UNDISCOVERED KISSTORY – KISS COVER VERSIONS
Chris Dale. 21 November 2016
I’m not talking in this article about other people covering Kiss songs, like we’ve all probably done from time to time. No, in this episode of UNDISCOVERED KISSTORY, we’re going to sit back and listen to the original versions of all the songs that Kiss have covered on their records. There’s some good listening to be had here and you may be surprised by some of them.
The obvious ones spring to mind – ‘Kissin’ Time’, ‘Then She Kissed Me’, ‘New York Groove’, ‘2000 Man’ etc but there’s loads more. Have you ever tracked down all the original artists versions of these songs?
We’re going to do just that right now.
But first, let’s define what a cover version is. I define a cover version as recording or playing a song by another songwriter or band that they had previously written and/or recorded themselves.
It might seem odd to have to define what exactly constitutes a cover version and what does not but as we’ll see later in this and future articles, some songs such as ‘Rock and Roll Hell’, ‘Little Caesar’ and ‘All For the Love of Rock and Roll’ blur the lines between a cover version and an original song.
By that definition, let’s look at the covers that Kiss have recorded and released. I make them to be:
1. Kissin’ Time
2. King Of The Night Time World
3. Then She Kissed Me
4. Anyway You Want It
5. Tossin’ And Turning
6. When You Wish Upon A Star
7. New York Groove
8. 2000 Man
9. Is That You?
11. Rock And Roll Hell
12. God Gave Rock And Roll To You II
13. Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?
Actually this would make a really good Kiss compilation album because the thing that unites almost all these covers is that the Kiss version is usually immeasurably better than the original. Kiss rules!
But having said that, let’s have a listen to the originals just out of curiosity.
1 KISSIN’ TIME
Originally recorded by Bobby Rydell in 1959
This was a contentious later addition to the debut Kiss album. The first album, entitled ‘Kiss’ was recorded in October 1973 and released in February 1974 with all original songs.
Although it included many later classics such as ‘Deuce’, ‘Strutter’ and ‘Black Diamond’, the debut Kiss album did not have a clear single and was not an instant success.
To remedy this situation Casablanca record company boss, Neil Bogart sent the band back into the studio in April 1974 to record his suggestion of this cover version as a single.
The single was released in May 1974 and received some favourable radio airplay. It was added to the rerelease of the debut record in July 1974 and has been included on all versions of the album since then.
It was not a popular choice with the band who refused to play it live, although it is a favourite among many hard core fans as uniquely it features lead vocals from Gene, Paul and Peter Criss. Here’s the Kiss version.
2. KING OF THE NIGHT TIME WORLD
Originally recorded by Kim Fowley and the Hollywood Stars.
I always though from the writing credit on the Destroyer album (Paul Stanley, Kim Fowley, Mark Anthony, Bob Ezrin) that this was basically a Kiss song by Paul Stanley with Kim Fowley and friends maybe adding some ideas.
In fact the opposite is true. Kim Fowley had already recorded this song under the band name of Kim Fowley and the Hollywood Stars. The song that Kiss recorded for Destroyer is basically a cover version.
It’s hard to see what Paul Stanley added to the already recorded song to deserve his writing credit in first place on this song. The drums are arranged slightly differently but that was more likely down to producer Bob Ezrin than Paul.
Either way, the version Bob got Kiss to record is far more rocking than Kim’s original.
3. THEN HE KISSED ME
Originally recorded by The Crystals in 1963.
I was never sure quite why Kiss put this on the ‘Love Gun’ album, though they cleverly re-titled it as ‘Then She Kissed Me’. According to Kiss legend, the band jammed a bit of the song for fun in soundcheck at the Volkshaus in Zurich, Switzerland in 1976.
A year later, they recorded it for an album. I really hate to say it but it honestly sounds like they were desperate for songs to record at that point. The ‘Love Gun’ album lyrically is up until that point a series of teenage rebellion, rock’n’roll sex anthems and ‘Then She Kissed Me’ is a mismatch to me.
Paul’s gonna shoot his lover with his love gun after he’s stolen her love. Gene’s got love for sale as an almost human stalker. Peter’s a hooligan and Ace wants his girl to put on her black leather.
Then this song arrives at the end of the record with Paul hoping he’ll get a peck on the cheek if he’s lucky. It just doesn’t fit with me. Have a listen to the Kiss version anyway.
4. ANYWAY YOU WANT IT
Originally recorded by the Dick Clarke Five.
Sorry but in my opinion, this is just another album filler. It neither detracts nor adds to the quality of the ‘Alive 2’ album. The first three sides of the double album are a bombastic (heavily over dubbed) live performance, the fourth side has new studio tracks including Ace’s ‘Rocket Ride’ and the awesome ‘Larger And Life’ and then there’s this rock and roll ditty at the end.
The only notable point about this Kiss song is that I think it’s the first (but by no means the last) song that Kiss recorded with Paul Stanley playing all the guitar parts. Anyway here’s the Kiss version.
5. TOSSIN’ AND TURNING
Originally recorded by Bobby Lewis in 1961.
No, when Peter sings on his 1978 solo album that he’s “tossing and turning all night” he is not using the British slang for masturbation, as I mistakenly thought when I first heard the song in my teens. In fact, like ‘Kissin’ Time’ it’s an old Bobby Lewis cover, with the introduction missed out.
Rather than the Peter Criss album version, here’s the live version that Kiss performed on the Dynsaty tour in 1979 at Largo, Florida.
6. WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
Originally sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket on the soundtrack for the Disney film ‘Pinocchio’ in 1940.
Gene Simmons recorded a straight cover of this song (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington), not as a rocking Kiss tune but as an inspiration for people generally to better themselves and look to the future. In that he must be commended but it tends to be a track I skip when listening his otherwise excellent solo album. You can enjoy it here though.
7. NEW YORK GROOVE
Originally recorded by Hello in 1975.
This song was written by Russ Ballard, who also wrote both ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘I Surrender’ for Rainbow and was originally recorded by Hello in 1975 and became a UK top ten hit for them.
In a similar way to the debut Kiss album, Ace’s 1978 solo album was full of great riffing songs but had no obvious radio singles. It was engineer Eddie Solan that came up with the idea of adding a cover of ‘New York Groove’ to the record.
This was the first attempt by a Kiss member at a reasonably current cover version rather a standard from decades before and it was also the highest charting of the singles from the Kiss solo albums, reaching #13 in the US Billboard charts.
With Ace’s slide guitar replacing the original mouth organ, his natural New York drawl and legendary street background, he fit the character more perfectly than the British band Hello had done.
Here’s the recorded version from his 1978 solo album.
8. 2000 MAN
Originally recorded by The Rolling Stones.
After having had a top twenty hit with a cover version the previous year, another Ace Frehley sung cover version seemed like a good idea for the return of Kiss on 1979s ‘Dynasty’ album.
Ace’s version was one of the four songs played by the original four members on the 1995 MTV Unplugged performance that led to the classic line-up reunion of the following year. The song remains a much loved part of Ace’s live set to this day.
While it never became the hit for Kiss that they may have hoped for, Ace and Kiss certainly did this song a big favour in their interpretation of the most hippy moment of the Rolling Stones mostly glorious career. Here’s how Ace and Kiss made it a much more rocking track.
9. IS THAT YOU?
Originally written and demoed Gerard McMahon.
In this video Gerard McMahon explains his story of writing the song.
Kiss opened the 1980 album Unmasked with a great cover version of the Birmingham born songwriter’s tune ‘Is That You?’. Gerald also wrote songs for Chicago and Roger Daltrey. Here’s a version Kiss paying his song in Sydney, Australia in 1980.
Written by Tony Powers an relased in 1982.
Tony Powers is a New York songwriter, who co-wrote Showaddywaddy’s ‘Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts’ as well as many other tunes for various bands. In early 1981 he contributed this completed song in demo format to Kiss who then recorded it for ‘The Elder’ album.
Tony released his own version of the song in 1982 a year after ‘The Elder’ had flopped for Kiss and did similarly well in the charts himself. Here’s the Kiss version with Paul Stanley singing.
11. ROCK AND ROLL HELL
Originally written by Jim Vallance and recorded by Bachmann Turner Overdrive.
On the Kiss album ‘Creatures Of The Night’ there’s a great Gene Simmons song called ‘Rock And Rock Hell’. It was always one of my favourite highlights of the album and is credited to Simmons/Adams/Vallance.
The Adams and Vallance mentioned here are non other than the then unknown Canadian guitarist Bryan Adams and his producer and song writing partner Jim Vallance. But with Gene’s name upfront on the ‘Creatures Of The Night’ album credits I was tempted to believe it was Gene’s song back then.
Actually it’s largely a cover version of a song that had already been recorded by Bachman Turner Overdrive (then re-titled as BTO) on their ‘Rock And Roll Nights’ album in 1979, written and produced by none other than Jim Vallance.
Jim Vallance, commented on his website (jimvallance.com) on his co-write with Kiss:
“Bryan Adams and I got a call from producer Michael James Jackson, asking if we’d be interested in writing a song for Kiss. To be honest I’ve never been a huge Kiss fan, but it was early in our writing career and Kiss were selling a lot more records than we were, so it seemed like a good idea.
“Bryan and I wrote two songs for Kiss: a new one called ‘War Machine’, and a re-worked version of BTO’s “Rock And Roll Hell”, with a new lyric and a slower, heavier feel.
“Not long afterwards we received an unexpected telephone call from Gene Simmons! Gene said he loved both our tracks, and Kiss were definitely interested in recording them. There was just one problem, ‘Rock And Roll Hell’ needed an extra verse.
“Adams and I were in the same room, on separate phones. We looked at each other and shook our heads. The song was finished. Why on earth would Gene want us to write another verse? We told Gene how we felt about it.
“There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line and then Gene spoke, very slowly and firmly: ‘You don’t understand’, he said. ‘The song needs an extra verse. And I’m going to write it’.
“Suddenly it dawned on us. Gene was trying to tell us, in not-too-subtle terms, that Kiss wouldn’t record our song unless his name appeared as a co-writer. The choice was obvious: we could share song writing credit (and have some royalties) on an album that would probably sell ten million copies, or we could have no songs on the album at all.”
More recently Ace Frehley covered the same song. Imagine how cool it would have been to have this one Ace song on the ‘Creatures Of The Night’? Ace’s delivery of the lyric is so much more plausible than Gene’s. Imagine if Ace had finished his career in Kiss with the line “Get me outta this rock and roll hell. take me far away…”
12. GOD GAVE ROCK AND ROLL TO YOU II
Kiss stopped including cover versions on their records throughout their 1980s non-make up era. The albums ‘Lick It Up’, ‘Animalize’, ‘Asylum’, ‘Crazy Nights’, ‘Smashes Thrashes And Hits’ and ‘Hot In The Shade’ contain no direct cover versions that I know of, though they often employed co-writers in this period – maybe we’ll look at the another time. Yet ironically it was in this period that the band began jamming on the odd cover version or two live at occasional gigs. Mmaybe we’ll look at Kiss’ live cover versions another time too?
Meanwhile the dawn of the 1990s saw Kiss once again record a cover version. Remember Russ Ballard who wrote ‘New York Groove’? ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ was another Russ Ballard song that he wrote and sang for Argent in 1973.
The Kiss version was slightly re-worked as number II, again with some new lyrics added by Gene and Paul. It was recorded specifically for the film ‘Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey’ but after its success on MTV, it was included on the next full Kiss album, ‘Revenge’.
The song became a top five hit for Kiss in the UK but the video for this song is probably most remembered by Kiss fans as the band’s last performance with Eric Carr before he sadly passed away in November 1991. His vocals are heard in the mid section of the song but the drums were recorded by Eric Singer.
13. DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK AND ROLL RADIO?
Originally recorded by The Ramones.
In 2003, Kiss recorded this track for The Ramones cover album, ‘We’re A Happy Family’. The original was on the Ramones’ 1980 album, ‘End Of The Century’.
Paul Stanley sings the first verse of the Kiss version and plays all the guitar parts. Gene sings the second verse and plays bass. Eric Singer played drums. Derek Sherinian played keyboards and Scott Paige played the prominent saxophone parts.
While some fans raved about the version, I personally found it frustrating that the band were not recording new songs of their own at that time.
FIRE AND WATER
Not actually a Kiss release but let’s end on a high note. Here’s Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley doing Free’s ‘Fire And Water’ on Ace’s recent solo album of cover versions, entitled ‘Origins Vol. 1’. It was originally written and recorded by Free.
There are other cover versions on the solo albums that various Kiss members have released outside of Kiss but none that feature two original members and none that sound this cool!