Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
I had so much fun revisiting my favorite albums of 1986 for Thirty Year Thursday last year that I’ve decided to do something similar in 2017. This time I’m turning back the clock even further…way back to 1977…for a series I’m
calling Forty Year Friday. That was the year I turned 11 and, even though I was already obsessed with music, I didn’t yet have the disposable income necessary to build a record collection. Instead, I mainly focused on one band (the subject of this post and the photo to the right will make that clear) but continued listening to Top 40 radio (which was really good, and diverse, back then) and buying 7” singles whenever I fell in love with a song. I discovered most of the albums I’ll feature in this series when I was older so, unlike last year, I won’t have many recollections of hearing this music at the time beyond the radio hits. In spite of the fact that three of my favorite artists (Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones) didn’t release studio albums in 1977, it’s still one of my favorite years of music, with dozens of classics that have stood the test of time. I may need to skip a week from time to time, but I look forward to discussing these records with you on most Fridays throughout 2017.
Albums: LOVE GUN and ALIVE II
I don’t remember the first time I became aware of KISS, but I believe my obsession began after their appearance on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special on ABC in 1976. Like many young men of my generation (and possibly a few young ladies), the makeup, costumes, stage show and sing-along rock ‘n roll were irresistible. I didn’t know it at the time, but their combination of melody, aggressive hard rock and showmanship pointed me in the direction of the musical greats who came before them. I’ll always be grateful to them for that influence, but it wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t write good songs. Fortunately that was never an issue, and they were still delivering the goods on their sixth studio album, Love Gun. There are highlights aplenty: Paul Stanley’s “I Stole Your Love” & “Love Gun,” Gene Simmons’ rhyming duo (“Plaster Caster” & “Christine Sixteen”) & “Almost Human” and Ace Frehley’s lead vocal debut, “Shock Me.” Their cover of the The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” (re-titled as “Then She Kissed Me”), while not essential, was my introduction to the wall-of-sound production of original producer & co-writer Phil Spector. I distinctly remember saving up just enough money to buy Love Gun on the day of release but, unfortunately, the list price was a dollar higher than most new releases and I came home empty-handed. Then my friend’s mother lent me the money and I triumphantly returned to the store. I probably played the album every day that summer and I still love hearing it 40 years later.
1975’s double-LP Alive! essentially launched their career after three under-the-radar studio albums, so it’s unsurprising that they repeated the formula after their next three records with Alive II, released just four months after Love Gun. We insatiable fans couldn’t have been more excited to have three album sides of live renditions (with lots of studio sweetening) of recent songs like “Detroit Rock City,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “I Want You,” “Beth,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “I Want You” and “God Of Thunder.” The latter once had me inadvertently swallow a mouthful of ketchup as I attempted to “spit blood” like my demonic fire-breathing hero, Gene Simmons. As if 15 live tracks weren’t enough, we were treated to 5 new studio recordings on Side 4. Only one of these, “Rocket Ride,” featured Ace Frehley on guitar (and vocals), a fact most of us wouldn’t learn until years later, but we didn’t care who was behind the scenes as long as our four superheroes appeared on the front cover and in that incredible inner gatefold shot of them on stage. Of the other new tracks, Stanley’s “All American Man” and Simmons’ “Larger Than Life” are the other standouts for me.
I strongly urge you to check out these other viewpoints from two of my favorite blogs:
Also, here’s a NSFW (not suitable for work) clip about Kiss and “Love Gun” from the hilarious movie Role Models:
So, who else was similarly impacted by KISS at the time, and how many of you didn’t get into them until years later? I’m always curious to hear how certain albums stack up for people who came to them at different times.