All I Really Need to Know I Learned from KISS: Life Lessons from the Hottest Band in the Land is a love letter from a lifelong fan. Author and AOL Music journalist Chris Epting was recently interviewing rock legends KISS when it suddenly flashed before his eyes that, bizarre as it might seem, the band he had loved since childhood actually played a huge part in shaping how he looks at the world. In that instant, he decided to write about his life long journey with the band, starting out in the early 1970s when he joined the KISS Army and continuing until today. Epting takes us through the history of KISS, weaving in historic tidbits and trivia with his personal observations, while laying out the rules for living that he absorbed from “the hottest band in the land.” With exclusive pictures and insider insights, this is a must for KISS fans and anyone whose love for the band they first loved continues to inspire them. The introduction by Stone Temple Pilot’s Robert DeLeo includes his own teen fan drawings of KISS.
An entertaining writer describing the impact one of rock’s most entertaining bands has had on him? How could it not be immense fun? You couldn’t hope for a brighter, breezier read than this one. Epting is a pop culture expert and his descriptions of the life lessons he’s learned from KISS are as enjoyable as they are convincing. He admires their attitude as much as he does their music. He demonstrates how these mysterious, face-painted bad boys project loads of positive attributes, including individuality, self-esteem, outspokenness, a strong work ethic and a sense of community. It’s a personal memoir, warmly recounting the uplifting effects the band had on a boy from age 12. This shy boy grew into a confident man who had the thrill of interviewing his fire-breathing idols. As with all great music, KISS’s brand of rock translates to new generations. And author/journalist Epting was able to share his KISS zeal with his own young son. You don’t have to be a member of the KISS army to relate to this intimately etched portrait of youth and rock, from the ’70s onward. Stone Temple Pilot founder/bassist Robert DeLeo contributed the foreword. The Kindle book is exclusively available on Amazon until 2013 and retails for $2.99.
Yes, I know this is the third KISS related item in the last month, but I can’t help it if great stuff keeps coming out! My time with KISS goes way back to Kindergarten when we used to have 8-tracks of Destroyer and Love Gun lying around the house. After that, all through elementary school, my brother and I got KISS albums for every birthday and Christmas. We even dressed up as Peter Criss and Paul Stanley, replete with wigs and platform boots for Halloween one year when we were about 7 and 9 years old. But it was to a church party, so it wasn’t the hit we imagined it would be. We weren’t the only kids growing up fans of KISS, of course. Kids all over the country were doing the same thing. One of them was author Chris Epting. In his new book All I Really Need to Know I Learned from KISS: Life Lessons from the Hottest Band in the Land he recounts how his love affair with the band started.
From the first time he saw the group on television as a kid to interviewing them in Las Vegas as an adult, the band has intersected with his life since that first moment. In the end he boils down the influence the band has had on his life and shares those lessons with us, the readers. If you’re looking for dirt on the band, the juicy details on the in-fighting and sexcapades, you’ll have to look elsewhere. It’s not so much that Epting brushes over them as unimportant or is oblivious to them, but rather they don’t have a place in his story. This is about him and his relationship with a band that provided certain meaning to parts of his life, who’ve inspired him at other points.
Epting’s writing is like you are sitting across the table while he tells you the story. I was quickly able to identify with where he started and where he ended up and I think even casual fans of KISS will enjoy this project. All I Really Need to Know I Learned from KISS: Life Lessons from the Hottest Band in the Land is from a great new publisher, Miniver Press, who specializes in Kindle Singles. I’ll be telling you more about both of those things in an upcoming series of articles I’m working on, but suffice it to say, I think they’re on to something. The great thing about a Kindle single is that they are short books that allow a lot of the fluff to be taken out and the best kept in, just as it has been in this book.
In late fall, I saw something reported on the news that still makes me smile and really gets to the heart of why I think KISS still manages to thrive. There was a public high school in Cadillac, Michigan that had invited KISS to town. Why? Because the high school football team, after a slow start to the 1974 season, started playing KISS in the locker room to get the team fired up – thanks to a coach that had seen KISS perform before in Flint, Michigan. And it worked. The team started winning. So in honor of the success, KISS accepted an invitation, stormed into Cadillac to receive a key to the city, play a concert and ride through town in a parade, among other events.
They played a full-scale show in the school gym. They spent the night and the next morning, applied makeup to the local officials’ faces at a town breakfast. The kids all painted their faces for the parade, including the cheerleaders and football players. This was small-town rock and roll magic at is best, with a touch of Norman Rockwell, but it was also the core of what helped KISS become so popular – they rarely ignored small places or requests. In fact, they looked for out of the way places to play, anyplace that would have them, and thus were able to build a special audience of die-hards that never forgot the time KISS came to town – whatever town it happened to be.
This all stems from the blue –collar, almost vaudevillian discipline that KISS still has; this burning desire to take the show to the people, wherever the people are. And to go the extra mile by showing up in Cadillac proved more than anything that these guys were not snobs, they understood their own charms, as well as the value of a well-timed public relations spectacle. The Cadillac High School event to me embodies everything KISS has ever been, and always will be about. They went overboard in all of the right ways. They did things no other bands did. They catered to fans while being true to themselves. They left the town in a helicopter that landed on the football field. As they departed, they dropped hundreds of flyers over the students, teachers and parents that read: Cadillac High – KISS loves you!
- CHRIS EPTING