BK Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Hot in the Shade

BK Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Hot In The Shade

October 17, 2014 is the 25th anniversary of HOT IN THE SHADE's release in 1989. Hot In The Shade has the largest number of tracks of any KISS album. The fifteen songs are varied, with many styles defined by the guts and glory of how serious Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were in steering the band into the '90s. After many twists and turns during the '80s--from The Elder to Creatures Of The Night to the infamous removal of makeup live on MTV with Lick it Up--my entrance during the Animalize tour ended the revolving door of lead guitar players. Then followed the albums of my era, Asylum, Crazy Nights and a compilation called Smashes Thrashes and Hits.

The '80s certainly made its mark in KISStory, but how would KISS be defined in the '90s? That was the challenge, and the band committed to it by returning to its roots while still exploring new territories, which has always been the creed of KISS from the beginning. So let's celebrate the 25th anniversary of HITS with a track-by-track look back at this massive fifteen-song album.

This feature is copyright Bruce Kulick. It may not be reproduced - in whole or in part - without express written permission.
 
Songs: Rise To It | Betrayed | Hide Your Heart | Prisoner Of Love | Read My Body | Love's a Slap in the Face | Forever |
Silver Spoon | Cadillac Dreams | King of Hearts | The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away | You Love Me to Hate You |
Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell | Little Caesar | Boomerang

Videos: Rise To It | Forever | Hide Your Heart

Tour: HITS Tour

Wrap-up: Final Thoughts

 
Rise To It

"Rise To It," the opening track on 1989's Hot In The Shade (also known as HITS), starts with a slide acoustic guitar played by Paul Stanley. This taste of some swampy Delta blues doesn't last very long, but for a band known for power chords and screaming vocals it certainly makes the listener ask what's up? Well this nod to the blues, which is such a part of rock 'n' roll, establishes the band's desire to explore and acknowledge where it's been, who it's influenced by, and where it's going.

Once the track fully kicks in, you know you're in the land of KISS. Enter the Demon, sliding on the bass into the big drums from Eric Carr, while harmonic dive-bomb chords and riffs from yours truly set up the song perfectly. Paul's melodic vocals give him room to build into the exciting pre-chorus, followed by the catchy sing-along of the "Rise To It" chorus. A hint of the intro blues slide guitar part becomes the creative foundation of the music. It's a swampy, ZZ Top vibe combined with testosterone from Stanley and company.

Repeat the formula and then we're off to the bridge, where Paul's powerful wail sets up my fiery solo, which uses many tricks of the whammy bar and harmonics. It all sets up a big drum beat breakdown from Eric before settling back into the chorus out, with Paul having some wild fun with his voice over my outro guitar leads. The track establishes that meld of rock, blues, and sing-along vocals so special to KISS.

After not hearing this track in quite some time, I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude and conviction of a band with much to prove. Crazy Nights was the last full album from KISS prior to HITS, and it was produced by the famous Ron Nevison, who tailored the songs for radio and MTV. Was HITS a reaction to it, or a continuation? Track one says it wants to be its own animal, and look out if you think otherwise.

KISS was a band that was evolving and searching throughout the '80s, but with a new decade on the cusp of arriving, HITS’s 15 tracks served notice KISS was going to be in the game, fangs sharp and ready to kill.

 
Betrayed

Bruce KulickWhat better way to start song two than with a nasty doubled-tracked pick scrape from my guitar? The band then kicks in with a tribal pounding on the drums from Eric, along with big power chords to set up Gene's first exposure on this 15-track album.

The song, co-written by current KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer, explores Gene's take on someone who thinks life shouldn't be so damn hard. Gene, as we all know, believes that you have to earn what you get out of life--nothing's for free. So lines like "live it to the last drop" and "just get real, and hold on" are throughout the song. I like the fact he's just saying, "Life's a bitch, if you lose or win." Gene is prolific at giving out his opinions--and we all know that some of those statements have gotten him in some hot water--but his point in this song that we all experience betrayal so just deal with it is a wise lesson to learn.

The way the drums are pounding throughout the song drives home the point. It's like a jungle meeting from The Planet of the Apes, with a leader telling his followers what life is really all about. Hearing the powerfully sung chorus chant of the word "Betrayed," that actually consists of 7 notes in the music scale in full KISS harmony with a repeat at the end, makes a strong statement of the title subject.

The bridge is a much needed break in the furious action, in which Gene does some speaking, saying again to "hold on." I love the way my solo rises melodically then reaches high notes, supporting the emotion of winning, not losing, the battle of life.

I remember it being such a thunderous tune that I felt exhausted rockin with it. With this rewind listen, I'm very impressed with how well the parts all meld together, and how intense the vocals are throughout the track. Gene scores a strong one here, but there's plenty more to come, of course, in this "Big Mac" of a KISS album.

More coming soon!

 
Hide Your Heart

Bruce KulickTrack three is a composition that was actually written for Crazy Nights but never used. It's clear with the song being covered by Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck, Ace Frehley, and Molly Hatchet this tune was finely crafted. But who better to sing and perform it than Mr. Stanley? We all know the success of co-writer Desmond Child in the KISS world ("Heaven's On Fire," "I Was Made For Loving You") and with Bon Jovi ("Living On A Prayer"), so it's no surprise that the talented team of Stanley/Child along with another hit songwriter Holly Knight (who penned two songs on Psycho Circus with Paul) created this gem.

The lyrics tell a clear story of love, desire and vengeance, with the characters being well-defined. I always got a kick about the names: Johnny, Rosa, and Tito! In some ways, I felt it was a modern West Side Story vibe, as you can actually feel the passion, visualize the rooftop, and smell the gun that spelled vengeance in the lyrics.

Musically, Paul's vocals are sublime here, with his emotion and heightened anguish telling the story that ends in tragic death. Musical hooks? Plenty. That's why it was covered so much. The song is perfectly constructed. My slinky guitar leads throughout the tune emphasizes the intensity of the lyrics. I love the fact that I join the NaNaNas and HeyHeyHeys on the guitar.

My solo is a special one for me, and live we used to extend it. (I will be exploring the long HITS tour after the album rewind, so don't miss that!). Starting with an octave melody, with graceful answer riffs appearing in-between the repeat, it's like a conversation between the combatants in the story. It ends with a high flurry of notes while the band settles down for Paul to tell the story of "how time stood still." He sets the stage for the kill, and brings it home in a compelling manner. The delay on his voice and the way the band supports him dynamically perfectly leads Paul back into the big chorus out.

This version of "Hide Your Heart" wins hands down. KISS kills it here, with Stanley in amazing form leading a band hungry to prove it's headed strongly into the '90s. It's clear we were aiming straight for the heart.



 
Prisoner Of Love

Bruce Kulick"Prisoner Of Love" is one of two co-writes by me on HITS. What's really interesting about this song is that initial demos Gene and I created felt like a much different song. It isn't that unusual for composers to radically change a song from top to bottom, but we spent a lot of time on the the original demo. Naturally I was initially taken back by Gene's suggestion, "Let's make it a shuffle." As much as I was very concerned, my desire to keep The Demon happy meant I played along with his idea. And even though I had my reservations about this new approach, it did work. "Demo-itis" is a typical musician folly--you get married to what things sound and feel like, and it's hard to revisit the process. A shuffle would not be a bad addition to the long list of tunes being prepared for HITS.

Certainly my guitars are very present throughout the tune. Wah-wah riffs, dive-bombs, pings, and slide guitar parts are all featured. The crunchy rhythms sound killer even today. But what's clear to me on this track is something of an issue I had with the drums. The backstory for this album is the demos created for this effort were done in a very modest studio, or as Gene called it "a little shack in the pit holes of hell" part of Hollywood. It was Pat Regan's place, called Fortress Studio. Pat, who is a talented musician/engineer, used the place for jingle and demo work, and during the making of our demos there it was clear he was easy to work with.

He didn't have a full drum kit set up. Instead, a popular new "instrument," a drum kit with pads instead of real drums, was the only drums in his studio. The pads trigger drum samples of your choice, opening up a whole new range of sonic options. Eric Carr was willing to play along, as he did incorporate pads for certain cool sounds in his live kit, but I remember Eric felt bummed out about this. It just doesn't record, feel, or sound exactly like a real live drum kit.

Naturally, once the decision was made that the actual record would be these demos upgraded, the band kept the approach of doing the record in this "off the grid" studio. Some overdubs would be done later at a fancier place called Cherokee Studios. It was felt we could do our hard work at Fortress since it was not too comfortable. No fancy lounge, assistants, or sexy receptionists there! Just a place to get down to the music in a funky area of Hollywood where even parking nearby was a risk.

That urgency is apparent on HITS. All the press I dug up said the band was returning "back to our roots." A tougher sound and less fluff. More in your face. Our instincts paid off, and although I still miss my original demo, Gene handled this shuffle quite admirably.

 
Read My Body

Bruce KulickFrom the second this song starts it's obvious there's a drum loop of percussion, and that's not very typical of a band known for guitar driven, hard rock music. But what follows is much more in the vein of KISS, both lyrically and in the power chord crotch rock made famous by the band.

The drum machines, and the experiments with pads which I explained in the previous track "Prisoner Of Love," were played by Eric Carr. The drum loop could have been Pat Regan, given the ability he had with those new toys in the studio. Overall, those mechanical, arena rock attacks of percussion and gang vocal stylings give this recording a very Def Leppard approach. I find that ironic after the success of the co-headline tour completed this past summer.

With a tongue-in-cheek lyric and in his best macho stylings, Paul gets intimate in that over-the-top style the band is known for. "Do you want to know what's on my mind?" Well it's sex, of course! And the band serves up a heaping plate of sinuous, provocative licks with all the usual sexual innuendos.

Not my fave track on HITS, but certainly in tune with the times. Could you imagine this one on Carnival Of Souls? Not a chance, but a worthy ditty for all to enjoy.

 
Love's a Slap in the Face

Bruce KulickOK, now I'm probably going to ruin your day. Wanna hear a drum machine? Listen to this track. Sadly disturbing to my musical tastes. Eric Carr was an amazing drummer and musician, not to mention his heart of gold, but here is a drum machine playing all the drums on the track. Why? No, he wasn't ill. It was the dreaded "Demo-itis," that horrible disease where once you create a demo that you like, you don't just like the demo, you LOVE it. And then if that disease is severe, you don't want to change anything. Smart? Well music is subjective, and remember many bands were doing some similar things with drum programming.

But this was KISS. So it bothered me then, and probably bothers me even more now. KISS should never have a machine playing drums. PERIOD. Just remember, this was not meant as a slight to Eric. The writing process for HITS started as demos, and once the songs were chosen we revisited the tracks and overdubbed and improved the songs. The demo was a drum machine, and that never changed.

So for me, instead of getting into anything else about his song, how about we move on, as the only one getting slapped here is the listener. Drum machines on a KISS track...that's sacrilege. Especially if you listen to the swagger of the guitar riffs and how the rest of the band is performing this Simmons composition. Not a bad song, I just can't get past the approach.
 
Forever

Bruce KulickHow do you spell perfection? FOREVER. How do you spell timeless power ballad? FOREVER. How do you spell my fave acoustic solo of my career? FOREVER. I could go on and on, but this Paul Stanley/Michael Bolton song will be around a very long time.

From the moment the tune begins, you're sucked into Paul's emotion and tender words. Why do people choose this song at their most special wedding day? Because it makes you feel something powerful. Music resonates in people, deep into your soul. Even though we all respond differently to the various styles of music that are created, there's something about timeless love songs that seems to resonate with more people and more intensely. We know life's complications doesn't always give us the love we need to survive, so songs that deal with love are popular and personal to us all.

With "Forever" I knew we had a hit from the first time Paul played me the demo. This was not a demo we overdubbed on as far as I can remember. And even though Eric Carr is playing the pad drum kit, the fills and the tone are perfect. Paul and I played the rhythm guitars, and I remember my old Les Paul being a part of the picking guitars. Paul was never a fan of Gene playing on his ballads, and I was proudly chosen to add my bass skills on this hit. That's my extra bonus on this song. There are three things I especially love about this song. First, introducing Michael Bolton to Paul for them to create it. Second, having my bass skills featured. Third, an acoustic solo that I love and is loved by so many.

There's a great story behind the making of that solo. Van Halen ruled rock radio at the time, and I was planning on mimicking the melody in the verse on a searing electric guitar. Paul was aghast with that approach. He said, "There's a Led Zeppelin tune I want to play you. It's on Led Zeppelin II called 'Thank You.'" Now remember, this was 1989. Paul can't just pull out his iPhone or iPod, and there's no Internet to call up YouTube and play it for me. So off Paul goes in his black Porsche to Tower Records to grab a copy. I already had an idea what he wanted, so Pat Regan and I got to work.

Like our hero Jimmy Page, the acoustic guitar should make a statement of passion and purpose in the song. Paul owned a sweet Guild blonde acoustic guitar (along with a 12-string Guild, that he used on this track) and we started to set up the mikes so we could record his jumbo acoustic. By the time Paul arrived, cassette in hand (yes, cassette!), the solo was already forming and about halfway done. Paul was pleased, as his vision of the important instrumental break in this outstanding tune was being realized. It was one of the finest moments of my career, with its creation of harmonics, a drop D low E string, its octave jumps and melodic movement with a double lead guitar line in harmony at the end--like two people who will love each other...forever.

I can't get over how well this song holds up. It's timeless. In that funky studio under the freeway in Hollywood we struck gold, creating a song that represents another side of KISS that I am so proud to have been a part of.

One more side note: Back then it was possible that your single, going to all important radio stations in that era, would be remixed. And this single was remixed by a popular engineer of the day. Now I have to dig out the CD single and do some comparisons! But really, no matter which mix, how did this song make you feel? I bet some of you still remember where you were the first time you heard it!

And one more ironic thing. The first KISS Kasket was called FOREVER! LOL.



 
Silver Spoon

Bruce KulickOpening with a haunting guitar part, "Silver Spoon" typifies a strong mid-tempo rock song with it's catchy sing-along chorus and melodic twists and turns. Written by Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia, who was involved in Unmasked from the makeup years, this is the second co-wrote of five that appear by him on the HITS album. What's interesting is the song has some movement more in style with a co-writer like Desmond Child. But no matter, Paul gets his lyrical and musical statements to rise in typical KISS fashion.

I used some slinky slide guitar parts, another link to the opening tune "Rise To It." My solo section was certainly well constructed, with chordal leads like Tom Petty might use, then a nice melodic line and ending in a Def Leppard type of climb on the pentatonic scale. (Sorry non guitarists!)

Everyone is in fine shape on this tune, and Paul seems so comfortable asking the spoiled girl he isn't too keen on, "What's so special 'bout a girl like you, with a silver spoon?" The introduction of some soulful girls singing on the tag out is a cool addition to the track, even though it is unusual for the band. I don't remember who the singers were, I don't think I was there for that, but they nail the vibe that Paul wanted.

Keep in mind HITS was produced by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, so the direction was very clear from their cookbook of music. No special producer from outside to comment or steer them in any direction. There are pluses and minuses to that approach, but I don't think it hurt this album one bit. Naturally they compromise on song choice, which is a part of how these two highly competitive and brilliant minds like to work. I was just another part of the machine they created, and my role wasn't to lead but to do my best at being creative for the band for every song in any way possible. It was a role that was natural for the kind of personality I have, thankfully for all involved. But it doesn't mean sometimes I didn't ask questions, or comment negatively. Read on to hear about that!


 
Cadillac Dreams

Bruce KulickGene's tune "Cadillac Dreams" always reminds me of an Adam Ant kind of song. Here's a track that, honestly, made me say "I don't get it." I actually had a conversation with Mr. Simmons saying, "Gene, I really don't care for this song." It was brave of me, but Gene is the type of person who does like brutal honesty...to a point. He didn't get flustered, he knows music is subjective, and for the most part we love most styles of rock equally. I know I would never have said that in my first few years of being in the band, but the years earned me respect and confidence with the guys.

The sample horns that appear midway through the song are not very KISS like to me, and are another strike against it in my book. Is it a rockin' style tune, yes, but left of center to me. The style of song did force me to use some more slide guitar parts, continuing that theme a bit. Generally, I am not that confident as a slide player, having been bought up hearing greats like Duane Allman and Jeff Beck play it so well. But hearing it here, I captured the right parts in tune, and that's not easy with slide playing. It's like trombone on guitar!

Of course the solo was mostly figured out with harmony to fit this kind of song. It should be mentioned that HITS featured a bit less of the guitars with Floyd Rose bridges for the popular dive-bombs and tricks associated with the earlier part of the '80s. Rather, HITS marked the return of some of the more traditional guitars famous in rock 'n' roll. My vintage Gibson Les Paul is used here for my slide parts, that I am sure of.

The chorus is funny to me. "Gimmie money, money, that's all that I need!" He has cadillac dreams waiting for him, referring to fine cars and all that comes with that. Well, Gene certainly accomplished more than I think he ever could of imagined, so it's clever in that way. Again, it's the music style of this song that I don't get. Well executed, although the drum pads from Eric bother me again--just the way the snare sounds is odd. Remember, with fifteen songs there's got to be some variety to the album. This one just steps a bit out of bounds in my book.


 
King of Hearts

Bruce KulickWith a picking guitar intro by Paul that sets the stage for the power chords to follow, here is Mr. Stanley in another one of his finest moments on Hot In The Shade. This song just sucks you in with its excellent construction, each section perfectly setting up the excitement of the next with ease. All the ingredients add up to one excellent song that never stops its driving movement from start to finish.

My solo comes straight out the second chorus. First I mimic the melody a bit and then build over the backing verse chords. I get a bit fancy with my note choice at the end with some excitement that reminds me of some solos from Asylum and Crazy Nights. I guess that was one of my signature styles back in the '80s.

Overall what stands out to a large degree on this track, and on HITS in general, is how exceptionally Paul sings. He is in complete control of his vocal range and emotion with his macho pipes and powerful high notes. In this era of KISS, he defines lead singer. I was always aware, no matter how distracted live he would be because of the showmanship he would exude, his studio chops vocally were always formidable. This track proves it.

Another co-write with Vini Poncia (who is also listed for "Cadillac Dreams"), this proves how versatile he is. I know Poncia worked with Ringo Starr, who is really nothing like KISS, but a good songwriter can be many things. On "King" he really helped Paul with a great track, and I don't know why we never did it live. I will be discussing the tour later on, so keep tuning in for my stories on that as well.

I hope you're giving HITS a spin during these rewinds and turning it up!


 
The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away

Bruce Kulick"The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away" is another Tommy Thayer co-write. Right away this song starts out with a "Hey Man" that reminds me of David Bowie from the '70s. So we're off to a good start. One of my faves from Gene on the album, it's got all the elements of a throwback to classic styles of British bands, with the usual KISS treatment. The biblical style of lyrics in the chorus gives Mr. Simmons a preaching element, as he has some advice here for us all to learn: "What you give, is what you get."

Musically I like the constant movement of the song, starting with an acoustic guitar. I am sure this tune could have been performed just with an acoustic, the way a cool Rolling Stones' song would have sounded unplugged.

My solo, which I would guess is on my old Les Paul judging by the tone and choice of notes, is very much a combination of melody and attitude. Gene's bass moves around in his usual fashion, walking when needed for excitement. Gene is such an underrated bass player, and should always be known for excellent execution and attitude. Naturally there's solid drumming from Eric Carr here, and the strong gang vocals complete the picture of this tune.

Another one in plus column for me from HITS.


 
You Love Me to Hate You

Bruce KulickWith some clever play on words throughout this rock tune, Paul again delivers a strong track, asking, "Will you love me to hate you." It's a great concept, with much to fool with lyrically. Plenty of cliches serve up a lot of wordplay, and it's no surprise to see Desmond Child as the co-writer with Paul. Good songwriters will look for lyrics with some sort of twist in it.

So with that title, which I remember when hearing for the first time thinking, "That's really clever," Paul and Desmond deliver. We all know love and relationships can be difficult, so what a fertile subject matter. "Girl you love me to hate you, and the more I hate you I love you." Wow. Wrap your head around the way that girl is making Paul feel!

Musically it's perfect for HITS. Crunchy riffs and chords, catchy melodies, and a strong backbeat. With the modulations and the harmonic structure, the song progresses in a clever manner, which I always expect from this kind of songwriting team.

My solo is clearly doubled, and to a good effect. A melody from the verse establishes the beginning of my lead break, and then I develop it up an octave and complete my section with some faster riffs. I continue the solo throughout the next pre-chorus section adding excitement within the arrangement. It helps set up the big ending choruses out.

Paul has another strong effort here, and I do think the band was making its mark with this clever and well-executed track. Lastly, lets not forget Paul's powerful vocal performance. He is clearly in the zone on HITS.


 
Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell

Bruce KulickStarting with a guitar chucking intro, like when you plug the axe in to see if the amp is on, track #13 from HITS is the Gene song "Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell." Once again there's some good and bad in my rewind of this song. Sounding a bit like something Peter Gabriel would be involved in, the drum machine and other parts take me back to that era of MTV Gabriel. The low keyboard bass sound throughout is not very KISS-like in my opinion, which again goes back to how HITS was created: demos, all updated. Once again the drum machine program wins here, and there's nothing more for me comment on about it. I am not even sure if there's a real bass on this track!

Even with those criticisms, however, I like the song a lot. The hooks and the sum of the parts of the tune all seem faultless. I get to add some fun guitar parts in the re-intro, and the solo is filled with various riffs in all octaves on the guitar, ending with one of my signature style flurries of notes.

Gene's vocals are strong, in a comfortable range for him, and his lyrics are very "Simmons" in the use of words that are filled with pent up sexual emotion. "I'm about to go insane, I'm so hungry." I love when Gene explores "love." When he writes about love it's really all about sex, although as a human being his heart is very large, believe me.

There's even a upper register "Oh" from Gene that's like a Stanley riff. I have to say, both of them were in great vocal shape for this album. Two more to go, and then I will exploring the videos, tour and more.


 
Little Caesar

Bruce Kulick Now we get something completely different for KISS. Finally a song that features Eric Carr singing lead, and a composition he was the main writer of, which was prepared specifically for consideration on HITS ...and without Gene or Paul's involvement. Happily it passed the test and was included on the album for us to enjoy.


Eric and I were naturally very close, and I did work hard on music with him outside of KISS. The Rockheads, the music written for his animated TV cartoon show, was a project of songs Eric asked me to be involved with. Since Eric was completely free to do as he pleased with those songs, I recognized his talent and his many influences when we worked on that music.


Well, according to things I read about HITS , "Little Caesar" was a nickname for Eric. I don't remember that being the case, but either way I liked what that title sounded like and represented. He was a short, powerful Italian drummer, with the biggest hair you could ever imagine! Also with a heart of gold and funny and sensitive to all around him. Eric's personality was clear to me, but it wasn't always easy to get inside that brain of his. His conflicts about his role in KISS, his relationships with women, and even his family sometimes, left me with concerns...or just a simple head scratch. But I loved him no matter what he was up to.


Pat Regan (engineer of HITS ) was a pleasure to extend himself to me and Eric for the first demos of the song. Just the three of us in Fortress preparing Eric's vision. The original demo is quite similar to the final, except for the title and lyrics. It was called "Ain't That Peculiar." (That demo is included on the KISS Box Set, Disc 4.) It was more of a relationship song, with some similar melody lines. The lead guitar parts of the demo were very similar as well. I am sure when it was presented to Gene and Paul it was wise and fruitful for Eric to let Gene help pump up the lyrics. Adam Mitchell, another co-writer of some serious KISS fame (Crazy Crazy Nights, Creatures Of The Night, and others), also was involved with the tune. I remember my banana ESP (the yellow one featured on the back of Crazy Nights) being played, and I think Eric handled the bass parts.


I think my solo, with its slippery blues based riffs, had the snotty appeal needed for the song. I remember Paul and Gene helping out doing the big vocal parts once the commitment to the song was made and updated from the demo. Having their input made it very much more KISS-like. I knew it was bold of Eric and me, with Pat's help, to do the demo with the hopes of it being included. Yes, Eric had more songs for KISS, but for the ingredients of this effort "Little Caesar" was a good addition and the only one to be included.


I always felt like if there was a video for this song, Eric would be in some sort of NYC back alley or concrete style park that NY is known for, telling his neighborhood his plight, saying "Hey, Little Caesar, show 'em whatcha can do." Even though he is singing the song to this character, I feel he was really singing the song about himself. Lyrics like, "You got your guts, you got your pride, you'll never let them see inside." Well that sums up Eric in many ways. The joy of being a songwriter is sometimes revealing truths, sometimes just creating complete fantasies of subject matter. But more often than not a writer will dig up his personal experiences and use their "poetic license" to be revealing and inventive with the lyrics.


Musically, Eric loved funk, R&B, hard rock, Beatles and on and on. But I always found his KISS contributions to be a bit more left of center than Paul's or Gene's styles. Think of "All Hell's Breakin Loose" from Lick It Up. The funky nature of this track may turn off some KISS fans, but I really do feel it's a very strong song. After all, he's a drummer and lover of rhythm. With that in mind, this song is really a strong reminder of what Eric was about, on many levels.


For me, it was similar to "I Walk Alone" on Carnival Of Souls--a thinly veiled self-reflection composition that is very personal to a member of KISS who rarely gets to have the spotlight on them. For that alone, I say it's a winner and a welcome addition for the HITS album.


But what do you think?


 
Boomerang

Bruce KulickThe final track, "Boomerang," is my other co-write with Gene on HITS. "Boomerang" is an uptempo, wild ride like a roller coaster, headed by Eric's fancy double bass drum attacks and my devilish guitar runs. I'll admit I was nervous to hear it, as I always know it was something Paul had contempt for. But after listening, it took me back to an era of music that would showcase these ferocious elements. Think of "Young and Wasted" and "No, No, No." Well, here we go with "Boomerang."

I keep thinking I wrote the music years ago at a friend's in Queens. And knowing I kept everything on cassettes back then, I could have revisited it knowing that Gene and Eric were especially fond of the uptempo design of this song. The main riff just flowed off my fingers in a manic manner when I created it. It just kind of slipped off my hand in an effortless way, with me barely concentrating. I am sure when Gene heard it and started to think about lyrics, the constant climb and fall of the signature riff, coming and going in a way, made him think of the idea of a boomerang, that wooden throwing stick made famous by indigenous Australians for hunting, that we naturally know more as a novelty from the land down under.

Eric is solid with the frantic pace, and my seemingly effortless speedy guitar playing is actually fun for me to review now. I notice that no matter how much flash I am showcasing, there's melodic content in the notes as well. That is always a goal for me. Melodies within the solo are paramount in my opinion. One of my guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen, did it with shameless abandon and his vision of super-charged rock guitar made him a well deserved icon. But why does he always stand out above many of the other speed demons? Well his choice of notes and attitude are musical. His vocabulary, from people like Eric Clapton but taken to another level, is brilliant. I don't want to say here that I reach his level of expertise--he wrote the book on flashy guitar playing--but at least I know the master used taste and emotion with passion and fury attached to his notes. That was always his special talent in my book, and something I strive for.

Well, I have to mention that Gene ends HITS with two interesting words: "Have mercy." In the grand scheme of HITS if there was one theme it was blues rock, and here you have another blues based moment. Remember track one, "Rise To It," is started with an acoustic slide guitar, swampy and blues-like. So that comment by Gene is in many ways a similar theme and a good bookend to the album.

HITS: fifteen songs, all very different, with many cool highlights. For me, this has been a pleasant journey to check out the album again after the 25 years that have passed. There are enough highlights on the album to give it 4 out of 5 stars for me. I know in the past I wasn't as kind, but I think I was concerned with there being too many songs...and the drum machine issue.

Vocally, musically and production wise, it all was a link of what could be next. Something driven by a famed producer who would lead the band, instead of the decisions ironed out by Gene and Paul privately. And in some ways, this back to basics rock effort of HITS was a needed step to move us forward and end the '80s.

KISS would have many more challenges ahead--the band would lose a drummer we all loved--and in retrospect it's interesting to see the building blocks of its long discography. One brick leads to the next very clearly in hindsight.

Coming soon, the videos and the long HITS tour, and also a bit about the merchandise and photos that celebrated the album's release. Thanks for reading!


 
Rise To It - The Video

Bruce KulickOur new manager, Larry Mazer, was filled with ideas to get Hot In The Shade some traction and success, as well as supporting a long tour. A big part of that included making some catchy videos to support the singles.

The script for "Rise To It," which is basically just a live performance video, would have an intro and ending with a twist. The scene begins "backstage in 1975" while Gene and Paul are getting their iconic makeup on and having the discussion that one day KISS could do performances without the makeup. Paul says adamantly, "There's nothing we can't do," while Gene would repeat, "You're nuts." To me, it was clear this was just a gimmick to remind the world the band once wore makeup. I get the idea of a link to the past, and Gene and Paul are admirable playing the parts, but there was something contrived about it.

Remember, I am in the band and never wore makeup. So obviously I wouldn't be shown in the shot. How about Eric, who wore the iconic makeup as the Fox? He was frustrated and felt left out. I remember us discussing it and me saying something along the idea of, "I get your frustration. I can't even be considered to be on camera!" You can see a "drummer" in the opening frames fiddling with his sticks, and the back of me playing guitar, without our faces really being shown. The shot didn't take long, but I do know it was a bit stressful on me and Eric.

Gene actually acknowledges us in a way, but the conversation and discussion is up to Gene and Paul to make the point. Of course Paul's point that KISS could do whatever it wanted to do was true. Ironically, I believe it was Gene who hated taking the makeup off, and was also most fearful of putting it back on! But the point that's being made in the video is that Paul was right. So fast-forward to 1989, and there we were rocking out with no makeup, performing to our adoring fans, playing somewhere downtown Los Angeles. The video chugs along fine, with great shots of the band and fans and the energy is high. Notice that the swampy blues slide guitar part of the song is edited out, as the flashback would set the stage for the music video.

The ending concludes with Gene and Paul again in full makeup glory getting pumped up in the mirror. Paul says, "No matter what changes, it's still gonna be KISS." Well, he was right! A lot changed in the '80s for the band, and it was always KISS. In some ways they both looked confident, but surreal, as a slow motion effect is used during their exit.

So was this a novel idea, or was it just a shameless exploitation of the past to tease the fans? What do you think?

 
Forever - The Video

The video for "Forever" finds the band placed in a circle performing in a beautifully sunlit room. The creatively positioned iron bird vine designs cast creative shadows in this lonely room. It's sepia tone throughout, and that's used to a great effect. The post production makes each band member appear in black and white, while the yellow hues of the sunlight cast shadows throughout the set.

There's some interesting things I notice now looking back. Paul plays his Guild acoustic, which was actually the guitar I used for the solo on the recording. I remember playing a vintage LP Special or JR for the verses and choruses, but don't bother looking for it—not one shot of me with it. Like I don't exist. Naturally for the solo it's clear I was in the room. Maybe I pissed off the editor, but it's really odd to me how my handsome face was barely shown. Eric is well represented with his amazing fills throughout, but I can't compete with the shots of Paul singing and Gene smiling. Even during my solo, Paul runs to Gene to say something. (Doubtful if it was anything he meant to say, but it's interesting.) Naturally the camera follows.

The Gibson Dove acoustic was rented from a cool store on Sunset Blvd. in CA. Same store where I bought the beat up Les Paul Jr I have shared with you recently. It's kind of rare to have a Gibson Dove in black, and it looks amazing in the little screen time I am allowed playing my solo.

I love this song, and the mood the video creates is wonderful. I just don't see enough of me. What do you think?



 
Hide Your Heart - The Video

This video starts off with a public service announcement. Since the subject matter was about jealous lovers from the gang world, it made sense to set the stage for the video with some statistics. A rooftop in downtown LA was the set, and I'll admit it was exciting to perform high above the city. Some of you may remember I did a Blackjack (my band with Michael Bolton) video on a NYC rooftop in 1979! There was much excitement with the helicopters hovering around to capture the performance.

I knew there would be a large amount of filming following the story line that would involve the characters talked about in the song: Johnny, Rosa and Tito. I didn't meet any of them, as my job was just the filming on the rooftop on a wonderful autumn night.

I found the editing to be well done. Interspersing the action from the actors and Paul's passionate vocal performance made for a good blend of rock and drama. It's funny seeing Gene like an undertaker closing the door of the ambulance taking the victim away at the end of the video.

Paul played a very cool Gretsch guitar in a kind of rare orange color that we rented in LA. (Same shop where we rented guitars for the "Forever" video.) I used a stock ESP vintage plus Stratocaster. Gene's bass was a strange British instrument I remember had something to do with Mike Jagger's brother. Lightweight and evil looking, but it didn't sound great. He liked the vibe though, and since we're not plugged in anyway, no matter.

Great song, and an admirable looking video from a bunch of New Yorkers on an LA rooftop!



 
Hot In The Shade - The Tour

Bruce KulickFeaturing a giant Sphinx named "Leon," armed every night with amazing visual effects, and featuring over twenty-two KISS new and classic tunes, the HITS tour was certainly a memorable event for KISS fans of all eras. Spanning over six months long, from May 4th till November 9th, the 1990 tour took the band everywhere in the US and proved that KISS was serious about the current HITS release, as well as honoring its past with an amazing set list. There were a few warm up dates, two I really remember, those being clubs such as The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on April 14th, and The Country Club in Reseda, CA on the 24th of April. Those gigs were a chance for us to try out some of the new material, and certainly created a bit of hype surrounding the band's new release.

Larry Mazer, who managed Cinderella and Nelson, was now the band's manager. He was giving advice to Paul and Gene, with such controversial suggestions as, "No more tongue wagging, Mr. Simmons" and, "No drum solo, Eric, they are boring." One thing was for certain--we had some fresh opinions being thrown around in the KISS camp. Well, let's examine those ideas. Gene not sticking out his tongue is kind of like a very large breasted woman taping down her bosom! And though not having a drum solo gave Eric Carr much frustration and anger, it did give the set list room for more songs. With a minimum of twenty-two in the set, it was chock-full of tunes. But somehow the idea of no drum solo changed over time, as later in the tour schedule the drum solo was reintroduced featuring Eric's electronic drum pads. That resulted in a very creative drum solo, worthy of our set. "God of Thunder" would start as a regular song, then go into Eric's drum solo with his crowd-pleasing interactions. But no one's opinions and adjustments to KISS can really change the fact you have a band armed with a new album worth of songs, as well as a huge history of great tunes to slay the audience with.

I loved the fact that our set list grew, and we introduced some old forgotten songs. Experiments with new HITS tracks like "Betrayed" and "Little Caesar" proved to be ill-fated. The vintage songs went over better, and Gene and Paul didn't want to wait for the fans to learn these new tracks. The singles survived, and thrived for the most part. "Rise To It" was introduced with a call and response guitar bit with me and Paul. It was cool to have that featured in the show. We were proud to share our respect of the blues, so what better way to introduce track one from HITS? "Hide Your Heart" was needed and went over great, as well as the smash "Forever" with green laser beams setting the mood over the arena. I always got goose bumps at the end of the performance. Both of those songs used our awesome laser lights to great effect.

Bruce KulickA quick recap of a HITS show. We would start with loud gladiator music blaring from the huge PA, ominous green beams of laser lights with smoke filling the stage. Leon was a formidable stage prop representing our cover art of HITS. Suddenly the four KISS band members appear with our right arms stretched out in a fist as a silhouette through the beams signaling we were ready for our assault. Once we were in place downstage, with Eric behind his huge drum kit, a thunderous version of "I Stole Your Love" would start. Hundreds of colorful lights would be around us, with Leon looking sinister over the proceedings.

The clothing was colorful, but tough enough to be cool. Paul was using Gibson Les Pauls and BC Rich guitars, leaving behind the Crazy Nights headless Body Glove decorated Steinberger. Gene's painted graphic and studded Pedulla basses were mean, and of course pre Punisher. I opened on stage with a Gibson LP Special in black, then moved on to various ESP Horizon and bolt-on models. The hit songs would just keep on coming, and the crowd ate them up. The usual gimmicks would appear, from our gyrating bodies, fire, lasers, smoke and explosions, guitar smashing, and Paul's entertaining intros that he's so famous for. Two long walkways were constructed on each side of the stage high up, which gave us the chance to tease the fans when performing there. My "Forever" solo was performed on stage left high up on one of these walkways, with the guitar supported by a special stand. In that song, I start on electric guitar with a Chet Atkins Gibson acoustic ready for me to play the melodic solo of the song.

"God Of Thunder" had the usual demonic look, featuring Gene singing and Leon speaking the middle section like a giant, evil electronic creature. Almost like a crazy theme park creation, but somehow all fitting in the world of KISS. Smoke would fume from his nostrils and lights beaming the crowd from his eyes, with explosions all around, made that a show highlight. The show would end with a few strong favorites, "Love Gun" and "Detroit Rock City." We would exit the stage and a mirror ball for "I Want You" would appear with a light hitting it, creating a cool disco effect in the arena. Paul and I would do the clean picking guitar intro, setting up this powerful rock tune. Ending with the big anthem "RNRAN" and the guitar smashing antics of Paul Stanley, the evening of KISS music would be very long and unforgettable for all.

There's an excellent version of a HITS concert on KISSOLOGY II from September 1990 in Detroit. The sound and video are really high quality. Looking back at the show, I am very impressed with all the elements that went into making those gigs a huge success.

Now, enjoy this cool behind-the-scenes video that was shot by Jack Sawyers during the HITS tour!



 
Hot In The Shade - Final Thoughts

Bruce KulickFrom a giant sphinx on stage that spoke and snorted thunderous smoke, with lights from his eyes beaming out over the audience, to a depressed Eric Carr sadly facing the end of the tour at our after-show party in November 1990, the entire HITS era of KISS had been a wild ride.

We recorded the longest KISS album for the most part in a demo studio, and the HITS tour was just as unusual and very long. With strong opening acts, the arenas were filled with fans, and our evenings of hard rock were wildly successful. Some of the behind the scenes were not as much fun as we had on stage, but that's another story.

Our tour book was giant, and I mean giant. Filled with awesome photos, it represented how we looked and felt onstage as a souvenir for the fans. It didn't cover all the dates we actually played, but it was a fair representation of the spectacle of those shows. We had great bills, with various popular opening acts as part the "package," with Winger and Slaughter being the most memorable to me. I made good friends with guys from those bands. I remember some backstage hangs, and even nights out, and that made for some good tour camaraderie.

At one point Paul broke a rib and we had to cancel some dates because of his pain. But then we did shows with him wrapped up with the word "broken" on the bandage. I was relieved it didn't effect too many shows. Naturally there were some shows where Gene would lose his voice and sang an octave lower! The bus rides were fun for me, with "Bear" being the band's driver. What a great guy, with a wonderful Southern accent, sounding like his mouth was filled with chewing tobacco. No matter how long a ride, the joke was "'bout six hours" was his reply! Gene and Paul would travel back to NY for business on days off. I didn't mind sharing the bus with Eric.

Bruce KulickWe also had Gary Corbett on keyboards, and he was pretty much like the Cheshire Cat of our tour. His work offstage helped pad the guitars, and of course fill in for songs like "Forever" with keyboard pads.

Our wild year ended with a show at the famed Madison Square Garden in NYC. We had an after-show party for our family and friends, and I will never get the picture out of my mind that Eric was sad about it--very sad the tour was over.

With all its ups and downs, for him especially regarding his solo (thankfully back in the show for most of the dates), we now know looking back it was the last show for him in KISS. By spring of 1991, he started dealing with the illness that would sadly take his life.

But I will remember Eric during this period in a positive way. He accomplished an important thing for KISS, a song ("Little Caesar") that he wrote and sang after being in the band for ten years. And of course, his thunderous solo and energy on stage was a great asset for KISS during his entire tenure.

I hope you enjoyed this rewind of HITS, and I am sure I sparked your memories quite a bit. Being such a fruitful time for KISS, with the fifteen song record to promote and a very long tour filled with a great set list, HITS solidified our importance in the ever-changing world of rock. It took KISS from the '80s into the '90s, and I will always be extremely proud of that time.

I will continue to wave my flag for the non-makeup years, so feel free to join me.


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