South Alabamian

Is KISS Army membership for life?

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We went out to watch a play on a Friday night, and a teenage girl in the audience wore a KISS shirt.

A thousand years ago, I’d owned the vinyl album the shirt advertised, and I’d listened on a cruddy record player that had been designed for “Old MacDonald” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”

I joined the KISS Army in elementary school. A kid across the street was a few years older than I was and had completed his deep dive into all things KISS right when I was starting mine.

He had all sorts of magazines (for younger readers, magazines were websites made of paper) that showed band members in full makeup as they spat blood on stage or toured downtown Tokyo.

I was first drawn in by the cover of the album, “Rock and Roll Over.” It featured cartoon drawings of Paul Stanley the Superstar, Gene Simmons the Demon, Ace Frehley the Spaceman and Peter Criss the Cat.

I probably bought my copy at Kmart. I don’t remember if I’d used my own money or if Mom kicked in some cash.

Mom was of the Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings school of music. She was sure down to her bones that KISS was not for her.

Depending on which side you fall on, her decision to allow the album into the house ruined me for all time or helped me find my own way.

It’s hard to say how much impact KISS’ music had on me. I’m not the biggest fan these days. The only KISS song on my phone is “Beth,” which die-hard fans barely acknowledge as a KISS song.

A thousand years ago, I got the double album “KISS Alive II” and took it to third grade for show and tell, where it rocked little worlds and melted prepubescent faces or would have if I’d gotten to play it.

“Beth” was on “KISS Alive II.” I remember playing the album on that cheap record player and my mom coming to my room when “Beth” played. She was surprised that her bones weren’t exactly right because at least one KISS song actually was for her.

About 500 years ago, I saw my first and only KISS show. It was a reunion tour with the original lineup. Frehley and Criss had multiple falling outs with Simmons and Stanley, and the tour was their first time to play together in years.

I enjoyed the show but had to leave early to write a story about the concert for the next day’s newspaper, so I didn’t get to hear the band play “Beth,” which would’ve been nice.

I’m not complaining because I got to do an interview with Criss. It was a good time. There were plans to picket the show, and Criss said he hoped the picketers prayed for him because he was a former altar boy.

He also said something that I’ll never forget: “You know how it is, Scott, when you’re on the road.”

When I retell that story, I add the line, “Yeah, Peter, I know how it is,” but I had no idea then and still don’t.

Am I a KISS Army member now? I seldom listen to their songs, “Beth” included. As much as that girl’s shirt sent me on a nostalgic trip that spanned a thousand years, I have no plans to buy my own shirt or download an album. It seems memories have supplanted the music.

M. Scott Morris is a former editor of The South Alabamian. He’s a writer and editor living in Tupelo, Mississippi.

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