Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When the Legend Began

The legend goes that I was 5, but I think I was actually probably 6, when I chose my first album. It was a choice made based exclusively on judging a record by its cover but it totally paid off. It's not like I really had any idea what it would sound like but, in 1979 Kiss was fucking huge, particularly with kids, who most likely had no clue they even made music. There were toys, Halloween costumes, comics, lunch boxes, and even a TV movie. I knew my parents were going to let me pick an album at Jefferson's that day so I looked through the Kiss section and of course I picked the one with the Japanese writing on it, because Godzilla.

I would play this on my parent's stereo console with headphones on because they were not fans, and I don't remember what my first reaction was on hearing the opening chords of Got To Choose, but I can only imagine I thought I finally understood what cool was. I'm not sure I'd ever heard anything like this before, but I remember 2 things vividly about my early experiences with this album: 1. Let Me Go Rock n Roll was my favorite song and the first time I ever played air guitar, wildly. 2. I went through and marked every song that listed Paul Stanley in the credits first, thinking that meant he was singing it, and then learned the lyrics to those, since that's who I had been for Halloween the previous year. There are two things that became clear about this over the years: 1. Paul's ego hadn't exploded yet since he didn't write that many songs on this album. 2. No 6 year old should be singing Mainline.

I gave that album away like 20 years ago, but eventually bought it on CD and it still holds up. It's not simply a nostalgia thing, I don't think. The album is just raw in a way that later Kiss albums never captured, not even the live albums. The songs are simple, but there's an almost punk energy to them that doesn't really get old.  But this weekend I found a copy of The Originals, which is a set of the first 3 Kiss albums on vinyl, at Radio-Active Records and had to get it. Listening to this on vinyl again takes me back in a way that the CD never did. The crackles are there and the warmth and the big black circle spinning like a galaxy of cool, calling to me with words I now understand and chords I still can't play, beckoning me to an innocent past of dreaming of a future as a rock star. And one thing remains true: No 40 year old should be singing Mainline, either.

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