With the publication of Paul Stanley’s autobiography, 'Face the Music: A Life Exposed,' the stories of all four founding members of Kiss have finally been told. These books provide readers with four distinct perspectives on the band’s history, particularly its rise to the highest echelons of superstardom in the 1970s as well as the all too brief reunion that began in the mid-1990s. It’s fascinating to see just how radically different each band member recalls the same events of those times. Stanley’s is by far the most comprehensive of the lot because he was there the whole time, even more so than Gene Simmons. The Starchild had another purpose for writing this book though: he states more than once that he wrote it not only to provide what he claims is the definitive history of the iconic band but to inspire readers to pursue their own dreams and leave their mark on the world. If he can do it, Stanley asserts, anyone can.
Indeed, he did not seem pre-destined for the grandiose level of success he ultimately achieved. Stanley’s bleak childhood was the stuff of nightmares: parents who rarely showed affection to him, a sister who had to be institutionalized, not to mention he was born deaf in one severely deformed ear, the result of a condition known as microtia. As you can imagine, Stanley was teased and bullied mercilessly as a child because of the stump that was his ear. It is during this chapter that Stanley really shines as a writer. His recollections of those tortured childhood years are so evocative that you vividly experience his pain. His writing abilities definitely go far beyond penning hit singles.
There are so many great stories in 'Face the Music' that had Stanley gone into detail on all of them, the book would easily be over 1000 pages long. Still, I would’ve loved to hear more about the fake campground Stanley got sent to one summer as a kid, or the gas voucher scheme he participated in when he worked at a gas station. Even before Kiss, the guy definitely lived an extremely interesting life.
Of course, Kiss is the primary focus of the book, and Stanley dispenses the most complete history of the band out of the four original members, just as he promised in interviews prior to publication. There’s also a plethora of information and trivia that is most likely being revealed for the first time ever. For instance, the Starchild makeup was supposed to consist of two stars, but it was too time-consuming to draw more than one shape of such complexity. He also performed one show – and one show only – with Zorro mask-styled makeup.
Interestingly enough, however, Stanley doesn’t go into too much detail on some of the more notorious stories in Kisstory. While he acknowledges that 'Alive!' is not a true live album, he doesn’t get too specific in explaining why. He also doesn’t reference the infamous Tom Snyder interview in 1979, or Ace Frehley being severely electrocuted while walking onstage, or even his own recent solo album, 'Live to Win.' The first four Kiss studio albums are dissected in great detail, but the rest of the catalog merely receives perfunctory overviews, except for those he is highly critical of, such as 1980’s 'Unmasked' and its catastrophic follow-up, 'Music from “The Elder.”'
Speaking of being critical, Stanley really lets his bandmates have it. Only Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer come out mostly unscathed. Ace and Peter Criss naturally get the lion’s share of Stanley’s vitriol, but guitarist Vinnie Vincent gets the harshest treatment. Ace and Peter at least get acknowledged for the many good things they did for the band. Vincent is pretty much described as a sentient form of cancer. Even deceased members Mark St. John and Eric Carr come off as less than angelic. Downright shocking, however, is the amount of criticism directed at Simmons. Stanley and the Demon most definitely do not see eye to eye on the omnipresent Kiss merchandising juggernaut, and he still harbors some resentment towards Simmons for almost completely abandoning Kiss for most of the 1980s in order to pursue an acting career. They also have polar opposite views on marriage – Simmons’ comments on that topic angered Stanley so much that he didn’t invite him to his wedding. He even gives Simmons crap for being so greedy and materialistic – he mentions how he used to throw pennies in the street and watch Simmons run out and pick them up.
Stanley obviously read the other three Kiss autobiographies because he references stories by the other guys and then provides counterarguments. He’s also read Slash’s book too, because he goes out of his way to correct what the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist wrote about Stanley wanting to produce the band’s legendary debut, 'Appetite for Destruction.' Speaking of GNR, there is an interesting passage where Stanley describes the single conversation he ever had with Axl Rose. Even Simmons doesn’t have anything on Rose when it comes to egos.
Regardless of whether you love or hate Paul Stanley, his book is required reading for any Kiss fan, no matter what their level of fanaticism is. In fact, if the Kiss Army ever started distributing training manuals to its cadets, 'Face the Music' would be that book.