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Peter as honest as Peter thinks he can be.
on January 12, 2013
Let's face it, we all edit our own pasts in one way or another. We might believe we're being utterly truthful, we might even work very hard to "tell it like it was." But memories are selective critters. Spend a single afternoon listening to "eye witness" testimony at a trial and you will immediately see that even after a relatively short time each person's account of what happened will be unique and different. Many years ago I saw a tv movie (maybe a pilot for a show called, "The Rookies?) that showed the classroom and field training at a police academy. During one lecture, a man burst through the classroom door, fired several shots at the teacher, and then ran out. As the cadets jumped up to react, the professor popped up from behind his desk and told everyone to relax. It had all been pre-planned and staged. He then started asking questions about what color shirt the man had on, what color hair he had, how much he weighed, etc. No two police cadets gave the same description although the event had occured just moments before. Is Peter Criss telling the truth in this book? Yes, as far as he knows. But there are so many inconsistencies and just plain impossibilities as it all unfolds that it quickly becomes clear that some things are jaded, others are amalgams of several events blended together, and so forth. That isn't meant to imply dishonesty or duplicity on Peter's part. As I said, each and every one of us edits his or her own past to some extent. It's human nature. So what we have here is the most honest accounting according to Peter Criss, eyewitness to the (pardon the pun) lion's share of the life of the band Kiss. I was a witness to a very small part of it... a view from the cheaps, if you will.
I first saw the band at their very first concert outside of the NY/NJ metro area. It was in May of 1973, as best MY memory can recall. What I AM certain of are the following facts:
1. I had purchased tickets to see Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson who were trying out songs for what would eventually become Ian's first non-Mott the Hoople album. He opened with "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and people booed and threw stuff at the stage. Kiss was the reason.
2. The show was at either the Orpheum Theater (80% certain) or the Boston Music Hall (20%). The confusion is because the venues were within a couple of blocks from each other in the Boston Theater district.
3. No opening act was listed on the ticket.
4. The lights went down and this maniac in what looked like kabuki face paint ran out from stage left, grabbed the mic at center stage and screamed at the top of his lungs. He then yelled, "We're KISS and we're gonna take you away with us! You got nothin' to loose!" Seconds later the band kicked into what I later learned was "Deuce." I asked an usher what was going on and was told that the band was indeed named Kiss and they were doing their first show outside of NY. They were just signed to some new label. They did their entire first album (the REAL first album, not the one with "Kissin' Time" on it that was actually a reissue when the first pressing went out of print and "Alive" was saving both the band and Casablanca Records.
5. After playing "Deuce" and "Strutter" Gene took the mike and apologized to the crowd. He was very hard to understand because he had the mic too close to his mouth. He said that they usually had a much bigger stage show with fire stunts but the Boston Fire Marshall had said the venue was too small. He promised that when they came back to Boston they'd do their whole show. To put it bluntly, without their pyros to rely on (the only real stunt they did was Gene vomiting blood during the into to "100,000 Years." the guys were forced to win the house over with musicianship.
6. They closed with "Black Diamond" and "Let Me Go, Rock & Roll" and the house went freaking insane. Roughly 30 minutes later, when Hunter and company took the stage and began the anemic intro to "Once Bitten" the house started screaming, "we want KISS! WE WANT KISS!"
Within weeks I had not only bought the debut album, but every other record I could find on the Casablanca label, including "Light of Love" by T-Rex and "Rock & Roll Survivors" by Fanny. If you can find the Fanny album, get it. It kicks bigtime.
I went to see KISS perform again just after "Dressed to Kill" was released. The album was a moderate hit and this was the same tour that rolled through Cobo Hall in Detroit for several nights where "Alive" was recorded. Once again, they were incredible.
The third time was just after "Destroyer" came out. The tickets cost 3X as much, the band played for less than 40 minutes INCLUDING encores, and Gene & Peter were yelling at each other constantly by the middle of the gig. Finally, Ace staggered off and didn't return. The rest soon followed. The band came out, played some truncated mess version of "Rock & Roll All Nite," and then Paul yelled, "GOOD NIGHT NEW YORK! WE LOVE YOU!" Again, I was in Boston. I'm almost certain Peter references this exact gig in the book because I know several of the members of Aerosmith and both Joe Perry and Joey Kramer were there, as was, I believe, Seth Justman from the J. Geils Band. I knew then that the good times were over with Kiss.
Now, after over 30 years, I have some semblance of an explanation regarding what went down. Gene's book is whitewashed with several coatings of ego-driven varnish and most true fans of the band (or people that ever met Neal Bogart (I worked at a radio station in Boston and spoke with both him and Aucoin several times) know that Gene sold his soul to greenbacks and bootie early on. Almost everything Gene says is motivated to ensure that a steady stream of both continues to flow in his direction. I don't for one second believe that Peter's take on things is 100% accurate, but it's probably as close as we're ever going to get. (To be fair, I've purchased, but not yet read Ace's book.)
One problem that Peter has is an almost laughable gift for finding a way to blame anyone and anything for his troubles and woes. Even when begins by accepting his own role in a situation, within a paragraph or two he's found a way to shift it to another person.
The other biggee is the frequency with which he contradicts himself. He constantly holds Gene's feet to the fire for being money motivated and insisting that KISS is a "brand" and not a "band." Peter will swear that for him it was all about the music and that Gene's avarice destroyed the band while at the same time talking about how he threatened to quit because he found out Ace was getting XX more dollars per gig and so on.
As I said, I don't believe that Peter's being deliberately deceptive or hypocritical, nor is he lying. He's laying out the truth as he remembers it. What actually occurred is most likely somewhere in the midst of the memories of all concerned - including the band members that came later. By NO means should that fact hinder you from picking up this book. It's more articulate than many celebrity "tell all" tomes. It's fairly obvious that Peter is trying to tell "his side" of Kisstory. If you are, or were ever, a fan of the band or the man, this is a must-read. If you've ever been curious or just enjoy autobiographies, this is among the better to come out in recent years.
I've attempted to keep major spoilers out of this so as not to detract from the experience of reading for oneself while making potential customers aware of the shortcomings they may find. I hope I succeeded in both goals and wasn't too long-winded.