Put Gene Simmons in a crowd of ordinary mortals and you'd have little difficulty picking him out as a rock 'n' roller. An immense mane of black, curly hair cascading to his shoulders, Gene stands about six feet four in his stocking feet -- and he invariably wears boots with heels that add a minimum of five or six inches more. He figures rock stars ought to be larger than life.
But though anyone could tell that Gene knows how to boogie, even one of his closest fans might encounter some difficulty identifying him, unless he happens to stick out his tongue. Gene, you see, is a member of Kiss -- and few people outside rhe band's touring retinue have ever seen him without the space-opera vampire makeup and bat-wing leather costume he wears on stage. The same is more or less true of the other three members of Kiss, though Gene is probably the most difficult to identify in civvies. But his tongue -- that amazing, pointed, seven-inch tongue, liberally exposed on stage - would give him away to almost anyone with a passing interest in the band.
A lot more people have been interested in Kiss of late. The group's popularity has soared in the past year, largely due to a best-selling live album and an increasingly sophisticated show built around some of the hardest and most basic rock 'n' roll ever torn bodily from the collective maw of 100 blasting loudspeakers. Kiss is a conceptual band -- it was a firm idea in the minds of bassist Simmons and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley before a note of music was ever played. The whole thing -- leather costumes, bizarre makeup, raunchy music -- was worked out in advance, carefully calculated to have just the impact it is now having. It all started about three years ago in New York.
"For a couple of months," says Gene, "we just went to concerts and saw groups. At first we didn't really know what way we wanted to go, so we just decided to go straight ahead. Tn other words, strip away all the fat and leave the meat." That's exactly what Kiss has done with the music; except for the most recent and decidedly uneven "Destroyer" album, all of Kiss' recorded songs are simple, riff-laden and unburdened with "meaningful" lyrics. Despite the more recent album sales success, the very first Kiss LP is still the best.
United Press International (9/76)