Cleveland is fortunate the Kiss army has not yet attacked the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
(11th in a series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
My first glimpse of Kiss came on a TV special. I believe it was a concert on PBS, of all places, but it’s been so long ago I can’t remember. So if any of you can fill in that missing blank, please do.
Obviously, it fried my mind…in a positive way, though. I remember thinking that here, finally, was a band capable of reaching Beatlesque popularity. What a great show!
The concert featured most of the material on their debut album, which I purchased soon after and began wearing out immediately. From the opening riff of “Strutter” to the last pounding chord of a fading “Black Diamond” this wax was – and remains – one of my favorite albums, each cut a classic.
That Kiss never came close to duplicating that musical effort doesn’t matter. What the group did do has made it one of the most popular bands in the history of Rock & Roll. Popular with the masses, but, evidently, not with those who decide who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For Kiss has been all but ignored, though eligible since 1999.
The band did finally get nominated in 2009. Didn’t make it, but at least the nomination was there. Alas, they are missing from this year’s ballot.
An ad placed by Peter Criss in “Rolling Stone” captures just what makes Kiss so despicable to so many of the powers that be in the music industry. The ad read simply, “Drummer willing to do anything to make it.” Naturally, he got the job. For Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the group’s founders, never have been shy about their goal to do anything to make as much money as possible. At least they’re honest about it.
And money the group did make, selling millions of records, selling out concert after concert and even appearing in comic books, on lunch boxes, pinball machines, you name it. Their Kiss Army – the group’s fan club – quickly swelled to six figures, one of those being my wife, though I didn’t know her at the time. She was just another pre-teen with a dollar, and if it could make a dollar, Kiss was there. But – and it’s a big but, if you’ll pardon the expression – Kiss was capable of backing up everything it did with talent befitting a supergroup.
Though never much of a factor on the singles’ charts, Kiss did manage three major hits, all rather strange considering the source. “Beth,“ was the violin-soaked ballad sung by Criss, which reached No. 7 on the Hot 100 in 1976. It was the antithesis of their sound and image.Naturally, it became their biggest hit. Their only other Top 10 effort was “Forever,“ No. 8 in 1990. This was co-written by Paul Stanley and …Michael Bolton?
In 1979, the group just missed the top 10 with “I Was Made For Loving You,“ which stopped at No. 11. This effort saw Kiss doing what most everyone was at the time – dabbling in disco. The Stones hit with “Miss You,‘ the Kinks with “Superman” and ELO even released an album titled “Discovery,“ which, of course, can be read “Disco Very.“ That effort included several disco-flavored hits. So for those who refuse to count disco as what it is – a branch of Rock & Roll – consider the above. And also for those too young to have seen it, keep in mind Dick Clark‘s “American Bandstand” record review, one of “Bandstand’s” most popular segments which let the teens on the show rate new records heard for the first time. The most common explanation for a good rating, a response that became one of Rock & Roll’s earliest catch-phrases, was “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.“
A good beat and you can dance to it. Kids – that’s a BIG part of the definition of Rock & Roll. And it sounds just like a definition of disco.
Kiss did offer a steady stream of best-selling long players, each usually containing at least one or two instant classics. From the amazing debut all the way to last year’s “Sonic Boom,” Kiss has been a force on the album charts. In fact, “Sonic Boom” was their highest-charting effort, reaching No. 2 35 years after their breakthrough and 11 years after their No. 3 “Psycho Circus.” It upped the group’s total of top 10 LPs to eight with two stopping at No. 11.
Can you hear the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger? Even the biggest musical snob would be hard-pressed to hear someone say, “I Want to Rock & Roll All Nite” without thinking “and party every day.”
Intellectual, no. Rock & Roll, yup.
While the HOF has inducted almost every punk group that never sold 10 albums, it ignores many of the most successful bands in the history of recorded music. Of that rejected class, Kiss may be the most successful of all, at least with the public.
Outlandish, bombastic, original, intelligent, successful and … gasp … even talented, Kiss remains one of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s most notorious omissions.
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