Creatures of the Night hit the shelves on October 13, 1982. At this point, I was in my first year of college, and the album was out for a week or two before I bought it. The hype was big but my expectations, given the last two albums, was low.
And I wasn’t alone in my hesitancy. Creatures of the Night became KISS’ worst selling album and wasn’t certified gold until 1994. Twelve years, man. This isn’t a reflection on the album, it’s that people just gave up.
I was wrong to not believe. We all were.
Creatures of the Night was a focused effort to return to their roots. While the posters proclaimed them the loudest band in the world, focusing on the external aspects, the album was speaking its own language. For the tens of thousands of fans who’d hung tough, the music was telling a more complete story. The album had balls.
KISS had not sounded this heavy since Alive!. This was a new KISS.
I remember seeing that poster hanging from the ceiling in a place called Record Bar. When you bought a cassette, they placed a sticker on it indicating the date of purchase. If anything went wrong with the cassette during the first year, they’d replace it. I interviewed for a job there once. I didn’t get it and it really pissed me off. It was the only job I’d ever wanted at that point. To be that close to all the new music, to hold every album and every cassette as they were rolled out, to see every poster. Man, that would’ve been awesome. But it was not to be. The guy who interviewed me was a real dick, too. I would’ve hated working for him, so it was probably for the best.
At this point, what with graduating high school, etc., my circle of friends had completely changed. My old gang had dispersed to the four corners of the earth. I was hanging with two guys who were still in high school. (This isn’t uncommon or weird in Odessa, trust me.) Being Odessa, there wasn’t much to do. So we drove around a lot and listened to music. And we played the shit out of this album. We knew every word to every song. And if you quoted a line, we could tell you the song. We went hardcore on Creatures. Of course, the ’80s were great times for hard rock and metal. Our hands were full and we were excited about it.
Creatures was my first introduction to Vinnie Vincent (aka Vincent Cusano), as it was for almost anyone who didn’t know Vinnie personally. Although Ace’s face appeared on the original album cover, Ace did not play on this album. Steve Ferris played lead guitar on Creatures of the Night, Paul Stanley on I Love It Loud, Robben Ford on I Still Love You and Vinnie on the remainder of the tracks.1 Of course, we knew none of this at the time. Stylistically, the guitar work was different from what we expected from Ace, but we were so happy to have good album from KISS that we didn’t ask many questions.
Soon enough thought, rumors started circulating that Ace was leaving, and these rumors crushed my soul. I loved Ace more than any other member, and the thought of KISS without him seemed like a cold and sad place.
Ace appeared in the video for I Love It Loud, but that was pretty much the extent of his involvement with this album. And with the band. So, exit stage left for Ace and say hello to apprehension and depression on my end. Goddamn, I loved Ace. And with the exception of one album, I would not find peace with the lead guitar position for over a decade.
(On a side note, Bryan Adams co-wrote Rock and Roll Hell and War Machine. Both of these songs kick ass. Bryan Adams was one hell of a rocker and it’s a damned shame that he got pigeon-holed as some sort of soft rock top 40 bullshit thing. I saw him open for Foreigner circa ‘82 and he blew the roof off that place. He is one talented mofo and I don’t think he was ever given the chance to shine as his true self.)
On yet another side note, this album was re-released in 1985 with Bruce Kulick and the band sans makeup on the cover. So, this album has two official album covers, neither of which shows Vinnie as a member of the band.2
Overall, Creatures was the heaviest album KISS had recorded to date. Eric Carr’s drumming was like thunder, the songs crunch, and everything comes together perfectly. It’s a great hard rock album and some songs are heavy enough to almost qualify as metal. This album was KISS announcing their return. It was a storm of crushing thunder and blinding lightning.
Unfortunately, not many people were paying attention. MTV played the video for I Love It Loud, but album sales were slow and concert attendance was down. KISS cut the US tour short and headed to South America for the first time. They were apparently received as gods. They played to crowds of 200,000. I’ve seen the videos. It’s a sea of people stretching to the horizon. Even on video, it’s a thing to behold. It feels larger than life, almost threatening at times. The Brazilian shows in 1983 were the last KISS would perform in makeup until the reunion tour.
As much as I love this album, Vinnie was somewhat invisible to me. He wasn’t on the album cover and he wasn’t in the video. Of course, I saw him in his ankh makeup in the magazines, but otherwise he was a non-entity in my brain. I guess I was still adjusting to the shock of losing Ace. In the space of two years, the band shed 50% of the originals. It was all very confusing. I think Ace leaving was just a real bummer for me. I had no problem accepting Eric Carr, but Ace was my main man. Any replacement had some huge shoes to fill.
In the end, Vinnie would not be that person.