It’s hard to find a band more polarizing than KISS. While there have been other bands who’ve had a similar affect on people, I contend there isn’t another band that for so long in such a large scope has been able to make people on both sides blind to whats right in front of them. One would think that even if you hate KISS you can still acknowledge that they deserve induction to the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame. And one would think that even though you have been a lifelong fan of the band, you can still think it’s wrong that the band is comprised of two people pretending to be Ace and Peter. But this is KISS. And KISS has a way of backing you into a corner and compromising your ability to think rationally. And that’s what we’re talking about.
Anyone who has grown up a KISS fan knows that being a fan means being a target. I get how someone in their teens may feel required to become defensive about something they feel is theirs. But this ain’t 1982. Now days we’re talking about someone in their mid 40’s who never got over the wedgie’s they were given in high school. While forgiving a bully and thinking Tommy Thayer is good in KISS may not be the same thing, the reluctance to have an honest view of KISS is largely ingrained from all the crap we took for liking them in the first place. We could talk about things like the KISS Coffin or the recent Hello Kitty line of KISS related products that should get even the biggest fan scratching his head, but I think we need to start with the biggest offense to their fans KISS is guilty of.
Having two hired guns pretend to be Ace and Peter.
Fake Peter and Fake Ace
Saying it any other way is just spin. And believing that spin is a choice. The reasons Gene and Paul don’t want to play with Ace and Peter are readily available. And when you read between the lines of the comments made by all four of them on the topic, they seem like valid reasons. But just because they don’t play nice together doesn’t mean you automatically accept them moving on with two guys dressed as Ace and Peter. And thus a schism rocks the KISS Army. An Army all too willing to take a side. Gene and Paul or Ace and Peter? Who do you choose.
That’s where I shift the blame from the band to the fans. Why do you feel the need to choose? An objective person would see flaws in all of these guys. Gene signs more autographs and takes more pictures with the fans than Ace, but Ace never had a reality show where his kids made fun of KISS fans. Ace never wanted to replace every member of KISS with 4 winners of a game show. Paul has gone to greater lengths to keep himself in proper condition to perform than Peter. But Peter didn’t write Let’s Put The X In Sex or re-record Beth with Eric Carr singing it. I understand why the people who love KISS hold on so tight. There’s a pretty good chance it’s been in their life longer than anything else. When we’re down in the dumps and we need something to bring us up, there was one thing that would always do it for us the way we want it. No not Cold Gin. KISS. But much like a child to a parent, at a certain point we need to take control of our life. Rise to it you might say. Well lift up that chin little buddy. It’s gonna be alright.
I’ve noticed a difference between KISS diehards who are musicians and KISS diehards who are not. The musicians tend to have no interest in the bands current music. When they buy a KISS Doll or Pez dispenser they can’t wait to rip it out of its package and play with it. When they speak about KISS they have a passion for the music, the aura and the show. The non musician tends to be more about the collecting. They are more likely to tuck their Hot In The Shade T-Shirt tightly into their jean shorts. And they want something you don’t have. Whether it be knowledge or a collectible. For whatever reason it seems important to them that you know they did or got something you didn’t. I have a friend who still lives with his mom and every Christmas can’t wait to brag about all the KISS stuff his mommy got him this year. He’s 43
Of course I am generalizing all fans don’t fit perfectly into those two categories but I feel it’s a fair generalization. And in that generalization the line is pretty clear with these two specific groups. The musician doesn’t like Gene and Paul flaunting such blatant disrespect for Peter and Ace while the non musicians largely have no sympathy for Ace and Peter.
I do have an opinion on this matter and its probably clear. But before I conclude with that I think it’s important we ask why. Why did Gene and Paul choose to dress two guys up as Ace and Peter? Make no mistake. It was a choice. But was it the right one? Was it a decision with you, the fan in mind, or were they just thinking about your wallet? Let’s ask a few key questions.
Not Fake Ace and Peter
Who is going to be easier to work with in the role of “Hired musician”? Ace and Peter or Tommy and Eric. In other words two guys who were there in the beginning and played a key role in defining the band’s sound and identity while also garnering themselves their own fan base. Or, two guys who would otherwise be looking for jobs that paid far less? Good luck spinning that one. Once the reunion was announced and the contracts were signed, Gene and Paul had to pretend that they gave a shit about Peter and Ace. They insisted that they were all high fiving each other in the studio when recording Psycho Circus when in reality Peter and Ace aren’t really on the record. Every press event they talked about how unified they were but as time went on you found fewer and fewer of those quotes coming from Peter or Ace. Gene and Paul were entitled to retain ownership of the band. Treating Ace and Peter like shit was just for enjoyment.
Is this what the fans want? Be honest. If Paul Stanley called you in 2003 and asked you if they should put Eric Singer in Peter Criss’ makeup what would you say? Eric and Tommy (Fake Peter and Fake Ace) serve Gene and Paul’s bottom line. Peter may not have been at the top of his game and Ace may have been unreliable but it was also becoming more and more difficult to convince them to go with the flow and take smaller salaries. The same reason they don’t want to create new characters for Eric and Tommy is the same reason they shouldn’t have continued. At this point in the game people aren’t interested in new anything from KISS. And it’s not what the fans really want.
Gene and Paul continue to claim the band never sounded better. Is that really true? Make no mistake. Gene and Paul have earned the right to do what they want at this point in their lives. And this lineup probably makes fewer mistakes but it’s also super boring. Going to a KISS concert used to be a big party. Now it’s more like going to a combination of a KISS convention and an AA meeting. If you went to any of the shows on the Crazy Nights tour you know what I’m talking about. Uninspired. But at least Bruce Kulick wasn’t boring you while pretending to be Ace. Some may say this lineup is better but in reality it’s just slower.
Haven’t KISS given us enough? Did we really need Monster or Sonic Boom? Look at it from this angle. Remember the first time you heard KISS ALIVE? How many times did you listen to that record over the next 15 years? Is there any chance of those two records combined even approaching that number in the next 15 years? While you may like it did you really need it? Did you go see Paul on his solo tour? Assuming you’ve already seen 10 or more KISS concerts in your life, wouldn’t you prefer to see another Paul tour. How about Gene finally doing one? Tickets cost less to see them in a smaller venue where you can actually see everything and the set list isn’t going to be the same old shit. At this point wouldn’t you prefer to pay $35 to see Gene from 30 feet away sing Mr. Make Believe than pay $70 to see him from the upper deck sing Rock N Roll All Nite? Is it at least possible it’s time to let go of something that has given you more than any band has ever given? At the very least insist on them removing the makeup or giving Eric and Tommy their own. Doing so doesn’t demean how much you love the band. If anything not doing so does.
If it’s about no longer being up for the gig (Peter) or the ability to stay sober (Ace) then find a way to do it without being such dicks to them. Their fans are your fans too. You won. You got what you wanted and Ace and Peter will probably go broke again while you continue to profit from their likeness. The least you could do is not spit on them. You didn’t win the lottery without them. That goes for all of them. They’ve all written books. If they couldn’t fit their cheap shots in the pages of their autobiographies well, just move on.
As fans, we should feel no obligation to support every decision Paul and Gene make. We’re all human. Peter and Ace dug their own grave and Gene and Paul made sure they had a shovel and a map to the graveyard. None of them are victims. They need to drop the resentment. At least publicly. And fans. It’s ok to be honest with yourself. It’s ok to let go a little. As someone who’s done it I can promise you it’ll be alright. You don’t have to sell your collection because you think it was wrong for Gene to break his promise to Peter that they would never play Beth again. You won’t be required to get that tattoo removed because you think it’s wrong for Tommy and Eric to dress and Ace and Peter. You CAN still be a fan and embrace free will. Take it from someone who’s done it. It’s gonna be alright.
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