Prime Cuts: Kiss
Originally printed in Guitar World, August 1992
Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley reflect on two decades of Kiss classics, including "Duece," "Strutter," "God of Thunder" and more.
"DEUCE" (Kiss, 1974)
GENE SIMMONS: That was the first song I ever wrote for Kiss; it was thrown together in about half an hour. I ripped off the lick from "Bitch" by the Rolling Stones and changed it so it starts in A and goes to a C. I purposely set out to create a repetitive lick—like in "Satisfaction" or "Bitch." Lyrically, I had the slight thread of a story line, but I was more concerned with conveying attitude than making sense of the word "deuce." I'm not quite sure what the line, "You know your man is working hard, he's worth a deuce!" means, but it sounded right.
"STRUTTER" (Kiss, 1974)
PAUL STANLEY: This was one of the first songs I ever wrote for Kiss. It started with an old chord progression Gene had written five or six years earlier for a song called "Stanley the Parrot," which, by the way, had nothing to do with me. [laughs] We sped the "Parrot" song up and gave it a Stones-ish strut, hence the name. At that point I was using a Les Paul TV model. I was already real keen on vintage guitars—although my extremely limited finances meant that I could only afford one guitar at a time. So I went from a Les Paul/SG that I bought for $120 in a pawn shop to a double-cutaway Les Paul Special that cost about $200.
"BLACK DIAMOND" (Kiss, 1974)
STANLEY: Kiss was originally heavily influenced by Humble Pie. We wanted to make two guitars sound like one—it was the "Big Guitar" theory. Ace [Frehley] and I worked hard on blending our rhythm parts on a lot of those early songs. We experimented with doubling rhythms, writing counter-rhythms, or playing different inversions against each other. "Black Diamond" was one of the earliest songs Gene and I wrote together, even though it's credited to me. Gene came up with the riff that's incorporated into the chords. The tag at the end of the song reminds me of early Neil Young or "Stairway to Heaven." It needed something extra, because we just didn't think the song was over.
"GOIN' BLIND" (Hotter than Hell, 1974)
SIMMONS: The idea here was to create something that sounded like a theme to a Western by strumming minor chords on an acoustic guitar. There's a lick in the chorus that I ripped off from "Layla" and played backwards. The bassline doesn't have anything to do with the melody or the chords. I was listening to a lot of Cream, and although I never really understood what songs like "Tales of Brave Ulysses" were about, they still summoned up strong images in my mind. The lyrics to "Goin' Blind" are like that—they don't make a whole lot of sense, but at least lines like, "I'm 93, you're 16" are easy to visualize.
"HOTTER THAN HELL" (Hotter than Hell, 1974)
STANLEY: I was always a big fan of Free, and "All Right Now" really meant a lot to me—it was a perfect song. "Hotter than Hell" was basically me re-writing that song. There's nothing wrong with stealing, as long as you do it right—and make sure that you're stealing a diamond, not a piece of glass. All bands start off being fairly derivative, and copying others is the first step toward developing your own style. At that point I had gotten my first real custom guitar. A guy in New York named Charley Labue built me something similar to a ’58 Flying V with two humbuckers—pretty similar to what Albert King was playing, but with one wing shorter than the other. Randy Rhoads’ Jackson V had a similar design.