I KNOW I’m the only one who liked/likes KISS around here. KISS takes a beating anytime they come up and I’m certain that will continue. Despite the futility of this effort, I will stick my neck out anyway and offer a few random points on their behalf:
1) It is next to impossible at this point for haters to remember what KISS was about when they first showed up on the scene. They were exciting, mysterious and dangerous. My little brother was downright frightened of the debut album cover. There was nothing like them in 1973.
2) They were a unique blend of hard rock with poppy tunefulness. The best comparison – as others have mentioned – is Slade, but heavier on the hard rock and lighter on the pop. Gene Simmons has said flat-out that there would be no KISS without Slade. I loved Slade.
3) There was no dicking around with ballads or hippy-dippy experimentation with their stuff. They went four entire albums before a ballad appeared on the fifth album (yes, “Beth” was the first sniff of the downfall). All the other rocking bands I knew at the time required the patience of dealing with at least some crap. Do we really need “Going To California?” Sorry, I didn’t know The Stooges yet. I was just a 12-year-old for heaven’s sake. Perhaps Iggy could have saved me from KISS.
4) The “no dicking around” policy was nirvana for me. Finally a band that was bam-bam-bam, in your face. Three minute blasts of hard rock with a pop edge. Later, Brit punk provided bam-bam-bam-bam. Then hardcore bam-bam-bam-bam-bam. The less nonsense the better always worked for me.
5) KISS is a band’s band in a lot of ways. So many good bands cite KISS as an early influence. The fact that my beloved Hellacopters are huge KISS fans justifies my fondness all by itself as far as I’m concerned. I bought the first real KISS tribute album “KISS My Ass” a long time ago and look at the list of participants – Lenny Kravitz, Garth Brooks, Anthrax, Gin Blossoms, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Shandi’s Addiction, Dinosaur Jr., Extreme, The Lemonheads, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Yoshiki. Certainly some losers in there, but some pretty big winners as well.
6) Now everyone knows Simmons and Stanley were cold and calculating (and Simmons is an asshole of Nugent proportions), but no one knew that from 1973-1976. Yes, KISS hasn’t produced much of anything good since back then, but, so what? Their early stuff still rocks. The debut album still stands up very well. How about Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship? Do we say throw out Airplane because Starship sucked? Forget about KISS since the late 70s.
Here’s a video from the good old “Midnight Special.” What’s not to like? (By the way, the bass Gene is playing is the very same model I bought – had to have it – as my very first brand new bass guitar back in 1976. I still have that Gibson Grabber today.)