Monday, April 14, 2014

Wouldn't You Like To Know Him: Reflections on Paul Stanley's new book Face The Music: A Life Exposed

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     First off, I have a great deal of respect for Paul Stanley and I have long been a huge admirer of his songwriting skills, he's clearly very talented. KISS were my favorite band for all of my formative years and I was ecstatic when the original line-up reunited in 1996. I was lucky enough to see the band twice on the subsequent tour and I treasure those memories. Unfortunately ever since that triumphant Reunion Tour I have found myself repeatedly disappointed by decisions that have been made by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, from the disastrous Psycho Circus "reunion" album to the deceptively monikered and marketed "Farewell Tour" to the recasting of the "spaceman" and the "catman" as entities other than Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The most recent and perhaps most unfortunate development in the KISS saga has been the completely unnecessary controversy surrounding the band's long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It seems rather obvious to me that the four original members of KISS should have performed together one last time at the ceremony and amicably and respectfully paid tribute to the band's legacy and its devoted fans. It would have been a very special moment but it did not happen because Gene and Paul did not let it happen and a wonderful opportunity was squandered, and for what?
     Let me begin by saying this: Paul Stanley's book Face The Music: A Life Exposed is by far the best of the four KISS memoirs. Of course if you've read the other three books you know that that isn't saying much. Gene's book was a self-congratulatory love letter to himself, Ace's was predictably scant on details, and Peter's I suspect was mostly a work of fiction. Paul's book is the best of the four almost by default. Let me put it this way: unlike the other three, Paul's book is actually good. Paul Stanley has always struck me as the most down to earth and level-headed of the four and in a brilliant move he waited until the other three guys had each written a book before writing his own, thus Paul Stanley gets the last word and he takes full advantage of that position, slamming all three of his original bandmates mercilessly. 
     In the opening chapters of the book Paul describes a very difficult childhood, thanks in no small part to the deformed ear and partial deafness with which he was born. Clearly he struggled. He also laments his upbringing, lambasting his parents for the lack of affection they showed to each other and to Paul and his mentally unstable sister (who apparently attempted to kill young Paul with a hammer). Paul does not hesitate to blame many of his later problems forming relationships on the relationship that he had with his parents. This is understandable, but considering how aware Paul is of his own issues and what may or may not have caused them (he devotes a great deal of the book to describing how his feelings about his deformed ear and the way that others reacted to it damaged him emotionally and inhibited him in his social interactions) one might think he'd be more sympathetic when it comes to the personal issues of others. He is careful to trace many of his own problems back to how he was treated by his parents and his deformity and its ramifications, but when it comes to other people (those same parents, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr) he never even seems to consider the possibility that these other people maybe had some negative experiences in their own lives that might help explain some of the behaviors that Paul so resented and for which Paul did not hesitate to judge them harshly. His superior tone throughout makes it clear that he made little or no effort to relate to or empathize with these others. It's all judgement and dismissal.
     I urge any KISS fan who reads Paul Stanley's book to undertake this exercise: when you get to the part where Paul describes Ace Frehley circa 1977-1978 stop reading the book, put Ace Frehley's 1978 solo album on the stereo, and then pick the book back up and read Paul's description of Ace while listening to the record that Ace made in 1978 and you tell me, could the guy that Paul describes possibly have made that masterpiece of an album? The answer, of course, is no. The Ace Frehley solo album is so clearly an example of an artist at the top of his game as opposed to the bottom of a bottle. Think about this: as of 1978 Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had taken part in a juggernaut of a career that had produced six studio albums and two live albums in four short years, not to mention an almost non-stop touring schedule, hundreds and hundreds of concerts. Yet according to Paul by 1977 Ace and Peter were utterly inept living disasters. Here's what I think: Paul Stanley is GREATLY exaggerating Ace and Peter's ineptitude. Why? I don't know: bitterness, resentment, a desire to undermine their credibility, an effort to downplay the importance of the roles they played in the success of the band...you tell me. 
     Here's something else to ponder: Paul Stanley tries very hard early on in his book to convey just how important the formation of this band was to him and to his future. He is very careful to point out that the band that he was forming in 1973 was everything to him, he had no plan B, the band simply had to work, absolutely everything was riding on it. So think about it: with everything on the line Gene and Paul chose Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Why did they choose Peter Criss and Ace Frehley? Clearly they had many drummers and guitar players to choose from. Why Ace and Peter? Obviously because they liked them and thought they were talented. Gene and Paul selected Peter and Ace as the drummer and guitar player that they felt they needed in order to make their band successful. Why else would they have chosen them? But now Paul would have us believe that KISS succeeded in spite of Ace and Peter. Bullshit.
     At least Paul admits in the book that Carnival of Souls and Psycho Circus were misguided disasters but he places most of the blame on Gene for the former and Bruce Fairbairn for the latter. He criticizes Ace and Peter for not accepting responsibility for their mistakes but when it comes to weakly imitating grunge or completely dropping the ball on the reunion album Paul refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes. At one point Paul complains that during the making of Psycho Circus the only way that he heard from Peter or Ace was through a lawyer. So now I finally understand why Ace and Peter were not involved in the making of the so-called reunion album. It's pretty simple: Gene and Paul ripped them off big time on the Reunion Tour, apparently making at least ten times as much as Ace and Peter, so Ace and Peter decided to renegotiate and use the making of the album as leverage, and who can blame them? But rather than treat Ace and Peter fairly Gene and Paul decided to make the album without them and then, showing an utter lack of respect for the fans, promoted it as a reunion album.
     So yes, I accuse Gene and Paul of ripping off Ace and Peter on the Reunion Tour. Gene and Paul exploited unfair leverage they possessed and kept the bulk of the profits for themselves, even though Ace and Peter were equally important and equally deserving, in my opinion, of reaping the rewards. I say Gene and Paul ripped them off. What might Paul's retort be? To call me an anti-semite, perhaps? Paul accuses both Ace and Peter of anti-semitism but doesn't offer a shred of evidence beyond an anecdote about Ace buying Nazi memorabilia while the band was on tour. Paul is being extremely disingenuous at this point in the book since any Kiss fan who owns Lydia Criss' book has seen the pictures of Paul wearing that same Nazi memorabilia. 


That's Paul on the right.

     Yes, Paul dressed up like a Nazi with Ace and Peter and posed for pictures, then 40 years later used that same memorabilia as evidence of Ace's anti-semitism. That is very underhanded. It's outrageous. FYI: Ace Frehley is currently engaged, and she's Jewish.


     The way Paul tells it Ace and Peter were essentially impossible to work with by the end of the Reunion Tour and the fact that the band was even able to perform on any given night was an absolute miracle and simply a testament to Gene and Paul's own fortitude and dedication in the face of such adversity, thus it's perfectly understandable that Gene and Paul chose to do TWO MORE WORLD TOURS with Ace and Peter. If Paul is to be believed then Gene and himself are guilty of defrauding fans, launching tours they knew would be substandard just for the payday, but here's the thing: I think it's quite apparent that Paul Stanley is exaggerating. Big time. I attended the Reunion Tour twice and the Farewell Tour once and I didn't notice any problems. Anyone reading this who attended any show on any of the three tours the reunited line-up put on, please tell us in the comments below, did Ace and Peter perform well at the shows that you attended or not? If Paul is to be believed there should be a slew of complaints below from fans who witnessed concerts ruined by Ace's and Peter's unprofessional behavior. Paul Stanley spends much of the book repeating himself, whether it's about Peter's outrageous demands at hotels (supposedly he insisted upon the windows being covered with aluminum foil--that was Elvis, Paul) or Ace Frehley's constant state of intoxication (there are plenty of clips on Youtube from this time, interviews and performances, of a perfectly together Ace) but if one takes an objective look back at all that KISS accomplished when Ace and Peter were a part of the band it seems rather obvious that Paul Stanley is exaggerating, his motive being twofold: 1) to discredit Ace and Peter and play down the importance of the role each played in the success of KISS (both times) and 2) to buffer the current line-up of KISS against snipes at its own credibility. 


     The early chapters of Paul Stanley's book, about his formative years, are great, very enlightening and emotionally effective. He also romanticizes the early years of KISS quite well and really seems to have enjoyed being in the band circa 1973-1976. It appears to have all started to go wrong with Destroyer and I think I know why: Ace and Peter hated working with the taskmaster Bob Ezrin and honestly, I don't blame them. In my opinion Ezrin set out to force KISS to make a non-KISS album. If I were Ace or Peter I would have bailed on Ezrin's album as well and it's no wonder that KISS returned to Eddie Kramer and the band's classic sound for the next album, Rock and Roll Over. Ace and Peter perform well on
Rock and Roll Over but Paul just can't give them credit, he instead describes how Peter could not carry a tune and had to be coached line by line how to sing "Hard Luck Woman." But isn't it strange that Peter did just fine singing Paul's song "Black Diamond," an undeniable KISS classic, on the first KISS album? Why did Paul let him sing it if he was so terrible, and how did it turn out so good? To me it seems rather obvious that what changed between 1974 and 1977 was Paul's perception, not Peter's ability.

     I do not deny that Peter and Ace were obviously difficult to work with at times, I would simply assert once again that Paul is exaggerating greatly in his descriptions of the two, and he has a clear motive to do so. Paul implies that Gene and himself deserved to make at least ten times more than Ace and Peter from the hugely successful Reunion Tour because himself and Gene kept the band alive through the eighties, but ironically Paul spends a great deal of the book complaining about how Gene deserted him in the eighties and left him to do all the work. Thus by Paul's logic the only member of KISS that deserved a big pay day come reunion time was Paul Stanley, but here's the thing: I believe that the Reunion Tour would have been just as big if KISS had split up in 1980. I believe that MANY of the people that bought tickets for the Reunion Tour bought them IN SPITE of the eighties, they were not really fans of KISS in the eighties and did not go see KISS live in the eighties, but they came back in droves for the Reunion Tour. Paul Stanley discusses every album and tour in his book but he skips over the 1992 Revenge Tour, why? Because KISS played to empty arenas on the Revenge Tour. The Reunion Tour was a success because it was those four guys back in the make-up, not because Paul kept the band alive with "Let's Put The X In Sex."

     The timing of Paul Stanley's book was impeccable, it came out the same week that KISS were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in that context the fact that Paul spends so much of the book denigrating Ace Frehley and Peter Criss is disappointing but not surprising. As I said early on, Paul is very honest about his own personal issues and what he thinks caused them, but he never bothers to wonder what might have caused the issues he saw in Ace and Peter. That's called empathy, and Paul lacks it, at least when it comes to Ace and Peter. Instead of empathy he judges them quite harshly and congratulates himself for not making the same mistakes. He just made different mistakes. I definitely recommend this book to any KISS fan but as you read please be sure to reflect upon all that KISS accomplished in the seventies and the three world tours they pulled off between 1996 and 2000. Think about all of the hard work and dedication that went into it, and not just from Gene and Paul. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss also rolled the dice on a dream. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss contributed a great deal to the band, including a staggering amount of time and effort. Paul Stanley's assessment of Ace and Peter is ridiculously one-sided and unfair and completely lacking in empathy. They deserve far more credit than Paul Stanley seemingly would allow, and they deserved to play together with Gene and Paul one last time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gene and Paul made a big mistake that night and I suspect they already know it, but it's too late.



The good old days

     

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Monsters of Rock Cruise Memories - Episode 132

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Every year, the high seas get rocked a little harder during this time of year and 2014 was no exception. The Monsters of Rock Cruise featured around 40 Decibel Geek-worth artists performing rotating sets in the Bahamas aboard the massive MSC Divina cruise ship and our very own Rich "The Meister" Dillon was on board to take it all in.

Rich "Meister" Dillon came through Nashville on his way back from the Monsters of Rock cruise to join Aaron, Chris, and Decibel Geek writer Andy Lafon for a discussion of all of the music, atmosphere, and debauchery that took place on the high seas. Underscoring this conversation is music from artists aboard the ship such as Cinderella, Killer Dwarfs, Winger, Red Dragon Cartel, and a bunch more. Dig it!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #13-The Drunken Debauchery Begins Before Boarding!

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So very much has happened in the two weeks that it's so hard to even begin to recount it to you but I'll hit some of the highlights here in my next series of articles wrapping up the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014.  I'd like to take a moment to personally thank Larry Morand and On The Blue for creating, presenting and blowing my mind each and every year to date.  As you all are undoubtedly aware, I am a massive proponent of The Monsters of Rock Cruise, absolutely some of the best experiences of my life......each year just gets better and better and more over the top.  Just when I think that it won't compare to the previous it jolts into overdrive and surpasses any expectations.  There are different elements to each voyage but the whole experience is absolutely unmatchable.
Meister & Nigel Glockler 2013
Each year I have had some truly awesome times and memorable moments such as my conversations with Saxon drummer Nigel Glockler about the fan insisting that he was Graham Bonnett,
Meister & Graham Bonnett 2013
saw some truly unbelievable live rock performances and made many, many new friends, 2014 being no exception.  I'll include some links at the bottom of my previous experiences.  I decided this time around that I would not do the daily diary as I had done for 2013.  As much as I loved creating them and recounting the events it was a ton of work and took up way too much of my on ship time (even though the final days didn't reach the Decibel Geek website until weeks after my return).  This year I'll condense things and hit many of the highlights with my articles and the forthcoming live podcast episode with Chris and Aaron, hopefully painting a picture of the absolute greatest rock and roll vacation!  Once again, thank you for everything Larry Morand, one day I will shake your hand and get a photo with you like I have done with many many a rockstar as you're easily in that category sir!

Wednesday March 26, 2014

I arrived in Miami three days prior to setting sail and even had three friends from Toronto on my flight.  What a change from a couple of years ago when I went alone knowing no-one.  It's thanks to MORC that I've made so many new friends here in the Toronto area, imagine that we go to the same shows but never met in most cases until being aboard a massive vessel in the Atlantic ocean!  In an eventful shuttle bus ride from the airport to the hotel we laid witness to a driver blatantly rear-ending a trailer-less big rig and also drove past the "Colon Supermarket" (perhaps a stop there on the way out of town?)!  Wednesday's plans consisted of relaxing at the hotel (Howard Johnson Hialeah Gardens) and waiting for more friends arriving from Canada and around the world.  It wasn't long before the beer started pouring and I was conducting my own party in the lobby of the hotel, greeting all my friends as they checked in.  The trips across the road to the gas station for more
I wish I could say I was drunk!
supplies (beer) became a regular occurrence as the "relax" part of the plan flew out the window.  Taking one look around at the staff and other customers of the hotel I realized that they had no idea what was about to hit them and began hedging bets on just how many people would be lined up at the front desk demanding refunds tomorrow morning, a number that would surely increase after the pool party takes place on Thursday night.  I actually felt sorry for the folks that were here for a bible convention....although I'm sure that they'd get a ton of work out of all us sinners!  Here's a shot of my stupidity before I even sipped the first beer.

Thursday March 27, 2014

Ethan Brosh-photo by Meister
Thursday held the Rockerz Gone Wild Pool Party II featuring a way too long list of live acts ringing in at 16 bands!!  The event kicked off the drinking early as the first band hit the stage at noon and while all the performances were quite good one of the highlights for me was Ethan Brosh and his band Burning Heat.  I was first introduced to Brosh's music after fellow Decibel Geek Kate had seen him set the stage for Yngwie Malmsteen in Toronto.  It was certainly unfortunate that they appeared on the bill quite early in the day and there was only a smattering of party goers in attendance for their half hour set.  Other bands throughout the day that stood out to me were Black Jacket, 3PD and Saints of Rebellion who I look forward to seeing perform again at the M3 pre-party.

 The first of two official MORC pre-parties was also taking place this evening and I took my leave from the pool party line-up to switch venues to Magic City Casino for pre-party #1 with Ted Poley and Autograph.  Autograph's Sign In Please was an early addition to my music library and I have always wanted to see Autograph "turn up the
Ted Poley-photo by Meister
amps" live.  The evening began with Ted Poley, who is such an awesome performer and blasted through hits such as "Bang, Bang", "Monkey Business", "I Still Think About You" and of course "Naughty Naughty" with his band consisting of guitarist Maz Mazza and bassist Greg Smith (Ted Nugent) and drummer (unfortunately I am unaware of who Ted's drummer was).  During "Don't Walk Away" Ted left the
Ted Poley-photo by Brian Ronald
stage and mingled throughout the whole audience, circling every section of the crowd as many of us sang along with him.  Ted also slid some covers into the roster with "Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo", "I Want You To Want Me", "Rock n Roll All Night" and "Love Boat", the theme from the TV show, which closed out a fantastic performance.  The only thing missing was this......Ted Poley treating the Toronto audience of The 80's Invasion tour to his drumming skills, with a broken wrist no less!

Steve Lynch-photo by Meister
After Poley's set I ventured to the beverage station, not having had much time before Ted took the stage and discovered that the fee for a frosty beer was extremely reasonable, some might even say cheap!  Autograph did not let me down as they blasted onto stage with "Deep End" followed by "Dance All Night" and "Loud & Clear".  Stepping in for original vocalist Steve Plunkett was Simon Daniels (Jailhouse), who while a little different than Plunkett covered the material beautifully being a pleasure to listen to.  Daniels also plays guitar, so with him in the mix it thickens up the sound and I look forward to the 2014 Autograph
Autograph-photo by Meister
"turning up the I-pod"!  The complete set list includes those three tracks plus "Bad Boy", "Blondes in Black Cars", "When the Sun Goes Down", "All I'm Gonna Take", "Send Her To Me", "Cloud 10", the classic title "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me" (a song about a loser Simon Daniels says), "She Never Looked That Good For Me" (same loser Daniels adds), "Crazy World", "That's The Stuff" and of course "Turn Up The Radio".  At one point in the show as Steve Lynch wailed on his guitar directly in front of me I had to consider him one of the most under rated guitarists.  Both Steve Lynch and bassist Randy Rand, the only two original members at this time were obviously happy to be back in the saddle and turning up the radio once again as the smiles were broad and chemistry between them abound.  Looking forward to seeing you boys in Toronto in May!

London-photo Brian Ronald
From there it was back to the pool party in time for the last two songs from Nadir D'Priest and London.  I would have absolutely loved to grab a bit more of London, especially after hearing what little I did, but something that I learned to do during my very first MORC experience is to sacrifice....you'll never see everything so don't stress about what you
Aldrich-photo Brian Ronald
miss.  Burning Rain was next on deck featuring Doug Aldrich and although I have troubles getting into the Epic Obsession release I was very impressed by the live set as one should expect watching Doug Aldrich.  Trixter was the headliner and I've never overly taken to their musical offerings either but they were sounding great as I held court with some more of my cruise friends old and new to close out the night.....apparently that guy from last year still really wants my Four Horsemen shirt, but after a few minutes of disappointment in finding out that it did not make my packing cut, he was happy to purchase me a beverage and a shot....Cheers bro!  Time for sleep for this old man.

Friday March 28, 2014

Photo by Amy Mech
Friday brought some light day time beverage consumptions, hanging out by the pool at the hotel with several friends new and old.  The camaraderie of my fellow MORC cruisers is a phenomenal thing and soon we were off for a late lunch/dinner with a fair sized group at a nearby restaurant.  I also learned that the gas station across the road that I had so frequently visited in the past couple of days for beer and late night food (after the messy pizza fiasco which included a price of $35 for a 6 slice pizza plus tip!!!) had had an armed robbery last night.....thank God I missed that!


After that it was off to official MORC pre-party #2 in the evening, again at Magic City Casino this
Firehouse-photo by Meister
time featuring Firehouse and KIX.  I was greeted by a long line upon arrival and unfortunately was a bit late getting into the show.  Firehouse sounded great and I had not given their music a lot of attention back in the day, but have since discovered that they have much more to offer than the overplayed ballads.  They ripped through songs such as "Rock on the Radio", "When I Look Into Your Eyes", "Overnight Sensation", "Love of a Lifetime", "Reach For the Sky" and "Don't Treat Me Bad".  I will definitely be looking up their set aboard ship!

KIX-by The Meister
KIX was next on deck as I mingled with Canadian friends including fellow Decibel Geek Kate, some of us meeting for the first time after our Facebook "EH" Team chats and many of whom had just arrived in Miami today.  It wasn't long before Kate had hooked up with a few of her Patron Club members and the shots began to flow, awesome to see her loving her first MORC before we're even on the vessel!  Many worldly friends met on previous cruises were also in attendance and the excitement was high for boarding the ship tomorrow morning.  Many rockers were also mingling around the pre-party including Autograph's Steve Lynch, Randy Rand and Simon Daniels were in attendance and it occurs to me that I had also seen them at the Pool Party late last night.....a flickering of memory seems that I held a conversation with Randy, let's hope I was vaguely coherent and didn't embarrass myself too much!  Always a pleasure to watch live, KIX treated the party goers to hits like "No Ring Around
KIX-photo by The Meister
The Rosie", "The Itch", "Lie Like A Rug", "Girl Money", "Don't Close Your Eyes", "Red Hot (Black & Blue)", "Cold Blood" and "Midnite Dynamite" and "Blow My Fuse".  The Marylanders, sometimes billed as "The Dirty Boys of The Underground" also announced a new album forthcoming and played two tracks from it including "Love Me".  Two of my newly made Canadian friends became engaged at the show with the assistance of Autograph bassist Randy Rand, what a monumental start to MORC 2014!  Congratulations to my now good friends and first time MORC'ers Candi Hallstrom and Thomas Capstick from Nova Scotia Canada!

So it seems that after writing this I realized that it's not all that condensed after all....it's just so hard not to tell every little detail........next up is Saturday March 29, 2014-The First Day Aboard the MSC Divina

A Couple of Links to Last Year's Series

Cheers,
The Meister ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bracket Buster - Episode 131

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If you're anywhere near America during this time of year, the term "March Madness" seems to permeate the air. The NCAA basketball tournament becomes the sports centerpiece for the entire month of March and sports and non-sports fans escape into office pools of their own brackets in an attempt to prove their sports knowledge. The musical equivalent of this takes place on (crappy) radio stations across the land; with stations assigning bands in the bracket spots and letting listeners vote on who should be crowned the champ. 

This week Aaron and Chris take a rock band bracket list and go head-to-head in a discussion/argument over what happens when you pit these bands against each other. Some of these matchups and picks will anger you, make you laugh, question our sanity. Either way, it's a fun, laid-back talk between Aaron and Chris and more indisputable evidence that radio absolutely, positively sucks.

Geeks of the Week:
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Matt Ashcraft, Todd Cunningham, Chris Karam, Rick Shaw, Derik Novak, Patrick Johnson, Brian N Shawna Evans, Rodney Dickson, Shane Hebert, Jason Thomas Broadrick

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Nick Rose (belated), Cassius Morris, Jason Wood, Nonsensicast Radio, Mojo Dave, The Pod Mafia,

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