Ace Frehley, Bill Aucoin, Casablanca Records, Chelsea, Eddie Kramer, Gene Simmons, Heavens Sake, Jimi Hendrix, KISS, Michael Doret, Music, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Rod Stewart, Sean Delaney, Stan Penridge
I failed you, Dear Reader. I had been keeping up with my KISS album release dates and missed two big ones this month, but in my defense, I have been a bit busy. Holidays, birthdays, work, and other things have kept me tied up. But, let’s just jump in. This may be long and I apologize for that. Or, I may split it into a couple of posts, I won’t know until I get to the end of this one. So, let’s hit it.
On November 11 — a couple of weeks back, it was the 42nd anniversary of Rock And Roll Over. This was a big album for the band. It was the first record after their best-selling album, Destroyer. They had a point to prove after their foray into the Top 10 that they could still put out quality albums, especially now that they were in the spotlight they all craved.
Destroyer had knocked it out of the park, albeit weirdly with orchestras and choirs and such. But, KISS went back to their bread and butter on this album, rock and roll. Heck, it’s in the name of the album itself. KISS, manager Bill Aucoin and Casablanca Records brought in Eddie Kramer, best known at the time for his work with Jimi Hendrix, to produce the album. They also chose to record it at the Star Theatre just outside of New York City.
In the recording, they were in a big cavernous space, which was good for the live-like vibe. But, they also put Peter in a bathroom to get the proper tone on his drums. I’ve always said that the bathroom can be a great place for reverb because of the porcelain fixtures and tile and such. But, I bet it can be a headache at times, too. Kramer knew what he was doing, though.
The album starts off with a little acoustically-blended subtleness that eventually turns into a full-on rock fest, with “I Want You.” That song, written by Paul has some great riffs and I say it’s one of my favorite original studio album songs. “Take Me” is a Klassic rock and roll riffed song and while it didn’t make it to the Alive II release, it did get a bit of play on the tour. There is a “live” version of it on the You Wanted the Best You Got the Best live compilation in 1996 (when the reunion was going on). It wasn’t really live but okay. The song was co-written by Paul and Sean Delaney, whom I’ve talked about in other blog posts.
Next came the first time I ever heard a cowbell in a song. The intro to “Calling Dr. Love” has this cowbell and as a kid, I had no idea what it was but I know that I liked it! I have always thought that the intro to this song has a bad edit. It’s right when the drums kick in after the wonderful cowbell spot. There’s some weird skip or something that happens. I don’t know if anyone will agree with me or not, but I hear it. It’s there. When Gene isn’t called the God of Thunder he’s been referred to as Dr. Love. I think it’s funny that he wrote the lyrics at a Holiday Inn on one of the complimentary notepads.
The cowbell extravaganza continues into “Ladies Room,” a tune about a rendezvous or some secret tryst in the women’s room with one of the lovely ladies that Gene happened to encounter. Most of his songs were about doing that. Well, not in the restroom but hey, it was 70s “cock rock” and that is what he was known for. It is what it is, folks. I can’t say that I, too didn’t write my share in Heavens Sake.
Peter’s contribution, writing-wise, is “Baby Driver” which I think is probably my favorite Peter-penned song in KISS. Perhaps “Hooligan” from Love Gun, but I think this is it. It definitely isn’t “Beth” or “Dirty Livin’.” He co-wrote the song, as he usually did, with Stan Penridge, a bandmate of Peter’s in Chelsea. I figure Penridge probably wrote the music and Pete the lyrics.
“Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” is a song that I really didn’t like as a kid but now, I really love it. It’s the same situation as all of Gene’s songs from this album. He’s the object someone’s infatuation and, of course, the ladies (probably young girls) can’t resist him and want to do cruel and unusual things with him. “She had an opening and I had a stiff proposition…” kind of things, as he would say. Some of the most prolific lyrics in Gene’s career, too (tongue firmly planted in cheek). Don’t believe me? Check the quote at the end! The promotional video for the song is just a “concert” setting but it’s still funny. I think it’s funny that even into the 80s when Gene was filming videos he always plays with his fingers but he’s actually a pick bassist.
“Mr. Speed” is Paul/Delaney’s rock and roller boogie. I say that because it has a little boogie-woogie swag to it. I don’t know, though, that I’d want the ladies to call me “Mr. Speed.” I’m just sayin’. This album has a number of titles, Drs., Messrs. Hmm.
“See You In Your Dreams” is a Gene tune and one that he didn’t care for. At least, not this version. He redid this on his solo album just two years later. I prefer this one, actually. I just like the straight-ahead rockingness of this one. It seems heavier. His solo album didn’t seem as fluid, to me. I also like Paul singing the call/response parts. Incidentally, all the Gene songs on this album were written solely by him.
Next is the Rod Stewart tune, “Hard Luck Woman.” Not really. It was written for him by Paul, but Mr. Hot Legs turned it down, I suppose. They say that it was on the success of “Beth” they decided to keep it for themselves, but I don’t know that I believe that. Anyway, Peter sang it and sounded just like Stewart doing it. I have always liked the song even if I didn’t know what the heck it was about when I was a kid. I couldn’t figure out what a “child of the border” was. It was, of course, “child of the water” but hey, I was young. Heavens Sake covered it a few times.
“Makin’ Love” closes out the album and is co-penned by Paul and Delaney again. It’s a rocker for sure. Paul is ready to pounce on this girl, he’s moving in and won’t take “no” for an answer. Maybe this is why they call him Mr. Speed? Anywhat! There is this weird heavy drum at the end that gets off beat a few times and I don’t think that was on purpose, I just think they left it in there. It has always bothered me, but I have also always liked it.
This is the first KISS studio album (out of 5) not to feature a writing credit from Ace. There were five songs from RNRO that made it on the Alive II release. Those are “Ladies Room,” Makin’ Love,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Hard Luck Woman” and “I Want You.” Not a bad representation. And, I believe a few of the others made it in the set, sporadically, when the album was first released.
RNRO is a KISS Klassic, for sure. It does fall in my Top 10, but I’m not sure where, right now. I am going to create my list, soon. It has a Klassic or iKonic kover, too. I went krazy with the “K,” I know. But, the cover has been used in many a tattoo, t-shirts, pins, patches, etc. The same person who did this cover, Michael Doret, also did the cover for Sonic Boom. This was a better cover and a much better album.
November 10 was the 37th anniversary of what I call “my favorite” KISS album, Music from ‘The Elder.’ Instead of rewriting the thing, I’m going to leave a link to last year’s post about it. You can read that, HERE.
There are three more November KISS releases to mention, but I’ll save them for another post. It will be much less verbose. I won’t promise that because I am verbose, but I can try, right? Right.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“My limousine is a-waitin’ and I see you comin’ my way, hey, hey, hey. I’m sittin’ by the window and you ask me which hotel I stay in. Well, make a reservation between the hours of ten and two, how do you do? You’ve got the time to remember, I’ve gotta stiff proposition, yeah! There’s nothing else I’d rather do. So, you lift your dress. You wanna impress. There’s one thing I’ve got to confess. Love ’em, leave ’em, love ’em, leave ’em.” – “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” (Simmons)