When someone asks me, “What’s your favorite KISS album?” I don’t always give the same answer. Depending on my mood, it could be one of several. Dressed to Kill. KISS. Revenge. All good choices. But probably more than half the time, I’d respond with Rock and Roll Over, the latest entry in our regular feature KISS Songs Explained.
A lot of KISS records (especially the ones from their 70s heyday) are solid from top to bottom and don’t have filler material. But RARO is different – there’s no record that they’ve ever put out that is more quintessentially KISS than this one. It has it all: Gene as world-renowned cocksman (“Calling Dr. Love”, “Ladies Room”), Peter’s whiskey voice belting a rocker (“Baby Driver”) and crooning a ballad (the Rod Stewart-esque “Hard Luck Woman”*), and Paul, well just being the badass that he always is (“I Want You”, “Take Me”, and “Makin’ Love.”) It also includes two of the best deep cuts you will find in the KISS catalog: Paul’s struttin’ “Mr. Speed” and Gene’s “See You In Your Dreams”, the latter being so favored by its author that he re-recorded it two years later on his KISS solo offering.
This is how we roll.
The material is bolstered by the excellent production of Eddie Kramer, who produced the band’s breakout record Alive! Kramer would go on to produce the next record, Love Gun, as well as Ace’s solo album. To my mind, Eddie Kramer was the best producer KISS ever had. He knew how to make a great studio record that maintained the rawness and immediacy of their live sound. RARO also features some of their most well-know cover art, by Michael Doret. Doret would reunite with the band in 2009 to do the album artwork for Sonic Boom. On to the tunes:
I Want You
After an ugly breakup, Paul can’t seem to move on with his life.
Paul is fellated in the back seat of an automobile.
Calling Dr. Love
When Dr. Love asks you to ‘open up and say ahhh,’ you may be surprised by what comes next.
(see more below)
Gene explains that a ladies’ restroom is as good a place as any to bust a nut.
Ass, gas, or grass – Peter soon learns that, with Baby Driver, he won’t be riding for free.
Love ’Em and Leave ’Em
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.¹
Paul’s tendency to ejaculate prematurely makes him surprisingly popular with the ladies.
See You In Your Dreams
By this point Gene is even getting laid in other people‘s dreams.
Hard Luck Woman
Peter must leave his woman, who is characterized by her chronic misfortune.
Paul enjoys sexual intercourse with his rather attractive girlfriend.
¹Much like Ace’s Dynasty outfit.
Bonus Tracks/Alternate Takes of “Calling Dr. Love”
Unlike most physicians, Dr. Love removes his pants to take your temperature.
Dr. Love prescribes the same remedy for every ailment, to be taken orally.
*Paul originally wrote “Hard Luck Woman” with the intention of giving it to Rod Stewart.
Last Thursday Ms. Retronaut and I watched the season premiere of The Office, the NBC sitcom about the employees of a struggling paper company in Scranton, PA. We’ve watched it since its debut, and during the show we were trying to determine how many seasons it had been on the air. We ultimately were able to determine that this was the seventh season by recalling the story lines that dominated the previous ones – for example, the third season saw the character Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) briefly transfer to the Stamford branch, etc.
Then we started talking about the underlying premise of the show. Like the British series it’s based on, The Office is shot like a documentary and it has always been clear that there is at least one cameraman at Dunder-Mifflin filming pretty much continuously throughout the workday. The employees clearly are conscious of being filmed. It informs their actions – sometimes they censor themselves because the cameras are present, and sometimes they try to avoid the cameras altogether. Originally the filming was confined to the Scranton office, however, as the series went on, the cameras left the office setting to follow employees on non-work related outings. They have been at Jim’s barbecue, Michael’s dinner party, and Jim & Pam’s overnight stay at Dwight’s beet farm. They were also present at Jim & Pam’s wedding and were in the hospital when the Halperts’ child was born.
A horrified Jim and Pam learn the cameras were rolling when their child was conceived.
The question that we couldn’t answer was why? Why are they filming the employees of Dunder-Mifflin? What is the camera crew doing with all this footage that they have been collecting since 2005? Clearly they are not making a documentary. Too much time has passed for that. The only other option is that the footage is being used as some sort of televised reality show. One piece of evidence to support this can be found in the second season episode “Christmas Party” where Phyllis’ then boyfriend introduces himself repeatedly as “Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration” in a fairly transparent attempt to promote his business on camera. The camera crew also appears to depart during the summer season, which would seem to indicate the “show” may be on hiatus. The strongest evidence for the reality show theory would seem to be the “confessional” segments that are filmed with Dunder-Mifflin employees commenting directly to the camera with their opinions on the day’s events. These interview segments are standard practice on virtually all of today’s reality shows.
Spoiler Alert: ‘The Office’ exists entirely in Creed’s mind.
OK, fine – it’s a reality show, so what? Well, here’s the problem with that. If the footage shot at Dunder-Mifflin were being used in a reality show, then the characters’ lives would be changed markedly. And it would have happened very early, likely before the first season had finished airing. Think about Jersey Shore for a second. Its cast – Snooki, The Situation, J-Woww, and the rest – have all entered the pop culture consciousness in a big way. Even people who have never seen the show have some general awareness of who they are, or at least about the phenomenon that is Jersey Shore. And this is a basic cable show (it’s on MTV), it’s not even on one of the broadcast networks. The Jersey Shore cast have achieved a certain level of fame and they are cashing in on it. The Situation is now on “Dancing With The Stars” and may take in $10 million this year. (That sentence was very, very hard to type.)
Bigger than the Beatles.
So my point is this, if The Office were a reality show, its “stars” would be nationally known. The birth of Jim and Pam’s baby would be covered by Star and US Weekly. Dwight would be a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards. Karen Filippelli would be offered a spread in Playboy. Michael would be chatting with Leno and Letterman. Creed would reform the Grass Roots.
You blew it, Halpert. Team Karen FTW.
None of this stuff has happened on the show, however. The characters continue to live their lives exactly as they would if they were not being televised. It is essentially a fake reality show that chooses to ignore the implications of what reality would really mean for its characters.*
So “The Office Paradox” is that the show’s concept negates its existence.
The UK version, on the other hand, avoided this trap by limiting its run to 12 episodes and 2 Christmas specials.
*Actually this is what most reality shows try to do.
Those are lines lifted from Citizen Kane and used to great effect in the White Stripes’ “The Union Forever” (from their breakthrough album White Blood Cells.) Kane was one of those movies that I had never gotten around to seeing for one lame reason or another, and one night I was flipping channels and ran across it on Turner Classic Movies. This was about a year after the White Stripes’ record had come out. I heard one of the lines that was used in “The Union Forever” and then suddenly I realized who “CFK” was. (Duh.) I meant to tune in just for a moment just to see what the fuss was about – and ended up watching the whole thing, even though it was on late and I had to work the next morning. I didn’t regret it. It really is that good. Best movie of all time? I don’t know. Most influential, perhaps. It is certainly startling to see a movie of that period that looks so contemporary in terms of the direction and editing. And Orson Welles is the just the man. (And the Brain.) I mean, he made this when he was 25 for crying out loud. If you’ve never seen it, please do yourself a favor and go check it out.
As some of you know, every Monday night Ms. Retronaut and I watch an episode of the 70s TV show The Incredible Hulk. If you haven’t seen it, it’s very different from the comic book, with no super-villains or supernatural elements. It’s much closer in feel to The Fugitive, following that series’ model of a wandering protagonist on the run. I loved the Hulk as a kid, and when we started with the first season I was concerned how the show would hold up roughly 30 years later. I need not have worried. The Hulk has proven to be even better than I remembered it, thanks in large part to the nuanced performances of Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Jack Colvin as his pursuer, the intrepid tabloid reporter Mr. McGee.
Of course the Hulk wouldn’t have lasted 5 seasons without a convincing creature, and Lou Ferrigno is more than up to the task. For a character that doesn’t speak (other than growls and grunts), he also does a nice job of conveying a fairly wide range of emotions and feelings, including anger (duh), wonder, curiosity, and even tenderness. Obviously there was no CGI available back then (at least not on a television budget), but I think that the Hulk is better for it. The current Hulk movies have gone the full-CGI route, and, well, they looked CGI (although in a number of shots I though Ang Lee’s version looked pretty good.)
You got me in the red.
If there is one consistent criticism that could be leveled at the 70s Hulk, it would be its strict adherence to the two Hulk-outs per episode rule. Pretty much like clockwork, 20 minutes in and you can bet David is going to be thrown down a flight of stairs or sucker-punched and locked in the trunk of a car. And something similar is guaranteed to go down in the last ten minutes of the episode. With 82 episodes (we’ve watched 74 so far), that’s a lot of Hulk-outs. And so as not to lean too much on the “two henchmen beat up David” routine too often, the writers try to find creative ways to cause the transformation. Some of the best involve frustrations that we can all relate to, as in this clip:
“I don’t have 25 cents!”Hell yes. YouTube user CottonWhiskersUK has helpfully uploaded several additional “Hilarious Reasons to Turn Into the Hulk” to his YouTube channel. Please go check ‘em out, and don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Destroyer is without doubt the most celebrated album in the KISS discography. In a sense it’s their Sgt. Pepper’s, to use a Beatles analogy. Hot off the success of Alive! and working with producer Bob Ezrin, the band made a concerted effort to do something bigger and more ambitious with this record. Departing from the straightforward crunch of their three previous records, Destroyer finds KISS experimenting with unusual recording techniques and effects (“Detroit Rock City”, “God of Thunder”), employing choirs and orchestras (“Great Expectations”, “Beth”) and writing about topics besides getting laid. It gave them an unexpected hit in “Beth” and 6 of its 9 songs would become concert staples for the next three decades.
All that being said, it’s not even close to being my favorite KISS album. Although I love all the songs, and I respect what they were trying to do and what they achieved, I think the production is a little much at times. Apparently KISS thought so too, as they moved back to a more raw sound with their next two records. (For the record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is not one of my favorite Beatles records either.) On to the tunes:
Detroit Rock City
It’s probably wise to stay off the streets of Detroit when KISS fans are in town.
King of the Night-time World
Paul is sneaking around with a high school chick from the suburbs, whose parents are unaware.
God of Thunder
Gene sets his latest personal ad to music and unwittingly spawns the band White Zombie.
Gene understands female concert goers aren’t really listening to the band’s music; they are thinking about the size of his penis.
Paul rebels against his parents while clad from head to toe in leather.
If you’re going to have sex with Gene, you may want to have a first-aid kit nearby.
Shout It Out Loud
Being loud and out of control at a party can do wonders for one’s self esteem.