Ace Frehley is a Genius You Guys
Ace Frehley is a fucking genius, you guys – no really; hear me out before you scoff at that:
When I first started listening to rock & roll, KISS were everywhere. And what a marketing gimmick… four dudes playing good, otherwise unremarkable music, but throw in some Kabuki makeup, high heels, and blow up a bunch of shit and voila! Success! Didn’t matter that their biggest fan base were kids between the ages of 7-12 who had NO IDEA that all they were singing about was scoring hot chicks and hanging them out to dry… despite that, and their utter mediocrity, they gave it one hundred percent. And between the above-specified ages, I fucking loved those guys.
Particularly the Spaceman. As far as kids running around playgrounds in the seventies were concerned, KISS were superheroes.
Gene was the Demon; randomly drooling pigs’ blood or whatever, throwing up devil horns, doing the Bic lighter fire-spitting shtick with a huge ceremonial torch… WOW. Before anyone knew what a heartless dickhead he was, Gene Simmons was the God of thunder. Then there was Peter Criss – the cat. Hands down, probably the coolest makeup job on this guy. Plus whenever Criss took over vocals, it was a welcome respite from Simmons’ affected, guttural, croaking hell-voice and Paul Stanley doing Mariah Carey voice-obatics way before the world was ready for it.
Speaking of Paul, back to the personas.
Paul Stanley drew a star over his eye. Whatever.
Aaaand lastly there’s Ace. The Spaceman. When you’re nine years old and you wanna be Ace for Halloween, all you need is hit up your mom for some old leotards, eyeliner, mascara and glitter, store-bought white face paint, and a fuckload of tinfoil. Yeah, pretty sure that’s all Frehley did. But it wasn’t the costume that made this guy so freaking great…
The best thing about Space Ace was that HIS GUITAR WAS OFTEN ON FIRE.
Seriously, whatever these guys where lacking in musical genius, they made up for in marketing – not “in spades” mind you… IN ACES. Frehley was the perfect foil for Gene Simmons’ way too serious “business” demeanor and Paul Stanley’s shirtless yodeling assclownery. Peter Criss…
– well, Peter Criss had the awesome cat makeup.
Paul Stanley’s stated in interviews that when KISS were starting out they were just trying to jump on the glam-rock bandwagon. The New York Dolls were ripping it up all over the clubs, and that’s how the theatrics idea got into his head. Inspiration, not necessarily emulation – because face it: KISS were certainly no New York Dolls by anyone’s definition.
Whether that’s an insult or a compliment is entirely subjective… they simply had their own thing going on, and theatrics aside, it was 100% pure American cock rock. Not that everything they wrote was awful, per se, but if it weren’t for the kabuki makeup and pyrotechnics I cannot for the life of me understand just how in the fuck these guys were even remotely qualified to play stadium venues.
But KISS did, and they sold them out.
Stanley got to rasp into microphones like he was a wrestling promoter, Simmons got to be way too serious and businesslike, Criss got to – well; wear awesome cat makeup, and…
ACE GOT TO SOLO LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER.
Apparently often Ace got to solo like a drunk motherfucker.
Didn’t take very long for KISS and their handlers to realize the mass appeal they had – and what audiences they were appealing to. Covers of albums that came out after KISS: Alive! – particularly Destroyer and Love Gun – were just BEGGING to be airbrushed onto the side of a van, and/or painted in acrylics on a denim jacket
– which of course was begging in turn to be cut into a vest to wear over a biker leather that’d probably never be worn anywhere near a motorcycle.
And the superhero thing? Next stop, Marvel Comics. One-issue book supposedly inked in KISS’ own blood, action figures soon to follow.
My cousin had the coveted Mego Ace Frehley action figure, the little bastard.
All I had was my Tonto guy with marker drawn on his face – and yes – a fuckload of tinfoil. I still haven’t forgiven my mother for never having bought me that fucking doll.
But the phenomenon that was KISS didn’t even stop there. The cinematographic masterpiece that was KISS Meets the Phantom of the Amusement Park was released on prime time television somewhere around this time. No doubt our boys’ penchant for showmanship would doubtlessly propel at very least Gene and Paul to Hollywood stardom!
Or at very least, guest shots on the Love Boat.
No such luck, no such talent, and oh my god, what a fucking ridiculous – Jesus Christ. I don’t even begin to know what to say about this:
Okay. So acting isn’t their strong suit… but comedy – however unintended – KISS Meets the Phantom of the Amusement Park is pure gold.
Apparently Peter’s acting and reportedly his accent were so bad they dubbed him with a voiceover actor. OH MY GOD, DID THEY EVER. And check out Gene’s horribly spliced “demon” voice. Hahahaha… I’m having trouble writing this. And I don’t even fucking drink.
Ace Frehley is made for his lines, however – this guy’s fucking amazing at everything.
Ace’s cackle became something of a trademark to interviewers – as well as a fairly painful thorn in the Demon’s side. Patiently watch this interview with Tom Snyder and be sure to pay careful attention to Simmons’ temple. You can totally see the veins throbbing behind his makeup… he wants to thrash that little asshole so badly, you can also see the thought bubbles forming over his hair extension piece:
Like any and all fads, KISS started getting boring after awhile.
By the late seventies everyone was jumping on the disco trend, and all of our rock gods were either doing that as well or fading into alcohol and cocaine related obscurity. Somewhere around that time, our boys all released solo albums. Each record had an airbrushed portrait of our respective beloved rock gods – in full makeup, of course; likely to be marketed as a set, and dispel any rumors of an impending breakup.
And each record did promote a cohesive “band unity” – the covers looked great, but the music was fucking horrible. Except for Ace’s album; which is what finally cemented his genius.
Ace Frehley’s first solo album had a remarkable roster of session players (most notably the amazing Anton Figg, who certainly didn’t need awesome cat makeup), and was a great showcase for Ace’s really decent guitar solos.
In other words it was like the Public Image Limited “generic” album: wicked talented diamond in the rough who’d fucking shine with the right amount of polish. I’m not even going to post any links – just buy the fucking thing as soon as you’re finished reading this. It’s only like five or six bucks on iTunes, Amazon, or whatever, and there’s not a bad track on it. DO IT. TRUST ME.
Anyway, back to the disco thing. I’m not sure if the shit sandwich that was Dynasty was released before, after, or during the solo records – and I truly do not care enough to research it – but goddamn it, what an awful piece of garbage that was. At least Paul Stanley was into this material because he got to cut his hair a little, dance more, and whip out his irritating falsetto chops, cementing that he was born to serve as the inspiration for CATS.
Poor Peter Criss would be the first to be cut from the roster, and wouldn’t even get to take credit for it.
Paul Stanley never even did CATS – he did Phantom, the fucker.
Shortly before Ace would be next to fall he did this amazing interview – once again, drunk off his ass and baiting a growingly pissed off Gene Simmons. I like to think Ace did this shit to Simmons intentionally, but it doesn’t matter… it’s hilarious.
Purportedly Ace was too fucked up, too uninterested – or once again, too much a thorn in Simmons’ side to either complete the album or play on the supporting tour. He was replaced by eerie lookalike Vinnie Vincent, right down to downright insultingly similar face paint.
Yeah, except Vinnie really, really fucking sucked.
Ace went on to do a few shlocky hair band albums and a bunch more interviews that can be found all over YouTube, Vevo, et al., highlighting his fucking beautiful, messianic laugh. He briefly rejoined KISS for an insulting 20% cut of what probably went into Gene Simmons’ inevitable presidential run before either quitting, intentionally or unintentionally getting fired, and being replaced by some music student who went out and bought a Les Paul just for that gig.
Ahahaha wait… Gene Simmons is an Israeli expatriate. He can’t run for president. Thank God.
Gene Simmons did, however finally get to beat the living shit out of that little smartass Ace Frehley.
Well sort of, anyway. In 2008, director Christopher Nolan made a fan reenactment film depicting Gene Simmons at last having his opportunity to unleash the fucking fury on that little shit. Both actors (one of whom is sadly no longer with us) did their respective real life counterparts justice amazingly well.
I really don’t know what Ace Frehley is doing these days, but I’d like to think he’s at least laughing his head off, anyway.
What I do know about the Space Ace is that he touched my life with that laugh… and with his grace, his elegance, and his beautiful celestial soul. I’ve never been a great guitar player myself – but thanks to watching this man and others like him, if you give me a tube amp, a few effects pedals, six or seven shots of any type of brown liquor over 60 proof and help me find the corresponding pentatonic minor scale, I can solo like a motherfucker.
Thanks, Space Ace.
Don’t know if you really were “extraterrestrial” in origin, but I do know there’s a sense of otherworldliness that emanates from you and I feel fortunate to have at least witnessed your sublime greatness over the course of my lifetime; even if it was only from this earthly plane. Will you ever return, I wonder? I don’t know… but I do know one other thing:
BA Psychology and BA Philosophy. Fairly useless degrees, but my education has bettered my ability to analyze people’s behaviors and describe them in flowery metaphors.
I play the banjo too. Maybe I just like being annoying.