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.
OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS
Dear Members of Congress,
The tipping point is here and we need to put aside our political differences to save this country right now! Silence and remaining behind party lines is no longer an option. A unified address by our elected officials in Congress on the issue of police brutality and equality under the rule of law is required to begin the healing process as well as ensure the future of this nation.
There are three steps that immediately need to be taken to bring this to fruition. The arrest and charging of the three remaining individuals involved in the death of George Floyd must occur as the first step of good faith. The second step requires clear and transparent action items stated to the public in order to address the issues at hand. Those action items should include:
- The revision of Qualified Immunity to specifically address the problematic assertion that “Qualified Immunity means that government officials can get away with violating your rights as long as they violate them in a way nobody thought before – Institute of Justice“
- The reforming of Civilian Review Boards with the purpose of increasing the decision-making abilities on the disposition and discipline of police officers.
The third step is the creation and funding of a systemic racism task force with the goal of dismantling systemic racism.
- Accelerating judicial system reform
- Equating the public education system
- Eliminating redlining
These are just the preliminary steps that will begin the framework of the changes we need enacted to better the experiment called the United States.
I look forward to seeing a response in the form of action on the behalf of the citizens of this country.
Thank You Tulsa Oklahoma / Generational Responsibility
Every generation has an unintended mission as it relates to the liberation of their people. That mission is based on the circumstances and is revealed either midway through or after that generation’s mission is complete.
Through land ownership and intellect, the post slavery generation (Reconstruction/Tulsa – Black Wall Street) revealed what was possible if America dared engage on a level playing field. They did an EXCELLENT job!!
Through newly established media, The Civil Rights generation exposed the world to racial injustice and an undelivered promise of liberty and justice. They did an EXCELLENT job!
The Hip Hop generation reinvigorated the notion of wealth, ownership, propagated messages of inequality and exposed the daily tribulations of Black American life to ALL of America. It was my generation’s obligation to gather overwhelming empathy and build an irrefutable emotional case against racial injustice. We did and EXCELLENT job!!
Through technology, Millennials unintended obligations seems to be gathering overwhelming and irrefutable visual and literal evidence against racial injustice AND expose it via social and regular media. They are doing an EXCELLENT job!!
Now that a select few have assimilated, gained some empathy and chosen to walk alongside us, they are also experiencing similar atrocities and destroying the sentiment that prior instances of injustice were one-offs and not systemic injustice.
As today marks the 99th Anniversary of the Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riots, I would like to acknowledge those who have shown us what was possible post slavery in America. There is a HUGE difference between returning home and trying to find a home in the first place. The candle lit by that generation is the same beacon that will navigate our eventual return. THANK YOU!!
Sidebar; All generations have had a separate and unintended but equally important mission. What is common is that all generations have had to endure to even make minor progress. We have no choice but to do the same. Sidebar Complete.
Realigning Your Moral Compass / Don’t Be Humble
Remember when “keeping it on the low” was a high-valued asset in the lunchrooms of yesterdays past? It was a glorious and magical time where your ability to not divulge information or “brag” would lend you the trust and respect of all… except maybe the person who wanted said info. Conversely, being known as conceited or loose lipped oft resulted in social suicide. Once you understood and practiced the basic tenets of social operation, you were free to roam about the country. Then along came this thing called life and what was once generally accepted social order now requires constant questioning. Oh to be young again!
These days, you may find yourself at a moral crossroads where keeping information “on the low” could result in literal career suicide and stagnation of financial growth. I’ve seen coworkers get promoted because they would inform the entire world of every menial task accomplished like closing the fridge door in the pantry. I’ve also seen coworkers not be given any credit and as far as to be laid off because no one was aware of their value or responsibilities. Who knew life was gonna be so complicated (besides every single adult?) Of course, “keeping it on the low” a.k.a humility is just one of many self-inflicted moral codes we use to navigate for a majority of our lives. There are many others (selfish, greedy, manipulative, etc…) Now what if you hadn’t assigned a negative or positive value to these sentiments from the outset? Would you still be so hesitant to engage in their practices?
For the sake of proving my point, What if these “negative” moral codes were simply tools that could not be judged but simply used? Is it manipulative to convince someone to put a gun down and not shoot up a room full of people? Was Winston Churchill being manipulative in his efforts to convince the U.S to join WWII? Is it greedy to understand how much financial assets are required to provide the lifestyle you deem worthy for you and your family then pursue accordingly? Is it selfish to know when to tune the world out to achieve a goal that will be to the worlds eventual betterment?
The world is grander than whatever lunchroom your adolescent moral GPS was manufactured in and navigated you through. Once you graduate to encounter those larger moral obstacles, you rapidly realize that what got your through it before may not get you past it now if you cannot realign your moral code. It seems once one masters a particular set of skills, they immediately become obsolete as life advances everyone to the next level. What’s more likely is a majority of our decision making tools (like morals) are choice and should be treated as such and continuously revisited. Good Luck.
Sidebar; To the aspiring entrepreneurs keeping their amazing ideas “on the low” until they blow up, you are delaying your own successes. To those who find the pursuit of money / capitalism as greedy /evil, you are delaying your own gratitude. Sidebar complete.