Friday, August 22, 2014

Paul Stanley - Face the Music : A Life Exposed

I've been a KISS fan since I first saw them on In Concert back in the early 70's. I got their early records immediately, saw them play shows where we were literally close enough to touch them and then kinda lost interest in them after Destroyer (which I just thought was ok) and the advent of punk. Sure, I would hear about them and their drama and would see an occasional video in the 80's that would be embarrassingly horrific, but otherwise, didn't pay much attention to them. I haven't been to any recent shows so don't really know what they even sound like anymore, but I still listen to their 70's r'n'r and appreciate the absurdity of the band - and especially Paul. So, of course I wanted to read his book.

While this isn't some deep intellectual exercise (and who would want it to be?), Stanley (born Stanley Bert Eisen) does come off as a fairly intelligent soul who had a troubled childhood but knew what he wanted and was able to get it.

Born without his right ear, therefore deaf on that side, he nonetheless loved music and wanted to be a musician. The 60's gave him an excuse to grow his hair and cover his "deformity" and that and his experience with several groups helped give him confidence when he eventually met Gene Simmons and decided to form the band.

Of course, he goes into detail about their rise to fame and all of the challenges they faced and has many harsh words for Ace (drug and alcohol abuse) and Peter, who he claims could barely play, which just wasn't true early on, though I couldn't say anything about the reunions. There is even an accusation of anti-Semitism directed at them! He takes some jabs at Gene, his partner of 40+ years - mostly about him looking out only for himself. Paul makes himself seem the better person - not surprising - and talks of his drive and ambition and his desire to make the band truly democratic, which only went so far, as he also wasn't afraid to lay down the law if something didn't go the way that he wanted it to.

There are plenty of stories along the way - some fun, some depressing. Funnily, he was surprised when their audience dwindled as punk came along and as KISS starting churning out disco tunes like "I Was Made For Loving You" (after the absurd pap of "Beth") instead of the guitar rock'n'roll they were known for. Little kids and parents were coming to gigs instead of r'n' teens and twenty-somethings and shows got smaller and failed to sell out.

But, Stanley is honest about how poorly things were going as they went through their personnel problems and put out more terrible records. Gene began to drift away a bit, leaving Paul in the leadership role, which is why some people were surprised to find out how much Simmons sang in the early days - including their first hit. They did have a resurgence in the 80's, without the makeup and with some truly atrocious music, and then he complains about grunge and the way it took the audience away from hair metal - showing a complete lack of understanding of the style - before the group realized that it needed to go back to its roots and re-connect with the people that dug their early music.

Of course, there is plenty about his personal life, his foray into musical theater (!), his marriages and kids, and his work with About Face, a group for kids with birth defects. At the end he says that he believes that KISS could continue without him or Gene. Now maybe I overestimate their audience, but I would think that people still pay the big bucks to see the two of them, not just a tribute band. But, who knows, maybe any four schmucks could be up there as long as it was a big budget show - it's not like plenty of major artists don't just lip-sync their shows these days - and people spend plenty of money to watch "DJs" "play" their iPods! So, I suppose anything is possible.

In any case, it's an entertaining tale of perseverance and drive and ambition and I am damn impressed that he still performs as he does at 62! No one can deny his hard work. Let's hope he continues to "rock'n'roll all night" for years to come!

(I forgot one of my favorite anecdotes is that the Move's "Fire Brigade" inspired "Fire House"! He did like cool 60's music!)