“Creatures of the Night”
“Saint and Sinner”
“Keep Me Comin'”
“Rock and Roll Hell”
“I Love it Loud”
“I Still Love You”
If you don’t already know how I feel about this album, then you don’t know me. This album changed everything for me. But first, a little backstory:
I’d been a KISS fan, as you know if you’ve followed this blog, since 1977 when I was given the Love Gun album for my birthday. I taught myself to play drums by listening to songs like “Chistine Sixteen” and “I Stole Your Love”. My love for KISS continued on, but I’ll be honest, like for most people it waned during their pop years. Dynasty and Unmasked were fine albums, but they lacked the punch of earlier KISS albums. KISS had strayed too far from its path and had left many of its US fans behind. Their popularity had died off drastically, especially in the US. So when it came time to release a new album, what did they do? They released the weirdest album in their history, a concept album based on a proposed feature film that never happened. Plus, they changed their look a lot, with simpler costumes, short hair and no platforms. They could not have made a worse step in their career at that point. (Music From) The Elder was a nail in the KISS coffin. Any last few hangers-on quickly jumped ship, or worse, just stopped caring. I was still there with them, though.
In fact, throughout all this, KISS had gone through its first member change. Peter Criss had left and the band had hired new kid Eric Carr. One day in June in 1980 my mother came home from the grocery store and had picked up a copy of People Magazine just because it had KISS on it. I took one look at the cover and freaked out! There was Gene, Paul, Ace … and who the hell was this fourth guy? I tore into the magazine to find out all about this new guy, where he’d come from, and what he was doing in the band. After I read the magazine about 20 times, I wrote my first ever fan letter to this new guy. 2.5 months later, I got a hand-written letter back from Eric, all the way from Frankfurt Germany. I read that letter about a million times. And from that point on, I became a little bit obsessed with Eric Carr.
The Elder was Eric’s US debut on a KISS album. Yes, the album was very weird. No, it didn’t sound like a KISS album at all. But I loved it! I really enjoyed Eric’s playing and I was thrilled that he’d gotten a couple of songwriting credits. The band appeared on the SNL knockoff Fridays in their new costumes, playing songs from The Elder, and it was great to see the new lineup for the first time.
But I was very aware that KISS had lost it. Not just the fans, or their direction, but “it”. That thing that defined KISS. The thing that made them special, different from every other band. I really doubted that they’d ever get it back.
But then Creatures came out. First impression: The cover was definitely a step in the right direction. It was dark, it was eerie, it was distinctive and it was powerful. This gave me a lot of hope! I remember very clearly getting home, taking the LP out of the sleeve, putting it on the turntable, putting the needle down, and waiting. Waiting for the needle to catch that groove and slide in to that first note. What would it be? How would KISS announce its return? What would they do to impress me? I turned up the volume and waited.
And then … BOOM! … this MASSIVE, thunderous, powerful drum intro pounded around me and this wall of big, loud, fat guitar sound completely filled the room. WHOA! It was like being grabbed by the throat and having someone scream in my face KISS IS BACK. And they were. My KISS had returned. The whole album was just amazing. To this day it is still my favorite KISS album, with 1992’s Revenge being a very close second. To this day, no other KISS song gets my blood pumping like “Creatures of the Night”. To this day, when I think of Eric Carr, the first thing that comes to mind is “Creatures of the Night” and that force-of-nature drum intro.
After that, my love of KISS never wavered again. I studied everything Eric Carr did. I had taught myself to play drums listening to Peter Criss; I had learned to think differently about playing drums listening to Neil Peart. But listening to Eric Carr affected and influenced my playing more than anything else.
I’ve got so many Eric Carr stories that I should probably save them for a separate post. Maybe I should do a series of the musicians that inspire me and why. Because with Eric, it wasn’t just the playing, it was personal.
I’ve got SO much I could write about, but I know this shouldn’t be too long. I loved Eric. He was an inspiration. He passed away on November 24, 1991. I remember that day vividly. It was the same day that Freddie Mercury died. Both of those news devastated me. KISS was never the same for me after Eric died. I always still loved them, and they continued to create great music, but that lineup of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr is, in my opinion, the strongest KISS ever had.