The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 9:
By the late 1970s, Kiss had achieved more than most bands do in an entire career. In 1977, Marvel comics released the first ever Kiss comic. Famously, as a publicity stunt, each Kiss member had a vial of blood drawn, and poured into the red ink. “Printed in real KISS blood” proclaimed the front cover. Can you imagine such a thing in 2017? In 1978, the toy company Mego marketed the first set of Kiss action figures. The phenomenon of Kiss was almost eclipsing the music. Perhaps it would have completely, if Kiss didn’t continue to release excellent albums on a biannual basis. Their first album of 1977 was the legendary Love Gun. Even the Ken Kelly cover art depicts Kiss as demi-gods of some kind. Inside, the merchandising spilled over to the album. Kiss were determined to give their fans a little extra, and so the album was packed with little cardboard “love guns” that you could assemble yourself…accompanied by a Kiss merch mail-away form.
The music brightly outshone all the flash and trimmings. Again with Eddie Kramer in the producer’s chair, Kiss sought to make a focused heavy rock record. Their material had rarely been stronger. Paul Stanley was becoming handy at writing opening tracks that defined what an album was going to sound like. “I Stole Your Love” cranked it fast with one of Paul’s most thunderous riffs. The tribal sounding drums by Peter Criss are an apt example of what made him great at the time. Criss was not a technical drummer, but he had the right feel and a knack for the perfect fill. Ace Frehley soars in and dive bombs with an unforgettable lightning solo. Gene Simmons is there in the back, adding the thump. “I Stole Your Love” in a mere three minutes encapsulates everything about Love Gun that makes it great.
Gene Simmons’ demon character had another side; that of the “creepy old man”. “I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age, but when I saw you coming out of school that day, that day I knew…I knew!…I’ve got to have you, I’ve got to have you!” Probably from the perspective of a highschool senior, but still, it came from Gene’s mouth. The less said about the words the better, for “Christine Sixteen” is one of Gene’s most perfect musical moments. Eddie Kramer provides the piano for a vintage rock and roll sound. A Kiss classic it is, and Peter once again has the perfect fills for the song.
Moving on to “Got Love For Sale”, the lecherous Simmons now “has love, will travel”. Uptempo sleeze is perfect for Kiss’ friendly demon, but Frehley is the real star here. Speaking of whom, the Space Ace finally worked up the courage to sing his first lead vocal on his trademark Kiss song “Shock Me”. On the prior tour, Ace nearly electrocuted himself on stage when he touched a railing that wasn’t grounded properly. “Shock Me” is a humorous reference to this. Any Frehley track has a unique flavour. He attacks his Gibson and assembles chords and riffs in a style all his own. “Shock Me” showed he could sing too, finally adding a fourth voice to a Kiss album. For the first time, Love Gun has all four Kiss members singing lead. The first side was bookended by another Paul Stanley track, the killer “Tomorrow and Tonight”. Piano and Motown-style female backing vocals give the track a classic feel, and Paul once again came up with a sweet candy-coated chorus. Echoing a previous hit, Paul sings “We can rock all day, we can roll all night.”
The most well known track from Love Gun is the title track itself. It has been in the set regularly since 1977 and is generally considered one of Paul Stanley’s best songs (if not his very best). All the ingredients click perfectly. “Love Gun” kills and cannot be improved upon. Even if, when you think about it, “Love Gun” is a metaphor for “penis”, and the lyrics amount to singing, “You pull the trigger of my…penis, penis, penis”. Substitute “penis” every time Paul sings “Love Gun” and see. Paul Stanley is an absolute genius, because he has gotten stadiums full of thousands of people to sing an ode to his cock, and that’s cool.
“See Ronnie? His dick is the gun!”
Peter Criss only had one track on Love Gun, a Stan Penridge co-write called “Hooligan”. It was good enough to get some live performances, though it and Gene’s “Almost Human” occupy the lower rungs of the Love Gun album. The best thing about both “Hooligan” and “Almost Human” is that both perfectly fit the personas that sing them. Peter has always emphasized his tough street upbringing, but as the lovable cat character, and that’s “Hooligan”. “Almost Human” is 100% the sex-crazed demon, almost a theme song. The bass thumps, but there is some interesting percussion stuff happening too. Simmons continues looking for love in “Plaster Caster”, his encounter with the legendary Cynthia Plaster Caster. One can assume that Gene Simmons’ wang is among those on her display. “A token of my love for her collection.” “Plaster Caster” rocks hard (pun intended) and has balls (also intended).
Love Gun surprisingly closes on a Phil Spector classic, “And Then She Kissed Me” (gender reversed) by the Crystals. Paul Stanley helms it, a romantic number perfect for Kiss content at weddings. The Kiss-ified version is almost comically guitar heavy, but Kiss have managed a number of unusual covers over the years. Adapting it to their sound, Paul owns “And Then She Kissed Me”, especially when topped by an awesome and appropriate solo.
The Love Gun tour that followed this album is one of Kiss’ most legendary: the dual staircases, levitating cat drums, and of course the big Kiss logo in behind. Kiss were huge. A gallup poll put Kiss as the most popular band in America, over Zeppelin, Aerosmith and the Stones. When bank accounts inflate, so do egos. With success comes cost. Though the Love Gun period is all but universally lauded, it was also the last unified album before some members became liabilities.
See Ronnie? His dick is the gun!
Uncle Meat’s rating:
Meat’s slice: This was Peter Criss’ last album with Kiss for a long time. Love Gun is a hit and miss record in Meat’s opinion. Or maybe better put…hit and somewhat miss. I think there are simply too many forgettable songs on this album. “Then She Kissed Me”, “Hooligan”, “Got Love For Sale”, “Tomorrow and Tonight” and “Almost Human” are all average at best. That’s half the album right there. There are also standout songs. Obviously the title track is a Rock and Roll classic now, the album’s opener “I Stole Your Love” is a hot tamale, and I have always loved the catchy “Christine Sixteen”, especially that chorus.
However, Love Gun is a very significant Kiss album simply because of one song. I don’t know a Kiss fan that doesn’t love “Shock Me”. The debut of Ace Frehley as a “singer-songwriter” so to speak, made many wish he would have sung a few more before things all fell apart. Some of the songs coming up in the next few albums, including his solo album, are some of Kiss’ best material in my opinion.
Maybe they just ran out of ideas. Should have been half an album of Ace songs instead.
Favorite Tracks: “Shock Me”, “Love Gun”, “I Stole Your Love”, “Christine Sixteen”
Forgettable Tracks: Look above
To be continued…