Through scores of interviews with band members, fans, roadies, rival musicians and label executives, Sharp (Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, 2010, etc.) and KISS co-founders Stanley and Simmons have put together a complete history of the band’s rise to superstardom.
Much maligned by rock critics and radio stations of the day, especially for their emphasis on grotesque makeup and fire-breathing, blood-spitting theatrics over musicianship, KISS (which also included drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Ace Frehley) had to fight their way to the top. The first step was conquering (or at least wowing) New York, which they accomplished by developing an overpoweringly loud and outrageous stage show that they performed atop a levitating drum set while wearing giant platform shoes that made the already tall members tower intimidatingly over the competition. Their outsize personas were meant to make them stand out from drag and glam acts of the day like David Bowie, T. Rex and local rivals The New York Dolls. The band’s raw power didn’t make them friends with outfits they opened for; they often had the plug pulled before their set was over. But when the tables were turned, the members of KISS were, by many accounts, as gracious and generous to their openers as they were to their fans. The weakest aspects of the book are the sameness of some anecdotes and triteness of language (phrases like “110 percent” and “take it to the next level” are repeated in numerous stories). The strongest is the inclusion of critics and rivals whose grudging admiration for the band comes through, despite their ability to see through the gimmicks. (Iggy Pop is one especially hilarious courtside observer.)
A rollicking oral history of the one-time “hottest band in the land.”