Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS
by Ken Sharp with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Released on September 10th, 2013, "Nothin' To Lose: The Making of Kiss 1972 - 1975" joins an already long list of previously published books dissecting and examining the history of the rock group Kiss. This one immediately jumps to the top of the stack as one of the best.
Exhaustively researched and written by accomplished rock writer Ken Sharp (along with Kiss co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley), this 550 page book is absolutely crammed with an incredible amount of detailed information on just the first few years of the bands existence. This is a thorough documentation of the formation of the band and how they, along with a supporting cast of financially supportive management, dedicated record company people, and a loyal, hard working road crew, kept pushing along, going from being just another weird, obnoxious New York City club band, working their way up to becoming nationally touring arena headliners in a span of just over three years.
The book cuts off around the end of 1975, shortly after the release of their breakthrough double live album "Alive!" and just as the band were beginning to ride their first real wave of superstardom. These are the earliest chapters of an adventure that would only become more over the top and more successful than any of them could have ever imagined as the 1970's wore on. The adventure still continues to this day, 40 years later, with the band finally being nominated for induction to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame class of 2014 earlier this week. Whether or not they get in this time around is another story altogether.
Presented as an "oral history," author Sharp, here, has managed to get detailed comments, stories and memories from a staggering number of people: Kiss band members themselves (past and present), management, Casablanca Records employees, concert promoters, radio people, magazine writers and newspaper reviewers, club owners, friends, early fans and many members of other bands who Kiss shared the stage with early in their career. Some of the stories presented in the book are rather well known in Kiss fan circles but are expanded upon in great detail here. But a good many of the stories included are being told in these pages for the first time ever and are a welcome addition to the legend that is the story of Kiss' long and winding career.
Also included are a slew of great, (many) previously unpublished photos of the band in their formative years and some other very cool related images such as: a magazine ad from Electric Lady Studios mentioning the pre-Kiss group Wicked Lester, the "drummer willing to do anything to make it" ad Peter Criss placed in Rolling Stone Magazine in August 1972, the ad Gene, Paul and Peter placed in the Village Voice that resulted in the eventual appearance and hiring of "the soul of the Kiss sound," lead guitarist Paul "Ace" Frehley, an ad for Kiss' first concert ever at the Coventry, a Coventry bumper sticker, a matchbook from the Amityville, Long Island club The Daisy, a drink coaster from The Hotel Diplomat, handwritten song lyrics and tour schedules and lots more - there are plenty of visuals to go along with the reading here.
"Nothin' To Lose" should be considered immediate and essential reading for any Kiss fan as it stands now as easily one of the most informative books released on the early history of the band. I would almost bet money that author Ken Sharp is already hard at work on a follow up second installment that would presumably cover the 1976 - 1979 time frame of the bands career. Those were years that would see the group ascend heights of great international stardom, racking up record sales in the multi-millions world-wide. That time frame would also, sadly, see cracks forming within the band itself, with Peter Criss being the first to leave the group after the completion of the 1979 "Dynasty" tour. But that's getting a bit ahead of things. For now readers and fans can just focus on and revel in the stories from the early days presented in this amazingly detailed volume.