Category Archives: Books

Book review: “Face the Music: A Life Exposed” by Paul Stanley

Each night is the only night that counts to the people at that show. They weren’t at the show the night before, and they won’t be at the one tomorrow. I won’t let them down.

Paul Stanley's "Face The Music: A Life Exposed" covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band's misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

Paul Stanley’s “Face The Music: A Life Exposed” covers everything from the origins of KISS tro many of the band’s misfires in the 1980s to the powerful lineup in place today.

That passage is from the 65th chapter of Paul Stanley’s autobiography, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” which was released April 8, 2014, and it’s as fitting a description for the frontman and driving force of hall of fame act KISS as any before or since.

Stanley, who formed the band in the early 1970s with original members Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, never takes a night off on stage. Part inspiration, part perspiration and total determination, Stanley – at age 63 – still completes aerial stunts onstage in massive, platform shoes. In his book, Stanley credits the massive KISS Army for his ability to perform such acrobatics at an advanced age.

If you’ve seen KISS in concert, you know what I’m talking about. Stanley reveres his position in the band and in rock history. Confident, sexified and strut-tastic, Stanley sets the bar high for rock frontmen. He’s as good as it gets, and he basks in it.

Stanley, the last original member of KISS to pen an autobiography, takes the same approach to his book, and with a thoughtful retrospection one might expect from someone who’s had significant ups and a few downs during an epic four decades with KISS. Stanley delves into his upbringing – from his detached, unemotional parents to his difficult older sister to the pain he felt growing up deaf in one ear, which was also deformed.

A prevailing theme in the book is Stanley’s struggles with self-confidence stemming from his deformed ear. He sought fame, fortune and women in an attempt to mask the pain. None of it ended up working, though he achieved all his goals in ample proportions.

Stanley eventually found peace, and fathered four children. He cooks, he cares and he’s optimistic. Unlike books by Frehley and Criss, Stanley holds no grudges and it comes across as painfully truthful. Stanley doesn’t hide his disappointment in Frehley’s and Criss’ poor play as the reasons why KISS’ reunion in the 1990s fell apart. He openly makes fun of some of the music he made in the 1980s. He even holds no punches with Simmons, whom Stanley said takes far too much credit in the band’s success.

But Stanley never comes across as bitter. It’s just not in his nature.

That’s is why I dubbed Stanley, “The Walt Disney of rock and roll” following a particularly excellent KISS show at Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown. (Sorry sponsors, it will always be Star Lake.)

Stanley’s tale is beyond extraordinary, yet it comes across as relatable. It’s well-written, thoughtful and, just like Stanley on stage, it doesn’t let the reader down.

Ace Frehley: No Regrets

Awk!

Ace Frehley has maintained his sobriety for years. I read parts of his books while drinking sangria.

Ace Frehley has maintained his sobriety for years. I read parts of his books while drinking sangria.

Ace Frehley used that expression frequently in interviews during the heyday of KISS, which occurred in the mid to late 1970s. Awk was part crutch, as Frehley struggled in social settings for years. It was also part asshole, the creation of someone often obliterated on alcohol and cocaine. Frehley said, “Awk,” so often, it was originally the only speaking line given to him for “KISS Meets Phantom of the Park” – a movie so awful even Gene Simmons might deny being involved. Frehley wasn’t pleased, and his dialogue was eventually reworked, even as the original lead guitarist of the recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used filming as an excuse to snort coke and be merry around Los Angeles.

This much, and many other intimacies of Frehley’s life in and beyond KISS were revealed in No Regrets, which was released in 2011. Frehley was sober for nearly five years at the time of releasing the book, which he received help from Joe Layden and John Ostrosky.

Frehley admits his memory isn’t sharp. “Let’s face it – my memory isn’t what it used to be. Speaking with old friends and coworkers jarred my memory, allowing me to recapture the true flavor of some of the stories within these pages.” 

But Frehley remembers enough, and, after reading, it’s amazing the man is still alive let alone touring. (Full disclosure: I’ll be hitting Ace’s Nov. 15 show at the Palace Theater in Greensburg and have traveled to other states to see the legend do his thing.)

Frehley takes us from his time in grade school to his work with bands pre-KISS. Frehley once drank too much at a Grateful Dead show, where he worked his way backstage and came within a few feet of legendary Jerry Garcia, whom Frehley described as “down to earth” despite being one of rock’s biggest stars at the time. He woke up at the venue to discover he was alone and locked inside.

Frehley’s true excess began in earnest once KISS became a money-making machine shortly after the release of Alive. Frehley drank. Frehley snorted. Frehley cavorted (though this book makes no mentions of his alleged bisexual escapades that Peter Criss addressed in his autobiography.) Frehley had multiple brushes with death, was pulled over driving drunk by police on several occasions and destroyed relationships along the way.

But as he was ruining his life, KISS kept them in theirs, mostly because Frehley was worshipped by fans. Frehley reveals that, contrary to what Simmons and Paul Stanley say as time passes, he voluntarily left KISS – not once, but twice. The latter came after a highly successful reunion spurred by KISS’ appearance on MTV’s Unplugged and was fueled when, according to Frehley, Simmons snubbed him by cutting scenes of his daughter from the movie Detroit Rock City.

Among other tidbits revealed by Frehley – he was close friends with John Belushi, he dislikes Tommy Thayer, delights that his KISS solo album was better than and outperformed his bandmates’ releases and is rightfully proud of his work with KISS with a few exceptions like Music From the Elder.

Frehley’s book doesn’t hit hard. He doesn’t come across as bitter or whiny, and it appears he really wants to make the reader realize he’s just a likeable, happy-go-lucky guy who wants you to like him like everyone else does..

Finally, toward the end of the book, Frehley does let it fly.

“Since 2001, every move KISS has made has been premeditated and part of a well-orchestrated plan. Nothing, including their attempts to minimize my contributions, has been left to chance.

So, you might wonder now, ‘How does Ace feel about Kiss today?’ (Notice he didn’t use all caps here.)

Fair enough. Here’s my response: 

At this point in my life, I just need to let things go. Holding on to resentments can really make you ill, so I’ll leave the dirty work to my attorneys. I can sum up the KISS situation in just five simple words: ‘What goes around, comes around. No matter what happens, I’ll be just fine.

That being said, in reality, I think they’re just a bunch of dirty rotten whores. Awk!”

While Frehley tries hard to comes across as likable, it’s not something he needs to sell. Just watch the band’s induction into the rock hall and listen to the crowd roar in approval when Tom Morello mentions his guitar hero, “Ace Frehley.” There’s something about Ace that makes people root for him, and that’s what makes you crack a smile when you’ve finished this book.