The Albums That Shaped Me: CREATURES OF THE NIGHT

Year of Release: 1982
Year it Came Into My Life: 1982

“Creatures of the Night”
“Saint and Sinner”
“Keep Me Comin'”
“Rock and Roll Hell”
“I Love it Loud”
“I Still Love You”
“War Machine”

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.

The Albums That Shaped Me: LOVE GUN

albums-lovegunKISS: Love Gun
Year of Release: 1977
Year it Came Into My Life: 1977

“I Stole Your Love”
“Christine Sixteen”
“Got Love For Sale”
“Shock Me”
“Tomorrow and Tonight”
“Love Gun”
“Almost Human”
“Plaster Caster”
“Then She Kissed Me”

This is where everything started for me and my love of hard rock. Up ’til that point, I was a Top 40 kid, as most teens are. This wasn’t an album that I was interested in or would ever have picked out for myself. And in fact, I don’t know why I was ever given it. I remember that I got this for my 15th birthday. I can’t remember which of my friends got it for me, but I never could figure out why they thought I would like this. I remember at the time I’d had some exposure to KISS. “Beth” had been all over the radio the previous year, and I knew the single of “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite” from Alive! from 1975. I liked both songs just fine, but the band itself didn’t appeal to me. And of course, like many kids at the time, I saw them perform on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special in 1976; but unlike many kids at the time, I thought they were silly.

When I was presented with Love Gun for my birthday, I kind of set it aside at first. I kept going back to it and looking it over, though. I remember being really intrigued by the cover painting, I thought it was seriously cool looking. It took a while before I listened to it. When I did there weren’t any songs on it that I knew, so I really didn’t pay much attention to it. Slowly, though, I started to get familiar with the tunes, and the drumming in particular.

It was about this time that I was becoming interested in playing drums. I’d taken piano lessons for a while by this point, and had auditioned to play drums in the sixth grade school band. Listening to Love Gun started to really fuel my interest in taking drumming more seriously. I didn’t have a drum set, so I would line up my school text books like drums. I brought some sticks home with me from school and I hit every one of my books, and then arranged them by the tone they made, higher to lower. The first song that I really took to was “Christine Sixteen”, because it was rather pop-ish and because it had an easily-picked-up drum part. I played the song over and over on my drum set-like arrangement of school books, eventually adding other elements to mimic the crash cymbals and the hi-hat.

I started listening to the album more and more and started developing my favorites – “I Stole Your Love”, “Love Gun”, “Almost Human”, etc. I really didn’t understand drumming too well at this point, but I did try to mimic what I heard on my book set. I did eventually get a drum set, and I was honestly rather confused by how to make it go. It took a while to understand the coordination of all the things it could do. But I learned fairly quickly and basically taught myself how to play by studying “Christine Sixteen”.

I quickly became obsessed with KISS – magazines, posters, the earlier albums, demands for Christmas presents, the works. I covered my bedroom with over 200 KISS posters to the point where walls were no longer visible and I’d started displaying them on the ceiling. By that time Alive II had been released; the following year Double Platinum and the Solo Albums were released. I finally had my first opportunity to see them live in 1979, the opening show of the Dynasty tour. By that time I was so heavily sunk in the KISS quicksand there was no way to escape. They’ve been my favorite band for many years and are still one of my favorites. Maybe one day on my blog I will review every KISS album. Lord, that’ll take a long time!