BOOK REVIEW: C.K. Lendt – KISS and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup

KISS AND SELLC.K. LENDT – Kiss and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup (1997 Billboard Books)

Chris Lendt used to be an accountant for Kiss’ management company (from ’76-’88), and according to him, quite close to the band. He spent a lot of time on the road, with the band, keeping track of the money.  The story he tells is amusing at times, off-topic at others, but also often critical of his former bosses.

Lendt distills Kiss’ legacy to profit/loss diagrams. At the same time, he tells a lot of stories about excess, touring, and groupies, but not a lot about rock and roll. If you are looking for the nitty gritty details about Kiss and the music, this is not the book for you. For that book, check out Black Diamond by Dale Sherman. If you want one person’s account of the inner workings of the Kiss business, then read on.

Lendt describes parties, extravagent budgets, and stage shows. Where things get really interesting in this book is when things start to go sour for Kiss, right around the time of the Dynasty tour in ’79. He desribes Gene’s plan for “Kiss World”, a traveling amusement park that was to play outside of Kiss’ concerts on that tour. Needless to say it never happened, but it’s not something that’s well covered in other books, at least in this level of detail. He talks about recording budgets, about Ace Frehley building a gajillion dollar home studio that was never used (and later turned into a swimming pool), about wigs (Gene’s), about gurus (Paul’s), and about desperately copying every move Bon Jovi made when they hit it big in ’86, before his company was fired by Kiss in ’88.

He also spends a bit too much time talking about Diana Ross, whom his company was also managing. There are too many pages about investments, stuffy boardroom meetings, profit margins, and budgets. While this book is very insightful, covering many details that nobody else was privy to, it’s not enough about rock and roll. I can’t even tell if Lendt really likes rock and roll. Certainly, he liked working for Kiss in the early years, and the touring, but the later years are marked by constant criticism.  (A bit like my own Record Store Tales, I guess.)

Pick up Kiss and Sell cheaply, read it and enjoy it; but please also pick up Dale Sherman’s Black Diamond, and Kiss’ own Behind The Mask. Both books are more about the music, and both books are actually surprisingly critical as well. All three together will be a very well rounded reading of the hottest band in the land.

3/5 stars. More if the author would stick to the topic!

23 comments

  1. There aren’t enough books by rock accountants in my view. Or rock gardeners either – I can see it now a sizzling expose of the groups herbaceous borders!

    Apart from Diana Ross, that all sounds rather interesting.

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    1. The Diana stuff was interesting, but it wasn’t why I bought a Kiss book, you know?

      I was shocked to learn that she demanded EVERYONE refer to her as “Miss Ross” and ONLY “Miss Ross”. If you failed to do so, it was a big deal.

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  2. I totally agree with you on this and your other recommendations. Black Diamond is still the most enjoyable KISS book I’ve read. I love the song by song stuff in Behind the Mask a lot too. I did like KISS and Sell but I’ve only read it once. It came out just as they started the reunion tour didn’t it? So definitely a whiff of a cash-in in that respect.

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  3. I suppose this is what happens when you let an accountant write a book about rock and roll. The stereotype of the job is often true – dry like a saltine fart. But they have to pay so much attention to detail – not much room for wild times, on that job. He dealt behind the scenes, on things most people don’t want to think about when they think of rock – he got the checks and balances while they were getting the tits and ass.

    Still, having never read the other books, I would say this is an interesting book simply because it’s so different. And, combined with the other more obvious books about the rock lifestyle, this is an important piece of the puzzle that makes up the entire picture of the band. That’s it! It’s a jigsaw puzzle, and this book is like doing the border/edge pieces. Boring, but still essential.

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    1. Yeah that’s well put! As a Kiss fan, I’m glad I bought it and read it. If I was a newcomer or casual fan, I’d probably be bored through the majority. It’s not for people who are just getting into Kiss, it’s for people like me who WANT to see the profit & loss statements!

      And you’re right about the details, etc.

      I read somewhere that Gene wasn’t happy about this books’ release, no surprise there.

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        1. Incidentally Aaron, they had this book in Toronto, and I could have got it, if only I knew that Jompa needed it. He commented today that he’s been looking for this book.

          Insert plug for holy grail list here! No reason you couldn’t put a Kiss book on the list for example, right?

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        2. Haha I was thinking of an album title of his…

          Absolutely! The KMA Grail Search List is open to all, and can include anything – books, CDs, DVDs, whatever.

          You just need to tell me who the heck Jompa is. Jompa?

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        3. But yes, I know that Holy Grail list will bring success to some of us soon. I can feel it.

          Actually it kind of did…one of our readers Brian Zinger contacted me about a CD for Sarca, a Ray Lyell. He knew she wanted it thanks to the KMA (or at least our discussion of it in the Toronto posts) and picked it up for a $1.

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        1. I’m not sure which CD it is…I acted as the third party to initiate communication. Brian mentioned he wasn’t sure she needed it, but that she did like Ray Lyell so he picked it up.

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      1. Haha I meant that for Jon, but it applies to Zinger too. The list is there for everyone and if we can find things for other people, then the Community works!

        The Ray Lyell she wanted was the S/T first record. If it’s another one of his and she doesn’t want it, and no one else does, I’ll give it a good home! I like that guy! ;)

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    1. Tim, I’ve read all their books. Paul’s was far and away the best. Peter and Ace had their woe-is-me stories, and Gene’s too much of a know it all. Paul’s was painful at times, he had a hard childhood, but I think you can trace where it made him the man it is.

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