With the release of Paul Stanley’s Face the Music: A Life Exposed two weeks ago, all four original members of Kiss have now written a memoir.
Ace’s and Peter’s both landed within the last year or three. Gene’s came out more than 12 years ago, but he’d write the same book today with just a few different details. So I don’t have a problem considering it a contemporary of the other three.
I was vaguely aware of Ace’s and Peter’s books, though didn’t feel compelled to read them until after I read Paul’s (which I did nearly in one sitting, by the way). I haven’t quite finished Ace’s, though I’m close enough that I’m confident no major surprises await.
Paul Stanley has been a hero of mine for almost my entire life. (I got Destroyer for my fifth birthday.) I like that he’s a working class Queens kid made good. He wrote most of my favorite Kiss songs (the only non-Paul song I count among my very favorites is “Deuce”). He is one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll vocalists ever.
I’ve always related to his Starchild persona. I saw in Paul a guy who reveled in the spotlight—but on his terms. That meant that when the spotlight was off, he didn’t want to be bothered at all, but he was eating it up when it was on.
I had that really wrong. We all did.
He explains in Face the Music—sincerely, poignantly, and at length—that the Starchild was born of necessity, as a way he could relate to and interface with the world. Paul is honest and articulate when he shares his deep insecurity with his readers. It is only within the past several years that he’s ever been at peace. Mind, this does not read at all as poor little rich rock star, boo hoo hoo. You get it in your heart. This guy was really hurting for a long, long time.
Of course, the Kiss stories are there too. This is almost certainly the most accurate account of Kisstory of any of the four books. He’s believably settled, so he’s largely without the sorts of passions and/or motivations that could cloud his accounts. (Plus, he’s the only guy who’s been on the ground looking out for the band since its inception.) It’s a lot easier to swallow this than it is Gene’s relentless self-promotion, or Ace’s yeah-probably-but-I-was-so-drunk-who-knows?, or Peter’s spittle-flecked rage.
Mostly I walked away from Face the Music thinking that I’ve been right to think Paul Stanley was special, but wrong in my understanding of why. What I thought was going on with him—what it looked like was going on with him—was almost never accurate. I want to re-explore his entire body of work knowing what I know now. And I shall.
This book is written with considerable care and skill, and “exposed” is an appropriate word to have in the title. There is refreshing vulnerability here from one of the best rock frontmen of all time. This book is a must-read treasure for both Kiss fans and students of the human animal.
Thank you, Paul. Grand slam. Very well done.