Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holy Grails and Forbidden Fruits

I fully admit that I’m completely obsessive when it comes to music collecting.  I always want to find and listen to (and if possible, get a copy of in MP3 format) the weirdest, most obscure music imaginable.  And at any given time I usually have some number of “holy grails” I’m searching for, songs or artists whom I’m trying to find.  Obviously the internet in general and the digital music revolution in particular are what have made nearly all of this musical obsessiveness possible; without the ability to search nearly every topic or band or song or genre and be likely to find it, my holy grail searches wouldn’t get very far. 

At present I have two big holy grails.  The first is to hear anything by a legendary band called the Spastics.  I first heard of this band while reading the book Hardcore California, which was written in the mid-80’s and which documents the early days of the LA and SF punk scenes.  In the section written by Craig Lee (himself a pioneer of the LA punk scene who played with the Bags among many others) about the earliest days of LA punk, he mentions that the Dickies’ first concert at the Masque followed a punk band that was supposedly so awful that a bunch of punks turned a fire extinguisher on them, a contention that was confirmed by Dickies lead singer Leonard Philips in the Darby Crash biography Lexicon Devil; Leonard claims it was Darby himself or one of his Uni High pals who did this.  This has always fascinated me; given how sloppy and amateurish most punk was back then, how bad did you have to be to have a fire extinguisher pointed at you?

For literally the better part of three decades, this is as much as I knew.  But as always the internet provided some more information.  Turns out one member of the Spastics was singer David Baerwald, an absolutely fascinating figure in rock music.  David was born in Ohio to a German-born father who was an academic political scientist and a Midwest-born mother who eventually became a psychologist.  When David was young his father moved his family to Japan for a period before moving back to accept a faculty position at UCLA in 1972.  David grew up in the very affluent Westside suburb of Brentwood and spent his teenage years, in his own words, living the ‘Less Than Zero’ lifestyle of drugs, clubs, and excess. 

David formed the Spastics in ’76 or ’77 from friends of his who also lived in Brentwood.  David has claimed in interviews that the Spastics were less of a band and more of a gang or youthful clique.  They played around LA a bit (including the now-legendary Masque show opening for the then-unknown Dickies).  After the Spastics broke up he played around LA with a club band called Sensible Shoes

In 1986 David hit the big time as part of the duo David + David with David Ricketts, another musician on the LA scene.  David + David’s only album was Boomtown, a slickly produced but lyrically very dark look at the underside of the Reagan boom years.  The song “Welcome to the Boomtown” was a top 40 hit that year and the album also went platinum.  Musically the album reminds me of an amalgamation of Tonio K., Scarecrow era John Mellencamp, and Bruce Springsteen.  It’s a little too slickly produced for my tastes but there’s no denying  the passion and honesty of the lyrics.

After David + David broke up, Baerwald worked as a session musician and songwriter for a large number of artists, including Joni Mitchell, Waylon Jennings, and many others.  In the early 90’s Baerwald began playing regularly on Tuesday nights with a large and revolving group of musicians, including a then-largely unknown female artist by the name of Sheryl Crow.  Baerwald eventually played guitar and co-wrote 7 of the songs on Crow’s solo debut, which she appropriately titled Tuesday Night Music Club, including the smash hits “All I Wanna Do”, “Leaving Las Vegas”, and “Strong Enough”.   David has continued to be a strongly-in-demand songwriter and has worked with a vast array of artists over the years.

But my main interest in him is in hearing about his work with the Spastics.  Amazingly, considering their reputation as the worst punk band of all time, the Spastics actually DID record some songs.  A few years back, Wondercap Records released a compilation album of early LA punk songs called What Is It.  In addition to the usual Dangerhouse-era offerings by the Germs, the Dils, etc., it also featured  previously unreleased recordings by the Spastics, “I’m a Spaz/Fuck the World” and “Baby, You String Me Up/You Head Exploding”.  At present nobody seems to have digitized these and placed them online, though it is possible to order this album via the Wondercap web site. I may need to just bite the bullet and order it just for the sake of completeness. 

However, the reviews I’ve read reveal little indication as to why this band was so hated.  Supposedly their sound is pretty typical of the time; I’m picturing something along the generic lines of the Viletones.  However, What? Records founder Chris Ashford did say in his commentary on this album is that one reason they may have been so detested was that they came off as rich snobs slumming it, an impression seconded by Baerwald himself, who described them in an interview on another web site as “twerpy nerds and rich kids”.  At a time when the “Hollywood 100” ruled the punk scene with an iron fist, chasing away suburbanites and other poseurs, any band that came off as being from LA’s wealthy Westside was likely to not go over too well. 

A second current “holy grail” of mine is another 70’s LA band called Eulogy.  They hail from the opposite musical shore from the Spastics, however; Eulogy was a hard rock outfit playing the LA bar band circuit through the mid to late 70’s.  Formed by Rusty Anderson (lead guitar), Mike Jones (rhythm guitar), Myles Crawley (lead vocals), Dirk Van Tatenhove (bass) and the late Ross Holly on drums in Whittier, CA in 1973, Eulogy gained momentum when they promptly won a local battle of the bands contest and started playing around LA in the same club circuit that saw bands like Van Halen, W.A.S.P., Quiet Riot, as well as lesser known LA hard rock acts like Snow, Smile, Calico Jack, Sleeper, Naughty Women, and A La Carte

I first found out about this band again while reading the chronicle of early LA punk Hardcore California; this book has a picture of the cover of the very first issue of the seminal punk fanzine Flipside from August 1977, which, in addition to advertising stories on the Germs, the Clash and “punk roq”, touts a story on Eulogy.  According to the official Flipside Memorial site (, it sounds like Flipside did this interview mostly because they could (i.e., Eulogy was eager to get their name out there on the scene) and not because of any strong connection Eulogy was thought to have with the emerging LA punk scene. 

 I find it extremely amusing that such a traditional hard rock band was featured in the first issue ever of such a seminal punk magazine.  However, in another way it isn’t such a stretch.  During the mid 70’s live music was dying in LA, a victim of the combined forces of disco and apathy.  People no longer cared enough to try to go out and see live music, it was easier to just stay home and smoke a joint or drink some Boone’s Farm wine or get zonked on ‘ludes and listen to Frampton Comes Alive.  Besides, if you WERE going to go see live music, you’d go see Emerson, Laker & Palmer at the Forum, not some unknown band you might not even like at a pungent club like the Starwood.  Groups like Eulogy were at least still trying to maintain a viable live music scene in LA, which actually does make them punk pioneers in a sense. 

I haven’t been able to find any MP3s by Eulogy online.  However, several ex-members have set up good tribute sites with pictures and information about the band in its heyday; now they even have a Facebook page too.  The best of these pages is by former bassist Dirk Van Tatenhove, who goes by Dirk Van now:  .  This site has snippets of about a dozen or so Eulogy songs.  Their sound seems to range widely across the 70’s hard rock spectrum, everything from Nugent to Aerosmith to Zep to Styx.  I only wish there were full MP3s of this interesting, long-lost band. 

After the breakup of Eulogy, Dirk Van and guitarist Rusty Anderson formed another band, Soldier.  Dirk Van has a few Soldier MP3s on his Soldier web page; this band seems to float ethereally in the nether world between hard rock and synth-driven new wave, which may perhaps explain why they eventually opened for such varied acts as the Vapors and Ambrosia

One other holy grail of mine is one I have little hope of ever obtaining, and that’s a group called Mod Squad.  I saw them play live once, at the legendary all-ages dance club 321 in Santa Monica, sometime in 1984.  They played a catchy mod/punk style of music and as I recall they had a female singer who was pretty cute.  I never heard anything else about this band and have never been able to find anything about them online. 

Along with Holy Grails, another thing I’m always fascinated by are what I call “forbidden fruits”.  These are albums that, for one reason or another, ended up being shunned or denigrated by the music critics and/or fans.  What’s interesting to me is to examine these albums objectively with the passage of time to see if they are actually as bad as claimed. 

One obvious “forbidden fruit” is Tusk, Fleetwood Mac’s follow up to the international smash Rumours.  While obviously not the end of Mac’s career or popularity, at the time most critics and especially fans felt it was a tremendous letdown from Rumours, and it was almost immediately beset by rumors (ha ha) that it was a bloated, coke-fueled vanity project for Lindsay Buckingham.  It peaked at #4 in the U.S. charts and its two singles, “Sara” and the title track reached  numbers 7 and 8, respectively on the U.S. singles charts, but this was a pretty far comedown from the massive, worldwide success of Rumours; indeed it sold literally a tenth of the 40 million records Rumours did. 

With the tincture of time critics have gone back and re-evaluated this album and it is now considered one of the great studio achievements of the 70’s.  Far from being an indulgent mess, Tusk is now recognized as an ambitious if sprawling and somewhat unfocused masterpiece, which the success of Rumours allowed Buckingham to create.  Fleetwood Mac were falling apart, both romantically and as a band, during the recording of this album, and this does show in the separation between the principals involved and the overall lack of musical or lyrical cohesion of this album.  But Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Buckingham himself all had some of their best musical moments on this album, which is saying a lot considering their incredible talent and achievement till this point.  “Think About Me”, “Honey Hi”, and “Never Forget” are hands down Christine McVie’s greatest achievements as a Mac lead singer, three incandescent songs that highlight her immense vocal talent; “Never Forget” in particular is one of my favorite songs of all time, and probably comes closest to capturing the lightning in a bottle magic of Rumours.  Nicks probably gets the shortest shrift here, with only her hit single “Sara” “Sisters of the Moon” (which has an ominous tone that evokes the sultry “Rhiannon” off Rumours), “Angel”, “Beautiful Child”, and the light, haunting “Storms” really highlighting her vocals or writing. 

Its Buckingham’s contribution that gives Tusk its manic, frantic edge.  By 1979 Buckingham, like many other 70’s musical artists, was familiar with the punk and new wave explosion happening across the globe and was trying to integrate something of its energy and drive into his own music.  It is for this that Tusk was most castigated by the critics, the same critics who chastised Linda Ronstadt and Billy Joel and other 70’s artists for trying to bring some of the freshness of punk and new wave into their own sound.  Frankly I’ve never understood this, and in fact I have always admired artists willing to explore new sub-genres.  The people I personally have less respect for are the reactionaries who seek to denigrate new movements because they’re too old and stuck in their ways to understand and appreciate them. 

On Tusk Buckingham incorporated the quirky time signatures, frantic tempos, and pulsing synths that were so prevalent in new wave music to incredibly great effect.  In fact, it’s amazing to me how well he succeeded given how isolated Fleetwood Mac’s success had made them from anything approaching the real world and the music happening therein.  “I Know I’m Not Wrong”, with its smooth harmonies, lilting rhythm and concertina-like accompaniment is the best synthesis of the smooth pop of classic Mac with the interesting sonic palette of new wave.  But to me the absolute standout track on this entire album is the pulsing, frantic, angry stomp of “Not That Funny”; here is the weird, bitter, paranoid post-breakup Buckingham utilizing his unique vocals to their greatest extent to rave disconnectedly about making him wait and blaming him and whatnot.  It makes an almost perfect counterpoint to the desperate, pleading Buckingham of “Go Your Own Way” off Rumours, frantic to avoid the breakup he knows is coming; here he’s bitter but still hasn’t lost his sense of humor.  This is hands down my favorite Mac song ever, and indeed one of my favorite NEW WAVE songs ever.  Buckingham just absolutely nailed the edgy vibe of the best new wave, much the same way Billy Joel did on songs like “You May Be Right”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”, and “Sometimes A Fantasy” from around this same time.  On still other songs he’s almost frantic; the rapid fire rhythm of “That’s Enough For Me” and “The Ledge” remind me of the coke-fueled comedic onslaughts of Steve Martin and Robin Williams from this era—fast, furious, hysterical. 

There’s another reason why “Not That Funny” is noteworthy:  legend has it that the way in which Mac ended up doing a song with the (ugh) USC marching band was that they were recording in a studio next door and kept hearing the horns of the marching band bleeding through into their own recordings.  Not sure if this is true or not but toward the end of “Not That Funny” it sure sounds like you can hear some horn flourishes in the background, so perhaps this rumor is true and this is the proof.

Another “forbidden fruit” from the late 70’s for me were the Kiss solo albums.  Kiss itself was an amazing phenomenon.  They started in the same early 70’s New York glam rock scene as the New York Dolls and toured relentlessly throughout the early-70’s.  But it was only with the release of the live album Alive in 1975, followed quickly by the studio album Destroyer in 1976, that they started to achieve their massive fame.  By fall of 1978 Kiss had released three more albums (Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, and Double Platinum), all of which went platinum, and between their album sales, sold-out arena and stadium concerts, media blitz (Marvel comic books and movie deals), and massive merchandising (dolls, posters, almost anything else), Kiss had become the biggest band in the world. 

Which is when the backlash started.  Their movie, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, was a hokey disaster, portraying the band as buffoons of the highest order.  I can still remember watching this on network TV in the 70’s and even as an 11 year old literally laughing at how corny it was.  Most of their albums subsequent to Destroyer were much weaker, containing only one or two memorable tracks at most. 

It was at this time that Kiss and their management team and record company made what has often been referred to as the biggest mistake of all:  it was decided that each band member would release a solo album on the same day.  The idea was to capitalize maximally on the worldwide popularity of Kiss while also allowing each member to showcase his own talents and/or collaborate with other artists.  A great idea in theory but of course it ended up being a total disaster in practice for two reasons:  first, as mentioned, the public was started to reach media over-saturation with respect to Kiss, and second, the albums were considered to be pretty bad.

But were they?  Because of the Kiss backlash many, myself included, never really gave them a chance.  I actually have had a unique relationship with Kiss.  In the 70’s I thought they were the lamest, corniest, hokiest band in the world, which was completely ironic considering that Kiss used many of my favorite things, including Japanese monster movies and Marvel comic books, as inspirations for their look and stage show.  But somehow their image left me completely cold.  As a result I never really tried that hard to listen to their music.  I remember an older tomboy cousin of mine playing me some songs off Destroyer, including “Detroit Rock City”, but I never really remember hearing their music or liking it much in the day.  It was only much later, in the late 80’s, that I started getting into pre-punk glam rock like Queen, Bowie, Slade, etc., that I started to give Kiss a try.  And of course I fell in love with the classics:  “Shout It Out Loud”, “Cold Gin”, “Strutter”, etc. 

Recently I went back and purchased a whole slew of classic Kiss from iTunes, including “Do You Love Me?”, “Firehouse”, “Deuce”, “Love Gun”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Plaster Caster” (I love how the Donnas ripped off the bass line intro for their song “Are You Gonna Move It For Me”), “Shock Me”, and four songs from their Dynasty album:  “2000 Man”, “X Ray Eyes”,  “Sure Know Something”, and the worst abomination of all, their disco song “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (I have a soft spot for cheesy disco, having lived right in the midst of that era; some of my other cheesy disco MP3s are Carl Douglas’ one-hit wonder “Kung Fu Fighting” and Leif Garrett’s “I Was Made For Dancin’”).

So how do the Kiss solo albums stack up against the legions of classic songs Kiss had recorded by then?  Actually, not as bad as everyone made it sound back in the day; this is another great example of how the passage of time has removed some of the taint associated with a product at the time.  Let’s start with Paul Stanley’s album, which hewed the closest to the Kiss formula of catchy pop rock.  The leadoff song, “Tonight You Belong To Me”, doesn’t start well; its cheesy twinkling acoustic guitars seem to presage the entire pop metal balladry of the late 80’s best evinced by bands like Tesla and the ironically named Extreme.  But it then builds to a strong, memorable guitar riff that is reminiscent of “Sure Know Something”.  This song is still a bit too slow for me but it’s certainly not out of line of the typical Kiss song. 

It’s the center of the album really starts to hit some great classic Kiss style musical moments.  “Move On” is more up-tempo and is way catchier; this song would have likely been a decent hit had Kiss gone the traditional route and released a single album rather than 4 solo albums.  I would definitely stack this into the middle-tier of Kiss songs such as “Christine Sixteen” and “Do You Love Me?”  “Ain’t Quite Right” drops the tempo again, and is utterly forgettable 70’s pre-metal balladry, but Stanley hits another high spot with “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me”, a phenomenal blast of hard rocking powerpop.  This is the standout track, with a big, catchy, hook-laden chorus that equals or betters anything Kiss had done.  This remains an under-appreciated piece of work of the Kiss canon and should be better known.

The other great song here is another up-tempo number, “Its Alright”.  Not quite as catchy as “Know Me”, its still a great little rocker, nothing fancy or complicated, just a crunchy guitar sound and Stanley’s catchy refrain.   Where Stanley erred was in putting so many bland, turgid ballads on this album, including the only single, “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)”, which only got as high as #64 on the Billboard charts (and must have required a lot of coke bribes by Casablanca Records to reach even this high).  It’s simply AWFUL, at least as bad as I’d ever envisioned and may be one reason why critics and fans alike were so ready to write this whole escapade off.  The mid-tempo metallic rockers “Love In Chains” and “Tonight” partially salvage the end of the album, but aren’t anything to write home about.

Ace Frehley’s effort was far harder rocking than most of his work in Kiss; “Rip It Out” has a hard edge, and Frehley’s vocals aren’t nearly as smooth as Stanley’s (this was clearly the reason all other three members of Kiss sang but Frehley rarely did, with the exception of “2000 Man” of Dynasty).  Frehley’s album benefitted from the presence of now-legendary drummer Anton Fig (who later became the drummer for David Letterman’s Late Night Band); Fig’s propulsive drumming highlights “Rip It out” and several other tracks. The next track, “Speeding Back To My Baby” starts with a skirl of guitars but then settles into a blues stomp.  Again the vocals aren’t quite up to the material but they aren’t terrible either—Ace sounds like a slightly less capable Alice Cooper here.  The sing-song chorus has elements of “Cold Gin” and “Firehouse” to it.  “Snowblind” and “Ozone” are a little too turgid, falling between the sludge of Deep Purple and that of other 70’s proto-metallers such as Argent or Kansas.  “What’s On Your Mind” has a more melodic, powerpop feel; if Robin Zander had sung this it might have been a big hit off Dream Police.

The big hit off this album, and indeed the biggest hit off ANY of the Kiss solo albums, is Frehley’s cover of “New York Groove”, originally a hit in 1975 for the group Hello.  This deviates from the hard rocking formula of Frehley’s other songs here and is more of a weird, fun funk/disco stomp.  It’s unlikely Kiss would have ever have allowed him to record this for a group album so in this regard Frehley was lucky to get a stab at doing this, and it paid off:  the single reached #13 on the Billboard charts and has since become the theme song for the New York Giants football team (its played whenever they score a touchdown). 

Gene Simmons’ solo album is perhaps the biggest surprise, ranging from lusty metal come-ons to balladry to the sheer weirdness of Gene singing Jiminy Cricket’s song “When You Wish Upon A Star” from the animated film “Pinocchio”!!!  Simmons also brought in the largest and farthest ranging group of collaborators here, everyone from Helen Reddy to Cher to Donna Summer as backup singers; Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of the Doobie Brothers, Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick, Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Bob Seger all contribute musically.  Unfortunately, the results are a little TOO mixed, too schizo to mesh well.  “Living In Sin”, for example, simply sounds like a listless reworking of “Plaster Caster”.  “True Confessions” has so many backing vocals that it sounds more like a gospel song!   “Tunnel of Love” is a rehash of all the usual single entendre sexual tropes Simmons had loaded too many of his Kiss songs with.  Only on “Burning Up With Fever” and “Radioactive” does Simmons give us something approaching the quality of his Hammer of the Gods contributions to the Kiss canon, with the latter slotting in nicely beside such Kiss Klassics as “Do You Love Me” and “God of Thunder” once it overcomes its indulgent neo-classical/show tune intro.

The one Kiss solo album I find the weakest is that of drummer Peter Criss.  A mushy combination of bluesy soft rock and acoustic ballads designed to capitalize on Criss’ success with the Kiss ballads “Beth” and “Hard Luck Woman”, nothing on this album ever really coheres.  “I’m Gonna Love You” comes closest to capturing even a little of the magic of Kiss but it’s nowhere near the level of most of their hits.  “You Matter To Me” is utterly generic 70’s soft rock, except of course the appallingly cheesy 70’s keyboards; this sounds like something the Partridge Family might have recorded had David Cassidy not gone solo.  “Tossin’ and Turnin’” is an old R&B cover that Criss gives nothing memorable beyond the original.  “Don’t You Let Me Down” is so laid back its horizontal, evoking the soft rock cheese of America.  “That’s The Kind of Sugar Papa Likes” and “Hooked on Rock and Roll” are fifth rate heartland bar band rock that never comes close to being as good as Bob Seger; “Easy Thing”, “Kiss the Girl Goodbye” and “I Can’t Stop The Rain” all reach (and fail) for the lightning in a bottle of “Beth”, with “Kiss” being the best of a bad lot.

So what’s the final verdict?  If forced to give grades, here’s what I come up with:

Paul Stanley—B+
Ace Frehley—B
Gene Simmons--C-
Peter Criss—D-

So not exactly a complete disaster, though far from a triumph.  Still, there are some good moments here.  I’m envisioning a Kiss album made with the following tracks culled from each solo album:

“Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me (Stanley)
“Move On” (Stanley)
“Its Alright” (Stanley)
“Radioactive” (Simmons)
“Burning Up With Fever” (Simmons)
“See You In Your Dreams” (Simmons)
“What’s On Your Mind?” (Frehley)
“Rip It Out” (Frehley)
“Kiss the Girl Goodbye” (Criss)

This would definitely NOT be the worst album Kiss ever recorded.  In 1979 Kiss rebounded from the media debacle of the solo albums with their platinum album Dynasty, though this was based primarily on the admittedly dubious achievement of the popularity of their disco song, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, long a sore spot with their fans.  1980 brought the album “Unmasked”, which showed further cracks in the Kiss brand.  While not actually that bad—“Tomorrow” and “Is That You?” capture the catchy Kiss of old—it veers schizophrenically between the slickly produced hard rock/powerpop of Cheap Trick that Kiss tried (and mostly failed) to incorporate on previous albums) and the metal lite direction they eventually would take.  Fans were unenthusiastic about this less rocking fare and stayed away in droves; it became the first Kiss album since Destroyer not to go (multi) platinum.

Which leads us to a forbidden fruit so legendarily awful that for a long time even *I* wouldn’t bite into it:  “Music from ‘The Elder’”.  After the lack of success of “Unmasked” (the band didn’t even tour to support it), Kiss felt they needed to get back on track and back to their hard rock roots.  They hooked back up with Bob Ezrin, the legendary Alice Cooper producer who had produced their breakthrough smash Destroyer.  Unfortunately, however, Ezrin was coming off another commercial and critical triumph, Pink Floyd’s ambitious concept album The Wall, and somewhere along the line, the album morphed into a concept album with strings and choirs telling a semi-mythical, semi-autobiographical (about Simmons) tale of a boy who joins a mysterious order of heroes to fight evil.  Instead of a hearkening back to their hard rock roots, the resulting product was the absolute epitome of over-indulgent, overwrought concept rock at its very worst.  The best things on it are “Dark Light”, sung by Ace Frehley, “The Oath”, and “I”, which seem to retain the ghost of the return to hard rock form that was supposedly the inspiration here in the first place, but even here the incredibly cheesy lyrics kill any real joy of the sound.  The worst songs sound like either covers by a medieval Kiss tribute band (“Just a Boy”, “Under the Rose”) or sad and inferior echoes of The Wall (“Only You”, “Odyssey”).  “Only You” in particular sounds like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as interpreted by Mr. Roboto era Styx, a song that is almost cringingly bad.  They literally couldn’t have recorded a song LESS like classic Kiss if they’d tried.  “Just a Boy” at least has a majestic air about it but Stanley’s shrill falsetto on the chorus gives this song an element of cheese that’s hard to overcome.  Still, in its very cheesiness it reaches a kind of magnificence: the introspective acoustic guitars that sound like out-takes from the Wall left on the cutting room floor; the lilting, almost medieval vocals by Stanley to start it out; the uber-pretentious triangle tings between guitar riffs in the intro; the overwrought chorus and its bombastic guitar accompaniment;  Stanley's silly falsetto.  All add up to make this a moment of almost transcendental cheesiness to the point where its actually currently one of my favorite Kiss songs!! 

Kiss would of course rebound, not just once but twice.  First they removed the makeup and went in a hair/pop metal direction, cashing in on the success of this music trend in the 80’s; later they returned to the makeup and appeal of “classic” Kiss in the mid-90’s.  But I remain fascinated by their late 70’s early 80’s nadir.  It’s compelling to imagine the hubris that went into releasing 4 solo albums on the same day; it’s fascinating to think of their decision to record a disco song, further alienating their fans; it’s incredible to imagine the cluelessness that led to “Elder”.  How could they have thought a turgid, overwrought concept album would somehow bring back their long-departed fans?  Why imitate The Wall two years and an entire generational sea change in music later?

In all likelihood it probably doesn’t matter what Kiss would have done, they would have fallen from grace anyway.  The shift in music toward punk and new wave augured the end or at least a hiatus in the career of many 60’s and 70’s acts that couldn’t make the adjustment.  But even more than that, I’ve always believed in the old adage “what goes up must come down”; music, like everything else, is cyclical, and Kiss’ moment of riding high had to eventually end.  Nobody stays popular forever, and this is particularly true of bands like Kiss that came out of one scene, got so big, moved into other scenes, and invited an inevitable backlash.  They HAD to fall, it was inevitable.  Still, it’s always interesting to look back on how it happened.