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Should Kiss’ New Members Wear the Band’s Original Makeup? – Rock’s Great Debates

Ace Frehley Tommy Thayer
Michael Ochs Archive / Paul Kane, Getty Images

When it comes to Kiss, whether you suffer from terminal overexposure or eagerly shell out your hard-earned cash for every piece of music and merchandise, you can’t deny that the band’s four kabuki-makeup characters figure among rock’s most iconic images. But should the band’s new members wear the designs made famous by their famous predecessors?

The cultural penetration of the Kiss brand is such that that lovers and haters alike are intimately familiar with the Demon (Gene Simmons), the Star Child (Paul Stanley), the Spaceman (Ace Frehley) and the Cat (Peter Criss) — regardless of the niggling fact that, for more than a decade now, the latter pair has been sported by replacement guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer, respectively.

It wasn’t always this way, so we asked two writers to each argue one side of this debate, and here’s what they had to say:

Kiss’ New Members Should NOT Wear the Original Makeup
by Eduardo Rivadavia

Such was the sanctity of the original four Kiss characters that when Criss and Frehley first fell afoul of Stanley and Simmons, the latter half went to great lengths to masquerade their former bandmates’ departures — first by hiring session musicians to help maintain the ruse that both men were still active members of the group and then by replacing them with new players (drummer Eric Carr, a.k.a. the Fox, and guitarist Vinnie Vincent, the, ahem, Ankh Warrior) who boasted relatively related white-face makeup, a move that was supposed to soften the blow for hardcore fans.

Then came the unmasked years, the glorious mid-‘90s reunion of the original foursome in trademark makeup and the inevitable second bust-up with the “troublesome twosome” of Frehley and Criss — at which point Stanley and Simmons decided that the Cat and Spaceman were both bigger than the men behind the masks, and simply handed them off to their new charges, Singer and Thayer.

Sacrilege, I say!

Even though it’s true that fans who still buy Kiss albums and attend Kiss concerts are, by and large, seeking the evanescent thrill of remembering, albeit briefly, what it felt like to be a rock-loving teen again, this should never come at the expense of the purity underlying that dream. Otherwise, the very “authenticity” that Simmons and Stanley claim to be supplying is hopelessly undermined.

Concertgoers can go on fooling themselves and subjugating their true feelings as to what their eyes and ears tell them, but the essence of Ace ‘Spaceman’ Frehley and Peter ‘Cat’ Criss simply cannot be duplicated by co-opted showroom dummies, no matter how perfectly they perform their predecessors’ musical parts.

Yes, the “product” may be served, for the most part, but not the soul of Kiss. And so that rush of fond memories is both fleeting and false, while the price to be paid — literally and emotionally — ultimately is not worth the cost of selling one’s dreams.

Kiss’ New Members SHOULD Wear the Original Makeup
by Matthew Wilkening

No matter how cool it would be if it were true, the simple fact is that Ace, Peter, Paul and Gene are not the team that can deliver the best Kiss concert today. And now that audiences have had a second extended taste of life with the original makeup and stage show, there’s no going back to the unmasked days or creating more new characters. So it’s either new guys in the classic makeup or no Kiss. And I choose Kiss.

Even if another original lineup reunion would temporarily boost the band’s seemingly good, but not sellout, tour numbers, doesn’t it seem likely that it would do more long-term harm than good? These two camps just can’t get along; that’s become painfully obvious over the years.

What also seems to be true is that neither Frehley nor Criss have the motivation or ability to maintain the rigorous tour and promotional itineraries Simmons and Stanley have followed for nearly all of Kiss’ 40-year career. Based on their own sparse (Ace) to nearly dormant (Peter) schedules over the past few years, do you really think they would be up for an overnight jaunt to Milan to promote a fashion line or a dozen restaurant openings and 30 interviews, plus whatever else the tireless Stanley and Simmons get up to each week?

Also, let’s not kid ourselves — the first couple of years of the reunion shows were among some of the best Kiss have ever done, but toward the end there was a distinct lack of unity, proficiency and enthusiasm coming off the stage. Meanwhile, Thayer and Singer have plugged into the Kiss machine perfectly, helping them remain one of the most energetic and active live bands out there, and putting an end to an 11-year new-album drought with two fully respectable records in the past four years. If you read the tangled story of arguments and replacement players behind the original lineup’s attempt to record ‘Psycho Circus‘ together back in 1998, it becomes pretty clear that wouldn’t be possible with Criss and Frehley on board.

If it makes you feel any better, it seems highly likely that someone else will wear the official Demon and Starchild makeup someday too. After all, do you really think Gene and Paul are going to let a little thing like their own (hopefully, far away) deaths end their beloved band?

Next: Bon Vs. Brian

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