Released: 2009, Backbeat Books
“You can’t talk about American Metal without talking about Kiss” Sam Dunn, Producer, Metal Evolution. 2011. (Episode Two-Early Metal US)
“Anyone who says Kiss were never Metal doesn´t know what they´re talking about!” Quorthon (Bathory) in a June 1994 interview with Malcolm Dome.
Some people may question the validity of doing a feature on Kiss in the hallowed pages of Metal-Rules.com. Many critics of Kiss who suggest that they are ‘not metal’, tend to focus their arguments on non-musical traits. For example some people complain about Gene’s reality show and his various extra-curricular (ie. non-Kiss) activities. Some people complain about the line-up changes, some people complain about the nature and style of the tours, and many people complain about the commercial nature of the Kiss identity and brand. However, many of those critics, deep down when push comes to shove will admit, however grudgingly, based purely on the music, that Kiss is Metal. Therefore we are proud to present our Kiss feature at Metal-Rules.com. This month in reflection and in celebration of the October 9th release of MONSTER, the 20th studio album by Kiss, our specialty book section, The Library Of Loudness is reviewing seven books about Kiss and by members of Kiss, past and present. This month we review… (listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name)
Criss, Peter – Makeup To Breakup
Floren, Ingo – The Official Price Guide to Kiss Collectibles.
Harris, Larry – Casablanca: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records
Leaf, David & Sharp, Ken – Kiss: Behind The Mask
Simmons, Gene – Sex, Money, Kiss
Sherman, Dale – Black Diamond: The Unauthorized Biography of Kiss
Sherman, Dale – Kiss FAQ
As a bonus here are other books about Kiss we have previously reviewed. Feel free to enjoy the reviews of these Kiss related titles as well.
Frehley, Ace-No Regrets
Moore, Wendy-Into The Void
Prato, Greg-The Eric Carr Story
Simmons, Gene-Kiss And Make Up
AND PARTY EVERY DAY
Of all the books in this feature about Kiss, this one is probably the weakest. I’m not suggesting it is not a good book on it’s own merits, but in terms of pure Kiss stuff AND PARTY EVERY DAY is much more of an insider industry expose than a story of Kiss’ relation to the label. This good-looking hardcover comes in at 310 pages and has a couple dozen, colour pictures, many of them rare photos of Kiss. Written by the co-founder of Casablanca Records, Larry Harris is the only person in the position to tell the story of the stunning rise and crushing fall of Casablanca, and we all love a rags to riches to rags again story! The book also comes with an extensive discography of the labels catalogue which features Donna Summers, The Village People and countless no-name disco acts the label very unwisely staked their fortunes on. And of course Kiss was the band, the engine of the label that let them build upon their initial success.
Larry Harris is a good story-teller with a very keen eye for detail and memory for names and faces, recalling small details about ex-marketing directors or DJ’s from over 30 years ago with apparent ease. Lucid and candid he details the rise of the company and his integral involvement but without letting the book descend simply into his own autobiography. He is indeed a central character but gives credit where credit is due, even to his enemies, make that, adversaries in business.
Larry is very informative about the mechanics of the music business in the 1970’s and if a person wants to live the myth and believe the dream of the record industry, they want to avoid this book. I say that only because Larry tells the truth. Record labels bribed people to play music. They plied people with booze, drugs, women in order to get favourable chart positions, to get advertising, to get radio-play and most importantly sales. Often the label was on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to make payroll until some loan-shark or last minute deal was brokered to keep the sinking ship afloat, while the executives jetted off to NYC gala award dinners fueled by artificially inflated sales numbers and cocaine. It wasn’t pretty. Probably a low point in my mind was when Casablanca would buy up copies of magazines (Creem, Circus etc) and have the staff sit around and fill out to ‘Best New Band’ surveys, (naming Kiss as the winner naturally) and mailing them back to the magazine. So the label buys ad space for Kiss. The label then buys the magazines. Then they fill out the surveys naming their own band as the best. Then sales go through the roof and everyone is happy. This book will certainly shock the naïve and it lays open the extent these people would go to generate sales by manufacturing perception and manipulating perception.
I was surprised at the authors very casual attitude towards the lifestyle lived in the age of excess. Affairs, drug abuse, theft and ties to the underworld general hedonistic attitude seem to be just par for the course. A more conservative person may be shocked at the choices and lifestyle made by the record executives where bribery, deceit and lies were all part of a good days work and rewarded accordingly so. There have been many artists who have talked about the industry being a meat-grinder (or similar analogies) and Casablanca sets the bar pretty high. Ultimately, the labels practices, business and otherwise lead to the dissolution of the company, lay-offs, heartache and heartbreak and despite a stratospheric rise the label really only lasted 11 years from 1974 to 1985. However, they were incredibly prolific with over 300 albums, the vast majority of them disco records, which ultimately proved to be a short-lived fad, unable to sustain the label as a viable business entity.
This last point speaks to my ultimate (mild) disappointment with AND PARTY EVERY DAY, namely there is not enough stuff about Kiss. Casablanca did release everything up to and including MUSIC FROM THE ELDER, which is about half their catalogue but details seemed a bit thin. There is good Kiss trivia about the early days and relationship between Kiss’ management, lawyers, agents, and record label and who was sleeping with who, who owed money (or favours) to who and so on. It was all about leveraging (or exploiting) relationships (on both sides) to reach a mutual goal. As it stands it was a very enjoyable read chronicling the excesses of the 1970’s music industry and the story behind the people in the label that helped take Kiss to the top.