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The Denial of Peter (Criss): My KISS Betrayal

May 11, 2013

With the album Destroyer still fresh in the racks, I fell big for KISS in 1976 at the age of 12.  I certainly wasn’t alone among my friends, although my immediate head-long dive into the deep end of KISS worship did make me the most adamant fan in my peer group.  KISS became my obsession.  I enthusiastically bought a pair of homemade Paul Stanley platform boots from a buddy for five bucks, became a dues-paying member of the KISS Army, and covered nearly every bit of open wall space in my room with KISS posters and magazine cutouts.  (The few spots not hosting KISS were dedicated to Farah’s famous red swimming suit and some other Charlie’s Angels-related “artwork.”)

More importantly, I sought out the music and played it incessantly.  Besides Destroyer, I quickly owned ALIVE! and the first three studio LPs, KISS, Hotter than Hell, and Dressed to Kill.  When Rock and Roll Over came out in November ’76, I successfully convinced my parents to drive me to the record store on the day of release to buy it, heroically withstanding pressure from an older record store clerk who tried to convince me to purchase instead the also-just-released Leftoverture by KansasRock and Roll Over instantly became my favorite KISS album due to what seemed to me to be its evolution to an even-harder rock sound than its predecessors, not to mention the cool cover that could be traced onto blank paper and colored over and over again.

By the time KISS were to release their next album roughly eight months later, I wasn’t just fan, I was a fanatic.  Rock and roll adolescents are fickle however and, after solely a year and a half of being “cutting edge” in my KISS fandom, I found myself no longer at the forefront of cool.  Now teens (13!), the kids my age weren’t into that cartoony KISS crap anymore; real rockers were into the more “adult” and complex music of bands like Queen, Rush, and the aforementioned Kansas(No, punk didn’t make much of an impact in Ogden, Utah in 1977.)  I nonetheless steadfastly stayed on the KISS train, albeit in secret.  I basically went into the closet, a closet the doors of which were plastered with KISS posters.

Having to hide my KISS addiction did not mean I wasn’t going to continue actively getting my fixes though.  I sat my 13-year-old arse on the city bus and headed downtown to the record store to get the Love Gun album within days of its summer ’77 release.  All was well as I laid down my money and walked out of the store with my new treasure in an LP-sized paper bag folded and stapled shut with the receipt inside (likely to keep me from slyly slipping an additional album into my bag on the way out the door – when did we stop trusting the youth?).  I hopped back on the bus and began counting the minutes until I could get back home and lower the needle on my spinning prize.

Summer meant no school, and no school meant lots of kids out and about, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when, just a few blocks into my return, three sprogs from my grade got on the bus.  We were all pals and so they happily came right over and sat with me.  Recognizing the potential stinking poo I was carrying (from a cool-conserving perspective), I tried to quickly slip the bag under the seat, but it was not to be.  They saw and were straightaway interested in the package, much to my chagrin.

It was, of course, the coolest of the three boys who first asked what album I had bought.  I knew I couldn’t answer honestly and maintain any junior high school respectability so I blurted out an unrehearsed lie.  I told the threesome that I had handed over my cash Nazareth - Hair of the Dog (1975)for the album Hair of the Dog by Nazareth.  For an off-the-cuff spew, it was actually a pretty impressive choice on my part.  At the time, Nazareth was a band that many 13 year olds in Utah had vaguely heard of, but which was still unfamiliar enough that my owning one of their albums made clear I wasn’t just some lame follower of the pack.  It suggested I was a true hard rock connoisseur.

My pride in my cleverness was short-lived however as one of the kids remembered that Hair of the Dog was the album with the “super awesome drawing of an evil dog or something” and demanded that I pull the LP out of the bag for all to admire.  Flummoxed, I started to mumble about how I’d have to walk eight blocks to my house after exiting the bus and an open bag could prove unwieldy to carry.  Even I didn’t believe that one however, so I added a ludicrous story about being afraid to lose the receipt stapled inside the bag; “Um, you see, my mom lent me the money to buy the LP and she is gonna demand evidence of its price.”

I sensed my pals could detect that something was starting to smell.  It was also clear that my well of convincing lies was running dry.  So, with barely a thought, I launched myself toward the door of the bus and announced “this is my stop” even though in reality my stop was still 4-5 blocks away.  To my relief, the three amigos good-naturedly bid me farewell, while staying on the bus themselves.  I’d eventually have to deal with the last-second request by the coolest kid as I stepped off the bus that I let him borrow the Nazareth album sometime, but I had the remaining weeks of summer to figure that one out.  For now, I had survived the trial with my dignity intact and at the cost of only a few extra blocks on foot.

Much like Peter in the New Testament, I did feel shame at having disowned KISS even before the Ogden City bus had crowedKISS transistor radio (1977) three times.  I asked the band’s forgiveness via shelling out additional hard-earned coin for a KISS transistor radio, iron-on KISS Army patch, and the Alive II double album before the year was out.  As time went on, I managed to gain more confidence in my continuing KISS veneration and even had the courage to play the song “Shock Me” from the Love Gun album to anyone who would listen in an effort to preach Ace Frehley’s guitar genius to the unenlightened masses.

As can be seen in the below picture of the very desk at which I crafted this masterpiece, I no longer hide my passion for KISS.  (Thanks again for holding on to those posters, Mom!)  I like what I like, cool be damned.

Victim's writing desk, May 2013

And there’s the lesson for the kiddies:  Stand up for your favorites no matter how uncool they may be in the moment.  Rest assured that 40 years from now, nostalgia will make those old picks “retro cool” — ok, maybe not as cool as KISS, but still cool nonetheless …

From → Music

  1. Brilliant story! I was totally cringing at the bus story, dreading that you would get found out. Just listened to Love Gun last week actually, that’s a great album. And a framed poster of the cover proudly adorns my living room wall!

    • Thanks, man. It did get dicey for a bit.

      I agree fully on the greatness of Love Gun, listened today in fact while typing this post. And kudos on the framed poster! I’ve also got that one matted on sturdy backing board, but Mrs. Victim is not quite as forgiving of that one as she is of the ones you see above, so it remains in the closet. Damn, I guess I’m not as brave in my continuing KISS advocacy as I claim…

      • Love Gun is such a cool album. Everyone’s on top form on that. Love Shock Me (one of my favourite solos from Ace) and I totally adore Hooligan as well. I think it might be my fave Criss track.

        I think Love Gun is probably my favourite album cover too. EvaOverload bought me the framed picture for Xmas so I am fully sanctioned to have it decorate our living room, Apart from a small (signed) Anvil picture it’s the only band memorabilia that adorns the HMO Mission Control walls…

  2. Excellent post!

  3. Great story! I think all KISS fans have had to do something similar at some point. 🙂

    • Yeah man, I think you are right. Luckily we’re now confident enough (or geezerly enough) not to care and to let that KISS flag fly! Much appreciate the nice comment.

  4. Brilliant post! I have no doubt that the band will forgive you and that one day you’ll ascend on high to jam at the right side of Ace. Or have I just watched Bill & Teds Bogus Journey too many times?!

    • Thanks for the kind words and support for my repentance. And no, you should never lose the dream. I still allow myself to daydream about somehow becoming the best friend of my idols and being invited to tour with them — haven’t quite figured out how I happen to run across them here in Bolivia though. Hey, maybe they’ll read our blogs and reach out! (smile/wink)

  5. b.a. permalink

    Always enjoyable to read.

  6. “Stand up for your favorites no matter how uncool they may be in the moment.”

    Agreed!!! I hope I get that across in my blog as well. When I was growing in Catholic school, listening to Kiss and Iron Maiden, I couldn’t have been LESS cool. But I took a page from the Dee Snider book of Reason. I knew I didn’t want to be like the other kids, and if they didn’t like Kiss, that was fine by me.

    Glad you don’t hide your Kiss love anymore. When I sold an 11 year old kid his first Kiss album at the record store, I realized things had come full circle!

  7. …on the other hand, not sticking up for your favourite band gave you a great story! Nicely told. Funny that Nazareth would ever be considered cool, but I recognise exactly what you are talking about.

    • Hey man, to a 13-year-old, any album with a song that says “son of a bitch” over and over again is pretty cool (smile). Thanks much for reading and the kind words.

  8. “A closet, the doors of which were plastered with Kiss posters”.

    Just wonderful, as is the whole piece.

    On the bus trip, sitting across the aisle from the Ogden teens, I was the twenty-something singing quietly to himself, “Peter will deny me, three times will deny me, and what’s more I see one of you will betray me, one of my twelve chosen will leave to betray me…”

    Thanks also for naming so delightfully one of the key features of my own musical journey. My lifelong love of progressive music has often been something I’ve felt the need to justify. But now I can wear my flares and Rick Wakeman t-shire with pride, knowing that there’s a comrade in home-made Kiss boots lurking somewhere behind (or even inside) the furniture.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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