I try to read at least one book a month and for July it was “Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS 1972-1975” by Ken Sharp, Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley. All thanks to a Amazon running a $2.99 special for the Kindle. That is exactly how I read Paul Stanley’s autobiography for only $2.99.
As a KISS fan this was a really a no brainer to read. I knew a bunch of the stories, but not everything. As a side note, I found a way to enhance the experience of reading this book. If you have Kissology DVD series, you can watch the shows they are talking about in the book. You definitely need the 1st series which covers 1974-1977. You also need Volume 3 which contains the much talked about Queens, NY Coventry Show from December, 1973 the band’s first ever concert filmed in make up in its entirety. When you add this to your reading, it truly enhances the whole experience.
The book starts off at the very beginning. The time when Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley meet and the formation of the band Wicked Lester. The story takes you from there to when Peter and Ace finally join the band and through the development period of Kiss. It goes through the club days of trying to find a place that would let them play and battles with the other New York bands at the time.
You get to be there for their finding their management, Bill Aucion, all the way to their first record deal with the brand new label, Casablanca. The novel is just as much a biography on the start of Casablanca Records as it is about Kiss. The label struggled especially with all the money they were dumping into Kiss to get them over the edge. I learned a lot here that I did not know.
The story takes you on the road with the bands constant touring and struggles getting an opening act spot. Struggles, you ask? Headliners hated having Kiss open for them because they would blow the roof off and end up being better than them. You also get to visit with the lack of success of their first 3 albums, ‘Kiss’, ‘Hotter Than Hell’ and ‘Dressed to Kill’ all the way up to the end of 1975 when Kiss’ big breakthrough finally happened with the release of the famous Kiss ‘Alive!’ album.
What did I like best of the biography? The access to the people that were actually there during this time period. You get comments from all band members, Gene, Paul, Peter & Ace. Their management team, Bill Aucion and Joyce Bogart and the people from Casblanca Records including owner Neil Bogart (yes he later married Joyce from their management team). You get the Roadies, bands they were battling in New York, bands that opened for them (Rush, Ted Nugent and so many more) and bands they opened for during their touring (Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and so many more). They even speak to the two guys holding that Kiss poster on the back of the Kiss ‘Alive!’ album. It is an all access pass to everyone involved with Kiss during that time period.
I also liked the pictures throughout. Whether it was pictures of the band, people involved or hand written notes from the band members, it was a nice touch to have in the book. I really loved seeing the old pictures of Paul Stanley with his makeup design before the star…the bandit. It was cool.
What would be my negatives with the book? It wasn’t a straight chronological, step by step. They did tend to jump around a lot from 1973-1974 to get points across and for some reason that bothered me. I understand the need to do it, just didn’t like it.
The other thing that bothered me was that they were very repetitive on points. They harped a lot on the fact that Casablanca had financial troubles, a lot on Kiss being so damn good that no one wanted them as opening acts, a lot on the fact Kiss was so nice when they were the headliners that they let the opening act take an encore. These things needed to be only touched upon a few times to make you understand that was the case. Okay, we get it.
Other than that, it really was an entertaining book overall. A true Kiss fan would enjoy it and even a moderate Kiss fan. I don’t know if it will win over any new fans, the music alone should do that. If you do read it, do as I said above and watch the concert performances along with it. It does really add to it and makes you feel like you were there when it all happened.
I hope they do more books covering different time periods. I would love to read more on the years when it really started falling apart with Peter & Ace; more on Vinnie Vincent and the 80’s era; and just more!! Give the book a read and let me know what you think.