Song 76: Hard rock for the children

music / Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

[Photo provided by contributor]

Black Diamond” by KISS

Marty E: One day, when I was, again, around 4-years-old, I was digging through my brother Dave’s drawer in my parents’ basement, and came across a picture of KISS in a magazine and was instantly and permanently fascinated. That was to be a very consequential day, in my life.

On a subsequent trip to Gold Finds (a local department store that was soon taken over by KMart), again with my brother Dave, we found ourselves looking at records and I was particularly taken with the “K” section. I was floored. I mean, let’s face it, whether you were four, fourteen, or forty, those KISS album covers in the 70s really caught the eyes: Rock n’ Roll Over, Destroyer, Love Gun, etc.

Dave said that I could pick one, so, I picked Dressed To Kill, the one with the cover photo in which they’re wearing the ill-fitting suits, shot by Bob Gruen. It was the beginning of a life-long love of KISS’s brand of Rock n’ Roll – ALL NIGHT, much to my mom’s disgust and my dad’s indifference.

I was subsequently gifted more than a few KISS records and I found that I liked most of their songs…but it was a song that was on their first “best-of” compilation, Double Platinum (which my dad bought for me, on 8-track) that has always been my favorite.

I didn’t understand what “Out on the streets for a livin’” meant – it sounded like a job or something to me, but I was fascinated by that acoustic intro the second I heard it. Looking back on it, it likely made me close my eyes and visualize the vastness of life that I was going to live, that I was unfamiliar with and didn’t understand, just as I didn’t really understand the song. But it made me wonder about the world the way only a preschool kid can. This was before Peter Criss’s stick clicks kick the song into Rock n’ Roll overdrive!

5songpjct: What was it about Kiss that fascinated you?

Marty E: Kiss made themselves into cartoon characters and the way they merchandised themselves, dolls , and, I had KISS colorforms for chrissakes. They marketed shit to kids. I mean Alice Cooper was on the fucking Muppet Show. [Watch this video at the end of the post.] I remember them saying that Alice Cooper was going to be on that week. I never forget this. I would come home from school every day and they would announce who the guest was I asked my brothers every night when Alice Cooper was going to be on. I think when they started marketing themselves to kids, it was the end of their careers in some sense, but to me, in the late 70s it was great.

I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about in the songs at that time. I remember sitting on this ledge between the kitchen and living room one time when my mom and future sisters in law were cooking Thanksgiving dinner and “Living in Sin” off of Gene Simmons’ solo album came on. The lyrics are “living in sin at the Holiday Inn.” I knew I had been to the Holiday Inn before and I knew what sin was because they talked about it at church. This song mortified my mom.

Fast-forward about thirty plus years, the band I’d been drumming in, the Dirty Pearls, opened for KISS at PNC Bank Arts Center outside of Holmdel, NJ. Forget about how cool an experience that was, playing in a big “shed” with a huge band that I’d always loved. The best part of the night for me was when I was wandering around on my own, during their set…and that familiar acoustic intro weaved back into my consciousness. Suddenly, I became that little kid in Minnesota again, the full circle that my life had traveled had me in a shocked awe for the duration of the song, before I rejoined the rest of my band and friends for the rest of their set.

That was so cool.

5songpjct: Was Kiss the band that influenced you to be a drummer? Or another band? Or was it something else?

Marty E: It was just the sound of things going boom. I played with toy guns and drums were louder than guns so I liked drums better. I still do. My brother Paul played the drums so I had some experience from that. It was really a dumb idea, I should have been singing the whole time. I like singing better now. There is nothing like having a mic and being upfront and telling a story. People ask me why I don’t do both, sing and play drums. You can only have one master and I put 100% in drumming and when you are putting 100% in drumming you can’t put that into singing too. Drumming is the most physical instrument there is. I play at a fever pitch, which is very New York. The singer has to sell you the song and sell you the band and it is hard to do from the back.

Getting back to why the drums, they sounded like cannons. I liked the power aspect, it seemed so tangible and immediate. I also had a natural inclination for it.

TOMORROW ON FIVE SONG PROJECT….meeting someone you loved since you were a kid