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In New York City of the year 1973, four men who shared the same exact vision of wanting to form "the band they have never seen before," got together and made history. Starting off by rehearsing in a small one room roach infested loft apartment, they randomly started putting makeup on their faces, and slowly created what would become the faces and alter-egos everyone knows.
When someone asks me who are some of the first bands and artists I think of when I'm describing Rock N Roll, besides the obvious greats (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Beatles, Zeppelin), I think of KISS. The first time I saw them so many years ago back in the mid 90s, they were actually in the middle of their reunion tour. All four original members coming back together. And it's what their fans all over the world have been waiting for. I remember it was the summer of 1996 (July 5th to be exact), and both of my older brothers wanted to take me to my very first concert. I was just a little 6 year old kid, who had no idea what was in-store for me. This event was to take place at Reunion Arena(which sadly isn't standing anymore) in Dallas, TX.
I remember, about a week or so before we were to embark on what would end up being a very life changing event for myself, the oldest of my brothers gave me a cassette tape of the band. It was their 1976 album Rock N Roll Over (which as of today, is still one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time). Before I even slid it into my little walkman to take a listen, I was blown away just by the sight of the cover art alone. It was mesmerizing! It fascinated me! Then I played the tape, and it fueled a sense of curiosity, excitement and energy I never even knew existed up until that point.
Finally....the night came. And as soon as the lights went completely out, the entire venue went psychotic! I remember being filled with so much anticipation. Then I heard the famous introduction any KISS fan knows: "YOU WANTED THE BEST. YOU GOT THE BEST. THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD. KISSSSSS!!!" (*BOOM)
When the curtain dropped, bombs exploded, lights filled my eyes, and my ears were being obliterated by one of the greatest rock acts of all time. Four beings standing on stage looking like superheroes.
Ever since that very night, growing up wanting to be a musician was an obsession. After finally receiving my first guitar at age 12, the best way I thought to learn how to play it was to strum along to my favorite albums, and try my best at mimicking exactly what was coming out of the speakers. The very first song I ever learned to play on a guitar, period, was "Rock N Roll Allnight." Probably the most famous KISS song of them all. Even if you have never laid eyes on a single photo of the band, you've at least heard the song.
KISS has influenced me in many ways over the years:
Paul Stanley (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals), the "Starchild," is hands down one of the greatest frontmen of all time, and absolutely has one of the most unique and recognizable voices in rock. Nobody comes close to him. He's one of the top 3 singers in my book who has inspired my own vocal abilities immensely.
Peter Criss (Drums/Vocals), "The Catman," is a musician who has influenced many other great drummers over the past four decades. From Tommy Lee, to Vinnie Paul. He is also the author of the famous rock ballad "Beth," which gained them their first and only Grammy award.
Gene Simmons (Bass/Vocals), "The Demon," I believe doesn't get enough credit for his musicianship. If you pay attention to the bass lines in such hits as "Detroit Rock City, those aren't necessarily something a beginner can just pick up on it. He's also the "brains" behind KISS. I'm an aspired entrepreneur myself, so I take a lot of my business ideas from the "blood spitting, fire breathing" man himself.
Ace Frehley (Lead Guitar/Vocals), "The Spaceman." What can I say? I wouldn't be a guitarist if it wasn't for him. Still to this day, he is my number one guitar hero. He's influenced generations of aspiring musicians.
Say what you want. Think what you want. That's your freedom as a resident on this big beautiful globe we live on. You can throw around the word "gimmick" all day and night, but so what? If you ever went to a KISS concert, and felt bored, or walked away unsatisfied, then you're just a very boring person in my eyes. This is just my humble opinion. I'm not just being biased, but isn't that what live entertainment should be about? Personally, if I go to experience a live act, I want to be entertained. The music may be amazing, but if a group of individuals want to just stand around on a stage like statues and perform their instrument, then I would much rather stay home and listen to their album.
But KISS? No. You get your moneys worth.
You have bombs exploding. Hundreds of lights blinding you. Tons of pyrotechnics. And then some!
Hands down, still the loudest concert I have ever had the experience of witnessing.
I must apologize for this article being so short, but there is only so much I can express, without basically composing somewhat of an infinite novel. Sure there have been many other artists and bands who have opened up my ears, mind and soul to creative greatness. But KISS was the very first one. And they will always be number one.
If you want to know more about the band, then go out and buy, and listen to their albums. Check out Wikipedia and YouTube. Go on Amazon, or check out your local bookstore and purchase one of their many biographies and autobiographies. Just like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, and many others, there is so much history. Even if you don't like the band, I promise, you'll walk away inspired in some way shape or form.