No Regrets

From No Regrets: A Rock n’ Roll Memoir by Ace Frehley (with Joe Layden and John Ostrosky:

At one point in the show, after sweating right through my costume and downing a few beers, I looked over at Peter, who had a mirrored drum kit, and I could see my face reflected in the Mylar, all distorted and elongated, as if in a fun-house mirror. I started cracking up, even as I kept playing, and Gene kept singing, and the audience responded with awestruck silence. Peter started laughing, too. The crowd must have thought we were insane.

So did the club’s owner. Poor Sid wasn’t even sure he wanted us back the next night, but we returned, and the audience swelled to twice what it had been the previous show. Obviously word had gotten out. This time there were fewer people sitting on their hands, a lot more people drinking and getting into the show. In many ways I’d say that was the night KISS became KISS.

And you know why? Because we had conviction. We looked utterly ridiculous, and yet we wanted to be taken seriously. Here we were, in makeup, costumes, and platform heels, but we weren’t acting like clowns. Whether there were two people in the audience or two hundred, we didn’t take the performance lightly. From the very beginning there was intensity and seriousness about making something of ourselves, about being fully committed to KISS, whatever that might mean. Much more than any group I’d been with in the past, KISS carried itself with an air of confidence and professionalism. Failure wasn’t an option, and I think that came through to the audience. We weren’t just getting up there and going through the motions like some shitty Top 40 cover band. We might have looked like rejects from a science-fiction or horror movie, but we were deadly serious about what we were doing.

I’m generally not a fan of rock n’ roll tell-all memoirs, and I don’t think Ace’s book is going to change my mind. Frankly, it isn’t that great. The first third of it is good; the stuff about his life as a kid, what growing up in Brooklyn at that time was like, his early days as a musician and the birth of KISS, etc.. Right up through the Destroyer album. The behind-the-scenes stuff about the making of their albums and their early days on the road, at a pace unheard of these days, is interesting. But after that it wanes. He owns most of his bullshit, but only at the surface. There are enough testimonials out there by people who had to work with him to know that he wasn’t the easiest guy to deal with because he’s pretty much a complete fuck-up. The tales of drug and alcohol excess are pretty tired, and really, from about 1978 or so until now, he really didn’t have much else going on in his life. Some of his other observations are a bit out there (guardian angels? alien abductions? chicks digging him during his druggie burnout days?). But what it all boils down to, in the way he tells his tale with “no regrets” without really owning just how difficult he probably was to be around, not to mention his blasé treatment of women, pretty much makes him seem like a pretty shitty person. Hopefully his sobriety and self-evaluation has him on a better path. Based on what is revealed in this book, I’m not so sure. But here’s to redemption.

Interviewing him for an article I wrote for the Independent was a highlight of my life, because I grew up, and remain, a huge KISS fan. Meeting him was surreal, even though he was kind of a dick (though he was great in the interview). The man and his music are tied to some of my fondest memories. I wish I didn’t know some of the things I know about the band now, because it spoils some of the magic. But hey, I used to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny too. Growing up sucks in some ways, you know?

4 thoughts on “No Regrets”

  1. I’m not a fan of the rock’n’roll memoir in general. I did enjoy that Please Kill Me book, but that was a little different. I much prefer things like Guralnick’s two volume bio of Elvis.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a rock memoir and though, Wow, what a great guy!

    1. The one that really put me off was the one that so many folks rave about: THE DIRT by Motley Crue. That level of debauchery, misogyny, and stupidity was just too much. The lowest of the low, those guys are. I didn’t even finish the damn thing.

      But rock/music biographies are something else. I’ve read some good ones, and have a couple on my shelf yet to read.

  2. I know so much about KISS at this point I didn’t even bother with this book. I figured whatever was in there would either be “old news” or self-serving. Still, thanks for the review. 🙂

    1. Probably a little bit of both. Like I said, the first third or so of the book was interesting enough and new, because I didn’t know much at all about Ace’s pre-KISS life, but after that it was pretty thin.

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