America West Arena
August 21, 1996
"Dude, didja go see KISS last Wednesday?"
"Oh, hell, yeah. You see Gene's boots, dude?"
"The dragon heads?"
"Old-school, bro. Straight offa the Destroyer cover. Six-inch metal teeth for platforms, red eyes that shoot laser beams and shit. Now that's rock 'n' roll."
"No, man--when he fuckin' started flyin' around the arena in that studded black leather bat-wing outfit, all wagglin' his tongue and droolin' blood and shit . . . that was rock 'n' roll."
"Yeah, that was pretty badass. What about when Gene, Ace and Paul were all rockin' out together with those choreographed butt-rock moves on 'Love Gun'? Oh, and dude--Ace's solo, dude. Ace's solo."
"Oh, hell, yeah."
"Dude, when he sparked that white-flame flare inside his guitar and then he just, like, kept hittin' that same power chord over and over and the flames were all comin' out and then he, like, hooked his guitar onto that cable and it started flying around the arena on fire. Dude, that rocked."
"Yeah, what was that, some kinda magnesium thing inside there?"
"Nah; magnesium would have melted his guitar and shit. One time me and Brian stole some strips of that stuff from science lab and after school we lit one on fire in my garage and some of it dripped onto Bri's hand and he had to go to the hospital. That was just some special-effects shit Ace had."
"That guy may be 43, man, but he can still rip. Did you see when he started playin' that classical song superfast, some of that old Amadeus shit, and then he started, like, just bending that one note, man, and he was all 'wha, wha, wha, whaooooom,' and then he started doing that tapping shit and he was, like, 'twiddle-da, twiddle-da, twiddle-da, twiddle-da, tweeeeee!'"
"Yeah, that was some straight-up Eddie Van Halen shit."
"I said that was some Eddie Van Halen shit he did there."
"Eddie Van Halen shit? Dude, fuck that. I think that was just some straight-up Ace Frehley shit. Check it out--Ace's solo album? A song called 'Shock Me'? Fire any neurons for you? I think maybe Mr. 'Eruption' copped a few of his so-called revolutionary techniques from the star child, don't you? I mean, seeing as how KISS came first."
"Okay, chill out, Mr. Rock History. It was a kick-ass solo. I was just agreeing with you."
"I understand that. But what I also understand is KISS never gets the credit they deserve. KISS is about more than the explosions, man."
"No, I'm just sayin'. . . . Look, how old are you?"
"I'm 25. So we were both there, right? KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park and all that shit? One of the first albums I ever owned was Destroyer--how 'bout you?"
"Of course it was. Your mom takes you grocery shopping some Sunday when you're like 6 or 7, and while she's waiting in the check-out line, you sort of sneak over to the album rack in the camera section. And you start flipping through the records and it's all Top 40 like Barry Manilow "Copacabana" and Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever and then you come to this one called Destroyer. And you pull it out for a closer look, because on the cover you've got these four guys standing on top of a ridge with, like, Armageddon in the background, all hell-fire and crumblin' skyscrapers and shit, and these dudes are dancing like a bunch of Godzillas who just torched Tokyo, and they've all got black hair down to their ass and they've got on this cool black-and-white makeup like the baseball team street gang in The Warriors, only better, and they're wearing, like, these medieval samurai outlaw biker superhero costumes and you're, like, 'Fuckin' bad ass,' and you run over and do the 'Please, mom, please' routine, and if she makes you put it back you save your allowance up until you can score that puppy."
"Actually, I bought mine for two bucks from a rich kid in my class. His little brother had scribbled on the cover in crayon and his parents bought him a new one. But I know what you mean. I turned the whole wall between my bunk beds into this Scotch-taped collage of KISS photos torn out of Hit Parader. I had the iron-on decal KISS shirt. And I used to get up early on Saturday mornings and sneak one of my dad's beers and blast 'King of the Nighttime World' while I watched Scooby-Doo and Batman."
"Exactly. This is what I'm talking about. Star Wars, The Brady Bunch and KISS, man. The best movie, TV show and rock band of our childhood. And not just ours. Billy Corgan was into KISS when he was a kid. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Stone Gossard in Pearl Jam. You know those guys all dressed up like KISS for Halloween."
"I went as Ace Frehley one year."
"I went as Gene Simmons two years in a row, and then I went as Ace Frehley. I had to work up to it. When I was in second grade, though, me and some friends all dressed up like KISS and lip-synched 'Detroit Rock City' in our grade school talent show, and that time I was Paul Stanley. One of my happiest childhood memories is staying up late with my mom the night before, trying to glue silver buttons and glitter onto a black shirt to make it look sequined."
"The talent show--who won?"
"Ahh, some sixth-grade chick with a violin."
"Figures. Hey, did you ever notice how no kids ever dressed up like Peter Criss?"
"Yeah, and I'll tell you why--because Peter Criss is a fuckin' pussy; i.e., what was up with that drum solo he did at America West? I mean, African tribal rhythms? You tell me, did I pay $47.50 for a KISS reunion concert, or did I pay $47.50 for a full-moon hippie drum circle?"
"Yeah, and 'Beth' was pretty weak."
"Dude, don't even get me started. First of all, Peter Criss can't sing. And he's all comin' out with his little white sweat towel draped over his neck, tossin' long-stemmed roses to the girls in the front row, and then he sits his scrawny ass down on that little stool in the spotlight and I'm thinking, 'Hey, Peter, where's the piano?' And then the music comes on and it's taped. It's a good thing Paul Stanley smashed his guitar on the next song, or it would have been an anticlimactic encore."
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"Well, I don't know, it didn't have any strings on it."
"The guitar--it didn't have any strings on it. Or a wireless transmitter. Didn't you see? He went over to a roadie and switched instruments, then he came out and acted like he hit a chord a couple of times and then he did his Roman emperor, thumbs up or thumbs down routine, and the whole crowd was screaming and the guy behind me was yelling, 'Kill it, kill it!' and Stanley swung the guitar over his head and smashed it. But it was a prop. I mean, did you hear any smashing guitar sounds coming from the amps?"
"Look, all I know is that KISS saved 'Rock and Roll All Nite' for their last song, and Paul Stanley smashed his guitar at the end, and it was really bitchin'. Come on--when Paul and Gene and Ace got on those giant hydraulic arms that lifted them up and out over the audience, and they threw the house lights on and the whole crowd at a fuckin' sold-out show was chanting 'I-I-I/Want to rock and roll all ni-i-ight/And party every day,' man, that reminded everyone what a rock concert is supposed to be--none of this grunge-club, mosh-pit, thrift-store-clothes bullshit. You think it really mattered whether Paul's guitar was plugged in? I don't think so."
"Just pointing it out. So, did you buy a tee shirt?"
"Forty-five bucks? Nah, couldn't do it. I'll tell you what, though--they had this framed platinum record for Destroyer, autographed in silver pen and shit. It was $650, but I got the name of their merchandiser and I'm gonna save my paychecks up until I can score that puppy."