GETTING MORE TALE #750: KISS II
Kiss frontman Paul Stanley seems emboldened by the monumental success of their End of the Road tour. Why “emboldened”? Because they’re pulling it off with only half the original band. Ace Frehley has not shown up to sing “Shock Me” and Peter Criss seems happily retired. Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer remain in the greasepaint and the spotlight. It’s proof that the majority of the masses don’t know or don’t care who is in a band anymore. The “fans” who refer to Thayer and Singer as “scabs” have had no impact on ticket sales with their boycotts.
Many bands have toured successfully in recent years without key members. AC/DC made headlines by replacing Brian Johnson with Axl Rose. Deep Purple are going strong with only one original member. Queen sell out with Adam Lambert taking Freddie Mercury’s place on stage, and bring home terrific reviews to prove it. Kiss too are doing just fine.
Would they be able to do it with even fewer original members? Like, say, none? Paul Stanley thinks so. He’s said so before and recently he raised the idea again:
“I think that Kiss has served a huge purpose and brings incredible joy to people on the End Of The Road tour. The shows are packed, and not only with the early followers of the band, but people who have heard the legend of what this band does live. And it’s something that’s more than music. It really is a preaching of self-empowerment and the idea that anything that you’re willing to work hard for, you can probably attain. And the idea of celebrating life. Things that may seem simplistic or overtly simplistic, but actually have a timeless depth to them. So when bands continue, ultimately the people in ’em need to change or have to, because of circumstances.
“So that’s a long explanation for me feeling that I would have an enormous amount of pride in knowing that we can continue the band once I’m not there anymore. That would be the ultimate test of its credibility and the role, I think, that it serves.
“I didn’t invent the wheel. I am the product of all the people who I looked up to, all the musicians who I respected, and it was kind of like a stew, and then I added my own ingredients to it. But there are other people who are out there who wouldn’t necessarily imitate me any more than I imitated my heroes. But there are people out there, I’m sure, who are well equipped to pick up the flag and run with it.”
Paul is correct to say that bands must sometimes change out of necessity. He is actually the best proof of this. Paul cannot sing anymore and has been miming a huge percentage of his lead vocals on this tour. We won’t go down that rabbit hole this time. Suffice to say, if this wasn’t the End of the Road, Paul couldn’t really continue singing lead in Kiss.
But replacing him? That’s a whole other bowl of Cheerios.
The idea of Kiss going on without Paul and Gene – let’s call the hypothetical band “Kiss II” – would certainly cross a line with me. Bands with one or two original members is one thing. Many bands have replacement members far more important than the originals. Phil Collen is a key member of Def Leppard, vastly more so than his predecessor Pete Willis. Same with Roger Glover and Ian Gillan in Deep Purple. Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden. The list goes on and on.
Could a Kiss II be a viable prospect with Eric Singer the longest serving member? With Tommy Thayer as band leader?
No. Paul and Gene control Kiss. The other guys have just been hired guns ever since the originals left. Kiss may have started as four guys, but for the last few decades it’s the vision of just two. (In the 80s, just one, as Gene went Hollywood.) You could imagine Paul and Gene controlling a Kiss II band from behind the scenes, but that is a hollow prospect. Imagine Stanley and Simmons discussing new costumes and approving setlists for a Kiss II tour without them. Would you pay to see that?
Kiss have already gone down in history, many times, for their accomplishments. Making the band immortal with all parts replaceable might also be historic, but not in a good way. There are guys out there who can sing better than Paul, and play better than Gene. Tribute bands have all the moves down pat. But you can go see a tribute band for $10. Kiss II would be, in essence, an “official” tribute band and with Paul and Gene behind the scenes they’d be charging a hell of a lot more than $10 per ticket.
I think Paul has lost perspective. Kiss has been successful, against the odds, in replacing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. But there was precedent for that. Kiss made fantastic albums without either. That doesn’t mean you can remove Paul or Gene from the picture and still call it Kiss. Paul and Gene have always been the ones with the drive and the vision. They are not so easy to replace. Can you picture some replacement guy imitating Paul’s stage raps? There might have been a brief window in the late 80s when Kiss could have gone on without Gene, only Paul, since he had become the captain of the ship for a while. However that ship sailed long ago and it’s all but impossible to imagine the band without them both.
No, Kiss II is a lousy idea. It’s just a way to milk naïve fans in this era of hologram and nostalgia tours. Would they sell tickets? Sure, they’d sell some. These hologram tours are proof that people will pay to see anything. Would it be good? Hell, no!