Sunday, September 15, 2013

Just Because Your Paranoid…Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Out to Get You

Makeup to Breakup – Peter Criss (Scribner)

The old saying is there are two sides to every story. In the case of the band Kiss, it seems there are at least four sides to every story. In Makeup to Breakup Kiss drummer Peter Criss takes his turn to tell his version of events of the saga of one of the world’s most successful bands.

Typical of most rock bios, Criss talks of his childhood, his early influences, and his initial forays into the music business. Sprinkled generously throughout these early tales are Criss’s first brushes with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It is when he answers an ad looking for a drummer that he lands with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in an early incarnation of the band dubbed Wicked Lester.

From there it’s off to the races as the bands evolves into a Caligula-like circus and becomes a behemoth; churning out not only hit albums, selling mounds of concert tickets and literally tens of millions of dollars of merchandise. Almost inevitably the egos, the drugs and the overall excesses take their toll and the cracks that form become full blown divisions.

Criss details his spiral into addiction, which either spurred or expands his paranoia and pettiness. Even has self-describes his tendencies towards being an asshole, he still seems hell bent to blame most of his problems on Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, or colorfully labels them, the “two fucks.”

Criss writes with a level of bitterness, as if he didn’t have a hand in his departure from what at the time was the biggest band in the world. While he claims to have become musically disenchanted and disconcerted by the commercial excesses, he seems wholly disconnected to what Kiss really was. While they were and are an entertainment extravaganza, I find it hard to believe that anyone would mistake Kiss for being a great band musically.

When you work your way through the rest of the story of addiction, reunion, disease and the clichéd “I found my true love” and redemption, it’s easy to understand the book’s opening line which asks the question, “have you ever tasted the barrel of a .357 Magnum that’s halfway down your throat?”

While I won’t pick sides as to who’s right or wrong, it’s pretty clear that Criss is his own worst enemy and it’s equally clear that no one in their right mind would walk away from the moneymaking machine that Kiss was.      

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