10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About KISS

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Forty years ago this week, on February 18, 1974, KISS released their debut album, Kiss.

Many of my friends are, like me, raving KISS fans. This post is not for them. They already know all of this, and much more. You see, when KISS fans gets together we try to out-did-you-know one another.

This post is for the rest of you, my KISS-curious friends.

 

So, here you go, 10 things you probably didn't know about KISS:

 

1. The highest charting KISS single ever recorded is "Beth", the piano and strings ballad written and performed by Peter Criss, the original drummer.

2. Gene Simmons recorded "When You Wish Upon a Star" on the 1978 album Gene Simmons. Yes, the Pinocchio song.

3. KISS recorded a concept album that was supposed to eventually become a movie. Music from The Elder was a commercial flop but is still endeared by many fans (and hated by others). The movie was never made.

4. Much of the credit for KISS may belong to two people you have probably never heard of: long-time band manager Bill Aucoin and road manager Sean Delaney.

5. KISS owns an Arena Football League team, LA KISS. If you can't get to Los Angeles to catch a game, that's ok, you'll be able to get your LA KISS fix by watching the upcoming reality TV show.

6. KISS has earned more than $500 MILLION in merchandising in the last 40 years.

7. There are now different musicians "playing the parts" of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Currently, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are playing the parts of the original band members. Like many bands, the line-up has changed quite a bit throughout the years, with six other artists able to claim membership as KISS band members - rest in peace Eric Carr and Mark St. John. And if you wonder what Gene Simmons thinks about any controversy surrounding new artists donning original members' makeup and outfits, read Gene's tweet to my good friend and fellow KISS Army member, Shane.

8. KISS first appeared on television without their makeup on an MTV special on September 18, 1983. It has been called one of the worst rock fails of all time.

9. There were only eight months between the release of the first and second KISS album, five months between second and third, that's three albums in 13 months! KISS released 12 albums, including 2 live albums and the four "solo" albums in between February 1974 and September 1978!

10. Eddie Van Halen almost joined KISS!

 

Okay, I can't leave it at 10. Here are a few more:

 

 

11. Yes, KISS made a movie, "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park", filmed at California's Magic Mountain.

12. After being snubbed for many, many years, KISS will finally be inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I, as many KISS fans, don't care one bit.

13. Gene Simmons was born in Isreal and was a sixth grade teacher in New York before joining KISS.

 

And, here are a few of my KISS facts:

My favorite member: Gene

Favorite drummer: Eric Carr

Favorite Guitarist: Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick

Favorite Albums: The Elder, Destroyer, Animalize, Crazy Nights

Favorite live album: KISS ALIVE II (duh!)

The first album I ever bought: KISS Animalize

The first cassette I ever bought: KISS Animalize

KISS Concerts I've attended: 1996 with original line-up and 2009 with current line-up

 

George Jones

I feel tears welling up. Goodbye George Jones.

I always knew the day would come. I had been dreading it a lot lately.

On Friday morning, just as I was leaving for work, my brother Tony texted me the news. I went to my computer, did a google search and listened to "He Stopped Loving Her Today", the saddest country song of all time. I listened to it a couple of times and just cried. That song was one of my mom's favorites.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the rumbling majestic voice of George Jones. I love rock, I love pop, but I really love country music, especially the classic stuff from the 50s and 60s. I grew up listening to Willie and Waylon, as well as Kenny Rogers and The Oak Ridge Boys, depending on what mood I was in. I was always in the mood for George Jones.

I have never been this sad about the death of a celebrity. I don't fully understand it, but, at times, it feels as if I've lost a close personal friend.

I never had the chance to meet the Possum, but I did get to see him in concert. Twice, in fact. Twice in one week. I shared George Jones with my Auntie Kelly, which made those two concerts even more meaningful.

The concerts were amazing! I have great memories of those shows, and of this picture that I snapped at Konocti the last time I saw him in concert in 2002. I was standing a foot or two in front of him and he was smiling right at me. Wow.

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George Jones had a unique vocal style. There will never be another like him. Now I wonder, who's going to fill his shoes?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PODFOF8rmSE

Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the melodies.

Yabba dabba doo, the king is gone and so are you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6j2YBD--1U

Rest in peace George Glenn Jones.

 

2010 - Music

Now that 2010 is coming to an end, let’s take a look back at the year in (my) music. What was I listening to? What was I buying? Country music made up the largest percentage of what I bought in 2010. This shouldn’t surprise anyone that knows me well. Coupled with Bluegrass, they made up more than half of my new music this year.

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Some of my favorite purchases in 2010:

Dierks BentleyUp on the Ridge - This is one of my favorite records of 2010. I wasn’t a big Dierks Bentley fan before this release but hearing the simple acoustic tunes on this one turned me in to a fan!

Newfound RoadSame Old Place - I only recently discovered this band after perusing YouTube one night. The band is chock full of very talented bluegrass musicians but it’s their great vocals that keeps me listening over and over again.

OrianthiBelieve (II) - My kids downloaded the song, “According to You”, earlier in the year and it made its way to my iTunes. I originally thought it nothing more than a run-of-the-mill pop song. When I actually listened to the whole song I loved it. The guitar licks are unmistakably influenced by 80s rock. The riffs and solo would be at home on so many of the great 80s rock albums in my collection. It was only after I watched the video that I learned that the singer was also the lead guitarist. Orianthi was hired by Michael Jackson for the tour he was planning before his death and can be seen in the documentary, This is It. The rest of the album is pretty “poppy” but I love the guitar work.

Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood PlayersA Breath of Fresh Air - These guys are the epitome of the “newgrass” sound I love so much! Their sound is traditional with a modern twist (whatever that means, right?). This album, released on iTunes on January 1, is full of great songs. My favorite is “She Only Loves Me”. And did I mention they are from right here in Stockton? First time I heard them was when I stumbled upon them playing at a local park. Also, Snap is an amazing photographer.

Bruce KulickBK3 - I am a huge Kiss fan. Kulick, whose brother worked with Kiss for many years, was probably the most talented guitarist to play alongside Gene and Paul. This album, his third solo record, has a great edge to it. “Ain’t Gonna Die”, featuring Gene Simmons, is a great track. It’s what I would expect Gene to record on a solo record, just with better guitar work.

Honorable mentions:

Kurt Nilsen. I had never heard of this artist before I came across a video for the song, “Hallelujah”. For some strange reason, I had this song stuck in my head for weeks. One night, I decided to look for it on YouTube. The first video that came up was this one. I didn’t recognize any of the singers but immediately loved this version. I was looking away from my computer screen when, at the 2:04 mark, Kurt Nilsen started his part. I got chills. His voice is so powerful and beautiful. After winning World Idol, he has released pop and country albums.

Michael Seymour / Suddenly Seymour. I met Michael earlier this year when I interviewed him on Podcast Stockton. I got hear a couple of acoustic versions of his songs before they were fully produced. Michael has a great voice that goes perfectly with his music. I recently saw him play an acoustic show with just him and his drummer. They were awesome. Their EP, Searching For, is a great listen! Check him out on Myspace.

What is your favorite music of 2010?

 

Why I Like Ping

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Last week, Apple announced Ping, calling it “a social network for music”. Like a lot of comments I read online, I thought, “great, do I really need another social network?”. After downloading iTunes 10 and setting up my Ping, I realized I do need (or should I say, want) another social network.

I like Ping. Here’s why.

  • It lives within iTunes. I care most about what music my friends are buying, listening to, recommending, when I am in iTunes
  • It’s focus is narrow. Very narrow. I am interested in music and learning about other styles of music. I can see Ping helping me discover music I would’ve not otherwise discovered
  • I actually enjoy reading reviews, they may not sway me, but I like them nonetheless. When the reviewer is also a friend of mine it helps put the review in better context for me. Being able to easily read friends’ reviews is a big plus

As a first generation social network, Ping has promise. Some improvements I hope Apple makes are:

  • Greater delineation of genres. This goes for iTunes as a whole. Rock and Pop are pretty wide. And there is no category for Bluegrass. I don’t consider Sam Bush country
  • Should have custom URL that will forward to iTunes app (rather than telling people to go to iTunes and search for... )
  • The ability to “Like” and “Post” about podcasts and audio books
  • Re-activate the Facebook friend finder. I saw it there when I first signed up but it seems it might’ve since been removed
  • Allow me to change my user name to be different than my billing name; “Matthew” is too formal for me

Interested in what music I am buying or recommending? Look for me on Ping, as Matthew Beckwith.

 

KISS In Fresno

On Saturday, JR and I saw KISS in concert in Fresno.Screen shot 2009-11-27 at 9.45.27 PM (photo courtesy of JR Beckwith)

We got there just before 8:00 and the opening act, local band Shiver Fox was playing. Neither of us had ever heard of them. They were pretty good, but I can’t remember anything they performed. I just thought it was cool that a local band was playing as the opening act.

Just after 9:00, the lights went out and the crowd went crazy. The video screens on the sides of the stage showed Gene, Paul, Tommy and Eric walking backstage and then the obligatory “You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world... KISS!”.

Needless to say, the place went nuts!

The set list:

Deuce - of course they opened with this one! Strutter Let Me Go (Rock and Roll) Hotter Than Hell Shock Me - sang by Tommy Thayer... awesome! Dr Love Modern Day Delilah - good choice from the new album Cold Gin - Paul asked the crowd not to drink and drive Tommy guitar solo Parasite Say Yeah - another selection from Sonic Boom 100,000 Years / Eric drum solo - I miss Eric Carr, but Eric Singer is awesome! Gene bass solo I Love It Loud Paul plays intro to Stairway To Heaven Black Diamond - sang by Eric Singer Rock And Roll All Night

The band exits.

A minute or so later, at 10:40, the band came back on the stage for their bow. As the fans scream for an encore, Paul says “it will be the longest encore you've ever heard”.

Shout It Out Loud Lick It Up Love Gun - Paul sang some of it from a platform in the middle of the floor. Detroit Rock City

At 11:00 the show was over for good. Awesome show!

Of course the show came with flames shooting from the stage, as well as from Gene’s mouth, fireworks, including those shot from Tommy’s guitar (one of which hit an overhead set of lights, causing one end to swing free from the rafters), Gene flying up to the top of the arena, not far from the ceiling, and huge platforms that must’ve been 3 or 4 stories tall.

I consider myself a die-hard KISS fan. The fact that the band is performing with “hired hands” playing the roles of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss has caused some controversy. Seems that some fans dislike Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer playing those “characters”. I think the band is much better with Tommy and Eric. Ace and Peter are due heaps of respect but their time has come and gone, and come and gone again. Let’s not forget that there were other awesome musicians in the band. Criss was replaced by the late Eric Carr, who lost his battle with cancer 11-24-1991 (side note: don’t get me started on the Freddie Mercury / Eric Carr bit). Eric Singer joined the band after Carr’s death and has been there through some great and some terrible music. Ace was replaced by Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John (one of my favorites), Bruce Kulick and then, ultimately, by Tommy Thayer. On the latest release, Sonic Boom, Paul, Gene, Tommy and Eric, came up with a sound that is classic in every sense of the word. Their sound is timeless and clean. I have no doubt that Tommy and Eric “dumbed down” their playing to match the style of their original band member brethren. This line-up is, by far, the best one Gene and Paul have put together. Period.

The Fresno show, and many others, was not a sell-out. Does that mean that KISS has lost their touch? I wouldn’t say that. After 35 years, the fact that they can put on this type of spectacle 4-5 nights a week means they still have it!

Gene’s age showed but he looked a thousand times more of the rocker than he does on Family Jewels. Paul’s voice was not 100% the entire show but talked to the crowd more than I remember him doing in ’96 when I saw them in Sacramento. If they go back out on tour in another 13 years, the 2022 tour, I can only imagine that Gene and Paul will have replaced, or cloned, themselves.

Check out the pics here.

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July!

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Even though the city of Stockton cancelled our annual fireworks show due to the current budget crisis, there was still reason to be down at the waterfront on Independence Day. The second annual Taste of San Joaquin was held along with the first annual Way Out West BBQ Championship was held at the Weber Points Event Center on a perfect July day.

As soon as we paid our $1 dollar admissions we could hear an 80s rock band playing on the main stage. We made our way back and hung out and watched Aquanett perform songs from Ratt, Metallica, Poison, AC/DC and other rock bands. These guys really rocked. The guitar player was incredible. He had all the licks down and easily went from Kirk Hammett to C.C. DeVille without missing a beat (and thankfully didn’t dance like C.C.).

3688732403_07f173306d After listening to Aquanett for a while we ventured out to try some of the BBQ prepared by the 20 or so competitors. By the time we got there most of them had sold out of their BBQ but there were still a few remaining with plenty of chicken, ribs and brisket left. From what I tasted, Smokin’ Yankees had the best brisket and East Side BBQ had the absolute best pork ribs. After a few samples of BBQ we tried some specialties from local restaurants: egg rolls from On Lock Sam and nachos from Bradley’s were the best.

Loki Rhythm entertained on another stage, bringing world music and jazz to the waterfront with their African drums and beats.

After a full day of music and food we headed out to Lodi to watch the fireworks.

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Check out the rest of the pics here.

Earth Day at Victory Park

The best thing about the Earth Day festivities at Victory Park this afternoon was seeing Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players perform. They weren’t on stage, just playing their tunes for anyone that would stop by. These guys have an awesome sound and put on a great show, even for just playing in the park. They have some shows coming up soon in the area so I will definitely have to check them out again! Check them out on MySpace and go see them live (schedule is on their site).