Kiss the Culprit

Did Kiss rip off an old Alice Cooper anthem, or is this just a case of sincere homage?

When the Rolling Stones staged the first genuine rock 'n' roll circus in 1968, they distributed gold-embossed metallic tickets to their fan-club members and lucky NME readers, fed them, gave them 20 hours of music, clowns and amusements and then arranged for buses to take everybody home. All free o' charge!

In stark contrast, anyone attending Kiss' overpriced traveling carnival would've been soaked nonstop for his last remaining dollars. Just look at the shameless merchandise huckstering packed inside the band's new Psycho-Circus CD: "Limited Edition Commemorative Psycho-Circus Silver Proof Coins"--$279.00!! "Psycho-Circus Throw Blanket"--$70.00!! "Kiss Army Jacket"--$650.00!! Then there's that damn Kisstory Book--naw, wait, now it's KISStory II! The Kiss Collector's Bible, packed with all sorts of crazy extras: "Hardcover & Bound"! "9 Pounds Per Book"! "Shipped to You Direct"!! Gosh! Imagine paying $158.95 for a book and then having to go pick it up at the airport! What an unbelievable value!

Kiss never gives anything away for nothin'. Even the damn sweepstakes card enclosed in each CD requires you to make a $1.99 phone call to enter. So when the costumed creeps sing "You are me, I am you" on their new album, you just feel like saying, "If I am you, why don't you cheap-ass chiselers pay me?"

Nor are the members of Kiss strangers to frivolous litigation. After all, didn't Gene Simmons take the concept of rearranging someone's face to new heights when he dragged Kiss copycat act King Diamond into a court of law, forcing him to change his original unoriginal makeup design?

Ironically, in the early '80s, when Kiss' career was going down the toilet, Paul Stanley's dad, the president of 2,000 Flushes, sued the Clash for sampling his sparkling bowl commercial on "Inoculated City." There's even a ska band named "2000 Flushes." Go kick some punk ass, Stardad!

No one, not even the self-appointed "Hottest Band in the World," is above trafficking "hot" ideas. Kiss' original concept of being four Alice Coopers onstage instead of one has always been acknowledged by the band, as recently as the last issue of Goldmine. So when word recently filtered out that Paul Stanley was being sued by Six Palms Publishing for ripping off Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen," it was easy to regard it as a form of poetic justice, with the possibility of Kiss' spiritual debt to the Billion Dollar Baby transferred into cold, hard cash.

"Alice isn't suing Kiss," Cooper's personal assistant Brian Nelson is quick to stress. "Six Palms Publishing, which owns the controlling percentage of Alice's early songs, is suing Paul Stanley of Kiss and [former Kiss guitarist] Bruce Kulick. In fact, Alice had no idea about the song 'Dreamin'' sounding like 'Eighteen' until he heard Dave Pratt comparing the two songs on his morning show."

Nelson, aware of the marquee value of such a story, cautiously steers clear of engaging Cooper into any negative comparisons of the two camps. "If nobody imitated Alice after he came out, he would've just fallen off the edge of the Earth," Nelson says. "Alice always looked at what he was doing as opening the door for others to walk through."

One wonders, did Kiss merely walk through the door without tipping its hat and make a beeline straight for Alice's fridge? We owe it to Kiss to put that lame-ass Stanley-Kulick song through every conceivable evaluation. If there's a DNA probe that can incriminate a guilty song-stealing party, we'll find it. First let's examine the motives:

Paul Stanley's Motive: After ditching the makeup and scaling down its live show in 1983, Kiss found itself with an identity problem, or what guitarist Ace Frehley once termed "a musical vasectomy." No longer could the group pen superhero anthems. Nor would it be wise to return to the celibate altar-boy hymns of its disastrous (Music From) The Elder album. Instead, Kiss focused on the smutty sexist ditties that ignited its predominantly young male fans in the past. The recent return of the makeup-clad Kiss (and the band's original lineup) came with the hidden responsibility of having to be larger than life again--they couldn't just sing about human-size hard-ons.

Possibly as a return to their roots, Stanley and company ransacked Cooper's crib for song inspiration. While "Dreamin'" plunders Alice's earliest hit, the Psycho Circus album and comic book--created by Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame--voraciously feed off Alice Cooper's most recent studio album The Last Temptation and its corresponding Marvel comic book.

Cooper's album opened with a song called "Sideshow," itself a tip of the hat to his earlier "Hello Hooray." Both songs have an "I can't wait for this show to begin" undercurrent that, surprise, surprise, turns up in Psycho Circus' title track as well.

Bruce Kulick's Motive: There's no $70 throw blanket with Bruce Kulick's face on it! Quite simply, the former Kiss guitarist's motivation was to get his share of the giant cash bonanza that has ensued since he was shunted aside while the Original Kiss was reactivated.

For more than a decade, Kulick was a salaried sideman for the sans-makeup Kiss, a thankless job not unlike being a regular on The Andy Griffith Show after Don Knotts left. Early Kiss was a tough act to follow, and now it's put him out of full-time employment. The best he's managed is forming a virtually ignored band with erstwhile Mstley CrYe vocalist John Carobi called Union. Now if they called the band Reunion, that would be funny.

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