GETTING MORE TALE #608: Hot in the Shade
November of 1989 was an historic moment in time. Three events collided in one day that I distinctly remember unusually well. Based on historical records, I almost can nail down the exact time I first heard Kiss’ then-new Hot in the Shade album that year. I can remember being on a bus for a school trip, sitting next to a German kid, as the news of the Berlin Wall coming down became the top story of the day. It was probably the 10th of November, a Friday.
It was huge news. I grew up in the tail end of the Cold War, and hope was finally on the horizon. I can remember in 1983, kids in the school yard talking about the Korean passenger liner that the Soviets shot down. “There’s gonna be a war,” one kid said, and it sure did seem like it. Every other year, it seemed like it. November of 1989 was a different kind of time, when fears suddenly melted away albeit briefly. Sitting next to that German kid on the bus, Mark, was the best place for me to absorb the greater meaning of it.
What were we doing sitting on that bus? We were on the way to Pickering, to visit the nuclear plant. Our names had to be submitted weeks in advance to get the clearances, but we were inside an operational nuclear facility! It wasn’t even my first tour of a nuclear plant, though it was the first time being inside one. When I was a youngster, the family took a tour of Bruce Nuclear’s grounds and visitor center on summer vacation one year. I remember being really small, and asked to try and lift some depleted rods of uranium. I couldn’t; it was far too heavy! This demonstration indicated the density of the nuclear fuel. “Did you have your Wheaties today?” asked the tour guide to the chuckles of the group. But in Pickering, we got to look right inside.
The Pickering plant was impressive. We had helmets on to go with our visitor badges. There were checkpoints everywhere, where you had to put your hands and feet in a scanner to make sure you didn’t pick up any radioactive dust. Once you were cleared, you could go into the next area. We saw the big rooms where the spent fuel is kept. Not surprisingly, everything was immaculately clean. Every surface gleamed, and all the equipment appeared new and in top condition. We were told that amount of radiation we were exposed to was about the same as an X-ray at the dentist. The trip was optional, and at least one kid opted out because he didn’t want to get zapped.
There was a more intensive scan at the end of the trip before we were allowed to leave. You had to pass a full body scan; if not they had to confiscate your clothes and send you home in paper hospital gowns. I had a brief moment of terror when my scanner refused to give me the green light. “Come closer” the damn machine kept saying to me. “I’m as close as I can get!” I retorted to the infernal contraption. A guide helped me get standing correctly and thankfully I passed the scan! No hospital gowns for me, which is especially good because the next stop on the trip was Pickering Town Center for lunch.
I ate a sandwich for lunch that my mom packed for me. She always made sure I had a lunch every day! We had time to kill at the mall so Mark and I hit up a record store. It was probably A&A Records and Tapes, though it certainly could have been an HMV. Either way, they had two new releases that I had my eyeballs on: Trouble Walkin’ by Ace Frehley, and Hot in the Shade by Kiss. I only had enough money for one, and Kiss had to take priority of solo Ace. I remember having a conversation with the guy at the counter about how Anton Fig was back playing drums for Ace. (And that right there is a lesson about customer service. That guy made an impression on me that lasted 28 years, just by mentioning Anton Fig on the off chance that I’d know who he was.)
So I walked out of there with Hot in the Shade in my Walkman, and I had a chance to hear the new Kiss album for the first time. I always enjoyed a first listen. I’d look at the song titles and try to guess which were Paul’s and which were Gene’s. I really liked the acoustic slide guitar that opened “Rise to It”. Bruce Kulick was proving his awesomeness, though I didn’t enjoy his tone on Hot in the Shade. It was only later that I learned Hot in the Shade was essentially a set of demos that were polished and finished for album release. That might explain why I felt the tone was so…flat.
Mark also encouraged me to listen to one of his tapes, a group called Trooper. “I bet you haven’t heard of Trooper,” he said, and I hadn’t, which was odd because they were Canadian. Trooper didn’t make any lasting impressions other than remembering that Mark was rabid for them. One thing I remember about Mark: he hated long songs. He liked songs in the three to four minute range, and that’s pretty much all of Trooper’s hits.
Our final stop was Lakeview Station, a huge and now defunct coal fire plant in Mississauga. “Don’t touch anything,” the teacher warned us before going in. “This place is covered in black coal dust. If you touch any, you’re going to get it all over the next thing you touch which will probably be your clothes.” And he was right. Every surface had coal dust on it. The tour was noisier and far grimier than the nuclear tour. This was intended to make an unsubtle point about the differences between the two.
We were all glad to get out of Lakeview and back on the highway home. I flipped sides on my Kiss tape and tried to get into the album. I was struggling with it. Some songs were really good, like the ballad “Forever” which was immediately discernible from the pack. Others made it seem like putting out an album with 15 new songs might have been a better idea on paper.
I listened to the album on my boombox when I got back home. I listened intently and tried to figure out what sounded “off”, and the only thing I could figure was the guitarist. “I don’t think Bruce Kulick’s tone is right,” I said with a twinge in my gut. Of this, I’m glad he proved me wrong by the next album Revenge.
What a memorable day that was. I’m just glad I didn’t come home radioactive and hot in the shade!
Check out the album review tomorrow as part of the KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES.