Almanac Music: When I killed Kiss’ ‘Alive!’

“You wanted the best and you got it!” Proust’s Madeleine to youngsters in 1970’s suburban Australia – Kiss Alive! Pictured here on US double vinyl and, following nearly a quarter of a century after ruining my siblings’ cherished copy, the Australian cassette in all its green bannered glory.


It’s the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown, 2020, and already those of us fortunate enough not to be suffering from reduced income, early onset cabin fever or worse, dying from the virus, are starting to show signs of boredom. Some of us can cope better.


I was more than happy to rekindle my friendship with the living room couch on Friday and Saturday nights, where I would otherwise be out and on my feet. Others became obsessed with making public displays of domestic productivity and, as the early results suggested, not all of us can bake bread. I can’t make things rise and don’t get me started on egg whites. But for those of us seeking an alternative to contributing to the Great Flour Shortage of early 2020, making lists and putting them on social media seemed like the next best option. Plus, there’s a lot less mess to clean up. It was merely a matter of time before I got roped into this very trend that I did my best to avoid.


It only took until April before a nomination came my way, courtesy of my Facebook bug bear: being tagged. Normally I’d ignore such a request but seeing it was coming from an actual friend rather than a Facebook one, the pressure to oblige was simply too great. The theme was “10 albums that influenced my music tastes and upbringing. 1 record per day for the coming 10 days. No explanations, no review, just cover art.” I have certain misgivings when it comes to nostalgia but on the surface it looked as though there was fun to be had in getting reacquainted with the records that turned me on as a youngster. Records that I seem to have precious little time for now. Hosting on community radio and doing DJ work about town often restricts me to listening to what I play out. Listening to music for pleasure alone is a luxury. Don’t get me wrong, the radio shows and the gigs are a pleasure all to themselves and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But it means that most of the listening at home is centred upon preparation rather than recreation.


I was never going to abide by the “no explanations, no review” guidelines. There was some deep digging to do and with that in mind, I saw no sense in cheapening the task by simply posting a cover with no back story. Context is a must. However, there were a few boundaries: no 45s (my format of choice) permitted, just albums and none purchased after turning 21.


As fun as this exercise was, compiling the list wasn’t easy. As any DJ will tell you, planning a three-hour set is a whole lot easier than a half-hour set. The former allows for wiggle room while the latter involves a painstaking process of elimination. Consider the sacrifices that have to be made when being limited to a choice of only ten! The obligatory picks came easily enough such as my very, very first record, which was a Sesame Street LP featuring that hairy blue glutton the Cookie Monster, entitled C is for Cookie that I got when I was 3 years old from the Purple Ear record shop in Dianella Plaza for $3. I still have it. From 1991, NWA’s Hundred Miles and Runnin’ EP. Another purchase from the Purple Ear, I had to get written permission from my mum due to the “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” sticker (thanks Tipper Gore) applied to dissuade 12-year-old boys such as myself from falling prey to such filth.


But Dianella was about as far from Compton as you could possibly imagine so all things considered I was pretty safe. Fast-forward to age 20 and there’s the one that kept me company when out on the road delivering the University of Western Australia’s student newspaper Pelican to the far reaches of Perth and beyond: Frank Zappa’s Roxy and Elsewhere. Out of the 50-plus FZ albums I own, that’s the desert island disc for certain. All through my university years, I could hardly utter a sentence without mentioning Frank Zappa. I must have been insufferable. In terms of honourable mentions, I’m sorry to say 1980’s Chipmunk Punk didn’t make the cut.


Surely, I saved the best until last. I ended up saving it until third. It was Kiss’ fourth release on the Casablanca label and, in my opinion, their magnum opus – 1975’s Alive!


Before going any further, there’s some things to clear up. The mentioning of the word Kiss in any discussion around music can trigger all manner of responses. Some will salute while others may scoff. It’s like broaching the subject of spectator sport to people who like to describe themselves as open minded. The snobbishness comes to the fore pretty quickly. Both camps have valid points to make but it’s nonetheless important to put things into context in terms of what phase the group were in and also the time and place that this story is set. When speaking of Kiss, we are referring to the period c.1973 – 1977. “Kiss Classique” if you will. Before “Phantom of the Park” or the solo albums or disco inspired hits or “Shandi” or The Elder or autobiographies so unreadable that no ghost writer on earth could salvage the wreck if indeed they were willing to touch them with a ten-foot pole (looking at you, Peter Criscuola). We are focussing on a more reserved era in which they only limited themselves to putting their own blood into comic book ink.


Here’s the other thing to consider. For those born in a 20-year period up until the late ‘70s who grew up in suburban Australia, there’s a definite possibility that they too were fans of this group. Some may choose to publicly deny this, keeping it under wraps as though it was some kind of secret shame. Those same people will stop at nothing to convince you they were into Tom Waits or Bo Diddley or the Boys Next Door or Nico, or that they were a jazz connoisseur. Nothing wrong with any of this but here’s the key point: they’re lying. Lying out of their arses. They would have eaten for breakfast whatever they thought Gene Simmons would have eaten for breakfast. Mind you, he would have been a better option than Ace. Champagne and Quaaludes isn’t the best way to start the day. It’s in our DNA and no amount of Pharaoh Sanders or Leonard Cohen will compensate.


Here’s a fun fact: Nirvana were Kiss devotees. They covered “Do You Love Me” for the Hard to Believe tribute album. I heard it once on Triple J at this kitchen I used to work at and I recall the way-too-cool-for-school presenters going into damage control, so desperate were they to reassure themselves that it was a pisstake. However, one must understand the over-elaborate aesthetics of Paul Stanley’s stage raps to realise that this cover came from the heart. The Melvins loved them too, as did The Replacements. Charles Bradley covered Black Sabbath tunes. Had he lived long enough I’d go so far to say he would have got around to performing the Hotter Than Hell album in its entirety and the disciples would have lapped it up. Too bad we’ll never know. RIP the Screaming Eagle of Soul. End sidebar.


Our feature record, along with Changesonebowie (the only David Bowie you will ever need), and the Doors was the first music I can ever recall hearing. I have my much older siblings to thank for this. Press the play button on the old Sanyo M9935K and I’m 3 years old again. It’s Friday or Saturday night in summer and my two sisters and two brothers aged 16 to 22 are sitting on the back veranda, switching between the aforementioned cassettes, working their way through a pack of darts, partaking in pizza from the aptly named The Pizza Place where the suburbs of Bedford and Dianella meet, and downing a now non-existent beverage that was on the scene for about as long as those cheese flavoured Burger Rings called Citrus Spring. How the cripes do I remember this? Put it this way – Proust had his Madeleine, I had Kiss Alive!.


But after what I did to that tape, nights on the back veranda were never the same. “Suffragette City” was never going to offset that which was lost. It may seem as though I’m looking back at this period in my youth with rose-tinted glasses, but there were certain drawbacks. I was scared witless of Gene Simmons’ makeup and my brother closest to me in age was hip to this. Whenever he wanted to be on his own to get up to whatever adolescents get up to in their rooms when they’re on their own, the posters would come off the wall and onto the outside of the bedroom door. Until they were taken down, I wouldn’t dare venture from the opposite side of the house.


The vinyl in the picture displayed came later. We (or my eldest sister who I later lifted them from) only had the tapes and the Australian releases were an oddity. Yellow banners for the studio albums, green banners for Alive! and Alive II. Alive! was the crown jewel (this was long before Smashes, Thrashes and Hits which I’m sure you all own). As was the case on a number of the Australian releases on cassette, this version had a different running order to the double vinyl album. On side one, (sides 1 and 4 of the vinyl) you got all the upbeat tracks. Flip the tape over and you got the darker material (sides 2 and 3 on the vinyl). Later releases of the cassette corrected this. Or “incorrected” as far as I was concerned. Side one of that version was simply the business. It took me years to twig that Peter Criss sang all the verses on “Black Diamond”, the closing track on side two of the cassette. I always thought Paul Stanley simply blew his voice out after what I thought was a fairly marathon gig. Nope, Paul just did the “Out on the streets” intro before ol’ Grumpy Cat took over.


There’s something of an inconvenient truth regarding the authenticity of the live albums of this era. It’s generally accepted now that these were often studio jobs with added crowd noise or that the live recording has been subject to so many studio alterations (not without good reason) that you would hesitate to call the finished product a bona fide live album. Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous being one of the prime examples. It’s best not to talk about it at great length as it would be no doubt heartbreaking for some to know just how many of their favourites came into being not via Cobo Hall but Electric Lady Studios. But having said all that, precious few of us including myself give a damn about this detail. You’ll often hear of how these records were made to create the “essence” of a live performance.  That’s the red flag right there. But ultimately, if the end product projects a fun vibe who really cares? If you want genuine authenticity, go for the bootlegs.


On the cover – as a young tacker, it looked to me as though Paul Stanley’s guitar was some sort of reverse Vox Teardrop model that you’d expect Brian Jones to play. Hard to focus when all you’ve got is the tiny picture on the cassette cover. At least that’s my excuse. Having since acquired a copy of the double vinyl album, closer inspection reveals the axe to be a Gibson Firebird (which Brian Jones also played).


Ground zero for a young tacker’s musical education. My parents’ back veranda, 1984. Myself, aged 5, with my friend Santino (aka Sonny) on the Big Wheel. The Sanyo boombox would be set up right where I’m standing.


Back to my eldest sister who owned the tape. Alive! was part of her night time ritual. The Doors was for the daytime. She’d take me in to town to get more Lego from Boans, that magnificent Edwardian-style department store that was sadly demolished during the mid-1980s. Thinking of it now reminds me of that quote from Ada Louise Huxtable after the demolition of Penn Station where she said, “We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed”. If Boans wasn’t the go, it’d be Wonderland or really wherever just as long as I was out of the house and out of my mum’s way. By the time we were ten metres from the house she’d had enough of my carrying on so out came the headphones from her handbag which had the distinct fragrance of PK chewing gum and Winfield Blue cigarettes. The Doors would be going in her ears at full volume. The Walkman was all treble so all I could pick up was Ray’s Vox organ and Jim prattling away. This shrillness of it all would drown out my nagging good and proper. It wasn’t long after this time that it became apparent there were other voices she was trying to drown out. She’s in good spirits these days but it has to be said that schizophrenia’s hard enough to bear witness to, let alone experience yourself.


My favourite memory of listening to Alive! was when my sister and I would get packed off to my grandfolks’ (on mum’s side) place out in Hamilton Hill. Their house was on a main road and the sound of the cars hissing by at night would send me off to sleep. To this day I still can’t sleep with dead silence. After dinner, the grandfolks would be playing Scrabble or watching whatever was on ABC. My sister would head out the back for a smoke and I’d follow, knowing she had the tape with her. She’d sit on one of the chairs that my grandad made, have the fag going and the Walkman cranked. I’d sit on the paving taking in the stars, nagging the shit out of her for at least a couple tunes off side one. Never until that initial dart had been butted, as was the ritual. Any given tune, it didn’t really matter as long as one of them was that live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” which was the album’s centrepiece, its whole reason for being. Plus, on the live version, Ace got a solo and the tune didn’t do that thing where it fades out like on the Dressed to Kill record. I always felt cheated when any song on a record faded out.


Fast forward to one fateful day in ’84, possibly in ’85. We’re at home and I’m fossicking around in the bedroom where my brothers and I slept. One bunk, one single. Again, my granddad’s handywork. That’s where the tape was and I fancied a listed all on my ownsome. From what I recall, there was a particularly foul tempered Walkman belonging to one of my brothers that loved nothing more than eating cherished tapes. I was not to use this one. It was stashed under my bed, out of sight like a troll under a bridge. To be avoided at all costs. Should a tape venture into this cave and get devoured by this monster that would be the end. The fact that the lid was open should have been fair warning that this beast was up for a feed. Bugger it, I thought. Sure, it happens nine times out if ten. This will be the exception. Plus, my sister’s off somewhere with Strange Days perforating her eardrums and I want a listen now. That’s the patience of a four to five-year-old for you. I was a right little Veruca Salt.


Walkman retrieved, tape in, lid down, play button pressed. Four good revolutions, so far so good. It ate the tape. Of course it ate the tape. That’s all that wretched infernal device ever did. I had a temporary fix which consisted of throwing both tape and Walkman under the bed. Out of sight out of mind. Damned if I recall who made the discovery. I just remember feeling very unwelcome down that end of the house for quite some time. It was like a death in the family.


Too young to partake in Cold Gin, and soon to hit Rock Bottom. Sister’s room, sister’s Walkman, sister’s copy of Alive! Her Walkman was always a safe bet. After all, it worked. I fed the tape to the beast under my bed not long after this was taken.


Sourcing a replacement was nothing short of a pain in the arse. Some of the rarest 45s I own took less time to get a hold of. There was one for a time in the public library which I borrowed whenever it became available but that soon disappeared. Then there was the Killers compilation which contained one track from Alive! Hardly a substitute. I eventually tracked down a copy in 78 Records circa ’89 – ’90 but it had that tracking order redone to match the double vinyl. This would serve dutifully for a time but it still wasn’t the real deal. Come the turn of the century, having begun the journey that would eventually lead to vinyl only, I got hold of the double vinyl from some mouldy old record store that used to exist on Beaufort Street in Inglewood a few doors down from Ankara Kebabs. Got Alive II on double vinyl there also. Finally, in the midst of some weird nostalgia pang around ’08 – ‘09 where I figured I needed a break from all the Frank Zappa and John Coltrane that I’d fed myself as an early 20s smartass during my uni days, I found the old tape on eBay. Green border, preferred tracking order. It had taken over twenty years. When I used to do this thankless little DJ gig at this small bar in a food hall in Fremantle a couple years back it was my go-to listen on the car stereo on the way home. It seemed to be the only time I wasn’t listening to music in preparation for the next job. Haven’t lost it yet, hasn’t been chewed up. It currently resides in a drawer over my left shoulder. At least I think it does….Yep, still there.


For the curious, and for those who have managed to endure until the end, here’s the list in full:


  1. Sesame Street/Cookie Monster C Is For Cookie
  2. NWA 100 Miles and Runnin’
  3. Kiss Alive!
  4. Frank Zappa/Mothers Roxy & Elsewhere
  5. Miles Davis A Tribute to Jack Johnson
  6. Motörhead No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith
  7. Captain Beefheart The Spotlight Kid
  8. Soundtrack to the movie La Bamba
  9. Beasts of Bourbon The Low Road
  10. AC/DC Powerage


Honourable mentions:

  1. Soundtrack to the movie The Blues Brothers
  2. The Stooges Funhouse
  3. Bo Diddley The Black Gladiator



To read more from Adam click HERE



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About Adam Fox

Perth-based DJ, radio presenter (hosting and coordinating Soulsides on RTR-FM 92.1), writer, serial procrastinator, plate-licker, leftist, Geelong supporter with a very soft spot for Fitzroy and Richmond. I play late ‘50s to early ‘70s r&b/soul/mod 45s both on air and about town. I completed my BA Honours by submitting a thesis on Frank Zappa. I love the history of the VFL/AFL, especially the old suburban grounds and am obsessed with the 1989 Grand Final (especially the ABC-3LO call). My passions are footy, 45s, my cats (RIP Althea & Cliodhna), my wife and young son Matteo and the city of Melbourne which I visit as often as possible. I also like long walks on the beach and long necks of Melbourne Bitter.


  1. I’ll be the first to admit, I took a serious risk by putting the word Kiss in the title as the word in this context often provokes such a visceral reaction that can result in instant bypass.

    But fear not, this story isn’t about Kiss per se.

  2. Adam- yes, I’m one who slaps the car radio onto a different station at the opening moment of “I Was Made For Loving You.” Kiss became, probably unfairly the symbol of much of my teenage angst, but I understand that they’re widely loved.

    However, your final list including Davis, Beefheart and Zappa grabbed me and I immediately played Roxy and Elsewhere on spotify (to my shame I’d not heard it before). Thanks for the introduction. I’d always been a fan of the Flo and Eddie era with Billy the Mountain at the pinnacle, but this was excellent. I’m going to see the Zappa documentary today.


  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Adam, I was won over briefly by Kiss in my early teens on the back of Rock N Roll All Nite, but when I heard Shout It Out Loud soon after, the party was over for me as I quickly discarded them as a one trick pony and took up with the far more versatile Ramones instead.

    Great story Adam. I’ve still got all of my cassettes btw.

  4. Mickey – I’d be doing the same thing hearing said track. (Then again, I doubt they’d get an airing on ABC radio where the dial is forever set!).

    The Flo & Eddie era’s an interesting one – had one hell of a drummer in Aynsley Dunbar and the Fillmore East album is one worth having on LP (Willie the Pimp Pt.2 a glaring omission from the CD release.) I saw the FZ documentary on Sunday night. Hope you enjoy it!

    Mark – indeed, they were always going to please some and ostracise others with the likes of Bob Ezrin at the helm and the (mixed) results speak for themselves on the Destroyer record. It gets lauded but on closer inspection it’s quite hit and miss. Still, I doubt their experience with Ezrin in ’76 or again in ’81 was anywhere near as harrowing as when the Ramones worked with Phil Spector!

  5. Mickey – forgot to mention, you may have heard the story but when former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra was a youngster he did a high school production of Billy the Mountain. How he didn’t get expelled I’ll never know!

  6. Adam- I saw Zappa and found it both confronting and inspiring. I reckon documentaries should do these things. I appreciated the commentary of his widow Gail and Ruth Underwood who revealed more of his necessary complexities. And how perfect that Watermelon in Easter Hay – surely his most worthy guitar solo played over the closing credits.

  7. Gail’s very much been the gatekeeper of FZ’s legacy up until her passing and I don’t envy the work Alex Winter would have had to put in for Gail to be as open as she was. Ruth Underwood was probably one of the very few who could provide an impartial account seeing, as far as former band members go, she was one of the few who came anywhere near an understanding of how FZ’s brain functioned and thus didn’t take anything too personally. Contrast that with say, Bunk Gardner (quite a bit older than FZ) who was part of the 1966-9 incarnation of the Mothers. The falling out with that line-up had a fair bit of acrimony. The dissolution supposedly coming about after FZ was backstage at the ’69 Newport Jazz Festival seeing the great Duke Ellington more or less begging a tour manager for $10 so he could buy some food. After that he couldn’t see much sense of having a 12-piece touring band on $200/week per member.

    It was just too bad there wasn’t more on the ill-fated 1988 touring band. Probably one of the most capable line-ups since the ’73/’74 “Roxy” band, the tour barely made it past three months when all but two members mutinied against FZ and his rehearsal “clonemeister”, bass player Scott Thunes who was, to say the least, an unsentimental taskmaster. (Mike Kennealy was the only other member who alligned with Thunes and FZ.)

    Was great there was some attention given to the Garrick Theatre gigs as they were very much a part of how FZ honed his future stage craft. They had some fairly legendary albeit tongue-in-cheek run ins with The Velvet Underground at the time.

  8. Ah, yes. “Watermelon in Easter Hay”! Was probably always going to finish on that. (Gotta say, my fave isp probably the original solo from “Inca Roads” – culled from a live performance in Helsinki, later featuring on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol.2 and first appearing on 1975’s One Size Fits All. Also the basis for “Shut Up and Play Your Guitar”.)

  9. Great story Adam.

    I was in early primary school when Kiss toured in 1980 and got swept up in the whole Kiss mania. We all wanted to be in the Kiss army and pretended we were our favourite member (Ace for me). I will admit to liking “I Was Made For Loving You” and “Shandi” but the only music of theirs I actually owned was a 7″ of ‘Talk to Me’ with Ace Frehley on vocals (Naked City sung by Gene Simmons was on the B-side). We didn’t really listen to any of the music, we youngsters got caught up in the whole sideshow of these cartoon/circus characters and their stage antics. We wanted the merchandise, the posters, t-shirts and magazines. On reflection the songs and music wasn’t good at all, but you can cover that with smoking guitars and spitting blood (to some extent). We worshipped them like superheroes and had no concept of what was going on behind the scenes.. We really should have listened to the high school kids who laughed at us and told us to listen to Pink Floyd or Sky instead!

    Kudos for the honourable mention to the Blues Brothers soundtrack.

  10. Greg A – Sky! Flippin’ hell! Last I saw of them was on the cassette stand in my local library around 1983.

    Yeah, my eldest sister was a member of the KA and both her and my brother closest to me in age saw them in Perth in 1980. Perth had 4 shows. Initially two but two more were added due to demand. They queued outside the Entertainment Centre for hours, getting decent seats for the second show. My brother regretted not being a few spots back in the queue which would have got them even better seats for the third but I guess they weren’t to know at that point about the additional shows.

    In retrospect the band must have been glad to play multiple shows there and not for the Melbourne gig. One night freezing their arses off at VFL Park would have been enough.

    I got to see them in ’95 (the “Revenge” lineup) and again in early ’97 with the original lineup (Eric Carr having replaced Peter Criss by the Aus tour in 1980).

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