Thursday, July 25, 2024

KISS – Portraits Edition (Rufus Publications) 

This book is published in 2023, the year Kiss celebrate their fiftieth anniversary as a viable entity and also the year when after the conclusion of their current tour, finishing with a New Year’s Eve gig at Madison Square Gardens in New York (their hometown) they’re finally calling it a day. Whatever you think of Kiss, and they certainly divide opinion like few others, they’ve certainly brought colour and spectacle to the world of rock.

The book opens with comments by mega Kiss fan, legendary rock scribe Geoff ‘deaf’ Barton, one-time deputy editor of weekly music paper Sounds, and rumoured to be the only British rock journo to have loved Kiss in the 70’s; stating their 1977 album Alive 11 the greatest ‘live’ album of all time. [For those too young to remember the 70’s / 80’s, Sounds, Melody Maker and the NME .. ‘the inkies’ as they were known as .. were the essential links between rock fans and the bands, providing details of tours, interviews and album reviews, and pre-internet, they were essential reading. Saxon: did you read the music papers to the back and to the front .. Denim and Leather.]

The book ends with Barton’s over-the-top review of seeing Kiss ‘live’ in New York in July 1979. Barton was a man on a mission to promote Kiss as being the best band in the world, and his comments make his view about the band crystal clear.

What then follows are two hundred plus pages of portraits of Kiss, taken by several of the top rock photographers of the time, and in a variety of different locations and settings .. onstage, in the studio and on the streets, with all manner of poses being struck, and with Gene Simmons’ lizard tongue prominent in many of them. These are pictures of the original four members of the band .. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley .. and they capture the band from their beginnings in 1973 up to their Unmasked tour in 1979. The only thing is they’re all in black and white, and they don’t capture the full impact of Kiss. Seeing Gene Simmons in full flow, blowing flames into the air and blood dripping from his mouth, loses some of the impact in black and white because Kiss are nothing if not a visual spectacle. This isn’t to say the book has no value .. clearly it has. Even in black and white, the enormity of their stage presentation comes across. I just wonder how many Kiss fans are willing to pay for a collection of pictures in black and white.

Like them or loathe them, when Kiss take their final bows and leave the stage for the last time, two things are nailed-on certainties .. the world will be a lot less colourful and spectacular, and we will not see their like ever again.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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