RECORD STORE TALES #1009: These are Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Crazy Nights
I got my first Kiss albums in September of 1985, the first few weeks of school that year. The band’s newest album Asylum was released September 16. I was just learning about Kiss and spent the next year collecting all their albums. All of them from the debut to the new one were in my collection in some way within two years. To me they were one monolithic body of work that I had spent 24 months studying. I had all this time, the formative years of my life, to dive deep into that body of work. So it was an interesting feeling when, on September 21 1987, Kiss released another new album.
It’s not an experience people talk about much, but it’s a unique one: hearing the first new Kiss album to come, after you fell in love with the band already. And I had two years to figure out who Kiss were in my mind. How would a new album change that image?
My next door neighbour George took the bus downtown to Sam the Record Man, picked up the new album Crazy Nights, and later that evening called me up. “Wanna tape the new Kiss?” Yes I would! So with a Maxell UR60 tape in hand (I can still smell how they came out of the wrapper) I went over to record George’s brand new Kiss vinyl.
He had already told me earlier that summer what the title was going to be. “Isn’t that ripping off Loudness?” I asked upon hearing the title Crazy Nights. George also informed me that Paul said he had been writing new songs on keyboards. I didn’t yet appreciate what that meant, but upon hearing the album, I was starting to get it.
George and I scanned through the track list, counted the number of Paul vs. Gene songs (seven vs. four) and discussed what we were hearing.
The most memorable quote of the night was George’s. When we played “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, he said this. “If a song this poor made the album, imagine the outtakes that didn’t.”
The keyboard factor was new and took some adjustment. Keys like this were not present on prior albums. Not like this. The overly pop approach was also jarring at first. Asylum Part II, this was not. Asylum was a pretty straight sequel to Animalize, and I could hear that after two years of many listens,
I accurately picked what I thought would be the next two singles. With the ballad “Reason to Live” I knew Kiss had a shot at a mainstream hit, so I knew that would be the next single. After that, I hoped it would be “Turn on the Night”, and it was. “Turn on the Night” is still the best tune on Crazy Nights, a total 80s Kiss anthem.
As a kid age 15 hearing his first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band, I had three main thoughts to consider.
1. Gene’s voice. He was, at least for this album, leaving the growling and howling Demon voice behind. His singing on Crazy Nights is smooth all the way through. Immediately noticeable as different, but I kind of like it. Gene didn’t have many songs but a couple of them were pretty strong: “Good Girl Gone Bad” and “Hell or High Water”.
2. Paul’s dominance. With the majority of songs being Paul’s by a historically wide margin, we sensed Gene was checked out. Not to mention the atrocious quality of “Thief in the Night”. Even the thrash-paced “No No No” was of questionable constitution. Was a breakup imminent? The rock magazines pushed this narrative.
3. The lyrics. They were undoubtedly mostly dirty, but that was par for the course. We already had Gene putting his log in some “bitch’s” fireplace so even Crazy Nights stuff was fairly tame. Still, Gene singing about that “Good Girl Gone Bad”…I wanted a good girl gone bad! I was absolutely useless at flirting or making moves or even talking to girls, so I figured a good girl gone bad could show me what to do. Where was my good girl gone bad? Nowhere near me and my GI Joe figures I assure you. So I lived my fantasies through Kiss lyrics and although they were hugely unrealistic, Gene and Paul provided some of the imagery.
I had to wonder what a crazy, crazy night was. The song was about empowerment, and doing what you believe in even when people try to keep you down. But if life is a radio, turn it up to 10. It’s that simple. Don’t back down. Keep on keepin’ on. Don’t let the bastards wear you down. Have your crazy, crazy nights. But what the hell was that? For me it was eating ketchup potato chips, renting Andre the Giant videos, and staying up late drinking pop and watching the Giant beat five guys at once.
Hey, whatever makes you happy.
Crazy Nights didn’t exactly make me happy though. Songs like “My Way” were almost embarrassing, and as 1987 wore in 1988, Def Leppard replaced Kiss as my favourite band. It got worse a year later with “Let’s Put the X in Sex”. Was that going to be it for me and Kiss?
Of course not. But this was the beginning of a low period that lasted almost my entire highschool life.