Hey, kids, how 'bout let's start with a caveat!
I have been friends with Paul Stanley since 1969, when I first met Stan Eisen in high school. I've known Gene Simmons since 1972 when Paul introduced him to me outside a Jeff Beck show. My band, The Planets, opened for KISS at the Hotel Diplomat, July 13, 1973.
I watched these two go from guys making their own gig posters and lugging their own amps, to one of the three or four biggest bands in history.
I enjoyed it all immensely.
See, I was gonna make it, too. So, I bore Paul and Gene no ill-will or envy whatsoever. That made me a rarity in their home town. Lots of jealousy and resentment quickly ensued when KISS were able to escape the drudgery of bullshit club dates after only seven or eight gigs. I thought it was a gas, and wound up one of Paul's confidantes for all the glory years. I'm not sure how this effects my wretched musings below, but, I thought I'd better mention it right up front. I'm coming from a place of friendship, caring and admiration... and a loathing for the flatulent pomposity of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
KISS just screwed up an opportunity of a lifetime.
KISS could have been the first band to REFUSE induction.
Refusing induction would've been, by far: The Most KISS Thing To Do.
It was an opportunity tailor-made for their decades' long stance as the Band That Truly Doesn't Give a Shit About the Critics.
It was an opportunity to viscerally reunite their aging, and otherwise-engaged, (mostly) Gen-X fans.
"It's still us against the world."
It was an opportunity to point out, and from a highly righteous vantage point, just how absurdly gratuitous and cavalierly petty the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's mean-girl high school clique selection process is and has been for years and years.
Jann and Sting and Bono and Brooooce and Rhymin' Simon had their damn chance to do the right thing by the literal millions of KISS fans around the world back in 1997, KISS's first year of eligibility...
Too late now, you... you...you lute players!
Most importantly for KISS, and here's where you can see that Paul and Gene's minds truly got clouded, they blew an incredible marketing opportunity. How VERY unlike them!
A momentary craving for legitimacy amongst the Effete Elite led the hottest band in the land astray. Just think of the merch possibilities...
KISS DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' RnR HoF!
SORRY! I'M ALREADY INDUCTED! KISS ARMY!
WHO NEEEDS A HALL OF FAME WHEN YOU HAVE AN ARMY?
1997? MAYBE! NOW? NEVER!
The mind boggles!
KISS should've held a press conference the morning after the RnR HoF's inductions announcement.
Coulda/shoulda/woulda gone something like this...
In full makeup, the four original members would've bitten the damn bullet, and appeared together, flanked by every other worthy member of KISS... Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, Bruce Kulick, a member of the late Eric Carr's family.
Stage MC Starchild Paul would've read the following statement, or something akin:
We publicly reject our induction into the entity that calls itself the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. We publicly reject the entire concept of a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame as perpetrated by holier-than-thou snobs whose very snobbery rejects the most basic tenets of Rock 'n' Roll. KISS, on the other hand, ARE Rock 'n Roll. The so-called Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame had the opportunity to do the right thing in 1997 when KISS passed the 25 year prerequisite. Instead, they chose to ignore the single most recognized and identifiable band on planet Earth for 17 years. We are far more disgusted for our fans' sake than our own. Be forewarned, Mr. Wenner, KISS will not provide your little treehouse with as much as an Eric Singer drumstick for any KISS exhibit you may try to cobble together, should you proceed with what we consider your grossly insulting "induction." One last thing...KISS will be playing a free concert with all the KISS trimmings for Cleveland, one of our favorite cities, in Bicentennial Park, directly opposite the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, the evening of the induction ceremonies in New York [or wherever]. In honor of the KISS Army, the original quartet will open the show with three songs from our debut album. We hope to see you there. Thank you. Good night.
Talk about rallying the troops.
Their next two tours would've sold out. No Def Leppard necessary.
Now, instead, KISS have this embarrassing and juvenile "Who is KISS, who is not?" ego-mess on their hands.
I am surprised that Paul and Gene, genuinely savvy fellas, have been so public in their disdain and anger at the Hall of Fame apes having accepted into this farce. Their current griping has just exacerbated a situation that's been fraught with antagonism for well over a decade. KISS haters must be lovin' it.
Frankly, I side with Jann (yuck!) re: The Original Four. I suspect that at least 85 percent of the KISS Army does, too, whether they'd admit it or not, even to themselves.
In their heart of hearts, every KISS fan thinks of that band as Paul, Gene, Peter and Ace.
Forever and ever. Amen.
The fact is, any musician hired to play the Ace or Peter role, wearing their make up schemes, is correctly perceived as "a mere replacement." Eric Singer has been in KISS longer than anyone other than Paul and Gene. Oh well. If Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer had been, say, The Zombie and The Lightning Bolt, for the past dozen years, yeah. They'd be two of a cast of characters. But, they're "just" wearing Peter and Ace's Faces. How can they count? And, they both outplay the originals by several miles. It sucks, but, I get it.
Sad fact: The non-makeup KISS years have been virtually forgotten by everyone but the hardest Kore KISS fan. And, for the most part, even they're pretending. This is why, although they are fine musicians and played on multiple KISS albums, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer don't make the cut. And if Mr. Singer doesn't make the cut, well, how do we put in Tommy Thayer, the current Space Ace? Whither Vinnie the V? Poor Mark St. John? The very talented Paul "Eric Carr" Caravello?
The shit is just too damn messy.
Gordian Knot time, folks.
The truth is... Paul, Gene, Peter, Ace are KISS for perpetuity.
Oh well, guys.
This is KISS's "sad" fate.
For the record, in this ever-more-boring and seemingly perpetual battle one half of KISS continues to engage the other half in, I fall squarely on Paul and Gene's side.
All four members utterly busted their asses in a true, one-for-all modus operandi for years in order to get to the tippy-topper-most. KISS earned their fame, believe me.
Once there, Paul and Gene continued to work just as hard to stay there. Peter and Ace pretty much bailed and permanently checked into the most irresponsible wing of the Rock Star Motel.
Instructive digression: Back in 1975, I was got stuck in a locked stairwell after a Kinks concert at the Beacon Theater on Broadway in New York City. It was just me and Ray Davies in this dingy, one 40-watt bulb stairwell, taking turns pounding on the door to alert someone that the-- ummm -- Star of the Show was trapped. Apropos to nothing going on, Ray suddenly turned to me, looking really spent, and said, "It's so much more difficult staying there than it is getting there, Binky. Remember that."
Gene and Paul knew this in their gut.
The climb had been so daunting and the reward so great, they were determined to hold on with the Holden's vice-like grip. Peter and Ace became 200 pound ankle-weights. Not. Helpful.
Somewhat tangentially, it's also worth pointing out that KISS got taken for literally a few hundred million dollars during their first dozen years or so. What appears to be raw avarice now and then is just Paul and Gene getting some of their fucking money back.
Walk a mile in their seven-inch leather heels.
All that said:
Having made the damn mistake of accepting this induction in the first place, it's time for Paul and Gene and Ace and Peter to hush up, smile pretty for the people and just get through it. No one violated anyone's mother, fer cryin' out loud!
I recommend that each of the four original KISS-ers reread Ken Sharp's wonderful book, "Nothing To Lose -- The Making of KISS 1972-1975." They would be reminded that they once were truly The Four Musketeers.
Frankly, given that they accepted the induction, I personally would've loved to see the original four do "Deuce," KISS at their absolute neanderthal best. Hell, I'd've even recommended deliberately playing it really sloppily, just to further piss off the millions upon millions of Patti Smith fans.
Haters, please, have a ball. Really, feel free. I totally get people's animosity towards KISS.
Gene's as-regular-as-clockwork full-on ass-hat pronouncements alone makes that almost an inevitability. I love hyphens, don't you?
But, haters, make no mistake, the make up and special effects would've gotten them a year and half of semi-fame, at most.
Whether you deign to listen to them or not, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons WROTE GOOD SONGS.
-"C'mon And Love Me"
-"Love Her All I Can"
-"Detroit Rock City"
-"King Of The Night Time World"
-"Do You Love Me"
-"Shout It Out Loud"
-"I Want You"
-"Calling Dr. Love"
KISS, whether you like 'em or not, are a very loud, very abrasive music combo consisting of two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. They play in 4/4 time. Their couplets rhyme. Their amplification has always been by Marshall. They wear make up. They are gimmick-garish in almost every respect. Sounds like a rock band to me.
KISS has sold over 150 Millions albums world-wide.
That's even more than poet, Leonard Cohen and Reggae singer, Jimmy Cliff combined, to name but two great rock 'n' rollers already in the Hall of Fame.
Long, long ago, KISS transcended mere band-dom. They are an Institution.
So... How exactly is this an act that did not rate for the first 17 years of eligibility?
It is the very fact that it took Jann and his Merry Men 17 years to finally bend to the reality that had been staring them in the face that genuinely and truly delegitimizes an institution that calls itself the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
KISS having never been on the cover of Rolling Stone is laughable aesthetic bigotry, as well.
Imagine the NFL's Hall of Fame in Canton keeping a running back who scored over 300 touchdowns out of their Hall for 17 years because some of those sitting on the selection committee didn't appreciate his show-boating in the end zone.
KISS blew it.
They shoulda told the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame to blow them.