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.
Writing Your First Book / Should I Self Publish?
I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on writing your first book, presented by the Harlem chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Alongside Jim St. Germain, Author – A Stone of Hope: A Memoir and Dr. Keneshia Nicole Grant, Author – The Great Migration and the Democratic Party: Black Voters and the Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century. We opined on pain points, benefits and strategies regarding our inaugural voyages into authorship. Feel free to watch for your self and I hope this provides some insight to all those looking to make the same voyage. Enjoy!
What the NFT is a BEEPLE?
On March 11 this year, the digital artist Beeple sold a collage of digital images from his “Everydays” series for nearly 70 million dollars as an NFT, or non-fungible token. And if that sentence confuses you, you’re not alone.
A non-fungible token is a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, video, and other forms of creative work. While the digital files themselves are infinitely reproducible, the NFTs representing them are tracked on their underlying blockchains and provide buyers with proof of ownership.” – Wikipedia
Still confused? Let the artist himself explain it, and learn how he went from NFT newbie to making the third most expensive artwork by a living artist in three months. Not to suggest Beeple is an overnight success. The “Everydays” series alone involved creating a piece of art every day since May 1, 2007 – and he hasn’t missed a day.
Check out some of Beeple’s amazing and controversial work below.
Comic Fans: Geek out with Cartoonist KAYFABE
Comics have come a long way since they were just for kids – and anyway, those kids have grown up and rightfully embrace it as an artform. Cartoonish Kayfabe expertly walk you through the finer points of comic creation and appreciation, referencing some high quality images along the way. If you’re a comic geek, you will dig it – especially if you’re into 90’s era and independent comics.