Thursday, April 22, 2010

#166: Let Me Go, Rock 'N Roll

The things you find when you're not really looking for them. I scored this book today during an extensive Op Shop run, which netted me several choice items, some of which I may, or may not, discuss in detail down the track. What makes this book a prize is the content, which is both laughable and serious, all the same time. Written by a pair of record burning Christian Fundamentalists, and published in 1984, the amount of errors and mis-information contained inside the covers of this volume is incredible. For example, the authors go to great length to convince the reader that all Kiss songs are about drugs and rebellion. Now I might not be an expert on many things, but I have been listening to Kiss from around 1978 onwards and I can't think of a single song about drugs that they've sang.  Grog, yes, (hey - it's Cold Gin time again) but drugs? Nope. So help me Rhonda, and do what the Peters brothers don't, and cite examples.

Even weirder is their description of the movie, Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, an almost unwatchable movie by anyone's standards. In this movie, according to the Peters brothers, 'Gene Simmons breathed fire and flew effortlessly; Ace Frehley blasted death rays from the palms of his hands; Peter Criss crawled catlike over hill and dale; and Paul Stanley portrayed a man with X-ray eyes'. I'm not sure what movie the Peters brothers watched, but in the flick I saw no-one was killed by any 'death rays' and Criss was lucky to be standing up, let alone 'crawling catlike over hill and dale'. Indeed the movie has neither hill nor dale and if Criss was indeed crawling in the movie, which he wasn't, then it'd have been towards the table with a big pile of coke on it.  Now if the Peters brothers had said that the movie was a waste of money and film then they'd have had a point to argue, as it is what they've watched, if they ever actually watched it, wasn't what everyone else, regrettably, saw.

The Peters brothers also go on the attack with a massive number of other bands as well. AC/DC, another of their main targets, is described as being 'cult like' with 'hypnotic, repetitive tunes'. Other bands are written off just as easily.  Pink Floyd are 'depressive', and several children, some as young as 13 years old, have committed suicide to their 'nihilistic, punkish pap'. Punkish pap?  Pink Floyd?  I can think of several adjectives to describe Pink Floyd, but punish and pap just don't spring to mind. As for the mass suicides, again, although they claim they have evidence, they never actually cite it or provide a reference.

Black Sabbath's 'rowdy sound' (actually quite accurate really) is a 'good example of...negative philosophy'.  Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Duran Duran, Marvin Gaye and even The Cars get a look in as examples of music to kill oneself by.  Tom Robinson nearly gives them heart failure because, after all, like Elton John, another target in the book, he's *gasp* a homosexual!!! Instantly he's evil and is corrupting the youth of the world.  The Rolling Stones are 'the dirtiest band in the world'.  The Clash are 'one of Englands most notorious punk bands'.  Maybe they were, for about twenty seconds before they branched out into the mainstream.  Bon Scott died of a drug overdose, as did John Bonham. Funny thing that, I kind of remember them both dying from an overdose of booze.  All of the inaccurate descriptions and genralisations makes me wonder, just what did the Peters brothers actually listen to back then?  Well, that is when they weren't busy burning records.

For a book that claims to be 'a definitive, comprehensive analysis of rock music by recognised authorities on the subject' you'd expect that at least a few of the facts would have been checked before publication. As it stands they've listed some publications that they've sourced - such authoritative tomes as Rock And Roll Babylon (a book that, like it's counterpart, Hollywood Babylon, deals in scurrilous rumours over facts and should be taken with the proverbial grain), Albert Goldman's Elvis, a book called 'Rock 'N Roll Quotes' along with various issues of Creem, Hit Parader and Circus Magazine, magazines which, as we now know, were full of comments and quotes that the people attributed to them never actually said.  In short sloppy research abounds in this book, but it is fascinating to read, if only to see how wrong people could get.

At the end of the book there's a 'Ten Most Wanted List'. At first I thought that these were the ten people that the Peters brothers wanted knocked off with high powered rifles, but alas, no, all they want is for people to pray for them.  As the 'most notorious stars', the Peters brothers wanted people to write to them and ask them to embrace Jesus into their lives. The top ten, in order, were:
Angus Young
Rob Halford (God, the Peters must have stroked out when Rob came out of the closet)
Prince (who always sang about God, but then again he sang about *eek* sex...go figure)
Joe Elliot
Gene Simmons
Mick Jagger
David Bowie
Ozzy Osbourne (who only wore a crucifix for shock value, he wasn't actually religious, no matter what he said)
David Lee Roth
Steve Perry.
That's right - Steve freaking Perry from Journey.  JOE Perry I could understand, but STEVE Perry? Frankly he was probably happy that ANYONE was writing to him by that stage. There's also sections 'explaining' record covers and obituaries. The latter is particularly amusing, if only for the amount of errors it contains.

The most telling exchange in the book is this interview. Conducted by a local television station in 1983, it brought the Peters brothers, or, at least, one of them, together with Gene Simmons. Now feel free to say what you want about Simmons, but anyone would freely admit that the man is not an idiot. When he wants to be he is highly articulate and extremely intelligent. You can also add to that the fact that he once taught theology at college level in the early 1970s and you're in for a lot of fun.

Simmons states in his own autobiography that he used to love it when zealots would come backstage and quite scripture at him because he'd explain the context and then quote more scripture back at them while explaining his own comments as well. Brilliant.  Bamboozle them with bullshit. However it appears that when the Peters bothers met Simmons they had no idea of who he was - the comments throughout the book make it clear that they considered him an intellectual lightweight, and I can't help but wonder if they ever realised their (fatal) error before it was too late. Probably not. However they did wade in and here's the results, presented without any additions (other than one word, you'll soon pick it) and corrections.

KISS and Tell
PLACE: WCCO-TV, Five P.M. Report, Minneapolis, MN
TIME: Friday, February 18, 1983
CAST: Gene Simmons (KISS), Anchorman Don Shelby, Dan Peters
SHELBY: The person you’re about to see is a fellow named Gene Simmons. He is one of the most talented and creative of all current rock stars. He plays in a group known as KISS. We also have an individual of interest who is named the Reverend Dan Peters of Zion Christian Life Center in North St. Paul, Minnesota ....Reverend Dan Peters believes that the rock music in KISS is the work of the devil, and that it is a corruption of youth. Simmons believes that rock music is fun, it’s enjoyable, it’s harmless to everyone-except preachers who are a bit frightened by it. Now, you may know that Gene Simmons is in makeup here in the picture we see, and that is the way he is always seen by the public because he doesn’t want anyone to see what he really looks like-for his own purposes (*NOTE: KISS has since “unmasked” but, by their own admission, the group’s members have not changed their lifestyles, lyrics, intentions or concert antics). Gene, are you there?
SIMMONS: Yeah, I’m right here.
SHELBY: Okay. Now, the Reverend Dan Peters is downstairs in our news-room, and we’re going to be hooking him up. Here’s a picture of him. Gene, I don’t know if you have a monitor-
SIMMONS: (gasp) Oh! What ghoulish makeup!
PETERS: (chuckling) I don’t have any on, Gene.
SIMMONS: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
SHELBY: Now you two have had a running battle here ever since one came to know the other, and we want to carry it on here. First of all, let’s let Dan-I understand that’s what you prefer to be called?
PETERS: Yes, sir.
SHELBY: Okay. I would like you to state your case briefly so that we can get Gene, here, on the phone, to respond to you. What is your case? Why don’t you like KISS?
PETERS: It’s not that we dislike Gene Simmons personally. It’s just that we do not appreciate some of the things he stands for, some of the things he sings about. We do feel we have a responsibility to one another as part of our society, to encourage one another to live good, godly, moral lives, and it’s just that so many of the things that Gene has stood for in the past-including making plaster of Paris molds of men’s genitals-we are just not really in favor of children being encouraged to do-
SIMMONS: What have I done? What did you say?
SHELBY: What he said, Gene, you made plaster of Paris molds of, uh, of male genitals.
SIMMONS: I think you better get your story straight. You must be talking about somebody else.

The plaster’s getting harder and my love is perfection
A token of my love for her collection
If you wanna see my love just ask her
-from Plaster Caster on KISS’s Love Gun album

PETERS: Well, I’m talking about the song, “Plaster Caster,” and some of the things we talked about on the phone last week, Gene. I’m just concerned about the general trend of morals in America.
SIMMONS: Let’s first straighten out something. What, uh, Dan-who prefers to be called Dan instead of “Reverend”-what Dan asked me in an interview about a week ago was what “Plaster Caster” was all about. I told him then that it was a song about “groupies,” actual fans that exist-female variety-who once lived in the Chicago area, and who did make plaster casts of rock stars’ (pause) certain parts-parts they preferred. That’s their story. My story is writing the song, and-
PETERS: Which you dedicated to them.
SIMMONS: Of course! It’s unfortunate that you didn’t like it, but listen, millions of people have, and still do, and life goes on.
SHELBY: The point is-to clarify, Gene-Dan here is saying that you do “ungodly” work, unholy-
SIMMONS: Who’s God? Who determines what “ungodliness” is? And who is Dan? I represent myself and my own viewpoint, and if they happen to coincide with a certain rock and roll lifestyle, then that’s the way it goes. Who does Dan represent? Who is he?
SHELBY: Okay. Let’s find out.... Dan, now, who is to say that Gene is not doing God’s work?
PETERS: Our main concern is that the Bible-and of course, Gene coming from a Jewish background could appreciate the story of Cain and Abel-the Peters brothers have expressed concern that we are all responsible for what happens to each other. We have to accept some kind of responsibility to one another in society for what happens to them and that’s why we don’t appreciate rock musicians who sing about standards that would be immoral and-
SIMMONS: I do agree that there are some standards that are on the “maybe” mark for some people. I do want to point out, though, that your hair is a little long for a preacher, don’t you think?
PETERS: Well, I don’t think the Bible really teaches much of a standard as far as hair goes-
SIMMONS: Now wait a minute! Ten years ago, when I was growing up and hearing ministers and all shake their fingers at us and telling us to “get a haircut” and be “righteous, God-fearing people”. . _so what are you doing with long hair, there-hippie person?
PETERS: You see, you’re trying to draw a parallel between me and the Inquisition-something else that’s been done in the name of God. Now, I’m not trying to group all rock musicians together, Gene. But we are concerned about the things that you sing about. In fact, didn’t you say in one of your interviews that KISS has probably gone to bed with more teenage girls than any other rock band?
SIMMONS: No, I didn’t say KISS-I said I have!
PETERS: Okay-you have personally gone to bed with more teenage girls. And when I asked you in the interview [published in the Minneapolis Tribune] as far as your own sexual standards, you said you did enjoy group sex. You saw nothing wrong, in fact, with getting involved sexually with . . . teenage girls-maybe 14 or 15 years of age-even if their parents were against it.
SIMMONS: Well, those are your age figures, but I absolutely think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing anything between consenting adults.

STANLEY: Do you feel good tonight” (Screams from crowd)
STANLEY: Do you care what your parents think about us”
STANLEY: Do you care what those preachers think about us?
STANLEY: We don’t give a fuck!!
-Paul Stanley, addressing KISS fans on February 18, 1983, at Met Stadium, MN, immediately after their interview with the Peters brothers.

SHELBY: Okay, let me step in here.... So what we have here is not hysterics, but what I see is a disagreement in lyrics.
SIMMONS: Well, I think there is a basic problem here. The problem is that I make no bones about who I am, who I represent. It’s very clear in the songs.... What I write is pretty much a belief in a certain lifestyle which is a free soul, a free person, doing basically what he wants to do without hurting anybody else. And I represent myself and a certain viewpoint.

I guess I always wanted to be God. What that means really is that I want to be It. Mr Cool. Mr Top. And there’s nothing higher than God.
-Simmons in Circus, September 13, 1976

The brief skirmish you have just witnessed is just one episode in the battle being fought over rock music, but hopefully, you are beginning to visualize some of the important “banners” under which each side is fighting.
Although, to be fair, it certainly cannot be said that Gene Simmons speaks for everyone who loves or is involved with rock music (and Gene Simmons may have dropped out of the rock scene altogether before you ever read this book); still, the flag under which Simmons tights is quite universal: namely, that he is a “free soul” speaking and acting only for himself, his own pleasures and purposes. And let the rest of the world be hanged-as if the whole issue were really quite amusing.

The Peters brothers, however, are in earnest. They believe each person’s actions affect other people, that each person is his “brother’s keeper.” If Gene Simmons-or any rock celebrity-is flaunting a destructive lifestyle, promoting unhealthy lyrics, peddling sexually suggestive album covers, or advocating immoral causes, you most probably will be influenced by it, and you have a right to know.

It was wishful thinking on the Peters brothers side to think that Simmons would have dropped out of music completely by the time the book was published in 1984. It must really boil their piss to think that, twenty six years after the book was published, almost everyone on their Top Ten Most Wanted List, with the exception of Steve Perry, would still be going strong, and in the case of Simmons, Prince, Jagger, Bowie and Angus Young, still at the top of their game. Let alone what they think of the Hip-Hop and modern R&B movement And Eminem! The poor bastards.  I eagerly await the revised edition.

And, to be honest, all Kiss's music made me want to do was to rock and roll all night, and party every day.  And have sex.  And read comic books.  But not in that order.

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