Book Review: KISS FAQ

Book Review: Dale Sherman – KISS FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Hottest Band in the Land
Backbeat Books
All Access Review: B+
Diving headlong into a seemingly bottomless pool of KISS-related minutia without any regard for how deep it really is, veteran writer Dale Sherman rarely comes up for air in this exhaustively researched tome. Densely packed with information, “KISS FAQ” explores – in painstaking fashion – everything imaginable under the KISS sun, from the trial-and-error evolution of their costumes and makeup to marketing and merchandising schemes that would put Madison Avenue to shame.
It’s a big, big job, and Sherman handles it admirably, organizing this mountain of material into fairly easily consumed chapters that seek to answer every controversy, every bone of contention that fans of KISS have fought over for decades. And while the writing is a bit perfunctory and dry, it’s not entirely humorless or bland, and Sherman certainly does not always treat KISS with kid gloves. Gene Simmons receives some lighthearted derision for the headband he once used to hold his wig in place for a KISS tour the band went on sans makeup, with Sherman comparing it to a “neon halo.” Furthermore, a chapter on drug references in KISS songs confronts head-on the somewhat confused stances Simmons and Paul Stanley – both famous for being rather straight-edge in their approach to such things – took regarding intoxicants, citing the classic “Cold Gin” as an example. Sherman notes that while the song, written by Ace Frehley about his battles with the bottle, certainly paints a cautionary tale about drinking to excess, “… it seems to also celebrate that level of despair.” And, in no uncertain terms, Stanley’s introductions to “Cold Gin” in concert often encouraged indulgence in mind-altering substances.
Ultimately, however, “KISS FAQ” – the 12th in Backbeat Books’ FAQ series – revels in all the blood-spitting excess and crass exploitation of KISStory, exploring in great depth the link between KISS and the world of comics, key career-changing turning points, TV appearances (a whole chapter is devoted to “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”) and attempts to immortalize the band in celluloid. Context is provided for a list of those explosive, impactful live performances that not only put KISS on the map but made them rock gods, and Sherman, in heroic fashion, tries to figure out just what the hell “Duece” was all about – this after an insightful, revelatory talk with photographer Neil Zlozower about shooting the Creatures cover.
All manner of rumor and innuendo have contributed to the KISS mythology over the 40 years of their existence, and Sherman, who has written about KISS since 1980, addresses as much of it as possible in nearly 400 pages, sometimes falling short in his quest for truth simply because of conflicting testimony, lost evidence or failed memories. Though a somewhat arduous read, “KISS FAQ” - from Backbeat Books - makes good on its promise to provide a fair and balanced look into KISS’s somewhat checkered past, but more than that, there is a seriousness of intent to Sherman’s work that speaks to his obsession for covering all things KISS and getting the story right, even if that’s an impossible task – see his cataloging of all the changes, no matter how small, in KISS’s makeup for proof of his attention to detail. Consider most of your frequently asked questions about KISS answered.
-            Peter Lindblad

No comments:

Post a Comment