A name that should be familiar to long-time KISS fans is that of Sean Delaney. Some may recognize him as the producer of Gene Simmons’ 1978 solo album and DOUBLE PLATINUM, or as writer/co-writer of such KISS tracks as “Rocket Ride,” “Take Me,” “Makin’ Love,” “Mr. Speed,” three from Peter Criss’ solo album and one from Simmons’. Delaney was never a man who was in the spotlight. In fact, the new biography, HELL BOX, claims that Delaney was more a part of the KISS phenomena than the band ever let on. The book credits Delaney with being the “co-founder of KISS” and carrying on an almost Svengali-like relationship with the initial direction of the band. Delaney passed away on April 13, 2003 of a stroke at the age of 58, but before his sudden death, he was working on HELL BOX with author Bryan J. Kinnaird as a means to get his story out there and show that KISS were not quite the impresarios they claimed to be. There is a fair bit of mudslinging done in the book but it seems convincing enough. Besides, the reputation of KISS being less than truthful with its fans is notorious.
The book is surprisingly short at 118 pages and a good chunk of it is devoted to material other than KISS. The book begins with Delaney’s revelation that as a homosexual, his teen years were less than pleasant growing up in 1960s New Jersey. A horrific stint in the army taught him more than he could imagine and eventually led to his institutionalization. While incarcerated, Delaney learned to play guitar from a fellow patient and that skill eventually led to a career in music. The path along the way is full of more valleys than peaks and it seems like bad luck literally followed Delaney around. Failed relationships, a horrible family life and crooked business deals almost seemed like a way of life for Delaney. His big break came when meeting future KISS manager, Bill Aucoin, which would turn into a personal and working relationship between the two men. Delaney and Aucoin discovered the band and decided to focus their time, attention and money on developing them into the “next big thing.” Delaney claims that their “plan was to make KISS a commercially-viable product” and his theatre experience and army training contributed to his teaching of the band’s signature stage choreography, outfits, makeup and overall shtick. Delaney’s claim of searching an S&M store to find a corset for a then-chubby Paul Stanley is hilarious. He later recalls leaving the band in a car in the Deep South as a joke he likened to the film DELIVERANCE. There are many such anecdotes and sordid details found in HELL BOX that while humorous definitely put the carefully guarded image of KISS in a negative light.
There are many good stories to be found in HELL BOX and Delaney’s story is an interesting one. He seemed to be a magnet for bad luck and at times comes off as a bit of a martyr, but you have to feel for the guy. Of course the members of KISS have distanced themselves from HELL BOX, which turns many of the stories/myths that have been preached as truth over the years upside down. Which side you choose to believe is inconsequential, but hearing a different take on the infamous Gene and Paul spin causes one to ponder.
HELL BOX is a quick and easy read that will appeal to KISS fans, music fans and those looking for a good dishing of dirt. There aren’t any major scandals here, but some new light is definitely shed on the band and Delaney’s role in what made them “The Hottest Band In the World.”
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