Top 10 Weirdest Kiss Songs
It's hard to argue with the notion that Kiss have put out some pretty weird songs over their four-decade long career. From the original lineup's early attempts to find its identity to the ongoing efforts of band leaders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to stand out amid a rapidly changing musical landscape, the group has tried out more than its share of different sonic "looks" -- from hard rock and disco to pop and progressive rock, and even grunge. Their longevity and continued popularity are a testament to the fact that many of these experiments have connected successfully with fans. But as you can see in our list of the Top 10 Weirdest Kiss Songs, sometimes it's also resulted in some extremely strange tracks -- some bad, some good and some that we're still not sure about yet.
Maybe we're jumping the gun here. After all, at the time of this writing, we've only heard a snippet of this song, which very unexpectedly teams up Kiss with a Japanese pop girl group. But unless the rest of the track gets a helluva lot more conventional very quickly, it seems safe to assume that ‘Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina' will earn some place on this list of the weirdest Kiss songs -- and possibly even move up in the rankings. Stay tuned!
We tried to place just one song each from the Kiss albums represented on our list of their weirdest songs. If we didn't, 'Music From the Elder' would dominate the proceedings like the 1984 American Summer Olympic squad. But we couldn't resist giving a couple of spots to some of the admitted curiosities on the band's 94-track 2001 box set. First up is this 1969 Gene Simmons solo demo, a shockingly earnest and lilting ballad that sounds like rock's future fire-breathing demon should be rowing a gondola while he sings it to you and your date on your romantic tour of Vienna.
After a disastrous three-year stretch that birthed several of the songs on this list, and found them falling from sold-out arena shows to canceled tours, Kiss miraculously pulled out of a tailspin with 1982's 'Creatures of the Night,' which returned them to (and sometimes even improved on) their original hard-rock sound. Songs like the album's big hit 'I Love It Loud' also featured just about the most massive drum sound this side of 'When the Levee Breaks.' But when it came time to include 'Loud' on their 1988 career-spanning retrospective, that huge sound had been neutered -- as you can hear below. Somebody smart just suggested to us that this was done to make the song fit sonically alongside the more thin-sounding '70s tracks on the album. That makes sense, but taken on its own, it's still very odd to hear part of what made this song so special removed so dramatically.
To be honest, we're not sure what makes this particular song any weirder than any of the other discofied songs Kiss offered up on their 'Dynasty' and 'Unmasked' albums. Maybe professed Studio 54 patron Paul Stanley sounds more at home on 'I Was Made for Lovin' You' than Simmons does here -- because every other person we've mentioned this list idea to immediately declared, "You HAVE to include 'She's So European' on there!"
Once Van Halen's 'Jump' and the general concept of Bon Jovi arrived on the scene in the mid-'80s, it was nearly impossible for any hard-rock band to avoid adding keyboards to its sound. Thankfully, Kiss signed up for this plan for only one record. It made sense on the album's hit power ballad 'Reason to Live,' but it turned the uptempo self-help anthem 'My Way' into something rather bizarre -- like the soundtrack for a never-filmed Sylvester Stallone training montage. Plus, as Stanley himself explains in the band's book 'Kiss: Behind the Mask,' "If I sang any higher, dogs would run into the street."
Here's a good rule of thumb: If the Melvins cover a particular track, there's a strong chance it's one of the weirdest songs in your catalog. That's certainly the case with this wonderfully warped classic, which finds a 93-year-old Simmons chasing away his teenage lover over a prehistorically sludgy guitar riff.
Remember what we said earlier: Weird doesn't necessarily mean bad! Still, we almost feel guilty including this song on our list. So promise us that you'll read this part, OK? It turns out that seeing 'Pinocchio' as a child was a revelatory moment in young Gene's life, as the movie deeply spoke to him and inspired him to chase his dreams. "I did that song for me," he explains in 'Behind the Mask.' "I knew everybody would say, 'Oh, that's nonsense.' As a homage, I felt that I had to record that song in some way to pay back Jiminy Cricket, because my dreams at that point had come true. I cried on the recording of the song ... all those original memories came back."
"We didn't think very much about continuity or whether or not it made sense to sing in three-part harmonies and stick in a flute," Simmons admits of he and Stanley's pre-Kiss band Wicked Lester and their first attempt at recording the future classic 'She.' The results are far too Jethro Tull not to include here, but as Simmons proudly notes in the liner notes to the band's 2001 box set, "It all made sense once the fat was cut away."
Conquering the world, as Kiss did after years of nonstop touring and the seminal 1975 live album 'Alive!,' can offer a band its first real opportunity to explore a recording studio with the aid of a top-flight producer and, well, get weird. And that's exactly what the group did with this number, which borrows from Beethoven's 8th Sonata (oddly enough, so does Billy Joel's 'This Night') and employs the Brooklyn Boys Chorus. What makes it all even stranger is how strongly the grandiosity of the music clashes with the blunt, crude sexual lyrics: "You watch me singing this song / You see what my mouth can do / And you wish you were the one I was doing it to."
Somehow, eight of the 10 weirdest Kiss songs feature Gene Simmons on vocals. But the gold medal goes to Paul Stanley and 'Just a Boy.' It's the lead-off track to the band's stunningly head-scratching attempt to make a "serious" concept album about some vague medieval quest. Just the fact that there's a minute-long instrumental introduction -- with delicate chimes and woodwinds giving way to an absolutely massive orchestra crescendo -- tells you most of what you need to know here. Things don't get any more normal when the band takes over with acoustic guitars and Stanley singing of ships, stormy seas and a young boy's destiny in an absolutely piercing falsetto. It's Kiss gone Broadway, and while some of us think it's a noble effort, there's no way even Stanley and Simmons can defend it as anything other than "odd," "bizarre" and more akin to "a bad Genesis record."