Kiss and Make-Up

By Alun Thomas

When writing about Gene Simmons you can take two directions. One, that he is a control driven, pompous git, or two that he is a rock legend. I’ve always thought both. Simmons’ new autobiography "Kiss And Make-Up" confirms this. The man makes no apologies for this. He doesn’t need to. And while the 258-page book raises some eyebrows here and there, it’s quite straightforward reading, making you wonder if you had just read anything at all.

The book starts with Simmons recounting his childhood in Israel where he was born in 1949. He delivers the usual "growing up as an immigrant in the big ole’ U.S.A." bit when his mother moved him there in the late fifties. Honestly I didn’t really care for all this. I skipped to the formation of Kiss and his revelations about their career. Let’s be fair, it’s the only reason anyone bought the bloody thing.

In this respect he does not disappoint. If you like reading pages upon pages of criticisms of Peter Criss and Ace Frehly, then this is the book for you. There are various aspects to the book, like the 4,600 women Simmons has laid, but the band’s dysfunction was the ‘light for myself. Simmons tears into the pair –unapologetically I may add – as he himself makes clear in the foreword, to the point where it appears he never cared about either of them at all. He blames it all on their reckless use of drugs and alcohol, which he claims destroyed their minds and ability to function normally. Simmons states that he has never been drunk or high (intentionally) and this has allowed him to witness their decline from an objective point of view. Simmons recalls Frehly’s memory loss and inability to show up for recording sessions or rehearsals, mainly due to drunkenness. He calls Ace a "victim" of his own mind however, blaming everyone else for his personal woes. In fact, one of the funniest parts is when Simmons claims Ace himself admitted to being chronically lazy. Aren’t we all, mate?

As for Criss, Simmons writes that he was never a great drummer, simply playing by feel instead of technique. Criss was nicknamed the "Moaner" for his constant complaining and threatened to leave the band more than once if he didn’t get his way. He never did. And he never left the band until he was fired for his drug abuse in 1980. Simmons details the dozens of car wrecks by Criss and Frehly; the pair clearly the weak link of the band.

Where I agree with Simmons is his dismay with their performances on the Farewell Tour. In his eyes they were weaker than ever as a live unit. Naturally, he blames Criss and Frehly. Anyone who saw the tour, like myself, will testify to that. Simmons is clever enough to realize nobody is interested in hearing new Kiss music any more and surely it comes as no shock to Kiss fans that Criss and Frehly barely played on the "Psycho Circus" album of 1998.

In fact they were absent on many of the 70s albums. It’s always been Simmons and Paul Stanley’s band anyway, as documented by Simmons from the early Wicked Lester days. Frehly and Criss were hired guns from the start and treated as much accordingly. I find the bashing rather amusing whereas some Kiss fans will be all cut up at Simmons trashing of the lovable rogues.

Simmons swears it’s the truth, even if the other two deny it. If it is true then how he put up with them I don’t know. But they would say that about Simmons as well.

Aside from this are detailed accounts of some of Simmons’ 4,600 women. He explains how he keeps a photo album with pictures of many of his "conquests." "Lucky for him," I say. Where I started to doze off is when he describes at great length his relationship with Cher in the late 70s. It is a long passage and hardly worth reading. What I find disappointing about the book, like Mötley Crüe’s "The Dirt," are the long-winded passages about his whores and films he starred in.

I would like to know his thoughts on classics like "Animalize" rather than some dodgy movie he made called "Never Too Young To Die" with John Stamos and George Lazenby. But it’s not to be. Instead the albums, especially the 80s ones, are mentioned fleetingly – Simmons admitting he was not really into the band at that point, concentrating on his acting and producing other bands.

He also goes on diatribes about marriage and why he has refused it, despite his two children with former Playboy centerfold Shannon Tweed. Gene say marriage is miserable for all concerned; there’s no freedom or happiness and you can’t be attracted to anyone else for the rest of your life.

Well I already knew this. Just stop rubbing it in ,you bastard.

You get the rest. The Kiss reunion (and the hell Criss and Frehly put poor Gene through), his thoughts on mass Kiss marketing, the death of Eric Carr… he treads all the territory. It’s an easy read, generally entertaining, but hardly worth nearly 30 dollars. I would steal this long before I would buy it (someone bought it for me).

You can make up your own mind on the man after reading it. I’ve got my thoughts, if anyone cares. I consider Simmons in the year 2002 to be a joke. His constant scheming on Kiss products, notably the Kiss Kasket, are overblown. I think this guy forgot about the music. The Farewell Tour proved this. The same old stale songs, stage act… it’s all about money and Simmons knows it. He even says this in the book, how the others in the band think he took the marketing aspect too far, distancing them from what they were, a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Even Stanley opposed this. It leads you to lose faith in everything they did.

I’ll remember Simmons for making songs like "War Machine" or "On The Eighth Day," not some Kiss Broadway show he insists will happen very soon.

Basically the point Gene strives to make is that he was an immigrant kid with nothing, who made a self-made fortune, because the U.S.A. allowed him to do so. You can’t deny him that. He’s done it all. But you always feel like he’s shoving it down your throat – about his power, trying to make the mortal man feel inferior. But that’s just the way the man is.