Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark Off KISS from the Bucket List


I finally got to see a KISS concert. Oh, and Ozzy Osbourne too.
Well, let’s be honest here, I didn’t actually see the real KISS and Ozzy in concert — they were tribute bands — but it was almost as good for this old Oklahoma boy.
The tribute bands were called Blizzard of Oz and Destroyer and that played last weekend at the House of Blues in Dallas. I went because I thought it would be a hoot and because I’ve never been to the House of Blues and I heard they served alcohol.
KISS, for those of you who may not know, is a band that started in 1973 by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The two were joined by Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Criss played the drums, Frehley was the lead guitar, while Stanley played guitar and provided most of the vocals. Simmons was the bass player and by far the weirdest dude in the band and, perhaps, on the planet.
The band did something that very few bands were doing at the time: they wore make-up and crazy costumes — including Simmons’ thigh-high boots that looked like dragons — during all their concerts and live appearances. Their gimmick was make-up, theatrical tricks and some pretty good music.
Simmons was quite a sight to behold back in the 1970s and 1980s. He was known to spit blood, shoot fire from his mouth and look like a nut. While the group Destroyer did a great job matching the make-up and sounds of the original KISS, I couldn’t help thinking about how the fake Gene Simmons joined the band. Was it possibly through an advertisement on Craigslist?
Wanted: Bass player for local tribute band. Must have hair long enough to be tied up in a pony tail on top. Make-up application skills preferable but not required. Must be able to fit into a pair of thigh-high dragon boots, size 12. Must be able to lick whipped cream off your own Adam’s apple. The ability and willingness to hold large amounts of blood in your mouth for several minutes during a live performance. Flexible schedule and Mondays off. Paid holidays and a competitive benefits plan is offered to the right candidate. Some experience required.
Whatever they did, they got the right group of guys together. You could tell they worked pretty hard to look and sound like KISS.
I wasn’t a big KISS fan when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and KISS was on my radar but I didn’t really pay attention. My friend Todd and his brother Randy were KISS aficionados and tried to get me to appreciate the greatness of the band. I couldn’t do it.
Truth be told, I was little afraid of KISS. Rumors were flying that the members of the band worshipped the one who shall remain nameless (Editor’s Note: Satan). The letters in KISS supposedly stood for Knights In Satan’s Service. The logo also looked like the SS letters from Nazi Germany (which would have been weird since Gene Simmons is Jewish). They were a lot of bad vibes given out by this band.
I couldn’t be a part of something like that when I was a kid. Oh yeah, when “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night” or “Beth” or “I Was Made for Loving You” came on the radio, I sang along just like all my friends. But I tried to deny that it was KISS singing the songs. It was just another cool band from the 1970s like The Bee Gees, or Supertramp or David Gates and Bread.
But the other night I couldn’t deny it. That was KISS singing those great tunes (well, not actual KISS, it was Destroyer, but still). Those were KISS songs. And the whole audience was singing along just like Gene and Paul and Peter and Ace were up there singing and playing away.
I have to say that I’ve grown a little bit since I was a youngster. I have a little bit more of an open mind to some stuff.
When I was a kid the concept of KISS scared the heck out of me. If I listened to them too long, surely I would be shuttled off to the hot place where the Devil lives, I thought. I couldn’t take that chance, so I stuck with Chicago, and Neil Sedaka and Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons. These were wholesome acts that every family could be proud of.
In the years since, I have learned that a lot of what bands do are just for show. Strip off all the make-up and the boots and the leather outfits and the long hair and they are just like you and me except they are talented and go home with get paid millions of dollars. Take away all the theatrics and you are left with a band that likes to play music and entertain people. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes I think things we don’t understand just make us want to write it all off and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Maybe we could all learn from the great philosopher Ozzy Osbourne and his ballad, “Crazy Train”:
“Crazy, but thats how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe its not to late
To learn how to love
And forget how to hate”
There still a few things that freak me out about KISS. I’m not a huge fan of blood so I could have done without the spitting of water with red food coloring. But if you close your eyes and just listen to the music, you might just enjoy the band. I know I did.
I like KISS and Ozzy — and their tribute bands — just as much as I enjoy George Strait, Conway Twitty and Alan Jackson. They are almost as good as Journey and Foreigner and 38 Special.
But, of course, they will never replace icons like Michael Jackson, Elvis and the Pet Shop Boys.

To read more of Rodney Hays’ humor, check out his blog at him on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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