Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heaven's on fire

I was sad to read of the death of Kiss guitarist Mark St. John at age 51. To be certain, my intense Kiss fandom ended a few years before St. John's brief tenure with the band in the mid-1980s. But I was indeed a devotee at one point in my young life, and I have followed Kiss developments ever since.

My interest peaked on -- if I have done my Web research properly -- Aug. 14, 1979, when my mom took my brother and me, age 8, to see Kiss perform at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville, Tenn. My previous visits to Municipal Auditorium had all been for the circus, and I recall noticing that the Kiss show was pretty circus-like itself, what with the makeup and the acrobatic stunts. At one point bassist Gene Simmons was suspended by wires seemingly hundreds of feet over the stage. There also were flames, and blood, and flashing lights, and a flying guitar. (In 1998 the band released an album called Psycho Circus.)

And -- lest I forget -- there was music. I was intimately familiar with the Kiss canon, including the 1979 release Dynasty that was the occasion for the tour. At that age I appreciated the band's silly heavy-metal bombast ("God of Thunder") more than its silly groupie party anthems ("Love Gun"). (I remember not understanding what lead singer Paul Stanley was implying when he told the roaring audience, "Nashville got a lot of good-lookin' girls!!!!!!") But the set pleased me.

After the concert my mom, a classically trained musician, pointed out that most of the songs were in the same key.

A couple of years later, Kiss was deeply outmoded. When I tried to dump my Kiss records at the local used vinyl store, the sneering clerk declined to buy any of them. I put them back in my collection. I still have them. I'm glad I do.

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