Tuesday, October 2, 2007

YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT...UM....THIS: There are few bands whose absence from the Rock Hall of Fame provokes as strong a response as KISS. I am no particular fan of KISS' work, but there is no question that they warrant Keltnerization, and I will take my best shot.

1. Was KISS ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that KISS was the best artist in rock music?

Best? No. But according to Wikipedia, a 1977 Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. KISS was never a critical fave, but the public loves them some fire and blood spitting demons who wag their tongues.

2. Was KISS ever the best artist in rock music in its genre?

Again, no. "Best" is different from popular, and KISS's music has never been a particular part of their allure.

3. Was any member of KISS ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

No, unless you consider "showmanship" to be a separate role, in which case Simmons has to qualify.

4. Did KISS have an impact on a number of other bands?

Hard to say. Certainly, few, if any, subsequent bands have gone done KISS's road in terms of performing style, but the 1994 tribute album Kiss My Ass indicated that artists as diverse as Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones felt obliged to pay their respects. KISS is part of American pop culture and has influenced in that way.

5. Was KISS good enough that it could play regularly after passing its prime?

Sure. KISS continues to play and sell tons of records, and had a highly successful reunion tour series in the late 90s, almost 20 years after passing their prime, and certainly still puts on a show.

6. Is KISS the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

I certainly hope not.

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

It's hard to think of comparables to KISS, as there aren't just a ton of fairly critically scorned artists who have had KISS's longevity and massive sales.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that KISS was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its statistical records?

Well, on the "don't induct" side here, you have the consistent critical scorn heaped upon them. On the "induct" side, you have an unsual longevity, and a back catalog and live albums that even now continue to sell very very well. (In fact, I'm a bit surprised none of the albums are on the pop catalog chart.)

9. Is KISS the best artist in its genre which is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

God, I hope not.

10. How many #1 singles/gold records did KISS have? Did KISS ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was KISS nominated?

No #1 singles on the Hot 100 ("Beth" peaked at #7), 1 #1 Single ("Psycho Circus") on the mainstream rock charts. 16 Gold Albums (Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed To Kill, Unmasked, Creatures of the Night, Lick It Up, Animalize, Hot In The Shade, Revenge, Psycho Circus, Alive, Alive III, KISS Unplugged, KISS Symphony: Alive IV, You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!, The Box Set) 9 Platinum Albums (Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, Dynasty, Asylum, Crazy Nights, Alive II, Double Platinum, Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits), plus 4 platinum solo albums released under the KISS banner for the four original members. One Grammy nomination for "Psycho Circus." No wins.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did KISS have? For how long of a period did KISS dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did KISS appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

KISS was unquestionably the biggest rock band in America for about two years (roughly 1976-1978). Not a hugely lengthy period of domination, but a substantial one. And, yes, while a lot of the stuff is pretty awful, you have to give credit to songs like "Strutter," "Beth," "Rock and Roll All Nite," and "I Was Made For Lovin' You" as being pretty decent. I'm sure plenty of Rolling Stone covers, though there's no good way to look this up. That period of domination is roughly equal to that of the Bee Gees (who are in), though the Bee Gees had higher sales, albeit a similar level of critical scorn.

12. If KISS was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

There is no question there would be injured eardrums, a need to hide women and children, and blood and fire.

13. What impact did KISS have on rock history? Was KISS responsible for any stylistic changes? Did KISS introduce any new equipment? Did KISS change history in any way?

KISS is the the parent of all shock rock since. There's no GWAR or Marilyn Manson without KISS. Whether that's a good or bad thing is entirely up to you.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Your leader having a long term relationship with a soft porn star and insulting Terry Gross on the radio is either a big plus or a big minus depending on how you measure it.

KISS is the rock and roll equivalent of a two season fan favorite with a few spectacular clutch performances who then kept bouncing around the minors for a long time, and then came back to throw one last great game at the end of its career. I don't think that's enough to get into Cooperstown, and it shouldn't be enough to get into Cleveland. Do not induct.

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