Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

From a press release I got yesterday.


The Iconic Rock Band’s Four Same-Day-Released Solo Albums Come Together
To Celebrate Their 40th Anniversary In A Limited-Edition 4LP Vinyl Box Set
Via Casablanca/UMe On October 19

Los Angeles – September 18, 2018– Forty years ago today, each one the four founding members of KISS — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss — released their respective solo albums all on the same day to much fanfare, chart success, and platinum sales. And now, four decades later, all four of these pioneering albums are celebrated in KISS: The Solo Albums - 40th Anniversary Collection, a limited-edition 180-gram 4LP box set by Casablanca/UMe that’s earmarked for release on October 19.

Hey, I like vinyl as much as the next guy -- which is to say, hardly at all -- but I reviewed these records forty years ago, and it's one of my favorite things I ever wrote. [A brief note on the dramatis personae: Paulette Weiss was my editor at the mag at the time; (Noel) Coppage and (Joel) Vance were two of our other reviewers.]

And now, without further adieu, here it is as it appeared in SR in the Feburary 1979 issue.


It was about four o'clock when she walked into my office, dressed in a mourning suit that made her look like a road-show Ligeia.

"Are you Marlowe?" She wriggled slightly as she sat down, which either meant she liked me or she'd noticed that my furniture is upholstered in mohair.

I looked up. "That's me, like the sign says. Chris Marlowe, Aesthetic Investigator. What can I do for you, Miss -- ?" For some reason, she looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her under the widow's weeds.

"The name's unimportant, but call me Ms."

"Frankly, I don't care if you want to be called late for dinner. You have a job you want done, spill it."

"Oh, a tough guy, huh?" She tossed four black record jackets onto my desk.

"The results of your Wasserman test?" I asked.

"No, shamus. Albums by Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Paul Stanley, members of a rock band called Kiss. You'll notice they're all wearing disguises on the cover."

"Nowadays who doesn't?"

"Never mind. My employer wants you to find out why. What have these guys got to hide? You've got twenty-four hours to run down the answers."

"And if I don't?"

"Front-row seats for the Al Martino farewell tour. Get the picture?"

"I'm trembling in my Capezios."

"Don't crack wise with me, turkey. Remember, you've got twenty-four hours."

With that she was out the door. I reached for the bottle of Scotch in my desk. Mysterious liberated women, rock-and-roll...suddenly, I felt very tired.

I spent the evening listening to the four records and staring at the covers. After I polished off the Scotch I had most of the scam doped out; the rest I glommed after a few phone calls to some friends of mine in the low-life end of the music business. Rack jobbers. AM jocks. The scum of the underground. Nice people you know, Marlowe. What a world.

True to her word, she was back the next day at four.

"You look beat," she said cooly. "A rough night?"

"Rough enough," I said. "But I found out what you wanted to know. These Kiss guys have never appeared out of makeup. The records are their first solo efforts, and the idea is that they're supposed to give the poor slobs who buy this stuff a chance to find out what kind of music these guys might make if they weren't limited by the group concept. It's a symbolic dropping of the mask."

"That's pretty good, Marlowe."

"I'm not finished. The thing is, it doesn't add up; these records could be by anybody. Frehley does a bad punk imitation; Simmons has pop tendencies; Criss is a closet MOR wimp, and Stanley tries to be a guitar hero. In other words, it all still sounds like Kiss -- slick, dumb, and inconsequential."

"Good job, Marlowe," she said nervously. "Write it up and send it to this address; your check will be in the mail." She started to get up, but I beat her to the door.

"Not so fast, sister. Like I said, it doesn't add up. So I began to think. Who in her right mind would be so interested in all this that she'd hire a broken-down private dick to figure it out? And why the time limit?"

I ripped the veil and sunglasses off her face.

"I knew it. You're Paulette Weiss of STEREO REVIEW."

"I had to do it, Marlowe," she sobbed. "None of my regular reviewers would touch the stuff, and I had a deadline. It was the only way."

"You're good, sweetheart," I said, putting on my coat. "But not that good."

"You mean...?"

"That's right. I won't write the review for you. Understand?"

"But, Marlowe..."

"I won't do it, do you hear? Get Simels, or Vance, or Coppage; they'll write anything for free albums. But not me."

I started out the door. "Where are you going?" she asked in a voice as quiet as the grave.

"I don't know," I said. "Computer school, maybe. Anywhere I don't have to intellectualize over loud noises."

"You can't run out on me like this."

I shook my head. "You should have thought about it before you got into the editing racket. See you around, sister."

I walked slowly down the five flights of stairs to the street and thought about her. She wasn't the first good girl to miss a deadline, and she wouldn't be the last. Still, somehow I knew I'd never hear from her again. Like I said, what a world. -- Steve Simels


Ken J Xenozar said...

That is pretty wonderful. And about all that needs to be said about this 4-pack.

Anonymous said...

I'd have taken the Al Martino tix.

Blue Ash Fan said...

OMG! I remember that!

I actually liked one song I heard on the Paul Stanley album, so I foolishly bought the thing. Your assessment was on the money.

Billy B said...

This is why I subscribed to Stereo Review back in the 70s.

I liked the band OK for the first couple of albums and then the whole thing turned into a bad cartoon. Never had the "pleasure" of hearing the solo records at the time.

Anonymous said...

And their still around...kill me now!!!

Captain Al

FD13NYC said...

Good story! The Stanley and Frehley solos were pretty good.

Ken J Xenozar said...

This was one of the most hilarious things I have ever found on the internet. 45 Minutes of Paul Stanley Stage Banter

Shriner said...

So let me be the voice of the opposition here:

When they came out -- I bought the Paul and Gene records. The Paul record -- is like a long-lost Raspberries album and deserves a reevaluation. It's that good. It puts the Power in Power-Pop. I still play that one at least once a year and it's my go-to "KISS" album after Destroyer and Music From The Elder (sue me -- I like that one -- and I pretty much like anything Bob Ezrin ever produced so that's probably why...)

Gene's album -- is hit and miss. The couple of extremely-Beatlesque songs were (at the time) a revelation to a teenager's ears. The misses, though, are pretty bad swings at the plate. It felt (and still does) frustratingly lazy on the rock songs, though.

I did not buy Peter or Ace's solo albums at the time.

When everything was first remastered on CD, I finally bought Ace's album. It is all kinds of awesome and I kicked myself in the pants for ignoring it for decades. To me, it's the "All Things Must Pass" KISS solo album -- a bunch of great songs he must have stockpiled for years or something. Never duplicated after that, though.

Peter's album, though, I listened to the remaster first and didn't like anything about it. I tried again a few years ago and haven't changed my mind on it.

Sal Nunziato said...

What Shriner said. Thanks for speaking up. Still sound good on vinyl. :)

steve simels said...

True confession: I'm not a hundred percent sure, but it's possible that I only gave those albums a cursory listen back in the day because a) I really disliked everything about KISS and b) because I had already written the review in my head before the albums actually arrived at my office.

I know I sorta listened to them, but it may have been secondary to my intended snark.

Okay, you guys found me out.

John said...

Stayed away from em like the Plague.

elroy said...

I remember that review very well, thanks for sharing!

cthulhu said...

Not a bad Chandler pastiche, but I still prefer your takedown of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer “In Concert”. Came out around the same time I think - sometime in 1979.

BG in Q said...


cthulhu said...

Not a bad Chandler pastiche, but I still prefer your takedown of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer “In Concert”. Came out around the same time I think - sometime in 1979.

Written in the style of H.P. Lovecraft. Here it is:

cthulhu said...

Thanks BG! That was before I found this blog, so much appreciated!