Chapter V of 50 by Mark Connors series. 1974 the year of “KISS” album by Kiss and the single “Doctor, Doctor ” by UFO

Today in our 50 by Mark Connors series we talk again about two vgreat works in the history of rock … Both come from the year 1974 and they are “KISS” album by Kiss and the single “Doctor, Doctor ” by UFO

1974 (Album): Kiss – Kiss

I have to say, I was sold on Kiss before I’d heard them play a single note. I remember going to my mate, Paul’s house one Sunday afternoon after church to find he’d added a new poster to his bedroom wall. On four gleaming, silver motorbikes sat four face-painted rock icons: Gene Simmons (The Demon – Bass Guitar) who scared the shit out of me, with his eyes surrounded by greasepaint black batwings  and a protruding tongue longer than my dick; Ace Frehley (The Spaceman – Lead Guitar), who had the coolest makeup and the best name, Peter Criss (The Catman – Drums), initially, my favourite member, until I heard his solo album which simply wasn’t heavy enough and Paul Stanley (The Star Child –  Guitar) who, quite frankly, caused me a great deal of adolescent confusion because I wasn’t sure whether I fancied him or not. He did have a black star over one eye and red lipstick so I’m sure I wasn’t the only young catholic boy who was smitten with this androgynous sex symbol. I asked Paul who the singer was and he told me they all sang. Like The Beatles, I thought, a band that had captured the imagination of my formative years up to then.  

Kiss weren’t just a band. For the next few years, they were a way of life. I was obsessed with them from the moment I saw the poster, in love with them even. Over the next few years, I’d see them live a dozen times. They could have sounded like The Smurfs for all I cared. They looked like superheroes to me. They may as well have been made up of Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Paul Stanley being the rock star equivalent of the latter. And just as sexy. 

 It would be another week before we’d head into Leeds to buy our weekly album with our pocket money but Paul told me he knew a kid who lived nearby who’d gone off Kiss and was always holding fire sales of his records so he could replenish them with more recent stuff. We went round to his house that day and Shaun was willing to sell me three Kiss albums for the princely sum of five pounds, the exact amount I had left over from my birthday money. He laid the items for sale on his bed. I’d never seem covers like them either: Unmasked, an album cover based on a comic book featuring a cartoon version of Kiss; Dynasty, a cover with a close-up of all four members and Alive II, a double gatefold, with the most outrageous stage show you could imagine, Stanley, Frehley and Simmons on raised platforms doing their thing and Criss barely visible behind his kit, high above the stage on an immense drum riser, with a vast light show and huge flames burning to the side, beside and in front of them. I can’t begin to tell you what a spectacle all this was to an impressionable 12-year old but my life felt like it was changing by the second. It didn’t even bother me that the album covers were a bit knackered and the records a bit scratched. Unlike Paul and me, Shaun didn’t take great care of his albums and he’d even compassed his name into the back of the Alive II cover for some unfathomable reason. But by the end of that Sunday, I was a Kiss fanatic and the next day at school, I was raving about them to anyone who’d listen. My father, a devout catholic, did not take kindly to the Kiss posters that started to appear on my own bedroom wall. But it wasn’t long before my mum was singing along to the rock disco classic, I was Made for Lovin’ You from Dynasty which I played to death for the foreseeable future.

I didn’t come across their debut album till a few months later. Simply tilted, Kiss, the band still play at least half of the songs on the album to this very day. The album, Kiss, is Classic Kiss. Their following two albums, Hotter than Hell and Dressed to Kill don’t come close to matching their first outing on vinyl. Kiss is Kiss when they were hungry and poor. It features gritty songs about living and working on the streets, namely  Black Diamond and Strutter, the latter about a New York working girl. It even features a song about having to drink the cheapest Gin from the liquor store (Cold Gin) because the heaters in their apartments didn’t work and it was the only way they could stay warm. This was gritty stuff, but unlike Paul Simon, Lou Reed or other New York songsmiths, Kiss songs were more uplifting, their narratives simpler, creating music not just to listen to and relate to but songs to live by. This was a band destined to take over the world, and they did, for a time. They were larger than life and still are to this day. Of course, the critics hated them. And they still do. But they’re still going strong in their 70s (at least two of the original members are – Simmons and Stanley – the latter has had two hip operations) and they’re still playing the same old stuff from the 70s and beyond.  They’ve dabbled in metal and heavy rock over their long career but it’s the high octane and distorted rock and roll they will be remembered for most fondly by their adoring fans, music largely about nothing but having a good time. Apart from their debut album, of course, when they were hungry, before they started singing about their sexual exploits and the fame they would welcome along with all the riches it brought them.

1974 (Single): Doctor, Doctor – UFO

If there was one British heavy rock band who never quite fulfilled their obvious potential, it was UFO. Their anthem, Doctor, Doctor, a song they simply can’t leave out of their live set to this day (yes, another rock band in their 70s who till only recently started thinking about yet another farewell tour) without causing a riot.

The song starts with a classic 70s keyboard intro, with Michael Schenker, their virtuoso German wunderkind lead guitarist gently noodling along until the rest of the band join in. Then it’s a classic blues gallop, not unlike a Status Quo merry jaunt, until Phil Mogg’s slight slur of a vocal addresses his doctor about the mess he is in. 

I met Mogg once, and UFO’s affable if slightly deranged bass player, Pete Way and they were both in a bit of a mess. The guitarist of the first band I sang for joined another band who were actually going somewhere and Graham got me a backstage pass when they supported UFO at Queens Hall, not the Leeds one but it’s considerably smaller Bradford counterpart. UFO were on the slide in the early 90s and they had never really recovered from a slow decline that had taken them from the bigger venues of their late 70s and early 80s heyday. Still, they would keep going for the best part of another thirty years so UFO were certainly built to last, despite their ever-constant fragility.That night, this skinny, shaking man came over and said hello while I was wandering around backstage. I barely recongnised him, one of my all time rock heroes, Phil Mogg. I tried to hold a conversation with him but it just wasn’t possible. As the saying goes, the lights were on but there was nobody home. Still, minutes later, he went out on stage and somehow delivered a satisfactory set despite not being able to stand up very well. I watched from the left side of the stage until Pete Way drifted over to where I was standing and started pissing against one of the Marshall backline amps during a drum solo. I quickly decided I’d seen enough reality of a band way past their best and went out into the crowd so I could enjoy Doctor, Doctor as an ignorant fan without feeling the need to call one in case Mogg and Way got so intoxicated they’d be joining the likes of Bon Scott and Hendrix to play some great gig in the sky. I haven’t seen UFO since, despite many opportunities and invites from friends. I like to remember them how they were in the early 80s. But then again they weren’t much different then. They were always pissed then too and yet still managing, somehow, to entertain a crowd for an hour and half with their brilliant rock songs. And Doctor, Doctor is one such song.

Mark Connors

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