Monday, 16 June 2014

Book Review - Face the music by Paul Stanley

Face the music : a life exposed by Paul Stanley

New York : HarperOne, 2014                                 ISBN 9780062114044

While I may never have been a fully signed-up member of the Kiss Army, I was in one of the allied militia. Some people who have viewed other posts on this blog may find that odd, given that I'm a big fan of Jazz, but they (Jazz and Kiss) are probably less strange bedfellows than some that might have graced Paul Stanley's bed over the years.

Some years ago I read Gene Simmons' autobiography, which confirmed some of the myths that surround Kiss, without being much of a read. Stanley's book is much weightier in size (at over 400 pages), and, dare I say it "intellectual" heft.

This is a story about redemption - shy deformed boy (Stanley was born without his right ear) with unsupportive parents becomes big rock star, but finds that fame and fortune don't give him the happiness he seeks - his life both professionally and personally are in a downward spiral until he's saved by a woman, and is now both happy and content with where he sits in the world.

The arc of Paul's story in this book is a satisfying one, probably due to the able work of his collaborator (Tim Mohr), but it's not all mushy feel-good stuff. Paul is at his best when he's cutting people (including himself) down to size. There is a very funny few pages where he discusses the disastrous album Music from the Elder, comparing their effort to Spinal Tap.

While Paul's personal journey is interesting, it's the stuff about the band that a middle-aged fool like myself is interested in - and there's quite a bit in Face the Music that's interesting to read in that respect. The idea that the driving force of Kiss is Paul and Gene and their amazing business sense is put to bed in this book (as are many Playboy and Penthouse models) - Stanley shows that most of the merchandising happened thanks to their manager Bill Aucoin, and that from the mid 80s Gene has taken less and less interest in the band, preferring to spend his time pursuing other avenues. In fact Paul and Gene, while friends, come across in this book as not really close at all - Paul didn't invite Gene to his wedding.

As for Ace and Peter, Paul is scathing (as was Gene in his book). For different reasons both Ace and Peter were barely functional as band members - Peter's musical ability was almost non-existent and his personality destructive, and Ace's addictions were his undoing. Paul's dream to be a newer version of the British bands he loved meant he tried to make the foursome work, but his descriptions of the reunion tours in particular lead the reader to believe him when he wrote that each day became agony during this time.

What both Paul and Gene eventually realised, later than they perhaps should have, was that Kiss has transended merely being a rock band, and has become an institution - they don't need Peter when Eric Singer can don the makeup (and play better and be a positive influence) and nor do they need Ace when Tommy Thayer can do the job better.

In fact Paul has come to the realisation that even he is replaceable in the juggernaut that is now Kiss. And he's cool with that.

I recommend this book to those who have ever marched, however briefly, in one of the greatest armies ever formed.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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