“Kiss: Invasion”: The Lost Egyptian God Vinnie Vincent & the 1983 Night Flight interview

By on May 9, 2017

On Monday, January 17, 1983, the four current makeup-wearing members of Kiss — Vinnie Vincent, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Eric Carr — dropped by Night Flight’s New York City headquarters for a special interview with USA Network on-air personality Al Bandero. Watch the full, unedited interview — broadcast later that year as “Kiss: Yesterday & Today” and collected here as Kiss: Invasion (The Lost Egyptian God, Vinnie Vincent) — which you’ll find streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

This is the raw footage from that hour-long mid-January interview, so you’ll see a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff you normally don’t see during broadcast — including the director of the show stepping in and adjusting microphones and adjusting the camera position — which provides a closer look at what was involved in order to interview a band like Kiss for cable TV in the early 80s.

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This interview, however, didn’t air until much later that same year, on August 8, 1983, just a little more than one month before Kiss’ official MTV “unmasking” on September 18th, where they appeared wearing no makeup, almost a full year after the release of Creatures of the Night, which had been released on October 13, 1982.

Creatures of the Night, it should be noted, was one of a couple of albums released in 1982 (the other being Killer) which had featured session guitarists while Kiss were still putting Ace Frehley’s face on the record covers.

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Vinnie Vincent — in addition to playing five of the guitar solos on songs that were included on the finished product — had written three songs for the Creatures of the Night album as well: two that were recorded, “Back on the Streets,” and “Betrayed,” and a third song, “Legends never Die,” which wasn’t recorded by Kiss, but did end up as a track on the Wendy O. Williams solo album that was ultimately produced by Gene Simmons and released in 1984.

At the time of this sit-down, Vinnie Vincent was still a relatively new member of Kiss, joining the band only months before.

They had already replaced their original drummer, Peter Criss, with Eric Carr, and so half of the band were still relatively new when they came by the Night Flight NY offices.

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Both Simmons and Stanley do most of the talking, as you’ll notice, and while the band appear here in full makeup, it would be their last year to do so for awhile.

Their unmasking, coming later that year, was seen as an attempt to revive the band’s downward spiral and an attempt to compete on equal footing with the bands that had followed in their wake, like Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard.

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The night before their Night Flight interview in our Manhattan studios, Kiss had played a large arena show at the Glens Falls Civic Center in downtown Glens Falls, north of Albany on the eastern edge of New York, so they didn’t have to travel too far, and they all seem pretty upbeat and friendly.

Their tour dates for what would later be dubbed their “Tank Tour” had just begun, only a few weeks earlier, on December 29, 1982.

The fifty-five shows in Brazil, Canada and the U.S. were set to come to an end in the summer, on June 25, 1983, at the Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which would be the last Kiss show in full makeup until 1996.

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The tour name came from the fact that their stage set was made up to look like an armored tank, complete with “exhaust fumes” spewing out.

Carr’s drums set high up on a riser that resembled a tank’s gun turret, and featured running lights that were made to look like the tank was moving and a long cannon was aimed out towards the audience.

During the concert finale, at the end of “Black Diamond,” the gun turret would turn from left to right, firing the gun’s cannons and blowing out speakers which dropped a confetti storm down on the crowd.

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The tour would have its share of problems, but most of those were still ahead of the band at the time they sat down with Night Flight.

The band’s second show of the show, however — on December 30, 1982, at the Sioux City Municipal Auditorium in Sioux City, Iowa — had been picketed by a handful of concerned citizens who claimed that Kiss were aligned with Satan.

The venue’s manager, John Graham, even had to appear before the Municipal Auditorium’s board of directors and assure them that they were not, in fact, devil worshippers.

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Most of the rest of the problems on that tour, however, were still to come, including a small fire that caught a rear curtain on fire during the band’s show in Lakeland, Florida’s Civic Center.

A little before thirty minutes into the Night Flight interview, Vincent is asked to explain how he came to join the band, which had happened the previous fall, while the band were recording songs at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and holding auditions to replace Ace Frehley.

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These auditions, it turned out, included several big name guitarists, including Eddie Van Halen and Punky Meadows of Angel, both of whom had expressed some interest in joining the band. Most of the guitarists they met didn’t fit the bill for one reason or another, including ego clashes with Kiss’s main men, Simmons or Stanley.

Gene Simmons said in the Night Flight interview in 1983 that, “almost every guy that worked in through the door was convinced he was a star and that’s okay to have that as part of your ego makeup, and makeup as you know is very important to us, but these guys would come in with the biggest attitudes.”

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Paul Stanley said, meanwhile, said that he thought the auditions to replace their guitarist — at the SIR Rehearsal Studios in Los Angeles — had proved to be more difficult than replacing their drummer:

“We were literally flying in people every day from all ’round the country and at the same time working on the album. So we would do is probably put in around fifteen hours a day in the studio, go home sleep a little, get up in the morning go audition guitar players then go back to work on the album.”

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Prior to joining Kiss full-time, Vinnie Vincent — born Vincent Cusano in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a name he would use until he joined Kiss — had been an in-demand session guitarist and occasional band member.

He worked on recordings by artists as varied as Laura Nyro and Connecticut-based former Rascals’ singer Felix Cavaliere, who he met at a local session for an album by Blood, Sweat and Tears horn player Fred Lipsius.

In 1977, Vincent had joined Cavaliere’s smooth-tempo yacht rock band Treasure, who recorded an album for CBS Records. It went nowhere and the band broke up.

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He was also in a number of bands leading up to joining Kiss, including working with Edgar Winter’s touring band — he’d also played guitar on Instant Replay, a very popular disco-oriented dance music album by former Edgar Winter Group member Dan Hartman.

He also gigged with drummer Carmine Appice’s band Rockers and a handful of mostly forgotten bands.

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Eventually his travels brought him to Los Angeles, where he got a gig with Paramount TV studios, writing music for TV’s “Happy Days” and more importantly for the spin-off sitcom “Joanie Loves Chachi” show, which was ostensibly about two teenagers trying to make it with their rock band.

Vincent is reported to have set on the set of the show — which aired in 1982 and ’83 — and provided all of the songs that the couple (the late Erin Moran and Scott Baio as Joanie Cunningham and Chachi Arcola, respectively) would perform with their band.

Somewhat ironically, it would turn out, Vincent even got himself a manager at one point, who happened to also be Ace Frehley’s manager (he was also busy looking at material for his upcoming solo venture, Frehley’s Comet).

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He’d met Gene Simmons, however, through their common friendship and mutual working situation with a songwriter named Adam Mitchell — he’d collaborated on rock material with Mitchell and Robert Fleischman, lead singer for Journey before Steve Perry — and so naturally his name came up when a band called New England were looking for a replacement guitarist (they’d been produced by Paul Stanley).

Cusano did join that band, as their lead guitarist and singer, and in 1981 they’d renamed themselves Warrior and had begun working on an album.

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One of the songs for the New England album, “Boys Wanna Rock,” was demoed and later split into two songs, one ending up on a solo album by Vinnie Vincent post-Kiss (“Boyz Are Gonna Rock”), and the other recorded by Kiss for their 1983 album, Lick It Up.

His connection to former Kiss drummer Peter Criss, by the way, and just to include all four original members of the band, would come about through his song “Tears,” which Vincent wrote with Adam Mitchell, which was then recorded by Criss for his 1982 solo album Let Me Rock You.

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And so, it seems, it was inevitable that Vinnie Vincent would join Kiss, with Simmons bequeathing him the surname Vincent.

It was a pretty big deal in the Kiss kingdom when it was announced, on the eve of the band’s “Tank Tour,” that Frehley — who hadn’t been playing on their albums for a bit — wouldn’t be playing live with the band either (Frehley quit after a brief promotional tour in Europe).

It was even initially claimed that Frehley had been injured in a car accident and was planning on returning to the band when he’d healed up sufficiently, leaving the door open for that possibility, when it was pretty clear to all involved that, truthfully, Frehley wasn’t going to be returning any time soon.

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It was only on the eve of the Creatures of the Night tour that they announced that Ace would not be playing guitar live and even then initially claimed that he would return to the band when he had recovered from injuries sustained in a car crash.

He’d played on the band’s sessions for Creatures of the Night and had co-written several songs — “I Love it Loud” (the concert staple had started out as song penned by Vincent called “Loud and Proud”), “I Still Love You,” and “Killer”) that were released on the Casablanca Records album, which was distributed by Polygram Records.

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The reason that Kiss: Invasion carries the parenthetical “The Lost Egyptian God, Vinnie Vincent,” was that Vincent had chosen, for his Kiss makeup, to portray the image of an Egyptian Ankh, or Ankh Warrior, which was created for him by Paul Stanley.

After our Night Flight interview, Kiss continued on with their tour, and ditched the makeup later that year, just in time to promote a new album, Lick It Up, which featured eight songs co-written by Vinnie Vincent.

It would become the first Kiss album to go gold since 1980’s Unmasked.

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However, in March of 1984, Vinnie Vincent parted ways once the Lick It Up tour dates came to an end.

The official word from Kiss was that he was fired for “unethical behavior,” which arose because he refused to sign a contract designating him an employee of Simmons and Paul Stanley.

He was also reportedly unhappy settling for his $2,000-a-week salary.

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Although he would start his own late 80s pop-metal band, the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, and for awhile rode some of that wave of being an “ex-Kiss guitarist” for as long as he could before it crashed, he would have a difficult time of it for the rest of the decade and beyond, filing for bankruptcy in 1989 and enduring years of legal disputes with Kiss, most notably a 1997 lawsuit claiming underpayment of royalties, which ultimately led to him owing Kiss legal fees of more than $80,000.

A few years ago, writer Max Blau, writing about Vincent for Rolling Stone magazine (“The Long Kiss Goodbye: The Search for Vinnie Vincent” – April 8, 2014) that makes for good page turnin’ if you’d like to read more about Vinnie Vincent’s time in the limelight.

There are many more in-depth places to look elsewhere online where Vincent’s pre-Kiss work is discussed in more detail, should you have an interest in that as well.

Have a look at Kiss: Invasion (The Lost Egyptian God, Vinnie Vincent), one of the many Kiss-related documentaries we’ve got over over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Moses Rottenberg

    I wish Vinnie would come back to the music world. He was an amazingly talented guitarist and songwriter.