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Sealed With a KISS

DressedToKillAs an early member of the KISS Army, all I can say is that I did my duty. So don’t blame me.

Ever since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors in the mid 80’s, I joined my fellow brethren in bitching and moaning for KISS to be inducted. And over the years, I’ve painfully watched as other artists and bands (many deserving, most not) walk through the Hall’s hallowed doors while Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were unjustly ignored.

Regardless of whether or not you like their music, there can be no denying that KISS deserves a place alongside The Beatles, Hendrix, U2 and (gasp!) ABBA.

In the 1970’s KISS was literally the biggest thing on the planet.

Consider this:

1. You NEVER, EVER saw them without make-up. It was big part of their schtick and one that they took very seriously.

2. They were SO huge that each member created their own solo album and released them all simultaneously.

3. Dolls were made in their likeness.

4. They were in movies, on television and in comic books.

5. Kids (like me) dressed up like them for Halloween.

I remember being a naive eight year old reading the TV guide when I noticed that one of the members of KISS was going to be in a movie that was coming on. Can you imagine my horror when I turned on channel 4 to discover that my hero was actually actress Jean Simmons in a black and white movie. I thought they had spelt Gene’s name wrong.

But that was the kind of impact KISS had. We read about them, listened to their music, bugged our parents to buy their merchandise. Most of all, we wanted to be them. When the “Dressed To Kill” album came out, I thought they were cool. When the “Alive” album came out, I wanted to be a rock star.

Late last year, it was revealed that the band would finally receive their long overdue induction into the Hall. Euphoria ran amok in the KISS Army, while tears of joy ran down the faces of the now middle-aged fans who had dreamt about seeing their beloved four original members reunite in make-up for one final soiree.

But alas, then came the shit storm.

For some reason, whether it was monetary, too much trouble or (most likely) that they simply just continue to hate each other’s guts, the band has announced that they will not play in any line-up at their hall induction. Kind of ironic when you consider that it was Simmons and Stanley (the only two original members still with the band) who have bemoaned the Hall for decades for not accepting them.

Over the years, original members of the band have written tell all books and released ho-hum records. Their induction was the one thing fans wanted most and the only thing that would make KISS relevant again. It’s sad to think that these guys can’t put aside their differences for just one night.

After finally getting their long overdue reward, wouldn’t it have been cool for KISS to put on an induction performance the likes of which have never been seen before? Maybe do it and then announce your retirement during your acceptance speech and seal the band’s legacy with the ultimate rock moment? Sadly, we’ll never get a chance to see anything now.

Gene Simmons once declared that KISS is a band that’s unlike any other. In light of what the band has done to the legions of fans who finally got them into the Rock Hall of Fame, I’d say he got that right.

When I Became A Metal Head (Part One): Dressed To Kill

DressedToKillI can remember it like it was yesterday. Well, a yesterday thirty-six years ago.

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.

New York Groove (Part 1)

“Back in the New York Groove” was a song written by Russ Ballard that first appeared on the 1975 album “Keep Us Off The Streets” by the British glam band Hello. As a musician I know this because well, I looked it up.

Who would have thought that three years after it first appeared on vinyl that song would indirectly become part of my life?

It was 1978. The year the members of KISS, the biggest band in the world at the time and with enough glitz, makeup and pyrotechnic prowess to make even the great Liberace and his golden candelabra melt, all simultaneously released their own solo albums as a gimmick. “New York Groove” was a song covered by guitarist Ace Frehley on his solo album of the same name.

As a nine-year old boy, KISS was the world to me and Ace was always my favorite member of the band. Not just because he had the coolest face makeup but also for the way his sunburst Les Paul guitars would literally catch fire during his solos. Ace’s antics were one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar with the dream to “Shout it Out Loud” and “Rock and Roll All Nite”. As far as I was concerned Ace Frehley was synonymous with rock and roll and suffice to say, his solo album quickly wore out on my turn table.

So it’s kind of ironic how thirty-three years later that particular song, New York Groove, was selected to be the theme for NY Ink, the reality-based television series on TLC. For those who may not be aware, NY Ink follows the trials and tribulations of famed tattoo artist Ami James as he attempts to make a go of a tattoo studio in the SOHO district of New York City.

What’s even more surprising is the notion that the melody for “New York Groove” kept running through my head as I looked out the window of the bus that was carrying me to New York City to get my first tattoo from Megan Massacre, tell my own musical “story” and have the segment recorded for the second season of NY Ink.

In my family being of age and still a tattoo virgin is frowned upon. The inside joke being: “You can’t consider yourself a “Wood” if you don’t have at least a little ink”. Most of my relatives have been tattooed at some point or another but I never was. Quite frankly, I would have been perfectly content with being the only black sheep in the family.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon NY Ink that I began to give being tattooed serious consideration. The artwork and stories I had heard really had a profound impact on me. More so than any “cool” factor would in me getting needled. And my own story would sure be one for the books.

From an early age I was a guitarist with a dream to be a rock star. You know, right up there in the same league as KISS, Survivor, and Bon Jovi. Yeah, that was going to be me.

I even remember writing  journal entries about “making it” while in high school. At one point I’d pretend my journal was a Rolling Stone magazine interview. I’d write questions that I’d want the interviewer to ask me and then answer them in full ‘rock and roll’ mode. I’d muse about who I’d be collaborating with, the up coming summer tour I was about to embark upon and what I did when throngs of female fans sought my attention. Little did I know at the time that one day the dream was going to come true but in a most unusual way. I couldn’t wait to tell the story and have it memorialized.

Me and Ami James

As the bus slowly rolled into the Port Authority Station a feeling of excitement and anticipation filled me. I slowly departed and made my way into Manhattan not really sure if I was more excited to tell the story, get my first tattoo from an artist I greatly admire or the fact that my experience was going to be filmed and possibly air on a television show.

In any case all I did know was that Ace would have been pleased. Today was going to be an interesting day.

Next: The Thing About Subways

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