Local musician and songwriter Doug Walters (of FunHouse, Torture Town, The Problems) was recently asked to write about the albums that had the most profound effect on him and changed his life. This is the part two of the ongoing weekly series:
The first album I bought. I was six years old. Man, this thing was monumental. I listened to it night and day for years. I drew the totally awesome album cover. Wrote out the lyrics. I rocked it hard. Alive was right there too. But it was Destroyer that first planted the rocker seed in me. Perfect name for it too. Because that’s what it was. A real throat slitter. Their best studio album, I firmly believe.
I love how it starts Destroyer starts. “Detroit Rock City” was always the theme song for me. In fact, to my young mind, the song and the album were one and the same. The albums starts off with a guy I always assumed was wasted driving away, in what I always assumed his truck, and singing along to an Kiss song on his radio. I thought that was brilliant. He gets into a wreck later in the song, and you could really feel all that danger and urgency in your stomach. “God of Thunder” scared the shit out of me, too. That little kid’s haunting cries at the beginning drenched in reverb? Man, that was heavy. A good rock band will do that. They’ll scare you. Rock ’n’ roll don’t wear short pants. It’s a merciless, frightening beast and if you turn your back on it, it’ll tear you apart. But if you’re careful and you ride the beast just right and you live to tell the tale, it’s the thrill of a lifetime.
Only Kiss could get away with writing a song as ego maniacal as “Great Expectations.” They knew that we fantasized about them, and they made no qualms about telling us that that was too much to wish for. And they were right. Pure Gene Simmons. I ate it up.
Peter’s instant classic “Beth” was a masterpiece that showed the softer, contemplative side of Kiss and invited us to sympathize with his pain of having to choose between rocking out with the fellas and being there for his woman. You could really feel the honesty in his raspy voice. A truly great song. One for the ladies. It also bought fellas a little room to swing a few cats: “Hey, baby, you know I love you but listen to Peter break it down … how can I not answer the rock ’n’ roll call… it’s why you love me in the first place…” And a good woman would (almost) always let her man go rock out. A lot of rockers owe Peter a debt of gratitude for that one. (How many mixed tapes do you think “Beth” was on?) I always wondered how that story worked out. Though it didn’t look good for ol’ Peter, I sure hoped Beth would understand and love him anyway, despite his rock ’n’ roll addiction.
I remember telling a kid from down the street that “Shout it Out Loud” was recorded in such a fashion that when it came to the chorus, even if you were to turn the volume all the way down, it’d still be at maximum volume. When it came time to prove it, I cooked up this elaborate story that my record player was from England and the volume control was backward so to turn it up down you had to turn it up “American style.” I’m pretty sure he knew I was completely full of shit. But Kiss was a band worth lying for. And, besides, they had so many myths and rumors about them, anything could have been true.
With Bob Ezrin (best known for his work with Pink Floyd), Destroyer had that BIG sound. Arena rock if at it’s finest. Big guitars and big drums. Graciously self indulgent. Every song was an anthem. They all had those big beautiful rock choruses. Brilliantly designed to get the whole stadium singing along.
But I never got to see them live. My parents bought me tickets in 1977. But when I brought Alive home, and my dad read the inside jacket, replete with the hand written letters from Paul, Gene, Peter, and Ace detailing their debaucherous rock shenanigans, he put the brakes on the concert. We were God-fearing Southern Baptists, and for my dad to let me rock out with those sinful heathen beasts was impermissible. As a consolation, dad took me to the Harlem Globe Trotters. But it wasn’t even the original trotters. I was pissed. At my dad. At God. At Kiss for ruining my party plans (why’d they have to showcase their transgressions like that?!) I was even pissed at The Harlem Globetrotters. For not being kiss. And for pretending to be the real Harlem Globetrotters. Oh man, I was bummed. I knew I was missing the show of a lifetime. I’m still pretty bummed about it, actually.
I know Kiss is still out there doing their thing and I could go see them now. But it’s just not the same these days. Some chump from New Jersey dressed up like Ace Frehley and playing Ace Frehley licks is no ace Frehley, is it? A phony Kiss is even worse than a phony Harlem Globetrotters.
I never got to officially join the Kiss Army either, though I still lie about that to this day. I gave myself an honorary membership. I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me what I already knew to be true in my heart. I could not help that my parents forbade my enrollment. I was a Kiss soldier if there ever was one. If Gene or Paul knew me, they would tell you so themselves. Nobody rocked Kiss harder than me. Nobody. Especially when it came to Destroyer.