Tuesday, March 15, 2016

KISS Destroyer Turns 40 or How I Turn Into A Music Fanatic

KISS 'Destroyer' Turn 40 Years Old Today
Well, as goes many of my blogs, we have another milestone to celebrate. And this one is a doozie.

Like many others who have laid claim that KISS Destroyer is the album that got them into the band or Hard Rock music (or both); I was most certainly the latter.  KISS changed my life forever with this one.

KISS released their landmark album Destroyer 40 years ago today (March 15, 1976).  Of course there's always going to be a number of people who say it's their least favorite or the worst album etc.  But the majority will side with this one being their masterpiece; the uber-KISS album to own if you're going to own one KISS album. When people ask me my favorite KISS album I tell them it's a toss up between Destroyer and KISS Alive. And I've read the horror stories about Alive and Alive II not being so very "live".  But I digress because I love both of those albums and big part of my youth (or my "yute" as actor Joe Pesci would say).  And I could care less what was recorded in a studio and what was passed off as an actual 'live' performance. Just take my allowance, please!

Jumping in the way-back machine here, Destroyer is one of the first pieces of vinyl I purchased with my own money (the first one being The Monkees Greatest Hits).  Yes, haha...funny, but I loved that album.  AND I was eight years old. But I redeemed myself for missing the KISS boat earlier and the third album I bought was KISS Alive. Anyway, moving on......

In the Spring of '76 our family moved to Livingston, NJ. Not the epicenter of rock 'n roll, but as long as I could get New York City radio stations on my radio, then I was happy.  I was into whatever was on the radio (light Rock - Chicago, Fleetwood Mac etc.).

Not one piece of furniture was moved into the house yet and my sister was already beating up on a neighborhood boy a few houses up the street from us.  The guy she was pouncing on (Brian) was Don's brother; Don being the kid who turned me onto Destroyer, thus turning me into a KISS/Rock music fanatic.  And I mean fanatic.

After Brian's Mom came to the house to not welcome us to the neighborhood, but to find out why her son was forced to eat dirt and getting beat upon (aka; ass handed to him), she had brought her son Don along.  He was my age and awkward like me, so we actually bonded immediately.  Not to say his brother didn't give me shit every time he saw me at his house.  The paybacks to my sister beating his ass was by way of a punch to my back, arms, charlie-horse, headlock, ultimate wedgies.....it was never ending. But Don and I figured out how to keep his brother out of the room while we were in there.

Play-by-play of how it all went down for me:

Don:  Have you heard the new song "Detroit Rock City"?
Me: Huh?
Don: You know, the song by KISS.
Me: Who?
Don: <blank stare>
Me: <blinking>
Don: You've never heard of KISS?
Me: I've heard of kissing.
Don:  NO! The band KISS. With the makeup and costumes!
Me: <still blinking> <staring off and getting ready to make a run for it>

Don then places a vinyl record onto this massive stereo system, drops the needle and I hear the opening sequence of "Detroit Rock City" which is a radio announcer talking about a head-on collision car accident.  Then a person is heard jingling keys, opening a car door, starting the engine, revving up the engine, jamming his radio, speeding away while singing KISS' own tune "Rock N Roll All Night".  The car revs off.......

The guitar kicks in.....Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na....drums BOOM!! BOOM! More guitar: Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na......drums BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM! Then Paul sings:

"I feel uptight on a Saturday night
Nine o' clock, the radio's the only light
I hear my song and it pulls me through
Comes on strong, tells me what I got to do
I got to

Get up
Everybody's gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody's gonna leave their seat
You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City...."

My eyes widened. I sat their motionless and felt a little out of body experience going on at that moment. I was deep in thought, "What......what....what is this?  How come I never heard it before today? Why have I never heard of KISS?"  Once I snapped out of it, I asked, no I told Don to lift the needle and play that song again.  But this time we sat on the bed and sang along to the lyrics printed on the album sleeve. I sat there staring at the KISS logo too. It was just coolest logo I ever saw in my short life.

When I heard the car accident portion of the song I didn't put two and two together and thought the accident was another car.  Forgive my ignorance, I was a pup.  And it took me a few weeks to figure out the song was about a guy who died on his way to a rock concert (hence the foreshadowing of the song's intro). But the parts of the song that hooked me was the guitar (no doubt about it - fell in love with the guitar because of this one song) and the chorus "Get Up/Everybody's gonna move their feet/Get down/Everybody's gonna leave their seat".

After listening/singing along to "Detroit Rock City" ten times or so, we started to read about the KISS Army and we had to join.  Don went off to find a few bucks, a couple envelopes and stamps.  When he left the room, I went over to the record player and saw the Destroyer album cover for the first time. And the first time I ever set eyes on the band.  The makeup....the costumes.....I kinda freaked out.  Maybe even pee'd a little. I was looking at a devil band (no fault of my own, I was brought up in a Catholic family).  I couldn't look away from the cover.  I never saw anything like it.

When Don came back to the room he saw me standing there with the album cover in my hand with my mouth wide open.  He asked me what was wrong.  Said I looked like I saw a ghost.  I was speechless. Between "Detroit Rock City" and the album cover, I didn't know what hit me.  Mind you, at this point I hadn't listened to any other song on Destroyer except for DRC. When Don asked me if I wanted to listen to the rest of the album I was like, "THERE'S MORE????"

We listened to the rest of the album and...............the rest is KISStory.  I was hooked from that point on.  Once I bought my own copy of Destroyer I listened to it for months on end.  I learned all the lyrics, air guitars, and air drums.  The broom and tennis racket were my new instruments, the basement was my stage and the mirror, my audience.  My parents had a phenomenal stereo in the basement and it was louder than my little suitcase style record player.  So when Mom and Dad were at work I would blast KISS on the stereo.  If they only knew back then.  Yeah, my ass would've been sore and grounded for months. Good thing I learned some ninja skills early on.

From there I moved on to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple (yes, late to those too...I know), then Van Halen in '77. I was the only ten year old in my class at the time who even knew who Van Halen was, but that's for another blog.

SIDEBAR:  If you're a fan of Destroyer and want to read an in depth account of the making of it, do yourself a favor and pick up James Campion's book "Shout It Out Loud: The Story of Kiss's Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon". (Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shout-Out-Loud-Destroyer-American/dp/1617136182/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458100515&sr=8-1&keywords=kiss+destroyer+book).

One of my favorite Destroyer tracks "Flaming Youth".

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' Turns 30 Today - WTF?

This just in from the "holy shit I'm getting old department":

"It was THIRTY years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...."

OK, maybe not.  But thirty years ago today Metallica unleashed their juggernaut 'Master of Puppets' upon the masses. I was in awe of this album when it was released.  Thirty years later, it still floors me and it punishes so many other albums out there.  Granted, 'Master' isn't a traditional Thrash album like their debut 'Kill 'Em All', but the band had definitely gained a lot of confidence between it's predecessor 'Ride The Lightning' and this one.

I saw Metallica perform at a local dance club in Albuquerque, NM (Graham Central Station - Armored Saint serving as support band) on this exact date and one measly year prior to MOP being released.  Who the hell knew they had something so fuckin' gigantic brewing in the studio?  I was still on my 'Ride The Lightning' high in '85.  I wasn't prepared for 'Tallica's next aural assault.  And neither was the rest of the world.  Especially when they would tour with Ozzy on the Ultimate Sin tour.  I caught a show in May '86 and the place went totally fanatic over a band they hardly knew. I definitely witnessed greatness that evening.  I was there to see Metallica.  No disrespect to Ozzy and the band, but I probably would've skipped this show if Metallica weren't opening. Just sayin'.

Metallica split things wide open with 'Master' and showed the world the sheer power of 'underground music'. This band didn't make videos (yet) to cater the MTV minions. They didn't wear spandex, tease their hair or wear makeup. They wore their street clothes, drank from the bottle, killed it onstage and delivered the goods.  This was, quite possibly, the first Metal album to be taken seriously.  MOP turned many heads.  Fans, music critics, magazines, and bands/musicians took notice of the beast coming from San Francisco's Bay Area. 

For a band with ZERO radio or airplay, they did pretty damn good reaching the masses and building a Godzilla-sized fan base.  Metallica's performances were getting noticed and talked about every day between tape traders and music fans.  The seeds were already planted with 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride', but 'Master of Puppets' and the Ozzy tour exposure really set things in motion and then it caught fuckin' fire and went global.  

How does one chose their favorite 'Master of Puppets' track?  Still impossible for me to this day.  This is 54 minutes and 46 seconds of greatness:
  • Battery
  • Master of Puppets
  • The Thing That Should Not Be
  • Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  • Disposable Heroes
  • Leper Messiah
  • Orion
  • Damage, Inc.
On the day 'Master of Puppets' was released, I purchased two on vinyl and one on cassette.  Listened to the album everyday when I was home (still own the vinyl - one on Music For Nations label and the other on Elektra).  But I listened to the cassette more often on my Walkman (yup, old guy right here) and wore it out.  Bought another one, wore it out and so on. And I still have the original copy I purchased for my archives.  

I got lost in this album.  "Battery" opened with majestic acoustic guitar playing, then ripped heads off in a matter of seconds. Then the namesake "Master of Puppets" set precedence. This was our (Metal fans) "Stairway To Heaven". How could this album continue to get better?  Then "The Thing That Should Not Be" kicked in and was so colossal.  I couldn't get over the heaviness of this song alone.  Then amazed by the slow moving "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" until it swelled and became a different animal all together.  I was then decimated by not one, but two devastating tracks ("Disposable Heroes" & "Leper Messiah") which had contained so many time changes and chugging riffs, I thought I had died and gone to Metal heaven...seriously. Who played like this?  Then the almighty Cliff Burton laid his greatness upon us with "Orion".  Not that his "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" from 'Kill 'Em All' wasn't already phenomenal enough with a metal spiked cherry on top, but 'Orion' was just sooooooo fucking epic.  It gave me goosebumps when I first heard it and has the same effect on me all these years later.  Then "Damage, Inc." closes this masterpiece out going a million miles an hour.......

"Fuck it all and fucking no regrets
Never happy ending on these dark sets
All's fair for Damage Inc. you see

Step a little closer if you please...."


To me and many others, 'Master' signaled the end of an era after Cliff Burton was killed in a bus accident while on tour in Sweden in the Fall of '86. Who knows how things would've turned out musically had Cliff lived.  I will stop there because the magic captured in this album would never again be repeated or duplicated.

Metallica will always be my Rolling Stones.  I grew up with this band since 1981 and will always remain a loyal fan.  But there's always that something, that "what if" that will linger on forever.

They were the best of their time.

<cue 'Orion'>

<fade to black>