10. “Mr. Speed”
Rock and Roll Over
A hooked-out, mid-tempo rocker from Stanley that hides among the KISS classics. It’s got a great southern rock riff that stands as one of the band’s best. It’s about picking up women, naturally, built around classic ’70s sexual innuendo. KISS fans love it.
9. “Strange Ways”
Hotter Than Hell
Yet another song from Ace Frehley that was passed along to someone else to sing (in this case, Peter Criss). This deep cut also contains what many consider to be Frehley’s best solo, which was recorded spontaneously in one take. However, the seven-minute drum solo that appeared on the original recording is a different story. Apparently, nobody liked it except for the guy who played it. When the members suggested cutting it, Criss threatened to quit the band. According to Paul Stanley: “So at the end of the day when Peter left the studio, Gene and I stayed behind with [producers] Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise—we all knew the solo was terrible—and we cut it from the song without Peter knowing it.” Criss did quit…but not for another six years.
8. “Plaster Caster”
Though Gene Simmons never had his codpiece immortalized by the infamous Cynthia “Plaster Caster” Albritton—who’s casted the appendages of Jimi Hendrix, Jello Biafra and Ariel Pink, among others—he did immortalize her in this song in 1977. Loaded with all the innuendo one might expect from a song about a woman who molds dicks out of plaster.
7. “Shock Me”
It took five albums for Ace Frehley to finally take a turn singing lead. Legend has it that the Space Ace was so nervous about it that he recorded his vocals laying on his back in the vocal booth so the band and producer Eddie Kramer couldn’t watch. “Shock Me” also boasts another one of Frehley’s great solos, which is like a song within a song. The inspiration for “Shock Me” came from the night Frehley was electrocuted after touching an ungrounded metal railing during a show in Lakeland, Fla., on December 12, 1976. The concert was delayed 30 minutes before Frehley—who’d lost feeling in his left hand—continued the show. Rock ‘n’ fucking roll!
6. “Got to Choose”
Hotter Than Hell
This song—like many KISS songs—is kicked up a notch in the live setting. In the case of “Got To Choose,” it’s all about the 1975 version recorded at Winterland in San Francisco (one of the most sought-after KISS bootlegs back in the day).
5. “Shout It Out Loud”
“Rock and Roll All Nite” may be KISS’s enduring anthem, but “Shout It Out Loud” is the better one. It was inspired by The Hollies’ “I Wanna Shout” (featured on their 1970 album Confessions of the Mind, and later covered by Gene and Paul’s band Wicked Lester). There’s a great Motown groove in Simmons’ bass line, and the song includes some sugary bubblegum lyrics that lead into the massive descending chorus. Kills “Rock and Roll All Nite.” How did this not become a huge hit? I’ll tell you why: Because radio wouldn’t touch KISS with a 10-foot pole. Because radio is dumb.
4. “Black Diamond”
KISS’s one true epic, “Black Diamond” rules all the way through, from its delicate 12-string intro to its descending, apocalyptic finale. While it was written by Stanley, cat man Criss handles vocal duties here, telling the tale of life in the streets of New York from the standpoint of a prostitute. Frehley’s guitar solo adds a little drama to the proceedings, and you have yet another timeless classic. If you don’t like KISS, and want to keep your cred’ intact, then listen to The Replacements’ version.
3. “Detroit Rock City”
An homage to the city that embraced KISS in their early days, “Detroit Rock City” also—in a darker twist—chronicles a fan who died in a car wreck the year before while on his way to a KISS show in Charlotte, N.C. Producer Bob Ezrin adds a flair for the dramatic with the opening narrative, sound effects and the song’s final explosive ending. A great rock ‘n’ roll song. Great rock ‘n’ roll lyrics. Great, dual rock ‘n’ roll guitar solo. Named after a great rock ‘n’ roll city.
Anyone who questions Gene Simmons’ musical ability should listen to this song. It’s all about the bass line, which walks up and down Paul Stanley’s ringing power chords (which were borrowed from a song called “Stanley the Parrot” that Simmons wrote with one of his pre-KISS bands Bullfrog Bheer). Following the single-word chorus is one of the greatest Neanderthal rock riffs to ever riff a rock song. A classic New York glam rocker, and another staple from the band’s early days that keeps on givin’. Incidentally, the demo version recorded with Eddie Kramer is the best you’ll hear.
Often cited as a favorite of Simmons, “Deuce” originally appeared on the band’s debut. But as the opener for their explosive Alive! record (and many shows for years to come) this song stomps like Gojira on a bender in New York City. “Deuce” is hugely important in KISStory, actually predating the band. Simmons wrote it in the winter of 1972 as he and Paul were transitioning from Wicked Lester into KISS. Simmons has stated that the main riff bastardized the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Bitch.” More than four decades later “Deuce” is still a beast, perhaps best known for the peculiar opening line, “Get up, and get your grandma out of here!” Just go with it.