I was a mere four-years-old when the KISS bug bit me, big time.
And I have my parents having to attend some social engagement and a babysitter who liked the four face-painted freaks from New York to thank for it.
Truth be told, I can’t really remember what my parents were doing that night, but they had plans and called their usual babysitter to come and look after my two older brothers and I.
But on this night there were no board games or watching TV. Rather, our babysitter brought over a double vinyl slab called KISS Alive! intent on assaulting the senses of my two older brothers.
Turns out, my senses wound up getting quite the assault as well as soon as the record player needle touched the vinyl.
Later that year – much at the insistence of my two older brothers – my parents broke down and bought us our first KISS album, 1977’s Love Gun.
Having not yet seen what these guys looked like, I remember picking up the album, looking at the cover and my eyes nearly shooting out of my head. I’ve been hooked ever since.
In honour of that, here’s a look back on some highlight moments for me from the first three albums that started it all.
KISS self-titled debut hit’s the street in February of 1974
Strutter: Originally titled “Stanley The Parrot” Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons re-titled the song “Strutter” after Paul felt the song had a strutting feel.
Nothin’ To Lose: Straight-forward song with an odd-time signature change in the intro riff. The call-and-respond vocals between Gene and drummer Peter Criss in the chorus combined with the underlying piano riff drive the song home.
Firehouse: One of Paul’s pre-KISS songs, this straight-ahead simple-riff song tips the hat the British bands that influenced the band’s sound.
Cold Gin: Supposedly written in his head on the subway on the way to rehearsal, Ace Frehley makes his songwriting debut on this Gene-sung tune about a beverage that kept the band warm in the early days. The classic Ace riff features and ascending chord progression mid-song before kicking back into the main riff.
Deuce: Supposedly the first song Gene wrote for KISS, sitting on his couch and coming up with the main riff on the bass. Paul starts off with a jangly intro before the main riff comes thundering in and once it does, it’s effectively repeated through to the end of the song.
100,000 Years: Gene ushers in this song with a simple octave riff and continues that pattern effectively under the main riff. Ace shines on this song with a simple counter melody over the verses and comes up with one of his best and unique solos, one so unique that when he was re-learning it prior to the reunion tour he admitted he had no idea how he initially came up with it.
Black Diamond: Great ending to a great debut. Quiet acoustic guitars usher in arguably the heaviest riff on the album backed by another great Peter Criss vocal.
KISS releases second album in eight months with Hotter Than Hell
Got To Choose: Paul’s intro gives way into a slamming riff that ushers in the verses. Good vocal melodies between Paul and Gene in the verses.
Parasite: Ace is in fine form on Hotter Than Hell, bringing in this heavy-handed, stacatto-based lick that also features a great, octave-hopping middle section.
Goin’ Blind: Originally titled “Little Lady”, this slow, grinding song sounds better in the acoustic setting it’s presented in on Unplugged than the electric version on Hotter Than Hell. But the song is still a standout.
Hotter Than Hell: Paul admitted to ripping off “All Right Now” and listening to the title track, it’s not hard to figure it out. Still, the straight-forward song delivers. The Black Sabbath-style outro riff and accompanying Ace solo are highlights on this song.
Strange Ways: Ace comes up with another gem on Hotter Than Hell with a slow, plodding, heavy riff that carries the song. The wild, almost spastic, guitar solo features Ace stepping into the recording booth, closing his eyes and letting his fingers fly.
On tour and with album sales drying up, KISS are called back to New York to begin writing songs for what becomes Dressed To Kill.
Room Service: The album starts off, once again, with a great song from Paul. An ode to groupies, this opener bounces along and features a great, single-note riff in the chorus.
Two Timer: Gene has hinted Paul took the intro chords to this song and later used them to craft Detroit Rock City a year later. Still, this song struts and swaggers through the verse and into a descending riff in the chorus.
Rock Bottom: Lush acoustic guitars from Ace give way to a slamming riff from Paul that carries the rest of the song. Simple and effective.
C’mon And Love Me: Another straight-ahead four-on-the-floor rocker from Paul. Great counter-melodies by Ace in the chorus.
She: One of two cast-off songs from Gene and Paul’s pre-KISS band, Wicked Lester, that featured over-the-top vocal harmonies and a barrage of woodwind and brass instruments. This song becomes a heavy number once all the fat is stripped away. A laid-back, grooving number with another interesting middle section.
Love Her All I Can: Another Wicked Lester song resurrected for KISS that, when the overkill of horns and three-part harmonies are stripped away, becomes a straight-forward rocker with great vocal performances from Gene and Paul and some snazzy drum work from Peter.
A young and hungry band during this time period, these three albums paved the way for what was to come for KISS.