45 Years Ago: Kiss’ Disco Flirtation Begins With ‘Strutter ’78’
Kiss has done a great number of over-the-top and perhaps even superfluous things in the course of the band's existence. But one decision that enjoys a consensus as unnecessary would be "Strutter '78."
"Strutter," of course, was the hard-riffing lead-off track on Kiss' self-titled debut album in February of 1974; it was also the third single from the album, released six months later without making a dent on the charts or on radio. It was nevertheless a live favorite and made it onto the breakthrough Alive! album in 1975.
Still, it didn't seem like the most likely prospect for a re-record. But that's just what happened when the band and its label, Casablanca Records, prepped the first Kiss compilation, Double Platinum, in 1978.
"We were putting out this greatest hits album and the record company wanted something new," Kiss' Ace Frehley told this writer some years ago. "I don't know if we didn't have anything or we didn't want to waste anything on a hits album, so we decided to do 'Strutter' again, so it was 'Strutter '78' -- that simple, really."
By most accounts "Strutter '78" was recorded at New York's Electric Lady Studio with longtime cohort Sean Delaney co-producing. Casablanca chief Neil Bogart, who was having equal success with Donna Summer, the Village People and other disco acts, pushed for a softer and more dance-friendly take on the track, which is subtle but noticeable in the mix. "Strutter '78" also featured an additional guitar solo, while the single version was 30 seconds shorter than its album counterpart and featured a beefed-up echo on Peter Criss' drum part.
Listen to 'Strutter '78'
The following year, Kiss dove even deeper into disco with the single "I Was Made for Lovin' You," which was a massive hit on the pop charts but alienated fans of the band's original hard rock sound.
Like its predecessor, "Strutter '78" also failed to chart in the U.S., though Double Platinum -- which featured remixed versions of eight other songs -- made it to No. 22 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum.
The group itself has largely disowned "Strutter '78," however. Frehley and Delaney were on record as considering the remake unnecessary. Likewise, Gene Simmons dismissed the track "I look back at that and think, 'Why?'" the bassist explained to Guitar World in 1996. "The original version is the classic and the best." Paul Stanley was even harsher. "I thought it sucked...It was bullshit," the singer declared to Late Night Magazine. "There was no reason to do it, it was pointless because we had no new point of view and no reason to re-cut something that came out so good the first time"
"Strutter '78" surfaced just one more time on record, appearing on the Kiss 40 compilation in 2014, a two-disc set that hit No. 40 on the Billboard 200.