C.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!