In honor of The Kiss Front Man’s Birthday, I’d like to say a few words.
When Peter Criss, Kiss’ original drummer left the band, I was devastated. The Cat man was my favorite. He had this raspy singing voice, and of course, Beth was the ultimate love song.
I had this huge-assed crush on him. I collected posters and magazine interviews and if Kiss happened to be on TV, holy crap, watch out, don’t get in this little kid’s way. I learned all the songs he sang and when all four members put out solo albums, I bought his and learned every single word. He was so cool, I wanted to be a drummer (the fact that I had crappy rhythm was beside the point), and I began to write my own songs; duets that I’d planned to sing with him and songs about being out on the street, and being the weird little kid I was, he actually hung out at our place for a while (I had an active imagination that has served me very well.)
Then I heard the rumors.
Unmasked was released, the album that showed Kiss taking off their makeup on the cover. I was so not cool with this. I didn’t want my fantasy to be blown out of the water. I begged my sister’s boyfriend who was an artist, to draw me The Catman. Maybe in my mind if he drew me Peter’s picture, he could bring him back.
He refused. I could never figure out why. He kept drawing me the dude with the star on his eye. Paul. What? His makeup was boring. He was kinda weird. I wasn’t impressed.
Then the rumors came true. Peter quit.
After a week of crying and listening to his music over and over again (hey, I was 8), I decided there was only one solution.
From that moment on, he was dead to me.
By this time practicing the drums really wasn’t my thing anyway (not that I’d had lessons). I wasn’t patient enough and…the rhythm thing. But being so deeply in love with the band, I needed a favorite. A connection. Their new drummer was cute but I kept going back to the drawings the boyfriend had done. I don’t know what changed.
In my misery, I put on Paul’s solo album; it had been in the sale bin along with Peter’s and my Grannie bought it for me. I hadn’t even cracked it open.
That was a defining moment for me.
I loved it! I learned every one of the songs from that album, and when I sang them, I sounded good. The melody ranges were huge and my voice could soar effortlessly whenever I sang his songs. After I memorized those songs, I learned every other Kiss song. I think that was when I realized at eight years old, although Paul was pretty cute and looked so amazing in spandex, and black leather pants, all the sparkles and rhinestones, and that awesome purple cape (my favorite colour), and he always had roses in pictures, my favorite flower…hello…that we had a lot in common and I loved everything about him.
I didn’t necessarily want to be with him (whatever, this is my blog)…I wanted to BE him. I wanted to emulate him. I just didn’t understand why.
I knew this: I wanted to write songs like him, fun to sing, catchy, interesting (wow, did I get a surprise when I eventually learned what the songs really meant). I also wanted to sing songs where my voice could soar with a cool rock band backing me, that I could sing with passion and attitude and use all these notes with my big loud voice (I didn’t know what a vocal range was at that time). I felt proud I could hit all those high notes he sang, and most of the low notes too. I learned every single lyric and studied every song.
I didn’t realize at the time, that this wasn’t just me being obsessive, it was me building my musical style, clothing, attitude, showmanship (and I still aspire). I’d study him on VHS (before the internet), and pored over any info I could get my hands on. Growing up, we only had one TV channel, so if Kiss was on… like I said…get the hell out of my way.
I learned a rock star could be intense, gracious, funny, highly artistic and intelligent, always professional and not a substance abuser.
I guess that’s what it means when someone influences you.
Yes, I also took some influence from other artists over the years in my writing, singing, performance, and how to conduct myself in interviews; Pat Benatar, Heart, Def Leppard, Metallica, Dokken, Kiss, but I mostly took tips just from Paul.
Whether we realize it or not, there is always at least one person who influences us strongly throughout our careers and lives. Mine happened to show up at a time I needed it most.
Happy Birthday Paul Stanley. Thank you.