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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

KISS my Axl!

Considering the number of posts I've done about the world of Rock music, I was shocked after taking a quick glance through my back catalog to see that I've never discussed LSD before.  I'm not referring to the hallucinogenic drug, but rather the egotistically-charged plague known as Lead Singer Disease, the result of a singer/frontman becoming so consumed by success as to believe he is the most vital member of the band in most or all regards.  Some of Rock's most famous and well-regarded frontmen are self-aware (albeit unapologetic) of it, such as Robert Plant and Steven Tyler.

In more recent years, there are two iconic figures who have proven to be the walking embodiment of LSD, displaying more and more of an air of self-importance, and they are Gene Simmons of KISS and Axl Rose, formerly of Guns N' Roses.  In regards to Axl, I say formerly because he is the only original member remaining yet insists on keeping the name as though he was the only member responsible for their success.  The plethora of videos on YouTube of live performances from the current lineup provide a radically different opinion, and in fact highlights his band as nothing more than a painfully lackluster self-tribute at this stage in his career.  Axl did not attend the band's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, while original members Slash, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler and 2nd generation members Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum performed with singer Myles Kennedy and graciously accepted the honor.

On the heels of the announcement that KISS is among this year's Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductees, early reports came out that the original lineup would be performing at the ceremony.  Original guitarist Ace Frehley initially expressed high confidence and enthusiasm until singer Paul Stanley and singer/bassist Gene Simmons quickly shot down the reports and announced that no lineup of KISS will perform.  I first assumed it to be in protest for the exclusion of current members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer; their late interim drummer Eric Carr also will not be inducted.  However, Gene stated even before KISS was nominated for induction that Peter and Ace would not perform.  The process for choosing which members are inducted has been remarkably inconsistent over the years, and the explanation provided for ignoring current members of KISS is no exception.  

The Rock Hall Foundation CEO has defended the decision with the following statement:

"Sometimes there's an entire body of work up until (the artists) are inducted, other times it's a specific period of time that established the band as who they are. With Kiss there wasn't one person here who didn't agree that the reason Kiss was nominated and is being inducted was because of what was established in the 70s with Ace (Frehley), with Peter (Criss), with Paul and Gene (Simmons). That's what put them on that map."

Without knowing much of the history behind the induction process (in relation to which band members have been included), that statement is perfectly legitimate and logical.  However, the induction of some band members who were included as current members (at the time of induction), regardless of having little or no credit for the iconic body of work represented, highlights the inconsistent application of rules by the selection committee.  Current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo had only performed on two albums when inducted, far removed from the band's iconic body of work.  Current Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer had only appeared on one album with the band, similarly irrelevant to their catalog, upon inclusion.  Rush's co-founding member and drummer John Rutsey, having only having played on their debut, was however excluded from the band's induction at last year's ceremony.

Gene has been very vocal for many years about why the original lineup is not together, going as far as claiming that the band couldn't survive today with founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, dwelling on their history of substance abuse (from which both members are more than a decade removed).  Gene and Axl have formed a parallel in which both believe their former bandmates and founding members are no longer competent or at least as relevant to the history of the band, both going as far as calling their former bandmates a "cancer".

Personally, as someone who never followed KISS closely, I couldn't care less who does or doesn't perform at the Hall of Fame induction, but it's disgraceful that Gene (and Paul) will deny the fans what would likely be the final performance from the original lineup, especially considering his claims of how important their fanbase is.  Similarly, Axl  claimed that the induction of Guns N' Roses was "your victory", referring to the fans, yet declined to even attend.  If Gene and Axl are so confident that their role in their respective groups is so vastly superior to those around them, the release of a solo album would surely prove otherwise.  That's the funny thing about egos as large and unjustified as theirs, they'd never dare to test how legitimate their importance really is.

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