I’ve been thinking about Kiss lyrics lately. This isn’t a new thing; I probably think about Kiss lyrics three or four times a year. You know, on average. It doesn’t have anything to do with yaoi, obviously. Well, one can make anything have to do with anything else, if one is stubborn and shameless and willing to apply a liberal coating of rhetoric. I’m not, of course. But if I were, I would point out that both yaoi and Kiss are steeped in a cartoon version of licentiousness that regularly suspends the rules of physics and human behavior, all in the interest of mindless fun and mild titillation.
But whatever. Kinukitty is not writing a dissertation about the amazing and heretofore unexplored link between fluffy manporn and the lyrics of Gene Simmons. (I’ll give everyone a moment to thank me.) (You’re welcome.) (I mean, gross, right? Good grief, I’ve made myself slightly ill.) Kinukitty, who has loved Kiss since before they sucked and is therefore as old as Methuselah, is merely nattering on about another obsession.
To wit: For a band that was supposedly writing shockingly X-rated rock and roll songs, they were really kind of confused about the vernacular. I became aware that there was a problem when I was twelve, and I was singing along to “Mr. Speed,” which is on Rock and Roll Over. I loved this album with an overwhelming passion, having no idea that I was listening to a death knell. (The previous album, Destroyer, is pretty wretched, so I would have known, except that I was confused and thought Destroyer came out after Rock and Roll Over, an error I held onto until I was in my late 20s and was having breakfast with a rocket scientist – really – who corrected me; it still creates cognitive dissonance. Also, I blame Bob Ezrin. Bastard.) (Also, there are those who say their next album, Love Gun, wasn’t so bad; those people are wrong, wrong, wrong. And nobody argues that any of the albums after Love Gun weren’t brutally horrible. No, I refuse to hear it – if anyone has argued this, I don’t want to know. And furthermore, I have four words for those people: Music from the Elder.)
Anyway, the chorus of “Mr. Speed” says, “Well, you know, I’ve got the kind of lovin’ that you need – I’m so fast, that’s why the ladies call me Mr. Speed.” (It’s easy to remember; it’s repeated five times, I think.) And I got it, that the lynchpin of the song was about him (Paul Stanley, the band-based cowriter of the song and the supposed sex symbol) being “fast” – a term that seemed dated and fusty to me when I was in sixth grade. In the 70s. He was supposed to be a hot, sexy rock god, doing women right and left, so many and so quickly you could see a vapor trail. But, I thought to myself, aren’t guys supposed to, you know, last? (I read Kinflicks at about that time, which made it clear to me that this was indeed the case.) Also, Paul Stanley kind of lisps. I’m just saying.
I have also long taken issue with “Deuce,” from their first album. Now, “Deuce” is one of the best rock songs ever recorded, it really is. Hot and dirty. I added it to one of my playlists a little while back and listened to it a couple of times, and I found myself thinking – not for the first time – “he’s worth a deuce.” What the hell does that mean? I’d always assumed it was some bit of sexual innuendo of which I was unaware. I didn’t think that this time, though, because there is no sexual innuendo of which I am unaware. So I thought more about it. (That’s why I haven’t written a column in months. Kinukitty is very single-minded.) And I thought, well, there’s “drop a deuce,” but that refers to pooping. Everybody poops, yes, but that’s not quite right for sexual innuendo. Well, it is in some circles, but Kinukitty does not do scat. This is not a minority opinion on Kinukitty’s part, so I don’t think that’s what Mr. Simmons intended the song to be about. But there is no actual “he’s worth a deuce” sexual innuendo. One assumes he meant that he’s hot enough to do twice in one night, but he has himself pretty much admitted he had no idea what the hell he was talking about (or so said something I read online while meticulously researching this conundrum). It’s all just kind of overblown and clumsy and stupid. Which is one of the things I like so much about Kiss.
It isn’t just Simmons and Stanley. This is a game everyone in the band could play. (Well, Ace Frehley seemed to have his shit sorted out, as it were; “Parasite,” for instance, is a weirdly very sexy song, with a kick-ass guitar riff to boot.) Not so much the case for “Baby Driver,” by drummer Peter “Yes, I’m to Blame for ‘Beth’” Criss (also on Rock and Roll Over). “Go, baby driver/Been driving on down the road/Oh, what a rider/Carrying such a heavy load/Don’t ever need to know direction/Don’t need no tow, food, gas, no more.” The first question, obviously, is what the hell is he talking about? No, seriously. What the hell? And the second thing is, Jesus Christ, what is going on with this sexual metaphor? It is a sexual metaphor, that much is clear. Even if we leave aside the confusing lyrics (in fact, let’s do that, please), what on earth is going on with “go, baby driver”? There’s a fine tradition in ’70s rock of calling the groupies or what have you “baby,” and presumably that’s what Mr. Criss had in mind, but this strikes me as a sort of terrifying misstep.
And Kiss fans know from missteps. I’m going to limit myself to some of the high points from the first six albums because, frankly, I don’t want to hear any of the other albums again, ever. (Well, that doesn’t include the four solo albums released in 1978, of course. They are troubled, troubled records, but I have a completely indefensible yet persistent sentimental weakness for Paul’s solo album, and I might also argue, if cornered, that there are actually some songs worth listening to on Ace’s. Peter’s album is pretty much crap from end to end, and I’ve never actually listened to Gene’s, and I don’t intend to. If you try to make me, I shall be cross.) Here are some of my favorite flubs:
- “Flaming Youth” (Destroyer, by Gene, Paul, Ace, and Bob Ezrin – I think Ace was drugged and kidnapped and forced to participate in this one) – “Flaming youth will set the world on fire.” That one doesn’t mean to be sexual, but come on.
- “Room Service” (Dressed to Kill, by Paul) – “Baby I could use a meal.” Oh, my god.
- “Goin’ Blind” (Hotter than Hell, by Gene) – “Little lady, can’t you see/You’re so young and so much different than I/I’m 93 and you’re 16/and I think I’m going blind.” This song, in which Larry King tells his girlfriend that they can’t be together any more, has always cracked me up. The premise is supposed to be amusing (and it is), but I’m not sure Mr. Simmons knew what he was doing with the going blind metaphor.
- “Hotter than Hell” (Hotter than Hell, by Paul, who sounds like Jerry Lewis when he sings “Lady, oh lady,” something that I, not being French, find uniquely repulsive) – “Hot, hot, hotter than hell/You know she’s gonna leave you well done.” Am I the only one who gets unpleasant and not-sexy burn unit images from this? This song also features an earlier and inarguably more successful – if not exactly successful, per se – exploration of the Mr. Speed theme, with “I’ll take you all around this whole wide world before the evening is through.”
- “Mainline” (Hotter than Hell, by Paul) –“ You needed some loving/I’m hot like an oven.” Ah, the merciless overlord of the exact rhyme. The thing is, Mr. Stanley really wanted a phallic reference here, not a yonic one. I’m sure of this.
Ah, good times. Now, I assume Mr. Simmons’ response to all this would be to unzip, pull out his big old bank ledger, and wave it in my face. Which is part of the fun, probably. I don’t care what he thinks, and he doesn’t care what I think. That’s called détente. Go, baby driver.