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Leaf, David & Sharp, Ken
Kiss: Behind The Mask-The Official, Authorized Biography (Book Review)
November 2012
Released: 2003, Warner
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Kiss Feature

“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 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 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 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

Kiss-Kiss Kompendium

Moore, Wendy-Into The Void

Prato, Greg-The Eric Carr Story

Simmons, Gene-Kiss And Make Up


It’s pretty hard to top a monster, official and authorized biography, and BEHIND THE MASK is pretty much the grand-daddy of Kiss books. Back in 1979 David Leaf conducted some extensive, intimate and surprisingly candid interviews with the members of Kiss, laying the foundation of what was to be a biography to be published in 1980. For whatever reason it lay unreleased until about 1993 when David Leaf met another Kiss fanatic, Ken Sharp. Drawn together by their mutual enthusiasm for the band the band spent another decade producing this book based on a massive amount of interviews with the band. The result is of course, KISS-BEHIND THE MASK.

The book is divided into three main sections, Leaf’s original biography covers up until 1979 (or so) and covers roughly 100 pages. The interviews with the members are fascinating. It is truly an epic and uncensored look at the band over the first six or seven years, just before things started to change with line-up’s shifting and label changes. Section Two: Speaking In Tongues is a little less structured but chronologically documents certain points in the career of the band and has countless quotes from industry people, and musicians about Kiss. The focus is pretty much from the non-make-up years through to the reunion. Many people are cited on record talking about Kiss; Members of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Queen, Aerosmith, Rush as well as industry players like Bill Aucoin and Neil Bogart.

In my mind Section Three: Shout It Out Loud is the most interesting. The authors go song-by-song, album-by-album and do a detailed breakdown of the creation and inspiration behind every Kiss song. It’s amazing. This section spans almost 225 pages, you have remember Kiss at the time of publication had written and released 18 studio albums, as well as the countless extra tracks that appear as extras over the years. Each album is covered from the very beginning with extensive info on the producers, managers, engineers, photographers and all the countless extra session people who helped play and or co-write material, as well the release dates. They even cover the unreleased Wicked Lester album and the solo albums. It is interesting to note that at times the members and assorted industry people would contradict each other about dates, times and places. For example Ace Frehley said ‘Rocket Ride’ was written in New York and the co-writer said it was written in Japan! Some of the stories behind these songs provide real insight to the lyrics and meaning. You can read why everyone except Gene hates the song' 'Rocking In The USA', a studio bonus track from ALIVE II and many more similar anecdotes.

It’s pretty trite to state the obvious in such simplistic terms, but yes, this is the essential book about Kiss. Of the two-dozen or so titles, this is the one that really captures the essence of the music. The added bonus of having full participation of the members make this book unique and special. People forget that Kiss is a band. Forget merchandising, forget the fireworks and confetti cannons, the side-projects, the comics, the movies, forget Gene acting career and romantic dalliances; Kiss is a rock band that writes and records songs and play them live. Kiss-Behind The Mask focuses on the music and song-writers and that is why it is one of the best books about the band, even to this day.
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