Me and the boys will be playing all night: “Hell’s Guardians” features interviews with 70s-era KISS

By on May 10, 2018

Kiss: Hell’s Guardians – Interviews — one of the many KISS-related titles we’ve got streaming over on Night Flight Plus — features interviews and miscellaneous KISS ephemera, some dating back to the late ’70s to when Peter “The Catman” Criss was still in the band.

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Released in 2007, Hell’s Guardians – Interviews features KISS during their Dynasty album era on a 1979 episode of the ABC network’s primetime magazine show “20/20.”

The band are seen putting on their makeup and getting ready to take the stage in the eleven-minute segment, and there are additional interviews with manager Bill Aucoin, business consultant Carl Glickman, and KISS staffer Jared Snyder.

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The late Rolling Stone critic Charles M. Young, obviously no fan of KISS or their music, says:

“KISS is basically paganism for pubescents. It has very little to do with music… if you listen to it closely, it’s all dissonance, explosions and moaning, which pretty well sums up the adolescent experience in America.”

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Also featured is a vintage interview for the the Australian version of of the Sunday night CBS juggernaut “60 Minutes,” a couple of European MTV interviews (during their non-makeup days), and a 1989 public service announcement that KISS recorded for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual TV telethon.

Gene Simmons announces that KISS are “here to fight a supreme menace.”

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Elton John and KISS

Other highlights included on this home video release are: an AJ Hammer interview, looking back on KISSTORY aspects; a 20-minute press conference with KISS from 1996; a lengthy “MAD TV” sitcom skit for KISS toys; footage from Gene and Paul’s interview with Flo & Eddie during the 1981 Elder-era (Paul is wearing a bright purple headband); and very cool footage from Ace Frehley‘s birthday party at a bowling alley in 1996 and footage of Ace during his solo period in London, England.

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Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush with Paul, Gene and Peter of KISS, November 1975

Read more about vintage late 70s-era KISS — and Peter Criss — below.

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Peter Criss (born George Peter John Criscuola in Brooklyn, NYC, in 1945) had been in a number of bands in the mid-to-late Sixties, including Chelsea, whose self-titled debut LP was issued on Decca Records in 1970.

They would end up changing their name to Lips, but, by the spring of 1972, they were down to just Criss and guitarist Stan Penridge.

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In August 1972, then 26-year old Criss placed an ad in Rolling Stone, in the back pages of the magazine’s East Coast edition, looking for more musicians: “EXPD. ROCK & roll drummer looking for orig. grp. doing soft & hard music. Peter, Brooklyn.

A couple of fellow New York musicians — bassist Gene Klein (born Chaim Witz) and rhythm guitarist Stanley Eisen, who later began calling themselves Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, respectively — were looking for band members for their band Wicked Lester.

They saw Peter’s ad in Rolling Stone, and after he passed their audition, Criss joined the band.

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In early December 1972, these three were still looking for a lead guitarist, and placed an ad in Village Voice.
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It was answered by Paul “Ace” Frehley, who showed up for his audition (“with Flash and Ability” both) wearing different-colored shoes as he walked into the band’s rehearsal space, plugged in and started playing without first saying a word.

Frehley joined the band before Christmas, and within a few weeks the band — soon calling themselves KISS — played their first show, on January 30, 1973.

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During the rest of the ’70s, Peter Criss was not only the band’s drummer, but he also sang lead vocals on several songs, including “Black Diamond” and “Hard Luck Woman.”

He also contributed lead vocals on a sappy heart-breaker of a ballad he’d co-written years earlier with Chelsea guitarist Stan Penridge, originally titled “Beck,” a diminutive nickname for their bandmate Mike Brand’s wife Becky.

It was actually Peter Criss’s 70s-era wife, Lydia, who suggested he change the name from “Beck” to “Beth,” telling Songfacts‘ Greg Prato it wasn’t always such a sweet song.

“It was a mean song… she says, and originally a joke directed at their henpecked guitarist Mike for having such a naggy wife who called him all the time.

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The song’s outro definitely sounds like the husband knows she’s alone, but she shouldn’t be waiting up for him (“‘Cause me and the boys will be playing all night“).

“Beth” was a last-minute addition to KISS’s 1976 album Destroyer, and originally released as the b-side of their “Detroit Rock City” single.

Later, after it was clear that b-side “Beth” was going to be a hit, the single was reissued with “Beth” listed as the A-side and “Detroit Rock City” on the flip.

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“Beth” climbed to #7 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, becoming the first of two KISS gold-selling singles in the ’70s, the highest-charting KISS song ever.

The song would win a People’s Choice Award, one of their only music biz accolades that KISS — now in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame too, of course — would ever be awarded.

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Peter Criss would depart from KISS on May 17, 1980, although the band members still disagree about whether he quit or was fired (flashy guitarist Ace Frehley would also leave KISS a few years later).

As a big “Fuck You” to Gene and Paul, Criss — using the name “Ming the Merciless” — allowed himself to be photographed without his make-up on the cover of Lenny and the Squigtones 1979 debut album, even though he hadn’t played drums on the album.

Watch Kiss: Hell’s Guardians – Interviews on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, 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.