Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Peter Criss - "Makeup to Breakup"

My Life In And Out Of Kiss
- Peter Criss -
(w/ Larry Sloman)

 Based on sheer shock value
alone, KISS' legendary co-
founding drummer delivers
an entertaining read for his
most die-hard enthusiasts.

The latest in the ever-growing pile of insider KISS tell-alls, Makeup to Breakup offers a lively and candid account of founding drummer Peter Criss' wild sex, drugs & rock and roll life — before, during, after, during, after, before, during and then again after his involvement with rock's masked messiahs.

From his humble Italian / Catholic upbringing on the streets of Brooklyn to his meteoric ascent into rock's stratosphere and beyond, Peter Criss describes his outrageous life experiences — warts and all, in graphic detail. He pulls no punches as he seemingly drops a dime on everyone he's encountered over the years — including himself and the three other original KISS members.

By his own admission, we learn that Criss deals with some serious anger issues. Founding lead guitarist Ace Frehley is portrayed as a Nazi-obsessed chronic masturbater. Co-founder and bassist Gene Simmons reportedly is such a sex-addicted maniac that during particularly severe flare-ups, herpes sores can cover most of his body. And Criss further claims that frontman Paul Stanley has wrestled with lifelong sexual orientation issues.

Despite his willingness to come clean regarding personal demons (i.e. infidelity, wife beating, drugs and alcohol), Criss' scale of judgment is often unbalanced. He questions openly Paul Stanley's sexuality early in the story, revealing the frontman's unique talent for creating detailed drawings of penises. Yet his own, more disturbing behavior, as well as that of Ace Frehley gets a pass: Ace and I became famous for taking out our dicks at the drop of a hat. Then we'd grab each other's dicks. It wasn't sexual, just stupid adolescent tomfoolery. Whoa! Hang on there, fella. Whaddaya mean "it wasn't sexual?" Where I come from that ain't called "tomfoolery," that's called "gay." Not judging — just saying. 

Kiss circa 1976
Criss recounts a particular KISS road story from the mid '70s in which he and Frehley got a young female after-show guest bombed beyond the point of consciousness. They covered the girl with bologna and sandwich condiments, then proceeded to put her seemingly lifeless naked body into the hotel elevator and hit the button for the lobby. It was disturbing tales such as this that made me feel like a dope for having gleefully guzzled so much KISS Kool-Aid for so many years.

I found Criss' conversational, no-nonsense style to be quite engaging. However, I was a bit disappointed that such a successful and talented (66-year-old) man still resorts to juvenile name-calling. I believe that referring to people as "fags" and "whores" and prefacing every reference to Simmons and Stanley with, "those pricks" or "those fuck faces," only compromised Criss' credibility. And his countless references to women as "pussy" was insulting, offensive and just plain creepy. That type of language was crass even back in the '70s.

I can only imagine that jamming a near 50-year career into 370 pages was no easy feat. Hence, Criss' story is fast-paced and he often quickly glosses over prime eras. And although Criss did successfully touch on most aspects of his life, many holes remained in his story. Jeanette Frehley receives "special thanks" in the Acknowledgments, but she is only briefly referenced one time in the rest of the book. I'd be interested in gaining further insight into their friendship. Clearly Criss enjoyed close personal relationships with KISS manager Bill Aucoin, Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart and songwriter / producer Sean Delaney — key players in the KISS story who all died way too young. However, Criss makes no mention of their passing. And if Paul McCartney had rescued me during any kind of accident, I certainly would have devoted more than a casual, one paragraph description of the experience. But I commend Criss for taking the time to give credit where it's due — shining light on the creative contributions of Aucoin and Delaney. 

Peter Criss with my son, Jesse.
It seems that perhaps the greatest source of darkness in Criss' life was, and may continue to be, not  the sex, drugs or the rock and roll, but the emotional damage caused by religion. Guilt, condemnation and punishment, was beat into him practically from birth by priests, nuns and even well-intending family members.

Fortunately, Jesus Christ served as THE ultimate, perfect and final sacrifice. He paid for ALL sins — past, present and future when the religious people of his day crucified him.

The ONLY way to the Father is through the Son (JOHN 3:16 / 1 JOHN 5:12). Rosaries do nothing. And I certainly mean no disrespect, but praying to Mary is as effective as praying to an Ace Frehley action figure. That's all a product of man-made religion. What I'm talking about is relationship — a unique and personal connection with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation is the greatest gift ever offered to man. It's available to us ALL — and it's absolutely FREE! And contrary to Criss' assertions, God does NOT place cancer or any sickness on people for any reason. To think otherwise is to buy into more religion — another lie sent straight from the pit of Hell. 

In sum, Peter Criss exceeded my expectations. Makeup to Breakup is a highly entertaining read throughout. And although many aspects of Criss' story are certainly disturbing, Makeup to Breakup stands out as perhaps the second-best of the KISS bios — right behind CK Lendt's Kiss and Sell.

-Christopher Long
(October 2012)

More KISS-related
features from
Christopher Long



C'MON! -

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW FLASHBACK: Natalie Merchant (3.10.02)

Natalie Merchant
King Center / Melbourne, FL 

I discovered an old file in my
office recently. The folder
contained Xerox copies of
several articles I had written
more than a decade ago and
appeared in various print
publications. This installment
of my "Concert Flashback"
series comes from that dusty
file and it chronicles my
Natalie Merchant concert
experience back in 2002.

Okay art school grads, before you plot to set me on fire, or force me at gunpoint to endure your entire REM vinyl collection in one sitting, be sure, I attended this show as a true fan. In fact, I've been enamored with prolific singer / songwriter Natalie Merchant since I first was turned on to her former band, 10,000 Maniacs, via their In My Tribe record while doing after-hours shots with the staff at a bar in which I was performing back in 1987.

I fondly recall seeing 10,000 Maniacs in 1989 during the band's Blind Man's Zoo tour. In contrast to the popular sex, drugs & rock and roll bombast presented by the day's glut of hair metal poster boys, the 10,000 Maniacs performance offered a refreshing change of pace this band was all about the music. I witnessed an indescribable, magical synergy live onstage that night and it remains one of my all-time greatest concert experiences. However, when seeing Merchant perform tonight as a solo artist, 13 years later, the music took a noticeable (distant) backseat to projecting her unabashed "stipey-ness."

I wasn't terribly disappointed by the fact that musically the show moved at a snail's pace. I also thought it was cute that no matter what she did or said, Merchant's faithful flock cheered with approval. I wasn't even put off by her constant rambling about pelicans, pigeons and beach property ownership in Hawaii. After all, this was Natalie Merchant and I was just psyched that she was playing in my hometown.

The moment of my discontent came when Merchant spotted a woman near the front of the stage who was taking pictures. Clearly agitated, Merchant literally stopped the show.

"You're pushing it with me, girl," Merchant warned the woman over the microphone. "Every time you take my picture, I lose my place in the song." Merchant then asked the woman to give her the camera. "I won't hurt it," she promised.

Merchant then began taking close-up shots of her band members. I thought to myself how cool that was. Merchant obviously was annoyed, but she was going to turn this around into a fun bit. I was wrong.

After announcing to a cheering crowd that she now had used up all of the woman's film, Merchant exclaimed, "Aw, I exposed all of your film," as she ripped the camera open and tore out the contents. Merchant then handed the empty camera back to the woman in the audience as the band kicked back into the song and Merchant danced about, gleefully swinging the long stream of film around onstage like a high school majorette.

I played to enthusiastic large crowds from coast-to-coast while in my own band during the '80s and early '90s. I experienced getting popped in the teeth with the mic due to rowdy fans moshing up front, and I was even attacked a couple of times right onstage, yet I never once "lost my place in the song." Okay, there was that one time in Orlando, but my "forgetfulness" was the result of excessive quantities of pre-show Goldschl├Ąger.

It seems to me that in the fast-paced, topsy turvy world of rock and roll, getting bent for having your picture taken is like being in politics and bitchin' about having to kiss babies it comes with the gig! Yeah, I know, the ticket clearly read "NO PHOTOGRAPHY." But the ticket also indicated a specific seat assignment, and many turned a blind eye to that one too. Simply put, it's a rock concert, Nat lighten up!

Given the current rap and pop domination of today's music scene, a little ol' singin' / songwritin' gal from New England should be filled with joy even to still be attracting a (paying) audience  especially one as large and devoted as Ms. Merchant's.

But in the grand scheme of life, I guess this isn't really that big of a deal and I'm certainly not going to pawn my Natalie Merchant cassettes. I simply thought that she displayed bad form momentarily.

As a side note, I just heard that McDonald's is hiring for the night shift and those folks rarely endure having their picture taken while serving up fries.

-Christopher Long
(March 2002)

Concert Review Flashback



C'MON! -

Monday, October 22, 2012

LOST INTERVIEWS - Pt 3: The Kinleys’ Jennifer Kinley

The Kinleys’
Jennifer Kinley

I recently discovered dusty file
in my office. The folder contained
Xerox copies of several rock star
interviews I had conducted more
than decade ago and appeared
in various print publications. While
the sister duo, The Kinley's, were
stylistically a far cry from the typical
arena rockers who I've interviewed,
they produced some of the best
pop-flavored country music made
during their run from 1997-2005.
hope you enjoy my interview
with Jennifer Kinley from 2004.

Possessing more chutzpah than most of their male contemporaries, 19-year-old twin sisters Heather and Jennifer Kinley moved from the comfort of their childhood hometown in Pennsylvania to the cutthroat streets of Nashville in pursuit of their musical dreams in 1990. They worked Music City for several years, struggling to survive while learning the ins and outs of the biz. But their diligence finally paid off and the singer / songwriters signed a record deal with Sony Music. In 1997, The Kinleys' debut album Just Between You and Me went gold (500,000 copies) and spawned the Top  20 country singles, "Just Between You and Me" and "Please." Featuring the Top 40 country hits, "She Ain't the Girl for You" and "I'm In," their sophomore album II hit the country Top 20 charts in 2000.  After taking  a couple of years off to start families, The Kinley's are back in 2004 with their latest album, appropriately entitled, All in the Family. And while on their current national "Pajama Party" tour, Jennifer Kinley took the time recently to call me and discuss their newly released, independent record.

"It's definitely the wave of the future," Jennifer enthusiastically told me about her and Heather's current state of independence."It fit what we wanted to do. We wanted to kinda make this album our own way and have complete creative control. We didn't even look for a major label this time. We wanted my husband, Adam Hughes, to produce it, which he did and he did an incredible job. It all felt right this time because we didn't have a hundred billion opinions to deal with. You know, you kinda compromise sometimes on albums and have to pacify everybody. Label, management, just everybody has thoughts (regarding an album), so this time it really was all in the family  that's why we titled the album that. Heather and I, along with Adam, worked hard to get this album together."

Although The Kinleys now enjoy complete artistic control with their own label  Identical Records, I asked Jennifer about their creative input while signed to Sony.

Me and Jennifer Kinley in 2000.
"You think you do (have artistic control) until an album comes out and then go, 'Well shoot, I really kinda got railroaded into that. I wish I had stuck to my guns a little more.' It's hard because you really  do want to make everybody happy and sometimes you second guess yourself. Making it (All in the Family) this way and creating our own label, we didn't do that. We just went with what we felt like we wanted to do and that's how it came out."

Without that all-important creative control, The Kinleys often were at the mercy of major label "suits," and over the years, they believed that many of their best songs were left on the cutting room floor. Fortunately for their fans, All in the Family  features many of Jennifer and Heather's (almost) forgotten gems, such as, "Love Train" and "Crazy Love." These, combined with "Little Shoulders," "I Will" and the remake of The Everly Brothers' "Price of Love" add up to what is quite possibly the best Kinleys record to date.

-Christopher Long
(September 2004)



C'MON! -

Sunday, October 21, 2012

LOST INTERVIEWS - Pt 2: Cinderella’s Tom Keifer

Cinderella’s Tom Keifer

I recently discovered a dusty
old file in my office. The folder
contained Xerox copies of
several rock star interviews
I had conducted a decade
ago and had appeared in
various print publications.
And I'm SUPER-psyched
to post this excerpt from my
'02 interview with Cinderella
frontman, Tom Keifer.

Drawing immediate comparisons to such iconic heavyweights as AC/DC, Nazareth and Aerosmith, the blues-based rock band Cinderella became an overnight sensation on the international music scene with the release of its 1986 platinum-selling debut album, Night Songs. Defying the dreaded sophomore jinx, the Pennsylvania band's 1988 album Long Cold Winter also reached platinum status. Achieving an impressive hat-trick, 1990's Heartbreak Station hit the million mark as well. Then came the grunge movement and Cinderella was forced on hiatus. But after experiencing a series of setbacks, the band returned to the road in the late '90s. And in the 2000s the guys once again are filling arenas and amphitheaters, coast-to-coast.

"There is no doubt that people
still want to be served rock and roll.
It just hasn't been on the menu
for the last ten years."
–Tom Keifer (2002)

In  2002, Cinderella is preparing to embark on another major U.S. summer concert tour. But I was becoming a bit frustrated recently as I put together this story to promote their upcoming date in West Palm Beach.

Communication with Cinderella’s organization was proving to be a challenge. Numerous messages left with the band's handlers went unanswered and I was getting nowhere fast. Then, just two days before my deadline, the call finally came through. An interview with founding frontman / guitarist Tom Keifer was scheduled for the following day at 4PM. Unfortunately, the next day came and went with no call from Keifer. I had learned early in my writing career that when it comes to interviewing rock stars, Monday usually means Tuesday, 4PM means 6PM and so on. This time, however, I was getting stressed because my deadline now was only 24 hours away  I needed to get this story.

I was sleeping-in late on the morning of my deadline after having been out ‘til the wee hours DJ-ing at a club the night before. Suddenly the phone rang. I couldn’t imagine who on earth would be so rude as to disturb me at the crack of noon on a Saturday. As I fumbled for the phone, I glanced down at the Caller ID and to my surprise (and relief), Tom Keifer was on the line!

"Rock and roll is like primal instincts.
It appeals to everybody."
–Tom Keifer (2002)

For an hour or more, we discussed various phases of Keifer’s amazing career, going all the way back to his teenage years when he made what was to be a life-changing discovery rock and roll.

“What is this music?” Keifer asked himself upon seeing his first live rock band performing at a school dance. “This is just amazing!”

"I listened to everything growing up," Keifer continued. "I grew up listening to all of the American rock and roll and all of the music that influenced it — from blues to country to gospel."

While discussing his own records released over the years, Keifer chuckled in agreement when I confessed that I thought Cinderella’s third record, 1990’s Heartbreak Station was the best of his career. “There was a magic going on when we recorded that record,” Keifer recalled. “It’s my favorite of the ones we’ve made. We really had a good time making that record.”

Plagued by throat problems while in the studio, Keifer described Cinderella’s fourth album, Still Climbing, as a “torturous” album to make. However, he still considers “Bad Attitude Shuffle” and “Through the Rain” to be a couple of their all-time best songs.

Of course at some point, I had to ask him about the short-lived, yet lethal Seattle grunge movement of the early ‘90s that exterminated the arena rock scene seemingly overnight. 

“What happened in the ‘90s was not as much of a musical change as it was a fashion change. A lot of people listen to music with their eyes. Soundgarden and Nirvana it’s loud guitars cranked up through Marshalls with screaming vocals. It all sounded like rock and roll to me. I never got what the difference really was other than the look.”

"I loved Nirvana. I thought they
were a great rock and roll band."
Tom Keifer (2002)

I found Keifer's easy-going openness to be quite refreshing and he proved to be as engaging throughout our one-on-one conversion as he's appeared to be over the years performing onstage in front of thousands. I appreciated his time, and the experience remains one of my all-time favorite writing ops. I just wish that after all these years I could relocate the cassette tape with the entire interview!

-Christopher Long
(April 2002)



C'MON! -