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What do Kiss and Bobby Ingram have in common?
During her introduction to the 2023 UBA conference I spoke at in Brussels last month, our emcee told us that Kiss had played on the same stage in the arena. So when it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t wait to tell the audience about my experiences seeing Kiss.
I first saw the band on the late-night music show Midnight Special when I was a freshman in college. Believe it or not, Helen Reddy, Barry Manilow, and Frankie Valli were all on the same bill with Kiss that night.
About a year after I watched Kiss on TV, I saw them perform live with Uriah Heap at the Macon Coliseum. Because I was in college and not a 14-year-old boy, I was probably less susceptible to the band’s intoxicating mix of testosterone, fantasy, superhero posturing, and COS play than I might have been just a few years earlier. I was there because I loved rock and roll and wanted to hear Uriah Heap power through their hit Easy Living.
VH1 says Kiss’ iconic signature song, Rock and Roll All Night, is the 16th best rock tune ever. The song is a typical three-chord rocker that employs the same three-chord progression of hundreds of songs you know. Yet combined with Kiss’ on-stage antics, costuming, and fantasy roles, the song became a record-setting anthem.
Thanks to their stagemanship, Kiss is regarded as one of the most influential rock bands ever. They are among the best-selling bands in history, with 75 million records sold worldwide. Kiss earned 30 Gold Records, the most of any US band. They also have 14 Platinum albums, three of which are multi-Platinum. All four original members are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. MTV ranked Kiss the ninth “Greatest Metal Band of All Time,” and Kiss placed tenth on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” list.
Despite all of these accomplishments, there’s not a single list of superlative musicians I could find that includes any of the members of Kiss. Even the band’s most ardent fans couldn’t argue that the bandmates are much more than competent at their instruments. They certainly know enough to get the job done, but nobody’s swooning over their technique.
Of course, while the members of Kiss might not be considered technically advanced in their respective instruments, it is important to recognize that musicality extends far beyond technical skill. Kiss’ success lay in its ability to connect with its fans, create memorable hooks and melodies, and deliver an engaging live experience.
When asked about the people who came to see him play in local bars, my old friend raconteur Bobby Ingram would say, “If they wanted to hear good music, they’d stay home, put on headphones, and listen to Leonard Bernstein conduct the New York Philharmonic. People who come to hear us play want to have a good time. If they go home and have sex, we did our job.”
What do Kiss and Bobby Ingram have in common?
While Kiss and my friend Bobby Ingram played very different music, they had a similar understanding of something important: Their audiences were less concerned with the musicians’ rational virtuosic abilities and more interested in the emotional connections they were making.
Or, as I say every time I’m up on stage, “Good brands make people feel good. Great brands make people feel good about themselves.”
Good times in Macon, great story.
The other thing about KISS was that they (specifically Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) considered themselves a business, rather than “Art” from their very start
Lucy and I had a wonderful dinner with the band during my time as President of Blockbuster Music. Gene was hilarious….telling one story after another.
Love this story.
Never liked Kiss.
I was way more in the NY Dolls camp.
Saw them at Max’s Kansas City in NYC in the mid 70’s.
It was at the show I decided to go for it as musician.
Have you seen Martin Scorcesse’s new documentary on David Johansen and the NY Dolls, Marc? Don’t miss it.
I have NEVER been a Blog fan – too much blah-blah-blah and not enough sparkle.
But I started reading yours out of respect and curiosity – and now I read them every week with anticipation and joy!
Thanks for adding some sparkle to the blah-blah universe!!
Your blogs make me feel great about myself!
This is one of your best — ever!
And YOU are one of the best — ever!
(I actually read this one three times!)
Didn’t know you were friends w Bob Ingram. Did you know Fred? An aside- Kiss’s drummer asked to have his picture taken with my fellow movie band members back in ’06 at a convention, cuz we were the first “group” to use kiss type make up on stage far as we knew, in the movie phantom of the paradise. Triviaville. Cheers.
And who is better than Gene Simmons at marketing?
wow, are you ever spot on.