In honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘Music from the Elder,’ the most bizarre and unsuccessful album ever released by Kiss, comes the first chapter of an upcoming book exploring this strange, misguided and yet oddly lovable record.
‘Music from the Elder: The Unauthorized Story of the Most Spectacular Failure in the History of Kiss’ will explore the odd circumstances that led the traditionally hard-rocking band to attempt a classical- and Broadway-influenced concept record about a young boy’s medieval quest to become a warrior (or something), and the effect its commercial failure had on the band.
Kiss were the kings of the arena rock circuit throughout much of the ’70s, but by the turn of the decade their increasingly pop- and disco-sounding albums, not to mention their overzealous family-friendly imaging and merchandising, had alienated much of their original hard rock fanbase. By the time 1981 rolled around the band was also reportedly in bad financial straits due to excessive spending, and down one original member with the departure of drummer Peter Criss.
To get back on track, they wisely decided to recruit producer Bob Ezrin, who had helmed their most successful studio album to date, 1976′s ‘Destroyer,’ for their comeback project. Their goal was to make a straight-up, back to basics album that would help them reconnect with their original fans. The only problem was, Ezrin was fresh off the massive commercial success of Pink Floyd’s concept album ‘The Wall,’ and he got a crazy idea:
What if Kiss showed the critics who’d always said the band’s success was strictly based on their outlandish costumed image that they were wrong? What if they made a record that proved themselves as serious and ambitious musicians capable of singing about more than sex and rock and roll?
The band bought into this plan, and the result was ‘Music from the Elder,’ one of the most critically assailed records in recent rock history. Perhaps Pitchfork summed it up best when reviewing a remastered edition years later: “With ‘The Elder,’ Kiss pushed crap in a new and scary direction. What a horrible, horrible, horrible album.”
Even the band agrees, with Paul Stanley recently labeling the record “pompous, contrived, self-important and fat,” and Gene Simmons assigning it zero stars. The record sent the Kiss’s already troubled career to new depths of despair, and served as the final nail in lead guitarist Ace Frehley’s departure from the group.
And yet.. there’s something undeniably appealing about this record, and the band’s attempt to once again defy the odds and re-conquer the music world with its creation. After all, the same spirit that allowed Kiss to paint their faces and learn how to breathe fire in the early ’70s also led them, however mistakenly, to open their would-be comeback record nearly a decade later with oboes and clarinets.
Besides, everybody always writes books about classic albums where everything goes right. Here’s what happens when things go utterly wrong.