Released: 2012, Simon And Schuster
“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
MAKEUP TO BREAKUP
Three down, one to go. Namely Paul Stanley has yet to write his autobiography. Of the four original members of the American icons, Kiss, , Criss now gets his turn to tell his story, and what a story it is. I always felt Criss was the least interesting character/ member of the band, but I also felt he might have the most to say and have the most sincere and revealing book. Gene's book defined Kiss, Paul's will toe the party line, Ace's book while fun showed he really was a 'Space Ace'. So I felt Criss's book might have the best chance of having a reasonable amount of new info and insight into the Kiss machine for two reasons. One because Criss can remember lots of it (unlike Ace) and secondly he has been disconnected from the gears of the giant grinding Kiss machine long enough that he could speak freely, free of pressure and censorship. The only disadvantage of this 'look behind the magic curtain' is that, sometimes it's more fun to enjoy the magic show untainted than to be explained how the trick worked. By that I mean Criss' version of the history of Kiss is pretty revealing, not always pretty, and in fact it gets downright ugly at times. But that makes for a good story right? As long as don''t believe everything we read, I think MAKE UP OR BREAKUP has an enormous amount of value for a Kiss fan.
The book itself is a decent hardcover with a nice dust-jacket with a glossy shot of ol 'Catman' himself in his prime. It runs a respectable 367 pages with about 60, mostly colour photos on glossy plates in the middle and a couple dozen more black and white shots in the back. One inexcusable omission was a discography. Criss has had a chequered post-Kiss (glory-years) recording career on smaller labels and those details should have been published along with covers of the albums. His thank you list is one of the longest I've ever read and the whole thing is prefaced by a nice note from Criss in his own handwriting.
As with most the book follows a chronological sequence opening with the 'hook' that has Criss sitting alone, depressed, (broke, by Kiss standards, although he still had a sack of $100,000 hidden away) in his apartment in LA with a loaded .357 Magnum revolver in his mouth thinking about ending it all. 'Oh my goodness!' we are supposed to say. "I wonder how he could ever get in such a predicament?" Well, after the hook, (a somewhat overused literary device used to capture the readers attention while they stand in the book store flipping through the first few pages deciding whether to buy the book or not) the story begins with his humble beginnings in NYC. At risk of sounding cynical, MAKEUP OR BREAKUP is a pretty conventional autobiography. He grows up, discovers music, discovers girls, is a bit of a hellraiser, runs through several bands before finally getting to the audition for Kiss. The standard stuff is all nicely detailed; his first band, his first blowjob, his first fights, and crimes, his first drug experiences, his first wife...you know, the usual rock star autobiography stuff.
What I found truly interesting was not so much the early years but his solo album years (1980-1995 or so) and the KIss Reunion years. I was really hoping he would not ignore his solo career. I actually have a few Criss solo albums and it was very interesting to hear about his work with Phil Naro, his various aborted attempts to launch a successful solo career. So many autobiographies gloss over recent events but Criss gives true fans value by talking about many non-Kiss related events. The other major bonus was his intimate detailing of the KIss reunion years and how it further cemented his eternal burning hatred for Kiss, Gene, Paul and even eventually Ace all because of money. This book must have been very cathartic for him because he comes across as mean and angry and even discussing his desire (more than once) to cut the throat of Gene Simmons! Yikes! He gets it all out and it makes for a great read. Some of the inner works of Kiss machine are revealed (keeping again that there are three sides to every story) and Peter does no pull any punches about how was treated during the Reunion/Pyscho Circus/Alive IV) era. Some of the things he says about Gene and Paul are just plain mean and intended to hurt or embarrass, which is a shame because he could have taken a bit of the high road and still kept the book juicy enough to entice.
In this review, I deliberately avoided discussing in detail the shock value of the book, but yes, it's all there, the endless piles of cocaine, horny Playboy Playmates, endless groupies willing to drop to their knees in front of him at the snap of a finger, destroyed hotel rooms, police, guns, more drugs, divorces, rehab, relapse, affairs, fist-fights, endless parties, lear jets, near fatal carjackings, monster benders with celebrity friends, drunk driving accidents, an earthquake and millions spent on the endless pursuit of a lifestyle destined to end in tragedy. However, for Criss it doesn't end in tragedy. He meets a nice girl, gets clean, gets cancer and beats it, rediscovers his faith and is quietly getting on with his life as he enters his golden years. It kind of has a happy ending feel to it.
It's been documented that Peter Criss was labelled as the complainer during the glory years of KIss. He even admits to that himself. Having that perception, it makes for a pretty tough read at times. It was with quite a bit of anticipation that I read MAKEUP OR BREAKUP and while very enjoyable, Criss does complain. A lot. I lost track of how many times Criss would tell an anecdote and end up with him 'crying himself to sleep', in a hotel, on a tour bus, or in an empty mansion somewhere. The negative tone really dragged the narrative down without necessarily developing a huge amount of sympathy for Criss because the vast majority of his problems (hence the tears) were self-imposed. Criss complains about everything. Despite coming across as warm and sensitive and wearing his heart on his sleeve, he really has a hard time describing his enviable, multi-millionaire rockstar life-style life in positive terms. Originally I rated this book just a shade lower, because of the constant negativity and thinly veiled..no, make that unbridled bitterness, towards his ex-friends and band-mates. However, MAKE UP OR BREAK UP is mandatory for members of the Kiss Army (and all Kiss fans for a matter of fact) so I bumped my personal rating of 3.5 out of five to a four.