When I Became A Metal Head (Part One): Dressed To Kill
Sometime during he mid 1970’s, I stumbled upon a bunch of old record albums that had been accumulating under my grandparents large stereo system. My family and I had lived with my grandparents at the time, and their house and property was used by aunts, uncles and cousins as a repository for such things as old records, books, hand me down clothing and the occasional automobile that did not run anymore. Every once in a while, especially when there was nothing else to do on a rainy day, it was always cool to take stock of the things relatives had dumped off with no intention of ever taking back.
It was during one of these rainy days, while picking my way through the Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Carpenters albums, that I discovered it. The picture on the album was both creepy and cool. There they were, four dudes standing on some street corner against a pole; perhaps waiting for a bus (or an ambulance to take them all to the loony bin). They were all dressed in suits and ties; wearing the highest of high water pants the seventies had to offer. Big white shoes and the coolest make-up I had ever seen in the seven years that I had been alive.
The album was KISS’ Dressed To Kill, and unless my grandmother was a closeted guitar shredder and told none of us kids, I still to this day have no idea how the album wound up with all of those other relics. But I was so glad I did. Thanks Nan!
I quickly fired up the turntable and placed needle on vinyl (for those of you born after 1995 or so, that means I played the record). At the time, I remember not being all that much interested in most of what I heard. Sure, songs like “Two Timer”, “Rock Bottom” and “She” were kind of catchy, but nothing that really did anything for me on a first listen.
Then it happened.
The final song on the album was played and a spark went off. The cool little drum intro, the crunch guitars, the catchy lyrics! When I heard “Rock and Roll All Nite” for the very first time, I had an epiphany. Something snapped inside of me and I knew I would be changed forever. Yes Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace, I did wanna rock and roll all night AND party EH-VER-EEE Day!
Over the next several years, I couldn’t get enough of KISS. The “Alive”, “Alive II” and “Destroyer” albums were soon added to my collection (yes, I took ownership of “Dressed To Kill”). Each a masterpiece of music and mystery. I signed up as a member in good standing of the KISS Army and whenever the band appeared on TV, I just had to watch. I even remember there were times I was bummed out when I saw that a “Jean Simmons” movie was coming on and only found out (after watching most of it) that they really didn’t spell Gene’s name wrong. Whether it was the music, watching Ace Frehley’s guitar catch fire or Gene Simmons’ spitting up blood (always a fan favorite), I was obsessed with these “unknown” guys.
In retrospect, I suppose it was the combination of everything that made KISS appeal to me so much. But little did I know at the time, the band (and particularly the song, “Rock and Roll All Nite”) planted the seed that made me want to become a rock star.