If you were a suburban kid in the seventies obsessed with KISS, you can probably thank the 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween Special. At least that’s what happened to my brother and I, and more than a few neighbors. We were transfixed by these larger than life costumed superheroes that shot fire from their mouths and sparks from their guitars while wearing kabuki makeup and assorted codpieces. We were six years old and our parents wouldn’t let us go to a concert. “They smoke drugs at those shows,” Mom said. So my uncle borrowed the Alive and Destroyer records from a friend and my brother and I never returned them.
“They smoke drugs at those shows,” Mom said.
Like many bands from the seventies, many of KISS’ best songs are from that era – though my brother would probably tell you differently. He and I plan to do a podcast about that eventually, but for now, here are the 10 Best KISS Songs of the 70’s (not including the solo records).
10. Black Diamond/ KISS, 1974
I had a different song at number ten and changed it at the last minute, but I’ll never admit it was “Charisma” off Dynasty, so don’t even ask. “Black Diamond” closed the first album, and most of their live shows. It’s the perfect example of a band coming together. Paul wrote it, Gene added the riff, Peter sang his balls off, and Ace shredded the shit out of the solo. I remember listening to this song when I was seven years old and writing to the KISS Army asking for free copies of all their records. What an entitled prick I was.
9. Let Me Go, Rock and Roll / Hotter Than Hell, 1974
Most people point to “Detroit Rock City” or “Rock and Roll All Night” as the quintessential KISS anthem, but I prefer this track. Like some Ramones’ songs, this one has its roots in traditional rock sounds, kinda like the equally quaffed New York Dolls were doing around the same time in the New York scene. For me, this track peaks during Ace’s firebrand solos.
8. I Want You / Rock and Roll Over, 1976
Some of my favorite songs are titled “I Want You” by folks as diverse as Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and at least fifty other bands. Then there’s this track, with a killer Zeppelin inspired riff and a simplicity that cuts to the proverbial chase. Produced by rock wunderkind Eddie Kramer, who also produced Alive, Ace’s solo record, and records by Carly Simon, Jimi Hendrix, and Foghat, to name a few.
7. Goin’ Blind / Hotter Than Hell, 1974
KISS go grunge more than a decade before it was fashionable with this slow burner from Hotter Than Hell. Written by Gene with former Wicked Lester member Stephen Coronel, who introduced Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to each other back when they were still Stan Eisen and Gene Klein. The lyrics “I’m 93 and you’re 16” take a really dark turn when you learn that Coronel was arrested on five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in 2014.
6. 100,000 Years / KISS, 1974
KISS were at their best when they created their own mythology. This is that. In this song two lovers are reunited after a hundred thousand years. No backstory or explanation beyond the apology “musta been a bitch while I was gone.” In fact, this song is mostly the same lines sung over and over again. It’s more about that bubbling bass-line and some heavy riffs than anything else. Amazing how many folks on YouTube cover these songs.
5. She / Dressed to Kill, 1975
Another track written for Wicked Lester that relies on some esoteric mythology. Who is this She that “walks by moonlight?” Well “no one really knows,” but rest assured “she takes off her clothes.” Again, this song is all about the feel. For a bunch of guys that shunned drugs (at least Paul and Gene did) they certainly made some killer weed friendly tracks. The Black Keys should cover this one. Anthrax did a great version on the compilation Kiss My Ass. Dressed to Kill was my favorite KISS record growing up. I couldn’t wait to get home from school and put this one on. Remember when you had to wait till you got home to listen to music?
4. Sure Know Something / Dynasty, 1979
There really isn’t much else in the KISS catalog like “Sure Know Something.” For some fans the Dynasty album signified the end of KISS as they knew it. That’s David Letterman drummer Anton Fig on this album since Peter Criss was pretty uneven after a 1978 car accident. Still, I kinda dig this record. It’s fun to hear KISS move beyond their hard rock roots. “Sure Know Something” would have been a pop radio staple by any other band, but it’s hard to reconcile the romantic lyric with these weird characters vamping for the camera in the video. You may have to close your eyes to fully appreciate it. Paul wrote this one with longtime contributor Vini Poncia, who produced Dynasty and the equally poppy follow-up Unmasked.
3. Watchin’ You / Hotter Than Hell, 1974
Wow, I’m realizing a lot of the best KISS songs are on their second record Hotter than Hell. Here’s another riffathon that plods its way across your 8-Track. A cool unapologetic rocker with nice guitar harmonies and a few wayward drum fills. This is a KISS that didn’t believe its own story yet, and that was a good thing. Hard to imagine the four hooligans that recorded this track have AARP cards and families now. The demo is pretty good, too.
2. Do You Love Me? / Destroyer, 1976
Paul Stanley gets no respect, but he’ll one day be remembered as a dazzling front-man a few rungs shy of Freddie Mercury. Sure, his voice isn’t what it used to be, but yours won’t be any better in your sixties, and you couldn’t hold a candle to Paul in his heyday. Bob Ezrin kicked KISS up a few notches with the Destroyer record. There are certainly a few classics on it, but this is my favorite. I know, I know, you could add “Detroit Rock City” and “Flaming Youth” to this list, and I wouldn’t argue with you. Though I would draw the line at “Beth,” which is a little schmaltzy for my tastes.
1. Parasite / Hotter Than Hell, 1974
I think there’s very few folks out there that are gonna agree with this list. I’m gonna change my name and address as soon as I publish this. KISS fans can get nasty. I’ve seen it. There’s no way they’ll agree with “Parasite” at number one. But come on, this is as Zeppelin as these guys got. Well, kinda. There’s hints on plenty of other tracks, but this riff epitomizes early seventies cock-rock. In ’74, the KISS sound wasn’t overly compressed. You could dig the individual components in a way that got harder as their career progressed. And I love the total left turn this song takes in the third act. Ace covers this song on his next record, too.
Before you get your feelings hurt because your favorites weren’t on this list, just realize that lists ultimately mean nothing. KISS had other good songs in the seventies like “Makin’ Love,” “I Stole Your Love,” “C’Mon and Love Me,” “Deuce,” and “God of Thunder” that didn’t make this list because of math, people. There’s only room for ten songs in a ten song list, unless you can figure out a way to shoehorn another five in a follow up paragraph.
In the thirty plus years since the seventies KISS has continued to record and play live to a rabid fan-base. While each era has its fans and detractors, it was the original four that were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. When Gene and Paul finally retire, versions of KISS with new members will continue to milk the brand until the end of recorded time. Mark my words. And none of it would have been possible had these four misfits not taken a chance all those years ago.
Hip Hop Now
Here’s five acts doing their thing in the first installment of Hip Hop Now.
Chicago rapper Saba‘s new record Care For Me features Chance The Rapper on “Logout.”
From Everything is Fine, a collaboration between rapper/satirists Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, here’s “Zero.”
Tyler, the Creator stays weird and rhymes chicken nugget with fuckit on rap nugget “Okra.”
Dallas rapper Bobby Sessions lost his cousin to police violence and channels that energy into the controversial “Like Me.”
Rapper/actor A$AP Rocky samples Moby‘s “Porcelain” on “A$AP Forver.”
A Quiet Place
“A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.”
A lot of skepticism crossed my mind when I first saw the trailer for A Quiet Place. A lot of familiarity to the falsely-marketed It Comes of Night were smeared all over this film. A family trapped in what seems like a post-apocalyptic world, forced to farm, hunt, and live like 1930’s Okie’s in the dust bowl. No real explanation of what happened and what is hunting them. Nah! I figured that they would foresee the comparisons and will stray away from the “its the people that are the real monsters” trope.
Thank the Lord that they did.
From the beginning of the film we see that there is a real threat, and the family is just trying to live in silence, literally. They have to keep extremely quiet in order to not be heard by the creatures who kill by sound. The theater experience was very interesting for this film as the audience fell to dead silence, as if we were participating in the same scenario.
This movie relied heavily on some tremendous acting. John Krasiniski not only directs but stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt, and holds down the lead role with a mix of grit and sincerity. Blunt knocks it out the park as the mother who suffers through grueling moments, pantomiming some extreme pain that had the audience cringing with tension.
More impressive were the kids. Noah Jupe, who has been quietly making waves with his acting in movies such as Wonder and the sub-par film Suburbicon, was stretched in this movie portraying the son, but Millicent Simmonds, who I couldn’t pinpoint to any other film, carried a lot of the emotional weight and was burdened with the heaviest guilt.
Now the creatures were obviously CGI and it was noticeable, but when they make their grand appearance it doesn’t really matter. The way they hunt, move about, and made their weird clicking noise, made them fascinating monsters and even a bit creepy.
This movie did a great job of mixing emotion and tension and even though I found it toned down on the horror, I think it could have a few people curled up in their seats from the thrill.
Overall Grade: B
This movie was good and it was held up but some truly stellar acting, directing and writing. Don’t expect a lot of horror, but do expect to be uneasy with a few scenes. Oh, the ending was simple but very bad-ass!
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Director: John Krasinski
1 hours 30 minutes
Aegyo – What the What?
You know how you and your significant other do the baby talk thing? Come on, you do it, admit it. Sometimes you talk to each other in a childish voice or make silly little gestures that you would never use at, for example, a business meeting or at the dentist. Well, this is a whole cottage industry in South Korea and they call it Aegyo.
Aegyo, a tool long leveraged by South Korean ladies to get what they want through sheer cuteness, has been leveraged by male and female K-Pop Idol groups to ginormous success. In fact, there are songs where one can do little cutsey gestures to the whole thing. Two popular aegyo anthems are The Gwiyomi Song and Oppaya, and there are videos aplenty on YouTube where folks of all ages and backgrounds vie for cringe-worthy cuteness. Some of these videos have millions upon millions of views. There’s even K-Pop Idol shows where folks watch each other express aegyo and react with howls of laughter.
Holy cow, the more I talk about this, the weirder it gets. Yet, I can’t look away.
Other cultures are jumping on the band wagon, too. Check out the videos below for some adorable examples.
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