Kiss and Make Up (Book Review)
Released: 2003, Crown Publishers
It feels slightly odd reviewing an autobiography because by default you cannot really in any good faith criticize a factual re-telling of one’s own life story. It would be insulting to say the least. It’s feels doubly odd to read the life-story of someone I grew watching and listening to over the years. In fact when this book first came out I made a point NOT to read it so I would not have the bubble burst. However, curiosity got the best of me and I do enjoying reading the stories of other people successes so I can learn from them.
Gene speaks to this point very early on in the intro, and lays it on the line. Not everyone is going to like this book, fans, entourage and band members alike. Well, I ended up liking this book. A lot. I felt it was honest, sincere and played to both audiences, diehard fan (myself) and casual observers.
Clocking in at about 275 pages, this nice hard cover was a decent length. It could have been much, much longer. How can any one person accurately cover 30 years or more of history? I mean Gene covered massive parts of Kiss history in a few short pages. A mere 18 pages is dedicated to 1985 to 1993! This is a forgivable sin because this is NOT a book about Kiss it is about Gene. However, the half decade when Paul was keeping Kiss going for the most part, Gene was off in Hollywood. It would have been interesting to read some more of his accounts of his extra-curricular (non-Kiss) activities that clearly pre-occupied his time in the mid 80’s.
This is a fairly conventional autobiography, presented in liner, chronological fashion. There is a good chunk dedicated to his earliest days in Israel, the early days of the band. There are no shortage of tales of Gene sexual exploits, with many brief anecdotes that were (thankfully) short on detail. Lots and lots of photos some surprisingly tender, some expected posed ‘rock god’ shots and a good number of funny shots.
It’s all here, the dirt, and the hard-hitting truths that we, as fan always knew but perhaps did not care to freely discuss, like Ace’s alcoholism, Peter’s drug abuse, divorces, car-crashes, affairs, STD’s, band fights, money problems, un-credited guest players and just generally bad attitudes by most members at one time or another.
What struck me were some of Gene own candid admissions. He talks about being a mama’s boy, a spoiled child, his own negative attitudes towards other members of the band, fear of commitment, and his total shock and fear becoming a parent quickly turning into love for his family and changing his life. The few moments when he drops his guard and loses the bravado and there are some surprisingly nice tales of Gene’s own self-confessed insecurities. His worries, and at times unhappiness that show him as far more vulnerable human than perhaps outside observers of ‘The Demon’ would ever know. However, he does not dwell on the negative at all but does not pretend that it does not exist or that bad things have never happened to him. He has had to put up with a lot of crap to get where he is today it seems.
One point that stayed with me while reading the whole book was that he mentioned that the band was never especially talented in terms of music, the band were very often not friends, and that the larger goal, for better and for worse was about spectacle and money. As a fan of the music and the songs I recognize this, but at the same time was surprised how little gene EVER spoke of music. He talked about girls, cars, comic books, TV, movies, his love-life but almost never in 275 pages talk about enjoying Kiss music, writing songs, learning instruments. It is as if the music was an afterthought, merely a means to the end, namely getting rich and laid. I recently read a book about Black Sabbath and conversely that whole book was about music, who wrote what, sounds, production, instruments…a very different perspective.
This is the quintessential rock biography, it has it all, revelations some shocking, some not so shocking, great stories, chronicling a drive and bizarre rise to fame and fortune that perhaps is unparalleled even today. I would recommended this book to be read in conjunction with any number of great Kiss books out there that focus more on the band, rather than Gene the man.