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KISS: BEHIND THE MASK by David Leaf

KISS: BEHIND THE MASK

The Official Authorized Biography

By David Leaf (Author) , Ken Sharp (Author)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-446-53073-5

Amalgam of material gathered in 1979 and contemporary interviews with members and associates of the veteran theatrical rock band Kiss.

Credit for honesty goes to TV writer/producer Leaf, who opens by urging, “If you are not a Kiss fan, put this book down.” That sums up the flavor and purpose of this collaboration. In 1979, Leaf interviewed the four original Kiss members (Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss) for a never-issued authorized biography focused on the group’s rapid rise from cult band to touring phenomenon. This forms the first section, followed by the contributions of music journalist and Kiss admirer Sharp, who urged Leaf to revive the old manuscript. He begins with a 30-page essay covering the “non-makeup years” following the original band’s breakup, then presents what he terms an “oral history” of Kiss. These interviews provide the heart of this hagiography, discussing nearly every song the band ever recorded and other minutiae—details of tours, merchandising, comic books, behind-the-scenes mishaps—of interest mainly to diehards. Leaf’s workmanlike bio certainly captures the spirit of the brief moment when Kiss was on top, although the sunny, managed tone of the band’s comments to him contrast with Sharp’s account of their commercial decline and infighting. The later interviews are more revealing, although much of the subject matter was covered in Simmons’s acerbic memoir. Since Kiss and Make-Up (2001) devoted much space to slagging recalcitrant members Frehley and Criss, it seems fair that they have their say here; they come across as spacey and vain, but not mean-spirited like Simmons. Surprisingly candid on such topics as the prevalence of payola, sales shenanigans, and chart-fixing in the ’70s music industry, the musicians are vague on the intimate details of their travails in the ’80s and ’90s, before a 1996 reunion in makeup presaged Kiss’s profitable second coming as a metal-nostalgia act.

Informative and detailed, but intended for the Kiss Army, not civilians.