May the 5th will see the UK release of the latest in a line of autobiographies from the founding members of KISS (April 8th in US). This time round it's the one I've been looking forward to most - Paul Stanley "Face The Music A Life Exposed". I was lucky enough to get a review copy over the weekend, here are my thoughts.
Starting with his early childhood, the initial sections of the book deal with Paul's realisation that microtia made him different to other kids, ultimately leading to name calling and insecurity. We get to see into his troubled family life as a child, where he had to deal with both his sister's drug use and psychological problems as well as parents who were not fully supportive of him or his ambitions.
Dealing with microtia & deafness is a theme that runs through the entire book, from growing his hair long to hide the fact that his right ear was deformed, through to his reconstruction operation in the early 80's. Paul also explains how he took on the lead role in Phantom Of The Opera after realising he had strong connections with the lead character - both hid their true identify and deformities behind a mask.
Paul's early introduction into music is well detailed, from skipping school and hiding in a cathedral waiting for music stores to open through to getting, and rejecting, his first guitar. His years with ‘Post War Baby Boom’ are also mentioned, ultimately leading him to be replaced by the band without his knowledge. This leads onto a meeting with a certain Gene Klein, a bass player who seemed to like talking a lot.. about himself. This was of course the meeting that was to about to change the course of both their lives.
The KISS years are, of course, fully documented - warts and all. Starting with the Red & Orange sneaker story we all know & love, getting a manager, defining the look & direction of the band and also the difficult early shows. Yes, there are insights into exactly how difficult it was to deal with both Ace & Peter, which became worst as alcohol & drug abuse took over. But more surprising is how Paul details the relationship with Gene. Throughout the book there is resentment over how Gene's involvement with KISS disappeared over the years, mainly during the 80's where Paul was left to run the band with virtually no support. At one point a Hollywood producer & his kids were brought into a KISS recording session just to help Gene to get an acting job. Paul really was running the show throughout the 80's but resented having to split the rewards of his work equally with Gene.
All members of KISS past & present are covered, as well as managers (lots about Bill Aucoin), tour managers, accountants & more. There is a deep & heart-breaking insight into the time around Eric Carr's death, in particular around Paul questioning whether he had made the right decisions with regards to Eric, ultimately regretting the way things turned out. This is the first time I have read an honest account of what actually happened, I really admire Paul for this.
What is clear throughout the book is Paul's insecurity with himself, often hidden by his alter ego The Starchild. Outside of the band Paul talks about his loneliness, depression, seeing a psychiatrist (who later joined the KISS team) and even having panic attacks. The only outlet from this was the time he enjoyed with women - and lots of them, from friend's mums to Penthouse models. He talks about the time he decided to turn his life around and look for marriage, this leads to his time with Pam and later Erin and ultimately his 4 children, to who his dedication & love is clear - he hasn't replicated the failings of his own parents approach to parenthood.
The reunion years are also mentioned in detail, from Tommy Thayer having to teach both Peter & Ace the basics again, through to the amazing first show at Tiger Stadium, Detroit. However it wasn’t long before history repeated itself - Paul was intent on not letting the band self destruct after some bad Farewell shows fuelled by crazy demands from Ace, Peter and... Gigi.
Personally I loved this book, it's as damn close to a complete warts & all insight into KISS as you're going to get, right from the Starchild himself. He is incredibly honest throughout, not just about the people around him but also about himself. Yes, I can often be guilty of wearing Rose-Tattoo tinted spectacles, but I admire Paul for giving an honest, heartfelt, motivating & yet (at times) upsetting insight into his life, his family & KISS.