Friday, November 8, 2013

Nothin’ To Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)

www.undertheradarmag.com | By Frank Valish

Ken Sharp with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons

One would think that a 550-page book documenting just three years in any band's career would be insufferably tedious and mind-numbingly detailed. But this is KISS we're talking about, and Ken Sharp's oral history, written with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, is anything but. Beginning in 1970 when Simmons met Stanley and continuing through the band's early days to the monster smash that was their first live album, Alive!, Nothin' To Lose is the ultimate document of KISS's rise to stardom. It pictures the band as insanely driven, chronicling the years of debt accrued while the band suffered miserable early album sales and outrageous touring expense in order to generate a following. The book is filled with pictures (photos of the band in early stages of their patented makeup designs are highlights) and photos of various ephemera, even down to Simmons' tour ledgers from 1974 and 1975, all which add to the historical context, as well as keep the pages turning. All band members are quoted liberally, and while the falling out with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss is not documented here (that didn't happen until later in the band's history), personality differences are highlighted from the start. Of course, being written in part by Stanley and Simmons, one might deem the input biased, but Nothin' To Lose features countless tales of opening bands gushing over what nice people and helpful tourmates the KISS clan was to them coming up. Anyone you might name in KISS's inner circle, as well as some very early fans and the boys pictured holding the KISS sign on the back cover of Alive!, is interviewed. Finally culminating with Alive!'s success and the band's launch into super-stardom, Nothin' To Lose ultimately presents itself as a tale of underdogs making it big, a lesson of hard work winning out over all, and a tale of the masses having their say over the critics who derided the band from the start. Like those critics often said of KISS's music, Nothin' To Lose may not be the most most technically proficient. But in true KISS fashion, it sure is fun. (www.harpercollins.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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