When a Kiss is Just a Kiss


“Why do people kiss?” my nephew asked his parents when he was younger.

“Because that’s their way of saying I love you,” answered his mother.

“Why don’t they just say it then?” he asked.  “Why do they have to kiss?”

This question has surely been asked by curious adolescents of their somewhat befuddled and giggling parents, for as long as children and parents have been interacting. The reason that most parents experience immediate confusion, in the wake of such a question, could have something to do with the fact that most adults have taken kissing for granted for so long, and that it’s been such a staple in the process for so long, that they haven’t stepped back to ask “Why?” since they were adolescents.

Puddy and Elaine

Most parents probably dismiss the peck as the source of their child’s inquiry, and focus their search for an answer on the saliva sharing smooch. Most adults probably assume –assigning their own thoughts to the question–that their child has already accepted the “Hello” and “Goodbye” peck as a fundamental part of the process of greeting and dismissing their loved ones, and that the nature of the child’s curiosity regards why a man would want to suck on a woman’s saliva, in a city park, to express love, and why the two of them would enjoy that transfer of fluids so much that they would want to do it more often.

“One hypothesis,” suggested by Noam Shpancer, of Psychology Today, “Is that (the sloppy smooch) might be a mechanism for gathering information about a potential sexual partner. A kiss brings you in close –close enough to smell and taste chemicals that carry immunological information. Our saliva carries hormonal messages: Close contact with a person’s breath, lips, and teeth informs us about his or her health and hygiene– and thus potential as a mate. Research also suggests a range of other functions, such as expressing and reinforcing feelings of trust and intimacy and facilitating sexual intercourse. The meaning of a kiss depends on who’s doing the kissing.”

If my nephew forced his mother to explore this further. She could’ve said something along the lines of, “A woman learns a lot from a kiss.” She would not have needed to go as in depth as Shpancer did. She could’ve simply said that a quality kiss shows a woman that you’re paying attention and that your love for her is defined in a kiss.

“If you’re simply kissing her for ulterior motives,” she could say, “a girl will know.  Some of the times a kiss is just a kiss, but some of the times it means something, and a girl will know the difference.”

My nephew was not, and is not, of the age to understand the term “end game”, but I’m guessing that that was the crux of his follow up question, “Why don’t they just say it then? Why do they have to kiss?” was why doesn’t a guy just walk up to the girl in the park and say, “I love you,” and walk away when he’s determined that she knows he’s being genuine?

I’m sure that his mother would then say something along the lines of, “Because saying ‘I love you’ can be easily faked, and a girl needs to know that you love her, and physically showing her, with a kiss, proves it to her.” This basically goes to the chemistry, and the Chemistry that Shpancer described, in a girl knowing and knowing in her conscious and subconscious determinations, but that would’ve been way over the head of my nephew, of course, and it would’ve only led to more questions about the abstracts need, emotion, and fulfillment that he was/is too young to understand.

My nephew is male, of course, and to read the Psychology Today piece’s listing of the 2007 findings in the Evolutionary Psychology piece, he might never understand when a kiss is not just a kiss on the level that those of the female gender do. For to a male, a kiss is rarely as important to them as it is to a female. If he thinks he’s going to arrive at an answer, he will chase it. He will want to kiss a girl his age, and he will be confused when it’s over and he doesn’t achieve clarity, but he will continue to kiss girls, because he knows it means something to them. When he has ulterior motives, he might try to add bits of information to a kiss, but if his recipient has as much omniscience as Shpancer theorizes the recipient will know when such additions are false. When he genuinely likes a girl, and those additional ingredients he adds are more organic, he will wonder what the difference was. My advice, is my nephew ever asks me for advice, is do not think, just do.

In their findings, the Evolutionary Psychology poll lists that 86% of women polled would not have sex with someone without kissing them first; while only 47% of males say they would not.  Their takeaway was that:

“For women, the smell and taste of their kissing partner weighs heavily in their decision to pursue closer contact. Men routinely expect that kissing will lead to intercourse and tend to characterize “a good kiss” as one leading to sex.”

The next poll probably gets to the heart of my nephew’s follow up question better, as it asks the genders how important kissing is. In this 2013 poll taken by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, there is the suggestion that kissing may never be as important to my nephew as the girls he’s kissing, as men rank the importance of kissing as a 3.8, on a scale of one to five, while women rank it as a 4.2. Their takeaway was that:

“Women rank kissing as more important in all kinds of romantic relationships than men do; men tend to consider it less important as relationships go on.”

The perfect depiction of this comes from (where else?) the television sitcom Seinfeld. In an episode of the series, entitled The Face Painter, the side character David Puddy informs the character Elaine Benes, that he will no longer “Support the team” by painting his face for hockey matches, because she is embarrassed by it. She is visibly touched by the idea that Puddy would alter his life in such a manner just for her, and to celebrate this new understanding in their relationship Puddy says:

“Ah, c’mere,” as he nears her for a kiss. “All right,” he says when that celebratory kiss is concluded, and he’s up and moving towards the door, “I gotta go home and get changed before the game. I’ll be back, we’ll make out.”

This scene is brilliant on so many comedic levels, not the least of which is the depiction of the value each gender places on kissing. Puddy acknowledges that some sort of romantic punctuation is needed for the agreement they’ve just made, and he basically says, “All right. Here!” to initiate that kiss. The comedic value of the situation occurs when that kiss, this romantic punctuation, is concluded, and Puddy simply says “All right” as if to say ‘now that that’s over now, I need to get things done.’ The very human element of “Enjoying that transfer of fluids so much that he wants to do more often” is then dispelled by Puddy saying once he’s done with something (changing clothes), they can start doing something else (making out). He thereby places the idea of making a seemingly transformative change of his life (no more face painting) with the act of changing his clothes, and the excessive kissing involved in making out on the same level, which is coupled with the overall theme of the exchange: that he’ll do what she wants, but that he’s only doing it for her.

This all surprises the once visibly touched Elaine for she thought she had a read on the situation. “You’d do that for me?” she asks after Puddy announces that he will no longer be painting his face. She believed in this new understanding so much that before he reached his (after the kiss) conclusion, she was breathlessly holding her hand to her heart, and on the verge of tears with the idea that her unsentimental boyfriend would be making such a life-altering sacrifice for her, and sealing it with a kiss. She appeared to believe that this sacrifice, and that kiss, suggested a brighter future, and a better understanding, between the two of them as a couple. When Puddy stands and says what he says, it dispels all of the conclusions Elaine derived from the situation, and the idea that a “woman always knows”. And her only takeaway, as the scene closes, could be that Puddy, like most stereotypical jarheads, will go through the motions to please a woman, but it actually means little-to-nothing to them.

Most boys spend their adolescence believing that their mother knows all, until they find out she doesn’t, but they continue to do the things necessary to please her, and fortify this illusion, until most boys become better men for it. Some boys put their heart into it, and live their lives, and kiss their girlfriends with the belief that their mothers know all, and how they treat their mother will be an indicator for how they will go on to treat all women. Others, like the fictional character Puddy, go through the motions to make their mother happy, and to them a kiss is just a 3.8 on a scale of one to five.

My sister-in-law asked me if I wanted to take a crack at answering my nephew’s questions, and I informed her that it’s probably better that I don’t. It’s probably better that he run the optimistic and loving course she has set him on. He’ll likely become a better man by trying to prove to all the women around him that he can be meaningful and moving when he wants to be, and when that time comes for him to plant that profoundly spiritual kiss on that one, special woman, he’ll do it with such belief that he can make her believe it too. And, he’ll hopefully get all that done before he falls prey to the cynical notion that some of the times a kiss is just a kiss to get women to shut up about wanting to kiss all the time.

{1}http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201404/news-decoding-the-kiss

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Rilalities V: Challenges and Insecurities


The 6’5” Guy

“I’m six foot five,” a man named Joe said. He did not work this into his greeting, and he did not say it in the early minutes of our introduction but it hung over our heads until I acknowledged it.

Those fortunate enough to meet Joe will soon discover that the reason for listing his height before his name. Some of us drop our last name with pride to suggest that our family’s lineage should mean something to someone we’ve just met, some will list their occupation soon after the listener learns their name, Joe was 6’5”. Joe was more 6’5” than he was Joe, and those fortunate enough to have a conversation with him that extends beyond superficial pleasantries will learn how 6’5” he is. If that conversation evolves into a minutes-long discussion, and the listener doesn’t acknowledge his height, with verbal or nonverbal cues, he’ll break the news to them:

“I’m six foot five!”

Although Joe and I spoke for a total of about three minutes, I got the feeling that he could’ve written a bestseller, won the Heisman Trophy, saved children from a fire, or discovered the cure for cancer, and his height would still mark his life. I had the feeling no matter what happened to him in life, he would prefer to have “Here lies Joe. He was 6’5” chiseled into his gravestone.

Joe was an interesting guy. He appeared to be conversant on a wide range of topics, and he managed to tell some aspects of his life’s story in an impressively timely manner, but everything he spoke of came back to the refrain of his life.

His height was the reason he had trouble finding chairs to sit in with comfort, the reason his 5’3” mother was always on him about stuff, and the reason he couldn’t be as particular as he wanted to be about the clothing he wore:

“You can’t be finicky about clothes when you’re 6’5” and built like me.”

Joe, we should also note, was broad-shouldered. This attribute, coupled with the idea that he was 6’5” was the reason he had trouble going door-to-door to talk to people.

“Would you be comfortable discussing politics, if a man my size came-a-knocking on your door?”

His height was also the reason that he had such trouble finding a decent woman. That subject may have shocked most people, or at least made them somewhat uncomfortable, as most people would deem such a discussion inordinately intimate for a conversation between two people meeting for the first time. I had a best friend in high school that was 6’7” however, so I was well versed in the travails of being a tall male in America today, and I was used to my friend going into such intimate details to make his point with people he had just met. Joe and I did try, at various intervals, to move on to other topics, but he was unable to let the fact that he was 6’5” go as easily as I was.

What struck me as odd was that I never made mention of his height, and I don’t think I provided any verbal or physical cues that called attention to it. Was that the point though, I later wondered. Was my refusal to acknowledge his height such an aberration to his experience that until I acknowledged it in some way, he would not be able to move on until one of us did?

Being a tall man has numerous advantages, but it has almost as many disadvantages. As I wrote, however, I was well versed in the details of being an abnormally tall man in America. I knew, for example, that a person’s height is the first thing people notice about one that is taller than 6’3”, and the thing they talk about after you leave. It’s the first thing people in malls pester a person about, it’s the reason some guys won’t mess with you, and the reason others do. It’s also the reason some women want to date you and others don’t. You could be the most charming person in the world, in other words, and most people will have preconceived notions about you based on your height.

With that in mind, one would think that an abnormally tall male, or a woman with abnormally large breasts, would find it refreshing when they’ve encountered that one person that seems to be genuinely unconcerned with their attribute(s). One would think that they would find it refreshing that they’ve finally found a person that is willing to talk geopolitics with them without looking down their shirt, or saying, “How’s the weather up there?” One would think that the person that broke those patterns of human interaction would receive a bright smile as a reward, and maybe even something along the lines of, “Thank you. You may not even know why I’m thanking you, but thank you!” Yet, tall men, and large-breasted women, just like all humans with exaggerated attributes become so accustomed to these patterns of interaction that they feel compelled to draw your attention to them just to comfortably complete a line of dialogue.

Most people will try to avoid talking about a trait generally considered a negative, and they will do everything they can to avoid noticing it. When they consider that person’s attribute a positive, most people think you should feel privileged to have it, so they don’t mind drawing attention to it. “You’re tall Joe!” they will say, or “I wish I had those,” and “You should feel privileged.”

As my conversation with Joe continued, and he began to belabor the point of his height, I initially thought he was trying to assert some sort of dominance. I may have been wrong on that note, and it might have had more to do with everything I thought later, but I began to rebel against his theme by making a concerted effort to avoid the topic of his height. Our conversation ended soon thereafter, and we moved onto other people at the gathering.

“What did you say to Joe?” our mutual friend –a friend that informed Joe and I that we would have so much in common that we would hit it off– later asked.

“Why?” I asked.

“He says he doesn’t care for you.” When I asked her for more details, our mutual friend said, “He said he can’t put a finger on it, but he doesn’t like you as much as I thought he would.”

Without going into what I deem to be the unnecessary details of our otherwise innocuous conversation, I can tell you that it involved no disagreements. To my mind, there were no moments of subtle tension, and there certainly were no overt ones, but he didn’t like me. I’m not one of those people that thinks that every person has to like me, and if they don’t there has something wrong with them, but to my mind this conversation I had with Joe proved to be amicable if not pleasant. Joe and I also proved to be as like-minded on certain topics as our mutual friend believed we would be. The only thing I did, and that which I presume led Joe to state that I didn’t live up to the characteristics our mutual friend detailed for him, was refuse to acknowledge his height in any way.

Going Clear—

Anytime I finish a book as fantastic as Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, I wonder what I am going to do with my free time?  The book gives credence to Phillip Roth’s line about non-fiction being stranger than fiction.  A complaint that an Amazon.com reviewer posed was: “If everything Wright writes is factual, why would anyone want to join the Scientology religion?”  This reviewer stated that this was the only point, and a central point, that they found lacking in the book.  If I were this Amazon.com reviewer’s teacher, and I lived by the credo, there’s no such thing as a stupid question, I would simply require that student reread the book.

Kiss in Rolling Stone—

Anyone that thinks that being “king of the hill, top of the heap, and ‘A’ number one” means that you will be able control your press, should read the March 28, 2014, issue of Rolling Stone magazine.  Kiss may no longer be the band that sells platinum records every year, and they may be more about marketing than music at this point in their career, but this Rolling Stone article was supposed to be about their soon-to-occur induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  To read this piece in the Rolling Stone, however, that fact means little-to-nothing.

This piece of rock journalism was so shockingly brutal that one has to imagine that Gene Simmons is still throwing some of his much detailed Kiss memorabilia at the wall when he thinks about it.  All four members of the band Kiss came under attack from the author of the piece, but the author reserved most of his unprofessional brutality for Gene.  This writer’s attacks were so petty and snarky that a regular reader of Rolling Stone would suspect that Gene was a Republican candidate running for office.  Yet, Gene’s not even a Republican voter, as he has made it public that he voted for both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton twice.

This article would also be an excellent read for journalism students seeking answers on what not to do with subjects they’re covering in an article.  Having never taken a journalism course, I would have to imagine that one of the primary rules discussed in a Journalism 101 class is: “The articles that you write are not about you.  No one will be reading your article to learn what you think, unless you’re writing an opinion piece.  If you’re covering a subject in a journalistic manner, however, remember that your readers are only reading your article to learn more about the subject.  It’s not about you.  Your readers won’t care about your opinion, your preferences, or what you think about the subject you’re covering, so be careful how you frame their answers.  If your subject says something stupid, infantile, or in any way revealing of their character, put that statement on the record, but do not comment, or frame, that quote in anyway.  That’s not your job.”  Judging by the course journalism has followed in the last generation, I’m quite sure that most journalism schools now include an asterisk with each of these rules that states: “Unless your subject is a Republican politician.”  As I wrote, however, Gene Simmons is not a Republican voter.

Inspiration—

“This guy sounds like a complete fraud,” a writer said of a fellow writer I was describing.  I wasn’t even done with my description of this fellow writer, when this writer interrupted me with her blunt characterization.  I wasn’t shocked by her assessment of this fellow writer.  She had said as much of other, more established writers, but it was apparent to me that this woman believed that by diminishing all other writers around her, her stature as a writer would somehow be fortified.  Had this been the first time I heard any writer say such a thing, I would’ve passed her comments off as flaws in her character, but I’ve heard a number of novices, and well-established writers, engage in the this practice.  If you’ve ever heard a U.F.O. chaser, a ghost hunter, or some fortune teller attempt to establish their bona fides by telling you that every other person engaged in their craft are fraudulent, then you have some idea what I’m detailing here.

Knowing how hard it is to come up with ideas, and execute those ideas to the point of proper completion, one would think that a writer would bend over backwards to extend professional courtesies to anyone trying to do the same.  If you think that, you’ve never sat down with a group of writers.

“You can say he’s a poor writer,” I said, “But are you saying he’s not a writer?”

“I’m saying he’s probably a hack,” she responded.  She didn’t arc her nose upward after saying that, but that’s how I now remember it.  It seemed like such a violation of the code, on so many levels, that it was hard to comprehend how she could be so brutal.

She cut me off before I could ask her what she meant by “hack”.  I know the general term applies to writers that write just to write, and churn out poor quality submissions for financial gain, but she had never read this person’s material.  She had never even met the man.  Yet, he was a hack in a manner that made her appear adept at using the word.

One essential component to avoid being called a hack, apparently, is to write so little that everything you write can be perceived as enlightened, or divine in nature.  If you want to avoid being a hack, you should never write what others might consider mundane.  Yet, those of us that truly love the minutiae involved in writing, believe that it’s only through exploring the mundane that moments of inspiration can be discovered.    

One key component to being in a position to level such a charge, and have that charge stick –I now know after reading her material— is to never allow those that hear you level it, read your material.  Your charge should remain an indefinable accusation that leaves you with the dignified, nose-in-the-air air about you.

Her material brought to mind the one key component of storytelling that every writer should focus on —be they a writer of vital, substantial material, or a hack— make sure it’s interesting.  Translation: You can be the most gifted writer the world has ever read, but if your material is not interesting, no one will care. 

In the face of the constructive comments (see negative) this woman received from our group, she said, “Perhaps, I’m a better editor, than I am a writer.”  Translation: I have little in the way of creative talent, but I am, indeed, gifted in the art of telling others how little they have. 

My Obsession with the “The Elder”


[Editor’s Note: Those seeking a review of the actual KISS album Music from “The Elder” will be disappointed. This is not a review of the album, as much as it is a review of the time and place when one kid loved music more than anything else in the world, and how the current world of music may make it impossible to return to that time.] 

It began with a dream, an actual dream that involved me finally purchasing the KISS album Music from “The Elder” (aka The Elder). In this dream, I ran home and plugged the cassette tape into my Walkman, and I knew that my life would probably not get much better than that moment. I woke with a peaceful and serene smile that my “not a morning person” personality didn’t often permit. For reasons I would only be able to properly collate later, as an adult, I became obsessed with the Music from the Elder.

“It ain’t no dream,” my friend said. His tones were loaded with ridicule. “It’s real. The Music from The Elder is a real album, it’s out there, in stores, and on actual shelves, and it sucks. You just have to find it, or if you can’t find it, have a store clerk order it for you.” He then turned to a third party to drill down on my humiliation, “He just had a dream about buying a KISS album last night.”

I deserved the ridicule that followed. Dreaming of buying an album was an odd, bizarre dream, but it defined my desire for that album in ways that were otherwise hard for me to define as a teenager. I wasn’t so simple-minded that I thought The Elder would act as an elixir to all that ailed me, but this desire for something, somewhat out of my reach, said more about me, and that era, when juxtaposed with the modern era, than it did about the quality of music on The Elder. The Elder might have been a symbol for all things out of reach. The magical, almost mystical qualities that I attached to it might have been similar to all things that appreciate the qualities we attach to a product of limited supply. Yet, I am still so obsessed with this album, decades after its release, that I think The Elder is not only a great album, but also the best album the rock group KISS ever released.

As that last paragraph suggests, this piece is not so much a review of the quality of music on The Elder, as it is that special quality attached to a product through inexplicable and irrational desire, the rebellion to group thought, and the influence scarcity can have on a product. This piece is also about how the current lack of scarcity –abridged in the modern “on demand” world of MP3, file sharing, YouTube, etc.– may eventually cause music to be so much less prominent in our lives than it was for an 80’s kid who loved music so much that he felt an almost unquenchable desire for it.

How many 70’s and 80’s kids called into radio stations to request that they play “my song”, only to have those annoying DJs wait about an hour to play it? How many of us grew excited when the DJ finally played that song and attach our names to it? “And now … as requested by Billy, in Millard, I give you Rhinestone Cowboy by Glenn Campbell.” How many of us felt a special affinity with Glenn Campbell in the course of that effort? How many of us thought that a part of the success of Rhinestone Cowboy was a result of our continued requests? Is it just me, or did this association have a mystical attachment to it, that bred an irrational, and inexplicable, brand of loyalty, that cannot be touched in today’s MP3 world of “on demand” listening experiences. How many penniless young ones dreamed of one day living in an “on demand” world where we had more control of the when, where, and how we could hear our music that didn’t require assistance from DJs? How many of us would’ve loved to have a YouTube source where we could punch a song title into a search engine and hear it in two seconds? We all did, but now that it’s here, we have a “be careful what you wish for” warning for the world of music and music lovers.

No radio stations would play a song from The Elder, and there weren’t internet resources back then. I had to sit and stew in the bouillon of my desire. This scarcity was not intentional, and it was not a supply and demand tool put forth by KISS, or any of its associates, to increase demand for their product, but for one kid in Omaha, Nebraska, that’s exactly what it did. The scarcity was a result of the almost worldwide condemnation of the project. Critics and fans attached the word “flop” to The Elder, and they declared it KISS’s first commercial failure, after the near unprecedented levels of commercial viability they achieved with their previous albums.

The Elder proved to be such an embarrassment to the remaining members of KISS that guitarist Ace Frehley considered it emblematic of the new direction of KISS, and he quit the band as a result. Some of those involved in the project, adamantly refused to have their names listed in the liner notes of the album after hearing it. It embarrassed the remaining members of KISS so much that they decided not to tour in support of it, and by the time I began searching retail outlets for it, five years after its completion, I learned, firsthand, the economic concept of scarcity.

This scarcity resulted in a whole lot of self-imposed hype. It resulted in me briefly befriending those fortunate few lucky enough to have heard it. “What did you think of it?” I asked them, panting with anticipation. “What was so different about it?” I asked. “Why is it considered so horrible?”

“It just sucked!” was the consensus of those I knew who heard the album. When I would ask for a greater, more detailed explanation, they would dismiss me with, “I don’t know. I didn’t listen to it more than once. I just know it sucked!”

For reasons native to my personality, I only found this universal rejection of the album more compelling. I would later display the same level of intoxication –purposefully erected against group thought– with the comedy of Andy Kaufman, the infamous Crispin Glover appearance on David Letterman, U2’s Zooropa, and the other music of Mike Patton (other than Faith No More). I needed to know why the music on The Elder was so much worse than all the other KISS albums I adored. It was almost inevitable that I was either going to love the music on the album, or I would find that it was not as bad as my friends were telling me it was, for reasons native to my personality.

I would not say that the almost universal reaction to The Elder was my first experience with group thought. I knew about it, and I think I explored it on certain levels, but whenever you’re face to face with it, it feels like the first time. I’m also not going to pretend –as so many others do– that I’m impervious to group thought. I hear what other’s think, I read what critics think, but I’m more apt to force myself through such a hole if everyone dislikes something I decide I might like. I find intrigue in having an opinion that differs from group thought. I tend to find myself trying to have a converse relationship with it. Some believe that I do this to be difficult, or complicated, or artificially different, and that may be the case, but if it is, I’ve convinced myself of this lie so well that I now believe it. In the case of The Elder, however, my initial allure was such that I either never recovered from my desire to rebel against group thought, or the album wasn’t as bad as group thought suggested it was. I leave open the possibility for either in the case of The Elder.

In the space of the decades since its release, The Elder has spawned two camps: those who further their initial proclamation that it’s one of the worst albums ever made, and those who suggest that it now has a campy quality, similar to the movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Very few will suggest that it’s simply a good album with quality music on it. Q Magazine has ranked Music From “The Elder” 44th in their list of The 50 Worst Albums Ever. The same magazine ranked the album 6th in their list of 15 Albums Where Great Rock Acts Lost the Plot. The website Ultimate Classic Rock, quotes Paul Stanley saying that the Music from “The Elder” “Was pompous, contrived, self-important and fat.” “Critics pounced on the record and fans stayed away in droves.” The website KISS Elder Book states that Gene Simmons attached zero stars to it, and Stanley and Simmons have both admitted that they were “delusional” with the Bob Ezrin project. [Note the attempt to distance themselves from The Elder, by saying it was a Bob Ezrin project. A practice those who know their KISStory know all four members engage in when a project wasn’t well received. The album Destroyer was also a “Bob Ezrin project, but the four members climb all over each other to claim credit for it.] Ace Frehley said that he thought the idea of a Ezrin’s idea of concept album with The Elder “wasn’t a good idea to begin with.”

When almost everyone, including the band, crushes a brutha with group thought, the notions that we still like the album usually implode with “I don’t like it either” or “I like all of their albums, except The Elder” qualifiers that send shrapnel throughout the mind, until that person convinces themselves that their initial stance can no longer be maintained.

Maintaining such a stance can lead one to believe they are in the middle of a battlefield with friendly fire penetrating their belief. This lone soldier begins to believe they have no allies, especially when they cross the big four oh (forty years of age), and the idea that they still enjoy any KISS music proves to be a little embarrassing. At that point, a person has to qualify their affinity with words, sentences, and sometimes paragraphs that lead their friends and family to believe that they simply love the kitschy campiness of the act. By doing that, the soldier may gather some like-minded allies that say, “Well, I still like Duran Duran, Leo Sayer, or Michael Jackson, so I understand the attachment.” Saying that one still likes The Elder, however, will even cause like-minded KISS fans to strive for distance. “Sorry brotha, you’re on your own here,” they say to suggest that some loyalists are in too deep for them.

What makes defending The Music From The Elder so difficult is that I still don’t know why I love this album so much. I’m not sure if the reasons lie in those aspects of my personality that loves things other people don’t, or if I romanticized the album so much in my youth that I can’t defeat the feelings of nostalgia I feel for that time and place where I desired the album to the degree that it invaded my dreams one night. I also can’t determine if the music on the album simply appeals to me in that intangible manner that some music appeals to one person more than others, or if the album contains great music that people “won’t” like, because they fear the counter arguments (see ridicule) from their peers.

What I do know, or guess based upon my interactions with current, young music fans, is that this relationship with music may never happen again. It’s the human condition to want what you want, when you want it, but the reality of actually getting it “on demand” as many times as one wants it, often results in little satisfaction, no irrational, magical qualities that they can’t explain attached to it, and no loyalty. At some point in the process, songs become nothing more music. One song may be more creative than another and that may be why we like it, but we lose all personal attachments to it when we can listen to it hundreds of times, on our own time. It’s the want, the chase, and the desire, that ultimately defines the irrational love of the intangible.

This isn’t to say there isn’t demand for music anymore, but it pales in comparison to the youth-driven demand that caused young girls to swoon at Frank Sinatra, scream at Elvis and the Beatles, or fire up radio station, phone lines for the latest Hall and Oates song. We later experienced the magic of albums like, Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Is that magic still there for young music lovers? It may be, brilliant music is still brilliant music, but that relatively unquenchable demand for songs that spawned loyalty may never happen again due to the ubiquitous availability of music on the internet today. I’m sure there are still “some” albums that are hard to find, but for the most part the “on demand ‘if you want it, you got it’” era of music that those of us once dreamed of, is now here in the form of MP3’s. If you can’t find it in the MP3 universe, you can go to file sharing sites, or YouTube. There’s no more want any more for a young kid who loves music, because the idea of scarcity is almost nonexistent, and as a result, there’s no such thing as hyping something up to the degree that you’re so consumed by it, that you dream about it one night, and you’re still somewhat embarrassed to be obsessed with it decades later.

The Music That Chuck Klosterman Kind of, Sort of, Used to Dislike


To promote Chuck Klosterman’s new book I Wear the Black HatEntertainment Weekly (EW) provided their readers a sample chapter. There is no title to this EW installment, but one would think EW, and Klosterman, would go with some form of a modern meme that attracts young people. “Music Chuck Hates,” or “I Hate the Eagles, by Chuck Klosterman,” or some title that would attract young people in the manner the Facebook page has with the title: “I ——- Love Science”.

KlostermanReading through this sample chapter, however, the reader begins to believe that these titles would not work, as Klosterman is not as passionate, or as emotional, about the music in this chapter as such a title would suggest. A better title might be: “The Music I used to hate, but I’ve grown, and I’m a lot more thoughtful now, and I’ve realized that the people making this music aren’t so bad. And I may run into these people, or need them for an interview, so I am at least going to be more cryptic with my critiques.” The book has a theme regarding villains, so Klosterman presumably dismisses various bands as villains to give himself a reason to discuss them in a book about villains. Even with that proviso, Klosterman should’ve exhibited a more commanding tone when discussing his likes and dislikes in music.

In the paragraphs provided, Klosterman discusses the band, the Eagles. Klosterman claims that he hated them as much as anyone else for most of his life, and he says that this was based on the fact that they were/are limousine liberals, but he says that his tastes changed in 2003, when he was forced to re-listen to one of the Eagles songs:

“I listened to “Take It Easy” and I thought about its lyrical content, and I came to a mostly positive — but highly uncomfortable — realization about who I was and how I thought about art.”

Take it easyYou gained a greater appreciation of art, or how you thought about art, from the lyrical content of a song by the Eagles? The Eagles? Lyrical content? Take it Easy? Chuck? What are you talking about? No one would say that the pop genre is without artistic merit. They’re out there, but they’re in the minority, and the Eagles are not in that minority. The Eagles didn’t even write Take it Easy, as Chuck Klosterman admits. Glenn Frey wrote one line of the song, and Jackson Browne wrote the rest of it.

In the midst of this article, there are some “Klostermans”. Klostermans, as I define them, involve Chuck Klosterman’s kitschy breakdown of the lyrics of a song as if they were profound literature, a writing tool he’s used so often in his career, and so well, that the act of doing so should be trademarked “a Klosterman”. For the most part, these breakdowns are hilarious, but when he does it with Take it Easy, it feels like a violation of the term. It almost feels as if he’s asking us to re-examine a song that we’ve all heard far too many times … in the bits and pieces we’ve heard on classic rock radio before we were able to change the channel. There are also moments in life when a person is not able to change the channel or in any other way skip a song, such as in a doctor’s waiting room, when it’s not in a person’s best interests to run screaming out of a room the moment after Take it Easy begins.

We don’t want to hear this song again, Chuck. We don’t care that a guy is having trouble juggling five women. No matter why or how. Let it die for criminys’ sakes. We enjoy it when Chuck analyzes old Billy Joel lyrics, that’s fun and kitschy, but the Eagles? Artistic? Chuck?

Throughout the course of the Eagles career, they’ve created safe, boring, liberal, touchy-feely music that our most simple-minded friends shush us over, and close their eyes, and have a spiritual moment, based on the fact that this particular song was playing on the radio during a seminal moment in their lives. For these people, however, music is largely background noise, until those songs reach the rarefied air of being on the radio so often that they can’t help but become monumental and a slice of Americana. This, in turn, leads the people that sang that song to believe that they are so monumental, and such a slice of Americana that they can wave a magic wand on stage and get audience members to live through their more important (their stress) lives.

The Eagles could be the greatest American band, if we base that scale on popularity, or sales, but suggesting that there is anything artistic about this simple-minded, clichéd, and ubiquitous music is a statement best left to the sycophantic staff of Rolling Stone magazine. Most of us cannot listen to an Eagles song, much less Take it Easy, without feeling a little dumber, more common, and less in touch with who we are as music aficionados, and it’s going to take more than a clever “Klosterman” to get me listening to it again.

On Bruce Springsteen, Klosterman writes:

“I just thought he was so fake, which is the most backward possible reason for hating Bruce Springsteen.

“Old people who read Newsweek believed Bruce was somehow different from everyone else making music, and his willingness to perpetuate that fallacy made me view his integrity as profoundly compromised. It seemed like the difference between acting in a play and lying in real life.

“Any time I meet someone who thinks Springsteen is overrated or artificial, I find myself thinking, this person is extra real. I immediately respect that person more. And yet I do sincerely believe Springsteen is (on balance) a great guy. I don’t hate him at all. So why am I still retroactively trolling him? It’s just something I can’t get over.”

When Klosterman states that hating Springsteen for being fake is, “the most backward possible reason for hating Bruce Springsteen”, this reader wonders if Klosterman is attempting to qualify the opinions that follow. Either that or Mr. Klosterman is attempting to dispel what he may believe to be a consensus on Mr. Springsteen. If that is the consensus, this reader didn’t find anything in the Springsteen section to dispel it. Klosterman does write that he believes Bruce is “(on balance) a great guy”, but isn’t that what fake people are … on balance? I have no idea if Bruce Springsteen is actually fake, and I don’t care enough to put as much thought into it as Chuck Klosterman has. If Springsteen is fake, an observer could say that he hits all of the bullet points. He seems like “a great guy (on balance)”. He gives us the formula he knows we want, to remain in our favor, then he goes on to live the life he wants to live, and no one calls him out for what could be hypocrisy. While it’s difficult to prove, or disprove, one’s authenticity, Chuck Klosterman writing, “I sincerely believe he is a great guy” doesn’t cut it for this reader. We readers don’t care what you think of him personally, Chuck, unless you can substantiate it in some manner.

Does it really matter if we think a musician is fake? Do we think Bob Dylan is fake? No one cares, least of all (it seems) Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen does care, or at least he appears to care. Bruce has built a musical empire around the idea that he’s real “extra real”. I co-opt that term from Klosterman, but Klosterman does not write the words “extra real” in the pejorative sense I did, and he does not attach the term to Bruce. Yet, we could attach the term “extra real” to the “generic-yet-kinetic” clothing Bruce Springsteen wears. Would we deem Springsteen authentic if he chose to sing his unionized, small town lyrics in a made-to-measure, custom-fitted Frank Sinatra suit with wide lapels? Springsteen is so big, because he’s managed (artificially?) to remain so small, and that’s what people love about him. Those of us who don’t think Bruce is “extra real”, think Bruce is overrated, and we see through the “great guy” image of the man singing about small town, unionized America, to the idea that once one strips away all the “extra real” layers of Bruce Springsteen, his music is not artistically complex or by any measure diverse. He just puts on “amazing” shows, and few break down how they are amazing.

Klosterman then examines the point of Springsteen being authentic in comparison to Mötley Crüe, when he writes:

“The difference was that Mötley Crüe did not pretend they were real (or at least not in a convincing enough manner). Vince Neil never led me to believe that any element about who he pretended to be was supposed to serve any purpose beyond “the act of being the singer in Mötley Crüe.””

Klosterman nails this point, but he backtracks it in an “aw shucks” manner that suggests he may have been too hard on Springsteen throughout his life writing that “Bruce is a great guy”, and that he “doesn’t hate him”, and that “it’s something he can’t get over”.

Anytime a person has beliefs they can’t get over, they probably have them because they know that there is a fundamental truth to them that they can’t get beyond now that they’re old and so many people are telling them that they’re wrong. I realize that, as Chuck climbs the ladder in corporate magazines, and newspapers, he’s entered a sphere of existence where he’s torn between the readers that put him where he is, and the editors that put a governor on his former “No one gets out of here alive” method of critique, but those of us who read this particular piece in EW were a little disappointed by the apparent need Chuck Klosterman felt to politically tight rope his way through genuine critique. Chuck Klosterman’s previous writings were what separated him from those rock journalists who were afraid to write anything negative about Springsteen, Clapton, Tom Petty, or any of the sacred cows of rock that rock journalists seem forbidden by their editors to write anything negative about. It could also be that I’ve exaggerated Klosterman’s previous writings in my own mind, and that he was never as daring as I considered him, but it seems to me that he was never this cautious either.

On Van Halen, Klosterman writes that he hated Van Halen (or as we called them “Van Hagar”) soon after David Lee Roth and Van Halen parted ways. Chuck then says that he had the same feelings for Mötley Crüe after they replaced Vince Neil.

“Within any group conflict, my loyalties inevitably rest with whichever person is most obviously wrong,” Chuck writes.

It’s a humorous assessment of Klosterman’s musical fandom, but I believe his loyalties are more superficial than that. Chuck and I were about thirteen and sixteen respectively, when the Van Halen split occurred, and neither of us knew much about music, but we knew their lead singers. I may have known the names of Nicki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, the Van Halens, and Michael Anthony, as I was a big fan, but David Lee Roth and Vince Neil were the bands as far as I was concerned. They were the front men, and they were the face of the band in public perception.

A true musician will inform a listener that the front men are the least vital components of the music, and the guitarist is the second least important when compared to the vital back beat of the bassist and the drummer, but in the land of public perception, it’s the exact opposite. Therefore, when the groups separated from these two front men, those of us in public perception land considered the band done. Chuck can try to lay groundwork that suggests that the loyalties of his teenage mind were more complex than that, but down deep, I think he knows that the music of these bands became karaoke after the groups replaced their charismatic lead singers. The bands became a group of guys trying to hold onto a franchise that they struggled so hard to create, and they wanted a few more years added to the legacy before they called it a day. The music of these bands lost their nihilism, their signature, and their “silly and fun arena rock” persona after their lead singers left. They became Pat Boone’s “In a Metal Mood”. They became a bunch of guys trying to play what the youngsters liked. They became a: “You guys gotta keep it together” paycheck their manager promised them after informing them how marketable the name of their band was, and how they would never achieve that kind of plateau again in any other incarnation.

The albums created, post carnage, Mötley Crüe and Van Hagar’s 5150 may have been the greatest albums anyone has ever created, but those of us in public perception land barely noticed, and more importantly didn’t care, when they came out. Those groups were over as far as we were concerned.

ACDCKlosterman does not cover the music of AC/DC, because this was a hate column, and he presumably never hated AC/DC, but their music was some of the most consequential music of our era, and it would be music that I would eventually come to hate.

I didn’t hate AC/DC at first, but I didn’t love them either. Their music was never “my” music in the manner music becomes “my music” to a teenager, but I did have some appreciation for what they did early on when the “cool kids” in my neighborhood introduced me to them. (I knew of their music to this point, in other words, but we had never been properly introduced.)

The album, Back in Black, was my formal introduction to AC/DC, and it blew me away. I did not know that other bands (bands other than Kiss) could make fearless music. The first song I heard was Back in Black, and from its intro on, I knew this was fearless music that my parents, most females, and chart makers would not appreciate. (I probably didn’t think of charts in the truest sense of the word, at that point, but I knew I wouldn’t hear AC/DC on my local, top 40-radio station.)

I also loved the album cover. It was black, nothing but black. I also loved the title, and the band’s name. As a Kiss fan, I thought that every band was required to have brilliant visuals on the cover. I found Back in Black’s lack of visuals brilliantly simplistic.

When I first heard Back in Black, I thought that I now had one other band that I could trust not to make a ballad. (I was still embittered over Kiss’s foray into ballads with the song Beth, but I had learned to forgive them by simply lifting the record player’s arm up over that misstep.) I thought I discovered the second greatest band in the land, in AC/DC, especially when this friend rolled out the other AC/DC album he owned: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. I heard that album’s title song, and the balls song, Big Balls, and I swooned in a pre-teen male form of a swoon, looking for a way to catalog his machismo.

AC/DC had a way of singing lyrics, a way that had my adolescent stamp of approval that fit the music and nothing more. There were no self-indulgent, symbolic lyrics. Their lyrics were simple and in your face that fit the music in a manner, I would later term arena rock. The problem with arena rock, and the reason I came to loathe AC/DC, is the lack of variety. As I stated earlier, I never wanted AC/DC, Kiss, or any of the bands I listened to, to go soft, but every album after Black in Black sounded almost exactly like Back in Black. I never felt the need to purchase another AC/DC album, and I came to loathe those who did.

As I wrote earlier, Chuck Klosterman should trademark his kitschy method of dissecting lyrics, as if they were profound literature. He does this so well, and so often, however, that one can’t help but think some part of Chuck Klosterman believes that his favorite lyrics form profound, artistic statements. I’ve always considered lyric writing one of the most overrated art forms. They appeal to us on a certain level, I would argue, because of the musical background that accompanies them. If one were able to remove the music from their mind, and read most lyrics on a blank page, I would argue, we would see that most lyrics do not have the literary merit necessary for the profound literature moniker.

Most lyrics involve double-entendres and cryptic messages regarding how the casual use of controlled substances should be considered kind of neato! I never understood why so many people felt compelled to tell others that they have ingested drugs, and I really had no overwhelming desire to do it, so the descriptions of these cryptic messages always bored me a little.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it when musicians attempt to speak the language of their demographic by mixing in the occasional curse word. I enjoy the general idea of messing with the mainstream, but I was unmoved when a teacher told me that John Lennon was communicating greater messages in his songs than I had realized in my casual listening experiences. I always thought Lennon (along with the rest of the rock community) was most likely a vacant individual who was trying to sound smarter than he really was by using clever lyrics. I’ve always thought lyrics should fit with the music, nothing more and nothing less. It should never be an arena for the college thesis that most lyricists never wrote, because they weren’t intelligent enough to write, but they were clever enough, or cleverly brilliant enough, to make you think they were within the convenient limits of a song.

REMOn R.E.M. Klosterman writes:

“I didn’t relate to the kind of person who related to R.E.M. and I didn’t like textured, nonheavy songs that made me feel like some dour weirdo was telling me I was living my life wrong. Over the next twenty years, R.E.M. would become one of my favorite bands of all time, which means a) the sixteen-year-old version of me would have hated the thirty-six-year-old version of me, and b) I probably was living my life wrong.”

Klosterman nails my feelings on R.E.M. almost word for word, except for that last line. The last line bothers me, because (I would later learn) that’s pretty much what the worldview of the songs of R.E.M. were all about. They were about telling the listener that they were living their life wrong. Those that question such an assessment need only read an interview with Michael Stipe. His answers contain the rantings of an obnoxious, self-involved narcissist. The reader will find that this narcissist does say narcissistic things in all the “right” narcissist ways however.

In one of these interviews, Stipe described Rod Stewart as “icky”. Not kidding he said: “Ick! Ick!!” Now, I’m not sure if Stipe knows Rod Stewart on a personal level, and his judgmental attitudes are based on personal experiences, but I’m guessing that this very personal condemnation does not adhere to what Stipe calls a beautiful refrain ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’. An observer, hearing this condemnation of Rod Stewart could find Stipe’s supposed adherence to this beautiful refrain a hollow claim.

Stipe also deems those who espouse opposing points of view unacceptable, evil, and presumably icky. He would probably also deem those that consider his rants to be “from an obnoxious, self-involved narcissist” icky. The fact that Stipe may not be as informed as he pretends to be, has never mattered to those interviewing him, however, because, again, all of his icky rants are icky in the ways the journalist has presumably considered non-icky.

If Stipe is going to judge another person, in a public forum, then we can judge his judgment, if we listen to his beautiful refrain. As with most venial sins of this nature, Stipe judges Stewart to leave the reader of the interview, the impression that he, by comparison, is a wonderful guy. He wants the reader to think he has the correct views on all the right subjects, and he lives by the “mean people suck” bumper sticker philosophy that ostensibly declares the driver to be a wonderful. I may be alone in this assessment, but I tend to find such social Darwinist thinking to be icky.

We, music fans, shouldn’t kill the messenger for the message, however, and Stipe and company (R.E.M.) did make some beautiful music. Klosterman should not condemn the music of the Eagles based solely on their politics; Rolling Stone should not condemn Ted Nugent for his views; and we should not condemn R.E.M. or Springsteen for their views. We should just listen to their music with the idea that most musicians don’t know what they’re talking about, but they cannot keep quiet in their quest for a “more consequential” title than that musician guy that prances about on stage. The one thing I have taken from all of the interviews I have read from rock musicians over the years, in my quest to learn what drives them, is that if I want to continue enjoying their music. I should probably just stop reading such interviews.

 

Ace Frehley’s book: No Regrets. A Review


Ace Frehley has No Regrets.  It’s the title of his book.  He has no regrets, apparently, about wasting whatever God-given talent he was given, and he has no regrets about doing little-to-nothing to make his “right place and right time” in history to make it a little better. That’s great Ace, you stuck your middle finger right up into what Gene and Paul have been saying about you, but what about those young fans that defended your legacy for much of our young lives?  Do you have No Regrets about all that?

Ace FrehleyThis review is being written by a fan.  This writer may not be a die hard fan anymore, but I was.  There was a time when Kiss was my whole world, and in those days Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton was my favorite person in the universe, and Ace Frehley was number two.  I still have a soft spot in my heart for the man, but Ace Frehley’s new book No Regrets has even tainted that.

Ace Frehley states that he is clean now, and like so many other rock bios that adorn the shelves of bookstores across America, Frehley takes the vantage point of an outsider commenting on his past debauchery.  Alcohol and drugs were the way Frehley dealt with the ups and downs of stardom, but he has No Regrets about this. As comedians in the past (Pryor and Carlin) have done, Ace chooses to laugh at his lifestyle choices.  He chooses the “now that I’m clean” meme to detail for us the hilarity of being so out of control that you don’t know what you’re doing.  As a lifelong Ace Frehley fan, I found many of the Ace Frehley stories funny, troubling, and disenchanting, but Ace has No Regrets.

The “breath of fresh air” arrives when Ace details for us the tale of Kiss.  Ace is more honest and forthcoming about the formulation of Kiss than any of the other members have been to this point.  The reader begins to realize that Ace is going to be the first to tell this story without a marketing plan. There is no Kiss mysticism attached to this version of the story, the Kisstory, such as the stories faithful Kiss readers have been inundated with by Paul and Gene. This is the Kiss story as told by “the fun and spontaneous member”.  This is the more “real” version of the story.  Unfortunately, the more “real”, Ace Frehley version of the story substantiates many of the charges made against Ace’s apathy and his poor work ethic.  The No Regrets book also substantiates the charge that Ace wasn’t particularly elemental in the formulation of the eventual Kiss product, that he was basically just along for the ride, and that he has No Regrets about any of this.

In one particular story, Ace says that the producer of the album Destroyer, Bob Ezrin, began pushing Ace to come up with guitar solos for the songs on the album.  Ace complains that the pushing was counterproductive for what Ezrin failed to understand is that the spontaneous nature of artistic creation cannot be pushed.  Ace’s lone contribution on a majority of the Kiss songs was a brief solo between the verses, and he couldn’t even come up with that by the time Kiss’ Destroyer album came out.  At this point in the story, I would’ve been mentally lambasting Gene and Paul for presumably leaving out some necessary details of the story.  That’s not the case here of course.  This is Ace telling the story.  As I said, it’s all troubling and disenchanting, but he had No Regrets.

The question that this reader has for Ace on this particular issue is: “How much time, between albums, did you have to work on these spontaneous solos?  I know spontaneity cannot be generated on the spot, but it can be cultivated over time, so that it becomes easier every time out.  This is called art.  Artistic creations take time, devotion, and discipline.  I’m not a blind fan don’t get me wrong.  I recognize Kiss music for what it is.  I don’t put it on par with Monet or Picasso in the world of art, but even Kiss music takes a degree of involvement, work ethic, and commitment. Ace Frehley was a significant part of a group that put out products that many of us spent our allowance on, but Frehley thought Bob Ezrin pushed the man’s artistic sensibilities a little too hard, because Ezrin didn’t understand the gentle process of artistic creation.  My educated guess, based on the characterization of Ace Frehley, by Ace Frehley in the book No Regrets, is that he arrived in the studio unprepared, and he got mad at Ezrin for getting mad at him about it.  Yet, Ace Frehley has no regrets.

Few have questioned Frehley’s God-given gifts, but he apprently did little to formulate and finesse those gifts that were given to him.  What were you doing between albums Ace, other than touring? The answer: Sex, drugs, and alcohol.  No Regrets.  You read Ace detail this portion of his story, and you realize that Ace may have been paying a little bit too much attention to his press clippings.  He may have been listening to those adoring fans that put him on a pedestal a little too often.  He may have thought there was a degree of mysticism to his art that couldn’t arise as a result of a request from a meager human, but it had to be waited for in the manner of some divine artiste.  Say what you want about Gene and Paul, and many have (Ace does in this book in good ways and bad), but Gene and Paul knew there was nothing divine about what they were doing.  They simply worked their tails off for the legacy they eventually achieved.

Ace chastises the Kiss bassist Gene Simmons throughout the book as a man who took the Kiss product a little too seriously throughout the process of building it.  Ace talks about how he couldn’t do it.  The movie “Kiss Meets the Phantom” is an example of the “Kisstory” that Ace admits he basically sat out.  He looks good in hindsight for having sat that one out, for the movie is generally considered a bomb.  Ace talks about how he didn’t enjoy making the album “The Elder”, and how he generally sat that one out too.  Ace then talks about how he wasn’t much of a part of the making of the album Destroyer either.  The latter is a little more painful to him, as evidenced in his words, but this may be due to the fact that Destroyer is generally considered to be Kiss’ best album.  Hindsight shows Ace regretting that he wasn’t a greater part of the successes, but he doesn’t mind telling us he had little to nothing to do with that which is generally considered less successful artistically and financially.  How convenient.

Ace condemns Gene as a business man who has no friends.  He says Gene needs to cut loose and have a beer every once in a while.  To be fair to Ace, he does thank Gene and Paul for everything they built, and he’s not as negative as I thought he would be.  I read where Gene leveled Ace in many areas, and I expected the return fire to be explosive.  He pounded home the point that Gene has no friends by saying that the Gene Simmons Roast only had comedians in it (and family members), but he doesn’t have as many negative things to say about Gene as this review and others may lead one to believe.

Those of us that were Ace Frehley loyalists for much of our life, have one quick question for Ace.  The question is based on the fact that we defended Ace among our friends, those that informed us what Gene and Paul had said about him.  Why would you write this?  Why would you tell the world that you didn’t have as much play in the formulation of this Kiss product as we thought you had. Why would you tell your biggest fans that you were basically along for the ride, for much of the time?  Why would you say that other than some minor artistic differences, there’s no real huge story to your departure? Or, that you just got sick of it?’  Ace does mention the fact that he may not be alive if he were still in Kiss, but it’s clear that that was totally on him by that point.  The only one that encouraged Frehley into greater debauchery, Peter Criss, was long gone by the time he quit, and Paul and Gene were basically dry as stated time and again throughout the book.  Did Ace envy the success Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash had with his autobiography?  Did he know that his story was similar, and he wanted a piece of that pie?

In a promotional interview for this book, Ace did on The Today Show, Ace talked about how proud he was to add published author to his list of accomplishments. That’s great, some of us thought, and it’s a laudable goal for any high school dropout.  The question is what did you have published?  Was it a novel, a short story collection, or bio that detailed for the American public a dossier of artistic accomplishments?  What this published author managed to have published was a tome of a wasted opportunity, a waste of talent, and a largely wasted life.  My guess is that Frehley saw all of acclaim and sales that went to Guns and Roses guitarist Slash and realized that his story was similar.  It’s as entertaining as Slash’s was, and it’s received as much praise, but at what price?

The reader is left with the idea that Ace led a blessed and lucky life, but when it came to actually working, and finessing that gift to even greater heights, Ace got turned on and tuned out. Ace will undoubtedly receive a lot more praise for being “more real” with his story, but those of us that considered ourselves true fans, we wish he had been a little less real to keep the Ace myth alive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun (and in spots a funny) read, but it’s also a little sad and disenchanting.