By Tony Hicks
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 at 4:19 pm in Uncategorized.
Finally – KISS gets is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot.
That was announced today, along with other first-time nominees Red Hot Chili Peppers, L.L. Cool J. and Genesis, joining ballot holdovers Jimmy Cliff, the Hollies, the Chantels, the Stooges, Donna Summer, ABBA, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, and Cheater.
Ok, that last band wasn’t on there. But they did kick ass at the Danville Vet’s Hall in Jan. ’85.
So here comes the debate. First off, I suppose one has to recognize the legitimacy of the Rock Hall, which to some is no more than Jann Wenner copyrighting the concept of Rock and Roll for Rolling Stone. I’m not sure that’s true, but I’m not sure it’s not either. But for argument’s sake, let’s go with legitimate. Then let’s realize these arguments happen every year, and are driven by fans. So there’s no logic to them. It’s like a music critic trying to decide whether a show was good by interviewing fans. I’m not even sure there are clear requirements for the hall, other than you can’t get inducted until 25 years after your first release.
Anyway, it’s only been a few hours and already the KISS haters are out in full force (thanks Rush fans, for living up to your reputations. I like Rush and all, but get out of the house once in a while). And I get the legitimate anti-KISS arguments. People saw KISS as everything wrong about rock music, from emphasizing style over substance to their merchandising juggernaut (one has to admit that the KISS coffin is pretty over the top). While the band may have started for the right reasons (typically, in my mind, music, girls and money), in its fourth decade it’s largely only about money and has been for quite some time. Members are seemingly arrogant and greedy. The list goes on and on.
But if one of the requirements to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is having a sweeping influence over music and/or pop culture (maybe not a requirement – let’s say its one of the factors that gets a band in), then KISS is a no-brainer.
I would argue that the band’s music was better than most people think – at least the stuff from the 70s. They weren’t Led Zeppelin, but the riffs rocked (please tell me “Parasite” doesn’t rock and I’ll get you checked for a pulse), the choruses were memorable, and it was delivered with real attitude. It didn’t require master musicianship, but they played well enough to get the job done.
But the music was the soundtrack for an attitude that screamed rock and roll. It was confident. It was loud. It was in your face. It was about explosions. It was about being larger-than-life. And KISS fans got that. KISS dared you to tell them they sucked, then they laughed at you. It was the same way with KISS fans. They – OK, we – knew the music snobs, overly-gentle souls, politically serious, punks clinging to phony idealism, and rock puritans, hated KISS. And we gave them the finger. There was no middle ground with KISS – either you loved them or you hated them. And I loved them. No band got my attention the way KISS did the first time I saw the cover of KISS Alive at 10 years old. What? These guys spit fire and blood, shoot lasers from guitars, and fire off explosions on stage? It was like musical Disneyland, becoming my gateway to the teen years. Count me in.
You alt-rock snobs don’t really think the Replacements were being ironic when they covered “Black Diamond,” do you?
Even if KISS’s whole act was manufactured – no one ever said it wasn’t. KISS simply did things bigger than anyone did before them. And they were HUGE. How many bands were influenced by KISS? And, maybe even more importantly, how many bands did KISS push the exact other way? Like I said, you loved them or you hated them. But you knew who they were and, if you wanted to be in a band, they influenced which way you went. Maybe more so than any other band in history. And for that, they deserve to be honored. Even if they have become aged financial whores who haven’t made a good record in 30 years and never made a classic record. They deserve it.
And, since we’re here, the Chili Peppers should also be in, for some great (early) music and a groundbreaking, influential sound. I’m on the fence about Genesis (quantity doesn’t necessarily equate quality or influence) and L.L. Cool J. (don’t know enough about his career on the whole, though I never disliked his music. I just don’t know that he did enough). I’d probably vote for the Stooges on influence alone (in my mind, they were the first successful punk rock band). ABBA and Donna Summer wouldn’t be here without the period of 70s nostalgia that made people take them seriously, and I don’t know enough about the others – though I suspect some are just there because people’s memories of certain artists get rosier as they get older.