KISS Destroyer – 40 years ago

Kiss_destroyer_album_cover

KISS
‘Destroyer’
Casablanca Records
March 15, 1976

40 years.

WOW! I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.

FORTY FUCKING YEARS since this piece of KISS PERFECTION was released. Where were you when this album came out? I can tell you where I was, but it even seems hard to believe myself.

I was five years old at the time. Playing with Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars and even that Fisher Price Airplane that was around. Not a care in the world. Except at that time, I already knew that I loved music.

It ran in my family. My dad was a drummer, my mother a singer, my (dad’s brother) uncle a guitar player and my Paternal Grandfather played violin with the L.A. Philharmonic Symphony. I guess you could say it was a given.

Front and back of the vinyl release

Front and back of the vinyl release

But none of this would compare to the two greatest pieces of American culture that I was to discover in the following year. KISS’s ‘Destroyer’ Album and the movie ‘Star Wars’. Both discovered by me, not barely a year later at the ripe old age of six years old.

Of the two, I am here to preach the gospel of “Detroit Rock City”. My story starts when one of my cousins gave me a copy of “Destroyer” on cassette one day as she no longer wanted it. Her loss.

Growing up in a very Christian family, it was hard to get a hold of anything outside of what my mom would be listening to herself. At this point though, I already knew from friends, even then, that KISS was nothing in comparison to my mom’s Fleetwood Mac, Zeppelin, Eagles and Linda Ronstadt albums.

I raced to the nearest tape deck, rewound the cassette to the start of side one (if you don’t know what I am talking about, you are too young to understand) and pressed ‘PLAY’.

KissDestroyerCassette

One of the many versions released on cassette

Out of my headphones came a cacophony of sounds, as if they’d been recorded in a kitchen while someone listened to the news on TV or Radio. Then came the car. The shutting of the door, the ignition switching, the rev of the engine and an all too familiar song coming from the radio… and then, the opening salvo of guitars came in followed by blasting beats of the drums and crashing cymbals, OH YEAH! IT WAS ON!

“Detroit Rock City” demanded that I “Get UP!” and I was filled with adrenaline. More than a six year old should probably have. I studied the cover of the cassette (drawn by world famous fantasy artist Ken Kelly) from corner to corner. These demonic looking cartoon characters looking as if they were standing on a rock in Hell itself. With “Detroit Rock City’ still playing on the deck, I could visualize flames firing up all around them with every sudden crescendo in the song. At the end of the song was the squealing of tires, crashing of the car and the wreckage falling all around. A proper send off to the first track.

I was HOOKED.

“King Of The Night Time World” crept in during the car crash finale of “Detroit Rock City”. Taking over so as to not let one get a moments breath between songs. The song GROOVED like nothing I heard before. This is when I first really noticed guitar solos. Man, Ace was really giving that a go round! Short but so damn good. Kings they were indeed.

KissDestroyer 8 track

An 8 track version of ‘Destroyer’

“God Of Thunder” followed and here came the swagger of the guitars and the bouncy short bass notes to accentuate every measure. Wait, what’s that? That can’t be the same guy singing?! Gene had taken over. He sounded so EVIL. “God Of Thunder” indeed. I think a lot of us were all under a spell at this point on listening to this album. I got chills upon first hearing the line “I am the Lord of this wasteland”, this was horror movie grade stuff for me. I was eating it up! A freaky squeeling ending just delivered the punch.

“Great Expectations” was the oddball for me, it sounded so out of place on the album with it’s string arrangements and bombastic chorus. A little too mellow for me (It surprised me more to learn that the evil monster of the last song was singing this one too!). A love song of sorts between the band it’s it’s female fans. I can’t fathom not hearing this on the album today after all these years though.

The next song, “Flaming Youth”, would become a staple and theme song in my circle of friends. With Stanley returning to the mic for the song. Great catchy chorus and guitar work. Here were guitar tones that would be heard more and more on the Hard Rock / Hair Metal songs of the coming decade of the 80’s. I could see in my mind, the band doing a choreographed dance during the break. Just as they did when they played live! This band could do that. Their songs could easily take you to imagined visual stimuli with their songs. This HAD to be witch craft.

You still there? Well get ready for some “Sweet Pain”. KISS’s ode to bondage and S&M. I was a little too young to really know what they were saying . However, it didn’t sop me from shaking my ass to it though! “Shout It Out Loud” was truly the first time I would sing along as loud as I could. I wanted to ‘Shout It Out Loud’ with the band indeed. With it’s searing guitar and bass intro and pumping verse / chorus combo, one just couldn’t help but “Want to Rock N Roll”!

Kiss [1976.08.20] Unnecessary Evil - Concert Advert Street Billboard Sign

Billboard for the Anaheim Stadium show in 1976. I passed by one like this more than I can remember when it was up. (not my photo)

And then it happened. You remember my complaint about “Great Expectations”? Well it was rocking compared to this one coming up. “Beth” (Yet, WAIT! ANOTHER different voice?! Did these guys ALL sing stuff?!). In hindsight, I know I was still in the land of ‘cooties’ and girls were still “yucky” so I’ll forgive myself. Soaring strings and a mellow piano tinkling at it’s heart, it is still one of the best ode’s to being in a band and being a “band widow”. Still a staple song for all music artists out there whose work takes them across the roads of the world.

Now, this last song, this last song was catchy as all hell! Big Bombastic sounding drums and Stanley’s over the top vocals declaring “You like my seven inch!”. The chorus of (and title of this song) “Do You Love Me” accentuated with those huge sounding drums and grinding guitar chords. A song to the groupies of KISS, who were most really likely only interested in the bands fame and money. Again, I was still wasn’t really old enough to understand just what they were saying here, but that did not stop me from running around and singing this song (“YOU LIKE MY SEVEN INCH!”) to the dismay of my Christian family.

There’s a trippy little outro at the end of this (on the original vinyl and cassette release) called “Rock N Roll Party” (although it wasn’t listed on my cassette at the time). It pretty much came out as a cacophony of noise, but upon closer listen, well, I’ll let you find out for yourself if you haven’t already…

Some more cool stuff from the ‘Destroyer’ era:

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