Rockbrat Remembers: My Time As A Loyal Australian KISS Fan – a foot soldier who went AWOL

Posted: October 23, 2011 by rockbrat in Rockbrat Remembers:
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If not for the hand of this quick-thinking roadie, the identity of former Australian Kiss foot soldier Mr Rockbrat, may’ve been revealed

If you are not a Kiss fan, you may wish to skip this lengthy post, but if you are, you’ll probably find many memories which you can relate to. It’s the story of how I became a Kiss fan – a relationship which lasted for many, many years – just on twenty five years in fact. It is also a story which I am sure many Australian kids, who also experienced ‘Kiss fever’ back in 79/80 – will remember fondly. I have written this article from memory, with no checking of dates etc or books as references. As the years fly past, my Kiss memories are becoming more and more distant, so I thought it was time to record some of them. I am sure I have forgotten many stories as they simply did not come to me when I compiled this article. In the 80’s during my teenage years, Kiss were very much my identity, it was a part of who I was. It seems many Kiss fans nowadays, some who jumped on board much later than me, all have something to say, so I too am just as qualified to tell my Kiss story. Why the hell not !

As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, growing up I had three older siblings heavily into music – quite a normal activity for teenagers the world over in the mid-70’s. Consequently, the groundbreaking (at the time) ABC television program called ‘Countdown’, was compulsory weekend viewing in our house. It was a chilly July evening in the Australian winter of 1976, that I first saw Kiss. Strange that this may sound to some now, but it was very common back then for families to sit around the TV and all view Countdown, such as ours did that Saturday night. Simpler, less confusing times folks. The ‘Rock n Roll All Nite’ video clip was aired and as a kid, I can vividly recall the fire of Gene Simmons and of course the band’s wild face make-up. Also, oddly enough I remember that giant rubber ball being tossed around by the live crowd on the clip (imagine how much THAT item would be worth now if it ever showed up on eBay). Am surprised Simmons has never marketed the ‘Giant Alive! Rubber Ball’. Anyway, after Gene breathed fire on the clip, my father brazenly scoffed ‘I can do that’ ! Now I am not sure if he’d guzzled too many DA long necks or what, but sure enough, shortly after we all marched to the backyard and watched as my father proceeded to match the bat-winged demon in the department of fire-spitting. Clearly he had never heard Gene’s ‘don’t try this at home’ or ‘let me take the risk’ warnings, but it is an amazing memory of that night in 1976 when Kiss first entered my mind !

As the 70’s moved on I was definitely aware of Kiss, but was more of a Rugby League aficionado at that stage than a rock fan. I can vaguely recall visiting a schoolfriend’s house – most probably during 1979, and gaping in amazement at the bedroom of one of his older brothers. The walls were plastered with Kiss posters and, most impressive of all, were these ‘framed awards’ which had been presented to him by the Australian Kiss Army – no doubt as a reward for his loyal service. Some time later a burglar with an obvious eye for Kiss collectables stole them. Years later I  ran into this old face and enquired about his brother’s collection to be told ‘he chucked it all out’ ! A common story I guess, but heartbreaking to the ears of a Kiss disciple.

Before the internet we had scrapbooks

1979 and 1980 were major Kiss years in Australia. Being a kid, I was unaware that the band’s popularity in their homeland was dwindling. In Australia you see it was the exact opposite. The hard rock/disco track ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ had struck a chord with a cross-variety of people, many of whom would’ve also gone on to purchase the Unmasked record. Much has been written about the Australian tour over the years so I will not bother repeating it all – but let me say this:

Those few short weeks in November when Kiss were in Australia for their tour were ‘truly magical’. I cannot explain it in words  – the ‘larger than life’ excitement of it all is something you really had to experience for yourself. If you are a younger Kiss fan, take my word for it – reading about the Australian 1980 tour and watching the live Sydney concert video etc online do not come close to what it was actually like. I guess that it why so much of the 1980 Australian merchandise is so special to us older Australian fans. When we gaze at and hold these items of merchandise, we smile and it allows the memory of it all to quickly flood back. Incidentally, I cannot see the point of collecting Kiss merch after say 1981 ? I find the original stuff far more appealing.

Indeed it is the individual memories of young fans who lived through it which are special and worth sharing. It seems, thinking back, that everyone in my small suburban school was a Kiss fan ! I guess many of their parents would’ve viewed Kiss as a fad and nothing else. Many of these parents indeed took their children to see Kiss live, some probably curious as to what all the hype was about, and wanted to see for themselves. I recall in the press back in the day that there was warnings of possible violence at the Aussie Kiss shows ! If you view the collection of knives and ‘weapons’ (photographed and appearing in the Bob King book ‘Rock Lens’), which were confiscated by the cops at one of the Sydney shows, you can correctly conclude that it was not all wide-eyed eight year olds who attended the circus. Each day I scanned the newspapers and poured over the articles and pictures of the band. One Sydney newspaper published a colour poster of each band member – including Eric, on different days. Hell you could even get a free Kiss poster in a box of cereal ! This was indeed Kissteria, something the band had not experienced for some years, and I honestly doubt they had experienced the same level of fan and press adulation before or since – and that includes Japan in 1977 and the USA in 1975. Why were Kiss so popular in Australia in 1980 ? It was a culmination of things. You had long time fans who were committed to the band. They had also never toured. Their radio friendly disco pop had garnered a new demographic of fans. Kiss were also a cleverly marketed package, a business empire offering eye catching merchandise which instantly hooked the 8-10 year olds. Then of course their were the scores of teenagers who just loved Kiss and their music. All these elements combined meant for one amazing rock n roll tour down under. There was talk of a tour documentary type film being released and it is a shame they never filmed and released it. Little did we know that in twelve short months it would all be over. Their popularity would plummet to a record low after nearly self-imploding by way of a good-intentioned concept album. Many of the doubters who scoffed and called them a fad, a flash in the pan etc would think that they’d called it correctly. But I knew differently and remained loyal to the cause.

Who wants a Kiss for breakfast then ?

From my local view in the suburbs, there were Kiss school book stickers in the windows of our local grocery stores, Chu-bops were also available including one with the Unmasked cover. Local school fetes would usually have a face-painting stall – no prizes for guessing what every kid wanted to be painted as. I recall going to one such event and immediately dissing a kid I saw with Ace paint. ‘you look nothing like him’ I stated. Already, it seemed, defending the band was something I felt I had to do ! There was a local street near where I grew up which had ‘KISS 1980’ scrawled into the concrete. Lasting evidence from a Sydney devotee, who had no doubt been hit by the full force of New York’s finest in late 1980. Wonder if it is still visible or whether time and the elements have taken care of it ?
A friend’s older sister owned the just released Unmasked album on cassette and we would play it in his room, on a giant-sized tape player – over and over and over again. She’s So European, Is That You  and Torpedo Girl won me over big time. It still holds a special place in my heart that record.
That friend, along with the Cowboy, me and one other would dress up like Kiss and perform before our school class with tennis racquets. Not sure what it was all about, but I do recall giving this guy a dressing down as his ‘Ace boots’ were not quite right ! At it again ! Cannot be certain but I think we mimed to 2000 Man and Charisma.
Mid 1980 sees me on a family holiday visiting relatives at their home in country Victoria. They had an amazing property in a beautiful setting but it would’ve been the Kiss covered bedroom of one of the cousin’s which had me gaping in wonder. Scenic mountain ranges ? ‘what’s that got to do with Kiss ?’ (actually as a joke (I think) in the 80’s me and some Kiss buddies used to say that line ‘what’s that got to do with Kiss ?’ if someone decided to start up a conversation unrelated to the topic of New York’s finest. Dumb but funny). Anyway from memory this family lived a couple of hundred km’s from Melbourne City so when it came time for the big show at Waverley Park on the 15th November, her Dad drove her and waited in the car whilst the concert was on ! I hope he packed some ear plugs. Some time later I would write to this relative and ask about the collection. Not sure if I got a reply. As many fans will now be familiar with, Simmons and Frehley appeared on the Don Lane TV Show whilst on their Australian jaunt, Ace even presenting Lane with one of his old stage boots. Again, about four years later I would actually write to Lane and ask him for it ! No shame – and no reply either ! Kiss had chosen a small act called The Eyes to open the concerts – they released a single which I once owned called ‘Driving In My Car’ (I think) but it too has been auctioned off. One can only wonder, as mighty as Kiss were in 1980, how they would’ve fared if the likes of X, or The Angels or even Rose Tattoo had’ve opened proceedings. It’s a fair bet they may’ve been blown off the stage by any one of those three acts, but I digress.  The warmer months of 1980 meant hanging out at the local shops after school, buying Kiss trading cards and of course eating Kiss ice-blocks. I much preferred a similar ice block called a Rocket as you could build with the plastic stick ! Throughout the 80’s in Sydney I would often hear the rumour of a fan who still had a box of the (now very collectable) Kiss ice blocks still stored and preserved in his freezer. Sure hope he never had a power outage !  This could’ve just been another crazy Kiss rumour, but it is one that is worthy of note nonetheless!  I know of a good friend whose mother worked at the hotel in Adelaide where Kiss stayed in 1980 and every time the band would pass through the kitchen area (to avoid the fans) Simmons would was his tag at her. He signed and gave her autographs for her kids which would eventually be misplaced.

this brings back memories

Much of my Kiss merchandise was actually acquired during the 1982 and 1983 time period. I can recall still seeing Kiss Showbags on sale at the Royal Easter show in 1981 ! The Elder had yet to be released remember and the big tour from the previous November was only five or so months back.  Garage sales, local school fetes and flea markets were all a goldmine for (now vintage) Kiss merch, discarded by disillusioned fans or others who no longer cared – phoney kid fans who had been swept up in 1980 by ‘the next big thing’ only to move onto another group once it had all flown over. These same kids were by now digging Duran Duran or Culture Club I can only assume. I was more than happy to purchase their unwanted items and will always remember the day, at a local flea market, when I found Ace and Paul dolls, lying unwanted in a plastic bag with a $5 asking price. The stuff Kiss fans dream about. Many years later I would experience the same type of excitement when spying The Originals II on the wall of a recycle store in Japan for about ten dollars. When you think about it, with the sheer volume of merchandise released in Australia in 1980, there was obviously going to be a run off of it at some stage and sure enough much of it now was unwanted – and sat unloved in sheds and garages around the country. I remember hearing this ‘legendary’ tale from a friend who’d heard that a Kiss fan was travelling along a country road and stopped in at an antique store or similar and there, on the dusty shelves were the original Kiss dolls, still boxed and going for only a few dollars ! I picked up so much stuff back during this period – the puffy stickers, the 1981 Kalendar, plastic toy guitar, sealed box of Kiss combs, the school book labels etc etc. All no longer wanted and usually in  great condition as much of it was barely eighteen months old !
Another amazing story occurred one Saturday morning when I walked into a garage sale and there against the back wall of the room sat the much sought after Kiss pinball machine by Bally. When you are making pocket money by mowing lawns and delivering newspapers, the $150 price tag was steep. Nevertheless I told the seller to ‘wait right there’ and tried to convince my father to lend me the money. No dice. It sure woulda looked cool in my bedroom though ! I also once found a sealed set of Kiss Combs, tons of trading cards, badges and much more. Here is another merch related tale….I had an older sister who worked at a bank. One day a customer walks and plonks her money and paperwork on the counter – all of which was being housed in a Kiss Maybelline Make-up Bag. I’m sure you know the one. ‘My brother loves

the boys at Sydney Town Hall - photo: Neville Waller

Kiss’ she said and thought nothing of it. Days later this same customer presented her with about 20 mint Maybelline bags of varying sizes. I think I gave a couple to Kiss buds some days later; clearly I had no knowledge of their value back then as my mother used to use one as a pencil case ! I can recall one time around 1982 walking into a Woolworths store and seeing a swag of books on sale – there were a stack of those Kiss by Robert Duncan books going for the discounted price of 8c a pop ! I bought them all. I honestly think that my favourite time of being into Kiss was during the hangover period after 198o, when there was great merchandise to be picked up cheaply. Even rifling through the used record bins for Kiss records would yield fan club fliers, posters, sticker or assorted clippings ! I have sold off many of my rarest Kiss albums, though the ones I in fact value the most, have the memory of finding them as an 11 or 12 year old still attached. I can recall one hot summer’s day finding the Peter Criss solo album with the poster still inside and I felt like I’d won the lottery. Sure you can download anything nowadays instantly, but the memories I have of locating my Kiss record collection stretch from the Sydney CBD, to the suburbs, to Europe, Japan and the USA. I have some cool Kiss records, but those first few purchases are very, very special. I also found the Destroyer and Love Gun puzzles at junk markets. I can remember once walking in to a market and this kid of about six walks past me with the Love Gun puzzle tucked under his arm. “where did you get that and how much did you pay it ?!” I ask – my eyes buzzing around my head. I think he paid a couple of dollars but I offered him much more and he handed it over ! The Kiss bug often bites hard ! I recently recalled another moment of Kiss Craziness when, whilst out driving, I spied a vintage Kiss towel hanging on someone’s clothes line. With no shame I banged on the door and asked them to sell it to me. They didn’t but I had clued them onto the fact that they had an item of value blowing in the wind. Although I had kept many newspaper clippings from the 1980 tour, I was always out for more.

One week during school break in 1983 the Cowboy and I spent days locked in a basement of a large city library, going through three year old newspaper reels in search of Kiss articles, which we’d then print out. Hey, everyone needs a hobby right ! Thing is, it was great fun. I’m pretty sure we still have them. Do you remember the music store in Sydney city called Palings ? I purchased my vinyl copy of Creatures Of The Night there. Kids of today may find it interesting to know that at most large malls in Australia there would be a t-shirt stand, where you could get designs – chosen from a large book of iron-on transfers – put straight onto a shirt ! Back in 1982 the books were still packed with Kiss iron-on transfers from 1980 and once again, I had a great time adding them to my ever growing collection.

News on Kiss’ activity in their homeland was scarce, so imagine how barren things were in Australia back in 1983. Like many I first thought it was Ace on the cover of Lick It Up. It wasn’t. Kiss was changing. Though I went with the changes. I loved the record and wished I’d lived in North America to see the band live. My mate Robin saw them in the UK on this tour at Wembley (as he did in 1980) and told me some time later they were dreadful. But still I soldiered on. Collecting merch and anything I could on the band when it passed through my hands. I can still see the look of disbelief on my Dad’s face when he spied a new Lick It Up poster on my wall. ‘How much was that ?’ he asked. $2.99 I replied. He walked away shaking his head knowing he’d given me $3.00 weekly pocket money the day before. I really think that being heavily into Kiss during the years 1982-1985 contain possibly my favourite memories. Collecting the vast back-catalogue, the unwanted merch, whilst at the same time  properly listening to and dissecting the songs. All tremendous fun and all very much a  saviour to help me forget about high school – a place I despised. When it came to buying Kiss records the boundaries were wide. Hell, I even purchased most the Kiss-related records e.g. Stallion, New England, Trigger, Cher, Hello, Blackjack etc etc. What I really wanted, however, was a new Kiss album….and of course another tour.

I bought both Animalize and Asylum when they were released and I loved them both immensely. The band were barely ten years old but so much had changed for them in that time. In November of 1985 I met a fellow Sydney Kiss fan who would remain a friend for some years. This doesn’t sound very unique, but during this period no one I knew of – at least in my area was a Kiss follower. In true headbanger tradition, we met on a public bus and were attracted by our Kiss t-shirts, sew-on patches and buttons. He was a good guy and over the course of the next few years we would hang out, watch Kiss videos, go to gigs etc. He would also introduce me to other Sydney Kiss supporters. I can remember seeing him at a football game before I met him wearing a ‘Lick It Up’ shirt and thinking how cool he was ! Some years later he got married and ‘got out of Kiss’. Simple as that but, a little odd; though I was quite happy to procure some of his collection ! He owned a copy of one of the first Kiss fanzines I had seen, which was called ‘Strange Ways’. One of the guys who edited it was named Larry Blake (how’s my memory?) and he was a gifted artist. The world of Kiss fanzines opened up another avenue to this band which was very exciting.

Commencing full time employment in the mid-80’s meant money in my pocket – most of which went straight into Gene and Paul’s ! I would purchase records from import stores in the city and would usually pay high prices for them. Also, and inevitably – when something like a rock band was consuming your life, I would start talking about music and Kiss to new co-workers and looking back, am astonished at the array of Kiss merchandise I was given by some of them. One guy gave me a mirror (US Tour 76), along with scrap books etc which he no longer wanted. Wonder if he rued that decision when eBay reared its head some time in the future. But who knew ?

Indeed I can recall shelling out big money on an Ace Frehley bootleg called ‘Back In The Groove’ – which was recorded live in 1985 at Brooklyn’s L’Amour. There was a fan club address on the jacket and I hurriedly wrote away and joined the Frehleys Comet Fan Club. They had a newsletter called Comet Watch and it was ran by a fan named Erik Cram. When I received my kit I was the envy of my local Kiss co-horts. News on Ace in 1985 was very scarce so in 1985 and 1986 to be receiving news direct from his fan club was indeed special. As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, they sent an album (promotional) A4 flier which members were encouraged to copy and display. Man me and my brother covered the city of Sydney ! This must’ve been around late 1986 I guess. I sneakily made a few hundred copies at my place of employment then set about taping them to power poles, bus shelters, windows….you name it. Some time later one of the biggest of Sydney’s Kiss fans – maybe THE most dedicated, said to me ‘a lot of people saw that’. I smiled knowing that I had done something to help Ace. This kinda material (Frehley’s Comet) I will never part with. I also joined the Vinnie Vincent Fan Club and was in that for a couple of years I guess. A signed Christmas card from vocalist Mark Slaughter found its way across the world and into our suburban Sydney letterbox which made that day very memorable. I can also vaguely recall picking up a still boxed ‘Aucoin’ mirror at a framing store in Manly for around $20. I sold it for $500 ten years back now at auction. How long do you hold on to some things ? Especially when that item can fetch a high price – and especially when it doesn’t mean as much as it once did.

The coolest Kiss tour shirt ever

I had a large collection of Kiss tee-shirts. In the early 80’s your choice of rock tee spoke volumes – pardon the pun – about which band your were aligned with. My favourite was an Animalize US tour tee shirt, purchased from a store in the CBD. It was overpriced, but that was cool cos it got overworn ! I still have it. Looking back, that 1984 era image on the front of the shirt is possibly the coolest the band would look during the non-make-up years. My other favourite was a Creatures Of the Night Baseball Tour Shirt, purchased in Melbourne, with Vinnie make-up era on the front. That was very eye-catching and as a Kiss fan, you wanted to stand out from the rest – to have other fans gawk and whisper ‘where’d did he get that shirt’! It too went back to its homeland via eBay some years back now. There was a locally Australian pressed compilation LP released at this time (1986-ish) called ‘Kiss The Singles’. Not a very smart marketing move in hindsight. But I bought my copy new and sometime much later would see a stack of them in the bargain bins at a giveaway price. They have become quite collectable. Again, who knew. We all know how simple it is nowadays to obtain a record you have long desired. Back in the mid-80’s it was mail order folks. I recall sending some funds away to the UK after reading an import magazine and ordering a purple wax copy of Paul’s ’Tonight You Belong To Me’ 7”. All the way to Sydney from Lizard Records in Norwich ! It was a thrill when records you had ordered from the other side of the planet arrived !

Meeting a couple of fellow Kiss fans in 1985 also meant getting ahold of some valuable Kiss video footage. The older the footage the better and it was gold ! I do recall owning a couple of old VHS tapes which had Kiss clips and Australian tour footage e.g. Inner Sanctum on them which my brother and I watched over and over. Actually even today when I play I Want You I am transported back to our house in suburban Sydney on a hot early 80’s day watching that footage !

Parents are often aware of a child’s interest especially if they are devoted to it. My folks knew of my Kiss addiction. It would be hard not to when your son’s bedroom had long been a shrine for Kiss. I can recall being in the family car sometime in late 1984 and asking them to change over their Johnny Cash tape for my new Kiss album. My father must’ve nearly drove off the road as we all listened to ‘Under The Gun’ ! I also remember when B-grade Melbourne outfit Axatak made a TV appearance one Saturday night decked out in black leather, white face paint and long black hair. ‘Kiss are on TV’ hollers my mother, bless her !!! My folks were not Kiss fans but over the years they were happy to get a tape in the VHS recorder if the band were on TV. My father sat through the Donohue – Peter Criss imposter episode back in 1991 unaware that the show was based around Peter. As a Kiss nut I actually wrote to the show in NYC and enquired about a copy ! The price they asked for was absolutely ridiculous. So too was me writing away ! Easy to look back though. Still, the letter is an interesting 20 year old keepsake I guess. Whilst on the subjects of letters, I wrote away to the Australian Kiss Army in late 1981 or early 82 as well but they were in the process of shutting down. The guy who headed it up was named Gerry Cooper (I think) and the postal address of Locked Bag 16 at leafy Lane Cove in Sydney’s northern suburbs is seared into my brain. If you had’ve purchased your Adam and the Ants album like me in 1981, you will correctly note that the postal address was the identical one to Kiss. Out with the Kiss Music, in with the Ant Music ! Out of curiosity I once again wrote to that address in he mid-8o’s but heard nothing back. As you do. Years later I would shop quite near that set of post boxes in Lane Cove, yet never bothered to take a look. Cuckoo, cuckoo. Wonder if who has that box now realises just what it meant to a huge group of Aussie teenagers back in 198o ! The Kiss buddy whom I met in 85 started a short-lived radio show during this period, with me on a local community radio. Kiss wise, we aired Who Wants To Be Lonely from the then current album, and a Blackjack number as well. Good innocent fun, and though no one was tuning in, it mattered not – we thought we were making a difference. Helping the Kiss cause as it were – and in 1985, thought I didn’t realise it then, they needed all the support they could get. Some time in 1987/88 I decided to make my very own Kiss Jacket, something which would be a  one-off. Thinking back it was certainly unique looking,  though  I am lucky no one offered to punch my head in for wearing something so ridiculous in appearance. It was basically a naval officer’s long jacket, complete with large gold buttons at the front ! I had purchased Sergeant Stripes from a Military Disposal Store and had them sewn on each shoulder underneath Kiss Army logo patches. The chest area had a simple Rock n Roll over design sew-on, and of course the large back patch was the cover of the first album, bordered by studs ! I wish I hadve taken a photo of it ! I know that I wore it to a birthday party in a middle class abode with the Cowboy and got some strange looks. ‘Me against the world’ said Lizzy Borden. Right on !  Ahhh the absurdity of it all – looking cool in one’s mind but in all reality – looking damn f*#king ridiculous. Another blinkered moment came when I got to speak to Cheap Trick’s Rick Neilson on a radio station telephone hook-up. ‘What was it like playing on Gene’s solo album from 1978 ?’ was my question. Nowadays I would ask him about playing on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy sessions but that’s how my blinkered Kiss brain worked back then.

In 1989 Kiss hit Wallan - or do they ?

I remember Simmons did an interview – maybe 1988 – for Australian MTV where the host asked him about another Australian tour. ‘Send a plane, we wanna come back down there’ was his reply. Talk about disgenuine. His answer was about as authentic as the hair draped over his shoulders in that interview. What was even funnier was a few days later, being at a football match and discussing said interview with a friend. ‘we should all chip in and pay for a plane’ he said. I think this goose could’ve been serious ! Words fail me. Looking back, I am glad we in Australia did not get the Crazy Nights package as it was about as close to Spinal Tap as you could get. Wigs, high kicking and more spandex than you’d find in your local bicycle accessory store. We got Simmons in a couple of films, one of which was Trick Or Treat and for which a couple of friends dressed as Gene and Paul to attend. That would’ve confused a few movie goers who failed to make the connection. You know what when it comes to Kiss and their 80’s tour schedule, to  have ignored Australia for so long, especially on the Hot in The Shade tour was an insult. We had helped the single Forever’ break into the charts for f**k sake. Hard rock was popular with many local and international bands doing well here. But no, we missed out again. Cheers. A sign that I was Kiss-crazy, was once attending a local venue one night in the 80’s to see a cover act known as the ‘sensational 70s rock show’. What got me there was an image of Peter Criss which the act had used in their press ad. They were woeful. But it was an indication of how much I loved Kiss.

Actually when it came to other rock bands, I would see other musicians and they would often be weighed up using Kiss as the yardstick. “He doesn’t dance like Paul, or Ace would blow him away etc’. Loyal but blinkered (there’s that word again). There was a fan produced Australian fan club which kicked off in around 1989 called Krazy Knights. I signed up to that quick smart. At that time I was reading Melbourne zine Kiss This! as well. I had heard rumours in early 1989 that Kiss would finally tour Australia once again as part of a concert in Victoria called World Rock 89. I did buy tickets but it all fell though. Joe Cocker and Kiss as headliners in the township of Wallan ? Come on, I should’ve known it would never happen. Not sure whether the promoter had little experience or whether there were no funds, poorly organized or what, but the whole thing was very strange. I continued on as a Kiss fanatic corresponding with other fans and still collecting Kiss merchandise. An indication of how blinkered I was occurred in the late 80’s when I saw a humorous comic ad which was a satirical look at Apple Computers (they’d written the phrase ‘Banana Computers’) and featured a hilarious drawing of a 1983-era Simmons. Of course back then I did not find anything humorous about mocking one of my heroes and I didn’t get the joke. I even called a local computer shop and asked them about ‘Banana Computers’. Very sad, though not at all surprising as some time beforehand (after being swept up by the heavy metal wave), I actually sat and watched Spinal Tap in the movie theatre – at the time of release – with my brother unaware it was all a joke. Now that is funny !!

The day I arrived in London in 1991 I spent tons of money on Kiss stuff.  Why not ?  It was, after all  what I did. The huge record fairs they once held in the UK were a great place to help fill the gaps in my Kiss vinyl collection. Although seeing many bands during that stay, Kiss would not tour there until the following year with the Revenge album. Was I ever going to see the non make-up era of Kiss ? Later that year, after Eric passed away I wrote a tribute for him in the form of a poem which got published in many Kiss zines and his sister Loretta also sent me a thankyou card. I never met him but from all accounts he was one of the most decent people you could know – and he certainly never forgot his Australian fans.
In the early 90’s I remained as loyal as ever – as many others got a nose ring, grew beards, wore long shorts and told me how cool Nirvana or Pearl Jam were. Barf ! I still continued to sign up to many fan clubs and read Kiss fanzines cover to cover. My collection continued to grow. By far and away the best Kiss fanzine was one printed out of the UK called Kiss Crazy. It was produced by a fan named Carol and was the most professionally and well produced publication which I saw. I even stopped in at the Kiss Crazy HQ when visiting London in 1991 to say hi. I still have my copies of Kiss Crazy and would never part with them. Kiss Strike, ran from Italy was also superb. Did you ever think it odd the way Kiss never bothered to set up an official fan club in the 1980’s ? Looking back I do. They did set up a central news type service to filter info etc to the hundred or so, fan ran zines, but that was in the very late 1980’s from memory.

your choice of sew-on patch spoke voumes about the band you were aligned with

After fifteen long years, Kiss returned to Australia in early 1995. Their sound was headed in a direction I had trouble identifying with – gotta move with the times right guys ? I saw shows in Melbourne and Sydney and attended the Kiss Convention in Melbourne as well. I would meet Stanley and Simmons, along with hundreds of others late on the Convention day which was cool. The lack of interest and attention Simmons put into his signature for me (it is a scrawl) makes me laugh nowadays – though I was quietly annoyed at his half-assed autograph at the time. During the Q and A session I asked Stanley ‘do you think you will work with Jean Beauvoir again’. His instant reply of ‘No’ before moving on to the next question was as close as I ever got to a conversation with one of my rock heroes. All those years as a loyal Kiss foot soldier and when we finally ‘meet’ we speak for about ten seconds. Again, you gotta laugh !

As we all know the re-union which we never thought would happen, did in fact occur in 1996. I couldn’t wait for Australian shows to be announced, so me and the Cowboy flew overseas and took in shows in Philadelphia, Chicago, Zurich and  Wembley in London. Even as I type this some years later I find it incredible that the original line-up did in fact re-unite. Any die-hard who loved Kiss in the 80’s will recall just how many times the re-union talk was waved away by Stanley and Simmons. But so it came to pass that on a windy Tuesday evening in Pennsylvania – the 8th of October to be exact, I finally got to see Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace in full war paint. 1977 style ! It was amazing. Everything I had hoped it would be. However, by far and away it was in fact the Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon, a short time later, which is be my favourite. Great arena, great vibe, great band – all of whom appeared happy to be back ! I sure as hell was glad things had worked out ! Actually a funny thing happened whilst in NYC which ties in with all this re-union  euphoria. Me and the Cowboy met Kiss/Ace publicist Carol Kaye at a Ricky Byrd gig and manage to meet up with her at her Manhattan office the next day. I played it cool and tried not to be impressed by the personally signed Kiss posters on her wall, but gazed happily at them like it was 1980 anyway ! Zurich in December was caked with snow and the Kiss show in picturesque Zurich, was cold outside, but fiery hot inside ! Frehley was ungodly loud that night. A great show. Little did I realise it at the time, but the chapter in Kiss in my life was starting to close. Seeing the original band with the full 1977 show fulfilled a dream. So, where do you go from there ? My next Kiss show would be in early 2001 in Sydney on the Farwell Tour.

‘alright Philadelphia !' - where a dream came true

Thinking back, the last album I purchased (at release date) was 1998’s Psycho Circus. It came with a free poster. I remember the shop assistant (draped in a Morbid Angel or similar t-shirt) scoffing at my purchase when retrieving the poster. But this was the original line-up ! Nothing to scoff at there my brainless friend ! This was what we fans in the 80’s never thought would happen. Little did I know it was Gene and Paul mostly calling the shots. That left me a little sour. I loved the record though – Frehley’s tune in particular. I really wished they had’ve called it quits in 2001. Like many, I headed along to the ‘farewell’ tour – a Sydney show – to see my boys, my heroes – for the final time. Peter Criss had been replaced by Eric Singer for the Japan and Australian shows. A ‘new’ guy on drums called Eric on the Aussie tour ! Sound familiar anyone ? One think I remember was the amount of scenesters who were in attendance. All image-conscious socialites who may’ve been just as well been attending a large inner city gala ball. It would seems that everybody was now a Kiss fan ? This made me feel nauseous as back in 83 and 84 there really were very few true Kiss devotees in Australia. But my days of me being a denim and leather clad rock n roll outcast were also – becoming a distant memory.
That evening I ran into an old mate, former Candy Harlot Leeno Dee before the show and we reminisced about the ‘old days’. I remember asking him where all these ‘fans’ were in the 80’s ? He too was a big Kiss disciple who had followed the band through those lean years and could relate. For some strange reason I decided to focus on Frehley for most of that show and I am glad I did as his days in the paint would soon be over.  Surprisingly enough, for yours truly, my days of consuming Kiss for breakfast, lunch and dinner – were also drawing to a close. I was tired of it all and sadly, I had lost interest.

1980 memories....

My final Kiss live show was now a decade ago. ‘So am I still a Kiss fan ?’ I hear you ask.  Yes I will always be….but I am nowhere near as devoted as I once was and like many others went AWOL about ten years back. In the 80’s when they did not tour Australia, I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that an Alive 4 album, in the grease paint, would be recorded in my homeland !’. Yet it did happen. Though I was no longer interested. They were gigging again after a ‘farewell’ tour ?! This left a bitter taste in my mouth. I still cannot get my head around it. Can you imagine how many loyal fans felt after shelling all their money out on farewell related products, to be informed that ‘we ain’t going nowhere !’ The revolving members had me fast losing interest too. Criss and been subbed by Eric Singer, then Criss was brought back in two year later ? What got me was when Frehley was replaced by a fake (though I loved Thayer’s band Black and Blue). But really, who the hell cared anymore ? I certainly did not. Nowadays, it’s of course real easy to dress in a Kiss shirt and scream at a camera saying how much you love Kiss and that Kiss rules etc, especially when are surrounded by many other modern day converts. But it wasn’t always that easy. Try screaming your affection for Kiss in 1983 to a TV camera or reporter ? You were a misfit. A throwback from another time, another place. No one cared about Kiss back then when I was a devoted rock soldier. That is a point which many younger fans have difficulty comprehending but it is true. Can you imagine telling someone you liked Kiss and the reply was often ‘are they still around’? They had no voice here in Australia in the 1980’s and the mainstream public, which I can totally understand, assumed they had faded away after 1980. Nowadays, if you think you are somewhat of a renegade liking Kiss and adopting the ‘us against them’ mentality, you are kidding yourself. It is not 1983 or 1984 and it all comes across as stale and boring now anyway. They are no longer the underdog rock band trying to be break through to the masses. They are an accepted form of Americana – a bloated, greedy beast with a logo which spells money – eat in or take out ? You want fries with that ?  I find it all quite saddening.

They must’ve toured Australia a couple times since then 2001, but I was not in attendance. Not even in spirit either. Simmons did a speaking engagement some time back, but again, I would not go if it was in my backyard. Someone should ask him why the band ignored Australia, a market which they claim to love for fifteen long years ? Again, whatever. I also can no longer stomach Gene Simmons. His obnoxious, arrogant and self opinionated ramblings I may’ve once found funny, but now I just find him annoying. Annoying and tiresome. Go preach your ‘view of life’ bullshit to some other fool as I tuned out on your views years ago friend. Actually if he had’ve just shut his mouth and not always stood on his soap box at every given opportunity I may’ve stayed loyal to the band a little longer. Ego’s and attitude. Count me out. Your public persona has indeed become detrimental to the band. But I will say it again, I just do not care anymore. Around 2007 me and the Cowboy did see Paul Stanley on his Live To Win tour and boy was that a fun show. Rather than feeling like I was with fellow Kiss ‘family’, the night felt much closer to a walk down memory lane, and that’s cool. Stanley should rightfully be ten years into his solo career by now, but no, not so. Not with the whiff of that dollar still in the air. I did not buy the Sonic Boom album. I’ve even seen it sitting in the sale bins at giveaway prices but there it remained. How times change. That being said, Kiss will always have a special place in my rock n roll heart as they were always with me from boyhood and beyond  – part of me and my identity. My Kiss activities nowadays no longer involve putting my hand in my pocket, rather, it is seeking out the Kiss which I remember. On the internet, I visit the EverythingKiss and KISSFAQ web sites. But that is only for nostalgic reasons. I am also curious to see what merchandise Simmons has licensed and am usually left shaking, then scratching my head. The fact that I do not visit the official band site – the ‘site that clicks ass’ is an indication of my lack of interest in current-day Kiss activities. I also regularly listen to a podcast called podkisst. It is great listening because they are essentially devoted Kiss fans like I once was and I can relate to much of what they talk about. What I like is that the contributing staff are all fans who jumped on board during different eras, which means you have a wide opinion range. Amazingly, the youngest host became a fan in 1998, but what I find most intriguing about this, is that it was because of the music, and not a generational thing – which is, sadly, how many youngsters become weened on the band in recent times. They also geek out on obscure Kiss facts, play rare tunes and nab some great interviews. It is one out of only two podcasts I regularly listen to. So really, these are my only connections to Kiss today.

Although I never realised it at the time, part of the joy of being devoted to a rock n roll band like Kiss, was having someone to share it with – in my case, a fellow, hard rock loving brother. He once blew all his bus money on a Kiss 45 and had to walk the 26km distance or whatever it was back home. That is dedication ! But you could also share the finds, discuss the tracks, the tours, and dissect even the most obscure Kiss facts ! My ride on the Kiss Train would not have been as much fun if the Cowboy wasn’t travelling in that same carriage. Be that as it may, Kiss were very much ‘my band’ and my brother was not allowed to bring home any Kiss items !  I am sure many siblings around the world went through the ‘my band/your band’ scenario. Funny now, but deadly serious at the time !

I still listen to their albums and still own quite a large collection of merchandise, though much of it got sold on eBay some years back now. Personally, I strongly feel that they should no longer be around and that the farewell tour of 2001 should’ve been the end. They are a parody now. If you think they aren’t maybe take a step back as you could be seeing things a tad too blinkered. Sure they look like they are having fun, on some nights they sound amazing – but, they are a parody nonetheless.
The band are about to release a new studio album tentatively tiled Monster. But as mentioned, I’ve long since cared about it all anymore. Actually as I write this the band have just disembarked from a cruise liner ship where they’d held an event ingeniously dubbed The Kiss Kruise. Talk about shameless. These current Kiss stunts re-enforce to me that I was right in going AWOL. A Kiss cruise ! Man that is about as laughable as recording an album with an orchestra – oh wait they’ve done that, or opening a coffee shop !  Nowadays, it’s quite OK for me to just sit back, listen and enjoy the rich back catalogue of songs for what they are  – timeless rock n roll songs. Amazing rock n roll from a legendary rock band. It’s good to let the memories flood back, to smile and to reminisce every so often. You see when someone’s been a part of your life for so long you never really let them go, do you.

Quite recently I saw an irate looking teenager skulk quickly past me in the street, wearing a freshly purchased Kiss shirt. He threw me a ‘what are you looking at – you  wouldn’t understand’ look……..

If only you knew my friend – if only, you knew.

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Comments
  1. Gary Shaller says:

    Hey! Glad you’re listening! Thanks for mentioning us! Come on the show any time!

    – Gary Shaller from PodKISSt

  2. Cowboy Col says:

    Great article Mr. Rockbrat. Having been there for the entire ride I can certainly relate. Kiss and Mr. Rockbrat were inseparable. It was part of his identity, it was who he was. I recall growing up in the ugly peer pressure environment of an all boys high school – in an area of beaches where surfing was the main pastime and what surfboard and surf clothes you were determined your level of coolness. I could not relate. Thank god for rock n roll. Heavy metal (and kiss in particular) was something that gave me and Mr. Rockbrat an identity. In a black t shirt you made a statement that basically was a big f. you to all the pretentious wax heads with their inxs and oils records. I have a few additional memories that I thought I’d add – in no particular order. I recall going to all the second hand record stores, and recall how they used to stack all the cassettes in the windows, and like fine gem fossickers, we’d spot the Kiss tapes. Hours spent looking through second hand 45’s, and then you’d spy the instantly recognizable Casablanca logo – alas, it’s Donna Summer. In 1985 I remember seeing a copy of Simmons’ solo album on picture disc for the hefty sum of $40, which was a lot of dough back then. Mr. Rockbrat always used to graffiti the kiss logo everywhere, including in a freshly laid concrete path – he wrote, ‘KISS 85’. I remember how stoked Mr. Rockbrat was to finally nab a copy of Attack of The Phantoms on VHS. We watched it over and over. I do certainly remember spotting or picking up different Kiss items for Mr. Rockbrat over the years. I remember finding a cassette copy of Stanley’s solo album from 1978, a copy of the Startrax EP I nabbed in a junk store at Parramatta – hell I even bought a copy of ‘Alive’ at a flea market in Berlin. It has the standards ‘S’ in the logo, so I had to get it right. Very practical item to lug around in your back pack. Not. Summer holidays were not spent down the beach with the wax heads burning to a crisp like lobsters. Uh uh, for us it was catching buses to the city and buying second hand records on hot summer days. Ashwood’s used to have stacks of copies of Dynasty and Unmasked records in there bottom racks – all with posters of course. Hot summer days – We’d be inside watching 4th generation copies of KISS compilation video tapes, or in Mr. Rockbrat’s room listening to KISS bootleg cassettes etc. My memories of those summers are of one day cricket and watching KISS’ TV clips from their 1980 Australian tour. Great memories. Hot summer days of ‘Let me Go Rock n Roll’, ‘Cold Gin’ and ‘I Want You’ on the VCR. We’d cycle down to KISS mates house and he’s be blaring kiss on the stereo. We’d all get on our bikes and ride a few suburbs down to the second hand store in search of more records. Yet the joy of collecting and discovering music and hunting around those stores was probably the real fun – and Mr’ Rockbrat and I spent countless hours doing it. One of my strongest memories is of playing Double Platinum and listening to ‘Cold Gin’ on Mr Rockbrat portable Sanyo cassette player. Or his skateboard with KISS sticker on it, one from one of the sticker sheets that came with the solo albums…. I have many memories of being with Mr. Rockbrat buying records. He only every bought two bands. KISS and the Runaways. Always. I remember being somewhere in the States when he found a copy of the Treasure album with Vinnie Cusano. He held onto it as if it were a copy of the Beatles ‘Butcher’ album. Every record fair – Kiss and Runaways. Never found the elusive Lyn Christopher LP though. What’s that you say ? Just get on line and download a copy? Sure, it’s easy for everybody nowadays – except the fun of record collecting of bygone days is also gone. We’d buy records and then sit in a pub and look through em. Convenient yes, but you can’t do that with a digital file. Like others, I remember the Norman Gunston KISS record and TV appearances. Mr Rockbrat bought em all. Anything KISS related – had to have it. Even a pink eraser with writing on it that looked like the KISS logo – yep, he nabbed that too. I remember when Mr. Rockbrat was first in England. He was asked, “Let’s go and look at some significant historical sites shall we?” Nope, he wanted to go to the record stores for KISS records. That’s a devoted KISS fan friends. Pre internet, Mr. Rockbrat even asked a former American relative if he could obtain KISS’s elusive 1974 debut album. Collecting KISS meant that you had to have no shame. I also recall ‘crossing the line’ on more than one occasion. ie; I bought a KISS related item, like a Wendy O’ solo LP. Hand it over said Mr. Rockbrat – as Ace, Gene and Paul played on it. Battle lines were drawn, and I had crossed into Kiss territory. I have plenty of other memories, but time prevents me from penning them all. Like Mr. Rockbrat spitting blood capsules like the bat winged demon, or our KISS buddy pouring lighter fluid into his mouth to breather fire. I remember Mr. Rockbrat’s bedroom with fondness. It was a kiss shrine. He’s spend hours poring over his vast collection of KISS buttons, or how, during high school, Mr. Rockbrat would go to bed not to study, but to listen to KISS and read import copies of Circus magazines. Classic. The seed was sown. Pure escapism. We’d talk for hours about such topics as ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a complete 1980 KISS showbag?” or practice our best ‘Gene’ stage quotes. Looking back, there were worse bands to be into than KISS. They were great days. KISS were like a movie or a comic book come to life. Loud, colourful; bombastic The fact that they were not popular in the early 80’s also made you feel like you were part of a little club……..and my Simmons ‘signature’, (with exception of the $ sign which he never fails to get wrong),is also an unintelligible smudge!

  3. Tony says:

    Truly loved this article, it reminded me so much of my own experiences across the same timeframe. I too had Kiss buddies, barely watchable 7th generation VHS tapes and countless vinyl and cassette bootlegs. And I vividly recal a trip to Vic Markets in April 1981 and seeing a stall with a huge pallet of the “Kiss Your Face” makeup kits selling for .99c each! I bought one. Should have bought the whole pallet load of them. And the scrapbooks, oh yeah, I have a couple of the icy pole wrappers stuck in mine. Washed them carefully first, of course…. And I too went to Japan in the 90’s and trawled through record stores, amazed to find so many mint copies of “The Originals” available!

    Thank you for bringing back such great memories. The writing is very evocative of a very formative and special place in my life.

    And I share your opinions and sentiments of the current state of play. I suspect though in 2028 we’ll get the “Farewell (we really mean it this time) Tour” with no original members!

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