Well, today’s the big day. After years of waiting, and a whole lot of politics and gossip in the meantime, Kiss is finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And so I felt it only appropriate to publish the first edition of the Listening Booth in more than a year. And this one should be a real treat for devoted members of the Kiss Army.
Today’s offering is a bootleg from the earliest days of the band, before they even had an album out. Hell, when this was recorded no one outside the immediate New York City area even knew who Kiss was.
This recording, my friends, was reportedly made by Gene Simmons while the band played for an audience of no one in their New York City rehearsal loft (located at 10 East 23rd Street). What you will hear on this is a band still gelling, still trying to find their sound and nail down their repertoire. It’s a short recording — just six total songs over 35 minutes — but one that any Kiss fan will want to hear.
The vocals on this are distant and somewhat muffled, but otherwise you can hear the raw power of the early Kiss sound in its (almost) full glory. After a brief soundcheck the band launches into two of their signature songs, “Strutter” and “Firehouse.” The arrangement on “Strutter” sounds more like what’s on the famous Bell Sound Studios demo than what was laid down on the Kiss LP. Likewise with “Firehouse,” which is not nearly as tight as it would become by 1974.
Up next is “Watchin’ You,” which is pretty much fully formed by the point but didn’t appear until the second Kiss album, 1974’s Hotter Than Hell. Things return to the first album then, as we get a run-through of “Let Me Know.” It’s one of my favorite Kiss songs but, sadly, it was dropped from the setlist after the Kiss tour.
Finally, a pair of songs for the faithful. First is the ultra-rare “Life in the Woods,” a bizarre tune that disappeared after the band’s club days. To my ears it sounds more like Wicked Lester material, or maybe Kiss’s best Doobie Brothers impression, but it’s still worth hearing. And hey, Peter Criss gets in some vocals so that’s a bonus.
Finally there’s “Acrobat,” a song a lot of fans heard for the first time in live form on the 2001 Kiss Box Set compilation. This song was cut down considerably when it was included on the first album, but you probably know it better as “Love Theme from Kiss.”