I’d been reading about KISS for almost a year before I purchased my first KISS album. During my mother’s weekly trips to the grocery store, when I had to go, I’d spend all my time reading every magazine I could find that mentioned anything about KISS. And when I’d read them all, I’d go back and re-read the better articles. Sometimes multiple times. I soaked in every word, every picture.
I knew everything I could find about the band, but I did not own one album. We didn’t have a lot of discretionary income. We weren’t poor, but album purchases weren’t in the budget. Albums cost $7.00 - $10.00 and our weekly grocery budget was like $40.00. So yeah, album purchases were something of a luxury item.
Sometime in 1976 I found myself in a unique position. Through some various trades and fulfilled promises, my dad owed me $20.00. We were at Musicland in the local mall, and I was once again lusting over Alive!. I had to have it, so I hit my father up for the money he owed me. After cautiously asking if I was sure this was how I wanted to spend the money, and I assured him it was, I finally owned my first KISS album. I can vividly remember carrying that album to the cash register and paying for it. A line had been crossed. I was now, in every sense, a fan.
I went home and lost my mind. KISS did their gatefold albums right. The included full-color booklet was amazing. I read and re-read the autographs and stared at it until my eyes were ready to fall out. I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs, but I absorbed every vibration, every word, and every explosion. I fell asleep listening to the first side of the second LP (aka side 3), waking every time a bomb went off. I couldn’t stop talking about it at school the next day and I sure as hell couldn’t wait to get home and crank it back up.
Between ‘76 and probably ‘82 or so, these two posters hung in my room:
Sometime in ‘77, I was back at the grocery store with my mother. In one of back corners, not too far from the magazines, stacked 4-5 deep and all the way to the ceiling, were KISS trash cans. They were $9.99. I begged. I pleaded. I probably cried at some point, but I never owned a KISS trash can. Truth be told, $9.99 was a lot for a garbage can when weekly grocery bills were $40.00. I mean, come one. That’s 25% of your weekly food allowance.
But goddamn I wanted that trash can.
I convinced my mom to get my father HBO for his birthday in ‘77, but she’s no idiot. This was a huge extravagance, but HBO was showing a KISS concert and my mom is awesome. I watched the shit out of that show. Every time it was on, if I could be awake, I watched it.
At some point I tried to join the KISS Army Fan Club. I filled out and mailed a form, my dues, and an extra $10.00 for the KISS radio. I never heard back and, being a stupid kid who didn’t understand about business-related mail transactions and return receipts, there was nothing I could do.
By February ‘78, I’d managed to obtain Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun. But I simply hadn’t been able to put together the cash for Alive II and it was killing me. By this point I’d learned to suffer in silence because my record collection was already rivaling my dad’s. Granted, he’d only purchased maybe 10 albums in his life, but still, money was money. On Valentine’s Day, 1978, my mom gave me Alive II and again I lost my mind.
Alive II was even better than Alive!. I was familiar with the songs. And, holy shit, Alive II’s version of Calling Dr. Love is, to this day, the best version by far. The song selection and track order are perfect and it has aged very well. It still sounds great today. The color booklet was great, and they included a sheet of temporary tattoos. The gatefold picture was bombastic. And yes, I still have the album and the temporary tattos.
April of ‘78 saw the release of Double Platinum. This is a greatest hits collection which, other than She, didn’t add anything to my repertoire. I had all the other songs, but it was KISS and I had to have it. Why I didn’t spend that money back-filling the pre-Alive! albums, I have no idea. I was 14 years old. Shut up.
October of ‘78 brought the highly anticipated KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Even then, I knew it was terrible, but I watched it all and cursed the world that I couldn’t watch it again. It’d be over a decade before I finally did.
That Christmas, my parents gave me all four solo albums. That was a crazy day for me. I remember going nuts trying to figure out which to listen to first. I went with Gene and then Paul, Ace and then Peter. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into Gene’s album. I wanted to love it more than the others, but Ace really kicked everyone’s ass. I hated Peter’s, but it’s surprisingly stood the test of time and has, over the years, become my second favorite, followed by Paul’s and then Gene’s. I bought Gene’s album for friend as a Christmas gift. He took it to back and exchanged it for Ace’s. I completely understood.
In May of ‘79, I found myself back at Musicland. I’d just graduated 9th grade and was enjoying not being in school. Due in some small part to diligence on my end and, no doubt, large charity on my mother’s, I had about $15.00 - $20.00 saved up. I was walking through the store, flipping through albums, seeing who’d released what and learning names of albums and bands I’d probably never own. And then, what. Dynasty? I still remember flipping to that album and being gobsmacked because, what the hell, I didn’t even know they had a new album and holy shit, where’s my money? I bought it on the spot, went home, and spent the rest of the day listening to it. It was different, but it was also awesome.
I rode that album into the ground throughout the remainder of ‘79. During the spring and summer of ‘79, missing kids started showing up on milk cartons, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal, the Sony Walkman went on sale in Japan, the Disco Demolition Night happened, Michael Jackson released Off The Wall, and I was oblivious to it all. I was riding high on Dynasty, straight into high school.