go purchase alcohol for the first time and I was unable to. I was sick. I was throwing up. I was lightheaded, feverish and all around icky. I had a full-motion waterbed at the time and with that, I wasn’t going to get into bed and get even sicker from trying to rest.
I spent my birthday night and the following three nights sleeping on Ma ‘Rents’ couch and on the second night, I took NyQuil for the first time ever. It was the green gel-tab kind. When I slept that night, I never felt like I was asleep, but I dreamt weird stuff and everything was in green. It was so surreal. The only thing that I remember dreaming about was that Eric Carr died. I awoke the next morning sweating — partially from the flu and partially because that was an awful dream — and felt weird all day. Another two nights passed and I was better.
On the 25th, I made my way to the liquor store and was overwhelmed by what I saw. I had never been in a liquor store before. I didn’t know what to buy, didn’t know what anything was, didn’t know anything about drinkin’ no liquor. I saw something that I recognized which was Wild Turkey. I had never imbibed any liquor so I just grabbed some of “The Dirty Bird” and made my way to Food Lion to buy a 2 liter of Mountain Dew to drink with it. “Chase it,” whatever that meant.
To my mother and father, if you are reading this part, please forgive me. I know it’s no surprise (because my dad found my stuff later), but I settled on my couch, in my room, in the basement of my parents’ house and took a swig of Turkey and followed that with a swig of Dew. Turkey. Dew. Turkey. Dew. Turkey… oh, MTV News is coming on.
Tabitha Soren told us the news that Eric Carr, the drummer for KISS had passed away at the age of 41. I stared at the screen for a long time. I was starting to buzz a little at this point. I stared a while longer. I turned to my coffee table within a few feet from me and stared at the Wild Turkey and its citrusy companion. I pushed the Dew to the side and turned up the bottle of Turkey.
I drank almost a whole fifth right then. I got plastered. I ended up on the bed, talking to a friend of mine when my girlfriend at the time came over and I somehow found myself suddenly in the shower, clothed, dry and drunk. I slept it off.
But, the next day I started looking in the newspaper about Eric’s passing. I was glued to MTV for more news. But, not a lot of details came. As devastating as that was to me, as a KISS fan, as an Eric Carr fan, the news of his passing was mostly overshadowed by the passing of another, higher profile figure, Farrokh Bulsara, known to the world as Freddie Mercury. Freddie was the first major music star to succumb to the plague of AIDS, only one day after confirming what the media had been hypothesizing for almost a year.
I get it, Freddie’s death was high profile, for sure. I hated that either one of them had to die, but I thought it was extra sad that Eric passed on the same day, or same week as Freddie. I would have liked to have had a little more coverage of his passing, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t have been any different. Everyone knows Freddie’s story, heck it’s now a major biopic. But, to me, there was a lot to love about Eric.
When Peter Criss left KISS (however you want to say he left – fired, quit, etc.) in 1980, a search went out for a new drummer. Big name drummers (even Mick Fleetwood, so was the rumor) auditioned for the part. But, Gene, Paul and Ace, for the most part, wanted someone who wasn’t known. They wanted to keep up the mystique of identity. Paul Caravello was one of the auditionees and really, wasn’t the best. But, he asked for their autograph, so the story goes, and that endeared the rest of the band to give him a shot.
There was already a Paul in the band, so he chose Eric Carr as his new name and after some tweaking, he became the character The Fox, replacing Peter’s green motif with an autumnal orange/yellow/brown motif. Eric brought a harder-edged drumming style and while he technically debuted at one show in the US, made his true debut on the World Tour, specifically Australia. The fans took to him immediately. At least, most of them did. I did. I didn’t care one way or another about Peter at that time.
So, it was time for KISS to go back to the studio. The result was Music from ‘The Elder.’ I am pretty sure that’s not what Eric thought he was signing up for. There were some rockin’ parts, yes, but for the most part, this was not a “rockin'” album. He even played a little acoustic guitar on “Under the Rose” which he got a writing credit for. They didn’t really tour for that because it was such a “disaster” (I don’t agree).
They came back with a vengeance on the next album, Creatures of the Night and then took off their makeup for Lick It Up. Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights, Smashes Thrashes and Hits (in which he recut the lead vox for “Beth” and, in my opinion, did a better job of) and Hot in the Shade followed. I got to see him on the HITS tour and he did a wild drum solo. I loved it. That was my first concert and I was amazed by his drumming.
About six months after I saw that show, Eric got sick. Eventually, he was diagnosed with heart cancer in April 1991. He begged Paul and Gene to let him do stuff with them but they made sure that he got the treatment he needed. He wasn’t doing well. He did get Paul and Gene to let him shoot the video for “God Gave Rock and Roll To You.” He wore a wig as his hair had fallen out from the chemo.
In September 1991, KISS was on the MTV Video Music Awards. Eric played with them for that. It was his last performance with the band. He had an aneurysm not long after that. Several days later he suffered a brain hemorrhage and never woke up. He then passed away on November 24.
I still miss Eric. I love his era with the band the best, even though it’s not my favorite music, at least all the time. He brought something to the band they had been missing. He fought and scratched with Gene and (especially) Paul. He had a great relationship with Ace, although he only played on one album with him. I have always wondered, which I’m sure most KISS fans have, what would the band have done had he lived? Would they have gone back to makeup? Would they have kept him instead of Peter with the reunion? How would the music evolve over time? Many things pop through my head on that subject.
And, I still think about that day in November 1991 when I heard the news; the emptiness I felt and the sadness, as well. Not only sadness that he was gone and that Freddie was gone, but that they died on the same day. Freddie got the glory and he deserved it, but Eric should have gotten more than he did. I don’t blame anyone for that, just “well darns.” Play on Little Caesar and know that we still miss you down here!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Ten million stories in the city. Ten million backs against the wall. Desperation’s out tonight, you can cut it with a knife. Everybody wants to have it all. Well, they tell you that the world is rough. But, they never rocked it hard enough. Hey, little Caesar! Nobody messing with you. Hey, little Caesar! Go show ’em what you can do!” – “Little Caesar” (Simmons/Carr/Mitchell)