The very event which many thought would signal the end of KISS has, ironically, breathed life into the 15-year-old bonk-rocking beast.
As we speak, the Paul Stanley-Desmond Child (yeah, HIM again) composition “Hide Your Heart” is cutting a trail of destruction across US radio and must be on the verge of being added to playlists here. It’s a two-year-old song, a discard that KISS were never going to release from the poppy 1987 Crazy Nights album.
Stanley, however, loved it and included it in his controversial solo club tour of the US earlier this year, a tour which many interpreted as signifying a rift between him and definitive sleazoid bassist Gene Simmons. Simmons, however, went to see the Stanley show in Los Angeles, his jaw dropped when he heard the song and the rest may very well become history (instead of the band).
“’Hide Your Heart’ was the song,” says Simmons from PolyGram New York. “Seeing it live I thought the song was so good. It really belonged on that record, it had that feel.”
What did Gene think of seeing his longtime partner in crime on stage without him?
“I thought it was good. I thought he was terrific, I thought the band was OK. He was the star of the band.”
The tongue-flicking one, talkative on most subjects, isn’t saying much. Paul, however, says the solo tour’s benefits to KISS will eventually go way beyond one single.
“Well, doing the solo tour was great because.. . any time I become stronger the band becomes stronger,” the star-child says.
“Doing a solo tour gave me a chance to listen to what the fans want and what they wanted to hear. ..I wasn’t in a position where there were any songs I had to do. I could do whatever I wanted to.”
The fans clearly liked “Hide Your Heart”, a tale of a rather messy urban love triangle involving two blokes from rival gangs. Its omission from Crazy Nights, which thrust KISS back into the Australian top 25 albums chart, meant it was recorded instead by Bonnie Tyler, Molly Hatchet, Robin Beck and now former KISSer Ace Frehley.
“We let (producer) Ron Nevison pick the songs for the (Crazy Nights) album,” said a hyperactive Stanley. “So he didn’t pick that one. Last month I ran into Ron and he said ‘is the album coming out?’ and I said ‘Yeah, it should be out shortly.’ He said ‘what’s the first single?’ and I said ‘The song you didn’t use from Crazy Nights!’
Paul and Gene have resumed production duties on 15-track Hot In The Shade (H.I.T.S.?), the band’s 23rd album since their debut on Casablanca in 1974. The result is a far more typical KISS record, with Stanley blasting away with seven 8Os stadium rockers, Simmons chipping in with seven sleazy sonic slammers and drummer Eric Carr trying his hand at his first vinyl vocal assignment, aside from last year’s remake of Beth.
Highlights include the tremendous anthemic Rise To It, Simmons twin street songs BetrOyed and The Street Giveth, The Street Taketh Away and Stanley’s scythingly emotive vocals on Silver Spoon and King of Hearts.
According to Simmons, Hot In The Shade is about “the New York Experience”.
“I have no problem singing about fucking, which is one of my favourite activities, but sooner or later you’ve got to pick a different point of view about that stuff,” he says unabashed.
“So, emphasising that, I wrote songs that I thought were almost story songs… that talked about… growing up in New York and Cadillac Dreams, you know, ‘when I was 17 I was an angry young man’. That kind of stuff. Autobiographical story songs.”
When the phone is handed over to Paul for a few minutes, he insists Gene is just a little bit wrong on this point. “It’s really not about memories and growing up as a kid as much as it’s about life in the city right now.
“I mean, it’s what we see around us now. It’s not about recalling our pasts as children. Hot In The Shade’s about New York right now…”
Refusing to lay down and die, KISS re-signed for another ten years with PolyGram in a huge deal which includes seven albums, Alive Ill, a greatest hits package (oh dear, not another one!) and solo albums. Simmons Records is clawing its way upward and Gene is now living with former centrefold Shannon Tweed and their eight month old son. His life, he says, is going well.
“The record’s really just flying out the windows in America,” he says. “You know, it was just released here, we’re approaching platinum even as we speak. Which, if you’re still counting, means 21 gold and 18 platinum. I can’t believe it myself.
OTS: There were plans for you to play in World Park ‘89 and quite some controversy over its postponement. What did you know about the whole thing?
GS: “We have to set the record straight. We know nothing about what’s going on in Australia. All we knew was that there was a promoter who wanted to bring the band there, we were willing to go, and then all we knew was the promoter disappeared. And the rest is guesswork. I can’t tell you what happened after that, except this guy, the promoter — we never heard from him again.
OTS: There is a theory at the moment that a band needs to sell about three million of a current album to do an arena in the States. Do you agree with that?
GS: “No. Hold on a second, a pretty grl just walked in.
“I’m back. There are just no rules. There are bands in America like the Grateful Dead, which is not one of my favourite bands, but they can play a big place and they sell no records. There’s another group called the Beach Boys, who can play any large venue and sell it out but there are no record sales there either. On the other hand, you can be Richard Marx, who has the number one record in America, who can’t sell any tickets at all. So there really just aren’t any rules. “Tone Loc, who had the nurnber one single in America and the album went very well too, it did double platinum, and he was doing clubs. On the other hand the Stones, who do not really sell a lot of records, never did and still don’t, can fill up a stadium anywhere in the world.”
OTS: The song you wrote with Ace doesn’t appear to have made if onto his album. Does that bother you?
GS: “No, not really. That’s the lesser of all evils. The great thing about it is I’m just glad I can write songs, y’know? And that some of them are good enough to appear on records. You can’t hit the mark every time and that’s the way it goes.” OTS: It appears that Paul is the one probing for the hit single and your approach seems to be more constant. Is that a fair comment?
GS: “Yeah, that’s OK. But within the context of a band you’ve got that kind of flexibility. Everybody reaches for different things and that makes for a nice little album.”
OTS: Does that mean you’re more secure than Paul? Does Paul need to keep proving himself?
GS: “I don’t know that that can ever be verbalized as simply as that. I think it probably comes down to more that we both have slightly different points of view on music and the kinds of stuff we like but any one of us going off on his own and doing something is probably not as satisfying as both of us doing the same thing together. The only analogy I can make is within the confines of the Beatles. McCartney always wrote sweeter stuff and Lennon always wrote darker stuff. Each of them on their own just didn’t seem to have the goods. Together, they were the Beatles. With Harrison doing his thing and Ringo doing his thing, you can see a part of the Beatles in each one of them. But together, they are the Beatles. And no matter how many hits each one of them has, you can never eclipse the Beatles. Neither one of us, or anybody in the band, is ever going to eclipse KISS because it’s the chemistry. It’s that thing, it’s the combination of spices that makes something taste good or make something half taste good. “
OTS: There’s a rumour that you haven’t played bass on the last three KISS albums, that in fact Jean Beauvoir has done it instead.
GS: “Well I wish I could tell you that’s true, but.. . the truth is that on “Little Caesar” Ace played bass, I’m sorry, not Ace, Eric played bass, I played guitar on “Love’s A Slap In The Face” and “Somewhere Between (Heaven and Hell)”. Bruce played bass on something else and Paul played slide solo and not Bruce. All those considerations of who plays an instrument and all of that sort of stuff, it’s just not as important to us as keeping the personality of the band.”
0TS: Have you been changed by monogamy or not?
GS: “The questions is, am I monogamous?”
OTS: But you are a family man now, aren’t you?
GS: “I wonder what that means.”
OTS: What does it mean?
GS: “I think to most people it would mean marriage, in which case in this case it just doesn’t apply. I’m not married, never have been and never will be. But do I have a boy? Oh yeah”
Filed for ON THE STREET November 15, 1989