Kiss My Ass Traces 20 Year Musical Legacy

by Roger Lotring

It’s been over twenty years since the formation of Kiss, and 1994 has been a celebratory year of homage to the history of one of the most influential bands in rock history. To compliment the recently released Kiss My Ass tribute album (reviewed in Prime Choice, September, 1994), PolyGram Video has released Kiss My Ass—The Video.

Showcasing the band’s illustrious history, Kiss My Ass—The Video is a new collection of archive footage, pieces of which have been slowly trickling into circulation with the release of each succeeding Kiss video.

“The greatest secret of success is to offend the greatest number of people.” Quoted from George Bernard Shaw, the video’s introductory statement may very well be the most accurate reasoning behind Kiss’ overwhelming success. During the band’s heyday of the 70’s, the leering personas that represented the band’s individual subconscious personalities, coupled with a loud, aggressive sound, equally offended as many people as the group influenced, effectively guaranteeing widespread success. Subsequently, much of the performance footage include on Kiss My Ass—The Video is from that era.

Several key concerts have provided the bulk of the performance video pieces highlighting the original band. Black and white footage from a 1975 San Francisco show is the source of “Parasite,” while footage from a Largo, Maryland, stop on the Dynasty tour provides “New York Groove,” “Move On,” and “Radioactive” from the ambitious solo albums released simultaneously in 1978. Also present are some interesting lip-synced television performances, like a clip of “I Love It Loud” from Italian TV, and “I” with Kiss appearing as a trio, without guitarist Ace Frehley. Also, “Take Me,” from a rehearsal for the Rock And Roll Over tour, footage of which has only been rumored to exist, until now.

Throughout the narrative that weaves the videos together, the band actively displays items to be included in the forthcoming 20th anniversary Kisstory book. Weighing nine pounds, the hardcover coffee table book displays the history of the band with 440 pages of personal photos, such as a photograph of guitarist Paul Stanley and original drummer Peter Criss in Brussels on their first European tour, without makeup, and Paul with Ace, sans makeup, in Germany on that same tour. Displayed also is the original cover painting for the Destroyer album, featuring the previous tour’s costumes; original song lyrics scrawled across Holiday Inn stationery; the receipt for the Village Voice classified ad that recruited Ace; and a Polaroid of drummer Eric Carr’s experimentation with makeup as the Hawk, an idea that was rejected in favor of Carr becoming the Fox.

As the companion video to the tribute album of the same name, Kiss My Ass—The Video naturally includes studio footage of Anthrax and the Gin Blossoms recording their contributions for the album. But bands emulating Kiss by covering their material are not necessarily limited to a single tribute album.

“The obvious thing is Poison doing “Rock And Roll All Nite,” says bassist Gene Simmons in a 1990 interview with Prime Choice editor Roger Lotring, “but the stuff that’s out there is Death Angel doing “Cold Gin” or Redd Kross doing “Deuce.” Then there’s White Zombie doing “God Of Thunder.” How do I feel about it? It’s flattering.”

Are there any particular covers that Gene prefers?

“I thought Ace (Frehley) did a pretty neat job of “Hide Your Heart.” I certainly liked his version more than Molly Hatchet’s.”

In the wake of the sudden affirmation of the influence Kiss has exerted over contemporary music, Kiss’ own influences and subsequent cover songs are a curious consideration.

“When I first learned how to play bass, I didn’t listen to heavy metal,” remembers Gene. “I mean, let’s face it, there was no such thing as heavy metal. The guys I listened to were [Paul] McCartney when he was a melodic bass player, Ron Wood, ironically enough, when he was the bass player with the Jeff Beck Band. As a guitar player, I can take it or leave it, but as a bass player, he was terrific.”

“We go through those phases,” he continues, referring to instances of Kiss covering other musicians material, “and then the fans will say, ‘Why are you covering other people’s material? You’re Kiss.’ And it never dawned on me that I used to think the same thing of the Beatles. I used to see the Beatles and they’d be doing Chuck Berry songs, and I’m saying, ‘Who cares about Chuck Berry? I’m a Beatles fan!’ But to the Beatles, they were like... roots. So, when we were doing “Wild Thing” or “La Bamba” or whatever [in the live show], it’s the stuff we grew up with, so we’re getting a kick out of it because, y’know, the roots. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the Who... that’s great stuff. But not to a twenty-year-old Kiss fan. He kind of goes, ‘Well, look, I paid to see Kiss, not to hear Kiss doing somebody else’s material,’ and I think it’s a valid point. So, we stopped doing everybody’s material. During soundchecks, though, it’s a greatest hits. We do everything from Chuck Berry to Led Zeppelin to Sam Cooke. In interviews, we try to talk about that stuff because there’s some important music that should not be lost.”

Interspersed between the performance footage on Kiss My Ass—The Video are interesting bits and pieces of Kiss history in the form of commercials for Kiss albums, as well as for Kiss dolls, radios, make-up—the highly collectible memorabilia that at the time was highly marketable, and now forms the core attraction of most Kiss conventions.

“I love seeing the old stuff, too, and I’m proud of it because, obviously, there was more going on then that time has proven to be cool, despite what critics and everybody else have said,” Gene reasons, adding that “I have a lot of that stuff myself. If it was just crap, I wouldn’t want to be associated with it, but I think a lot of that stuff is cool stuff.”

“The bootleg stuff, I’m really against because that’s quality control. For somebody to bring out something brand new or repackage something and call it Kiss, somehow that infers that I approved it. And if it’s a piece of shit, guess who gets the blame? Me! With a bootleg, if it’s bad, I get the blame and I have no control over it, so...”

In essence, Kiss My Ass—The Video comes across as a conglomeration of pieces to a bigger picture. Obviously a celebration of the band’s history, Kiss My Ass—The Video is very heartfelt in expressing Gene and Paul’s appreciation of Peter and Ace, something that hasn’t always been so apparent. With images and words that prominently showcase Ace and Peter’s talents, Kiss My Ass—The Video is a fulfilling document revealing that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have re-evaluated their legendary history in order to proceed forward.