When Kiss’ Boss Asked Them to ‘Play Worse’ Onstage
Paul Stanley discussed the struggle Kiss faced with booking shows in their early years, as more and more bands refused to have them as an opening act.
In a recent interview with Yahoo, he explained that the relatively unknown group used to take advantage of lax performance agreements to enhance their reputation, which worsened the situation and led to an unusual suggestion from their record label boss, Neil Bogart.
“I think bands that had to follow us knew that they were screwed,” Stanley said. “Initially they didn't know that. Certainly, there were some bands who, when they would see us, would start chuckling. They weren't chuckling after we played.”
You can watch the interview below.
Stanley noted that “what we were doing was so new back then that we could get away with things that you can't do anymore because the headliner [contractually] doesn't let you. … I mean, there were headliners who would go on with a Kiss sign hanging behind them! You know, we just put up the Kiss sign and didn't take it down. … Nobody thought ahead to say, ‘Well, is that band going to use pyro, and do they have a sign and this and that?’ It was all uncharted territory. So, we basically did what we wanted to, and we quickly got a reputation that made it difficult to find gigs.”
That’s when the manager stepped in. “Neil Bogart had us come into his office in Los Angeles, and –so help me – he said, ‘It's becoming impossible to get you on any shows. Could you possibly play, you know, worse? Could you, you know, not play the way you do?’ We looked at each other. … It was like, ‘Um, you want us to, like, suck?’”
Kiss didn’t act on the suggestion, continuing to push their luck until their fourth album, Alive!, secured their status as a headline act in 1975. “That was a lifesaver for us,” Stanley said. “Because it really had become almost impossible to find bands that would let us open for them.”