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  1. The Kiss Backline Part Three: Dressed to Kill and Alive!

    January 9, 2015 by Nick Vivid

    The classic “Alive” cover backline was premiered in May 1975. The production was re-vamped, though not as much as one might think. Peter’s endorsement from Pearl officially began, and he had a new set of creme Pearl drums made for him. New costumes were made for the band, which are considered their “Alive!” costumes. (An interesting note, within 3 days after the Cobo Hall show, Paul had stars added to his costume and boots). Aside from that, not much was still that different. The guitar and bass rigs, along with the logo, were exactly the same. A pair of mirrorballs were added to the sides of the logo, but didn’t last too long.

    75-05-15 Detroit, MI - Michigan Palace - ALIVE Shoot and Effects Run Through

    75-05-15 Detroit, MI – Michigan Palace – ALIVE Shoot and Effects Run Through

    The levitation machine was not set up at the Michigan Palace for the dress rehearsals, but it was set up, for the first time, at Cobo Hall, on top of a secondary 3 foot riser. This is the only time the forklift riser would have raised Peter’s drum kit while on top of another riser, and the story goes that it accidentally wasn’t plugged in. They never attempted it again. After this gig, the LVM was permanently retired.

    75-05-16 Detroit, MI - Cobo Arena - Live Shots

    75-05-16 Detroit, MI – Cobo Arena – Live Shots

    So, say farewell to the forklift drum riser, cause this is the last time you see it. Immediately following this gig, Kiss reverted to the previous staging and Peter’s Ludwig kit on a non-levitating riser for gigs in the upper midwest and Las Vegas.

    75-05-25 Seattle, WA - Paramount Northwest Theatre

    75-05-25 Seattle, WA – Paramount Northwest Theatre

    On either May 30th or 31st, Kiss finally debuts Peter’s new drum riser, a 4 foot high chrome box with a visible border on the sides and vertically down the middle, complete with a revamped version of the Creme Pearl Drum Kit – now a 13 piece kit. The Ludwigs that have served him since December 31, 1973 are officially retired.

    Long Beach Arena - May 31, 1975

    Long Beach Arena – May 31, 1975

    Ready for the bombshell of this entire blog series? Here it is: Peter’s new drum riser does not have levitation ability. No one ever notices this, but between May 6th, 1975 and December 31, 1975 – nearly 8 full months of prime touring activity that includes their breakthrough success point with the recording and release of the “Alive!” album – one of the most memorable and talked about effects in their show is not present. This is perhaps a growing pain they can’t quite overcome due to financial restraints. In what seems like an attempt to mask this, a strobe effect is added to the part of the show where this would normally take place at the end of “Black Diamond”. Once the levitation effect is re-created on a bigger scale using a scissor lift system in December 1975, the strobe effect stays in. Also worth noting is that a second riser is created for the a new LVM V2, which is permanently attached to the riser, and is eventually covered in mirrorball chrome squares before the January 1976 Cobo Hall dates. The first riser seen in the above Long Beach arena photo stays as it is, and it stays on tour with them, in the event they can’t use the new LVM for any reason. It even follows them to Europe where it is used in venues that cannot accommodate the LVM due to height of the ceiling, stage weight, or other venue limitations.

    75-11-01 St. Louis, MO - Kiel Auditorium

    75-11-01 St. Louis, MO – Kiel Auditorium

    Around November 1st, 1975, the next major backline change took place. Gene’s bass cabinets were changed to a set of 6 1×15 W-bin bass cabinets. Gene’s Charlie Lobue Bass makes it’s return at this time. A great reference on this bass is at – http://axeology.com/LoBue.html

    During the last 2 weeks of December 1975 and culminating with the Cobo Hall shows in 1976, the final backline changes are made that will stay for the remainder of the “Alive!” tour and throughout the U.K./European Destroyer Tour. Firstly, one at a time, the band got new and improved versions of their “Alive!” costumes, starting with Gene, then Ace, then Paul, and finally Peter.

    The KISS lighted logo was re-designed and re-built for the first time in over a year. It debuted in Providence, RI on December 29th. The new logo looked very much the same, and was the same height with the same number of bulbs, but this new logo had the lights attached inside the frame, not on the front of the frame, and now could be lit one letter at a time. This allowed for chaser effects for the first time in the KISS logo, a trend that would continue for the rest of their career.

    Gene’s bass rig was extended to a total of 10 1×15 cabinets with 5 Ampeg SVT heads, and Paul and Ace’s Marshall rigs were extended to 5 full stacks and 10 heads in total. A wider white trim was added to the heads and cabinets. Peter’s new scissor lift LVM was in place and used for the first time at the NYE Nassau Coliseum show, and by the time they get to Cobo Hall in January 1976, the scissor lift LVM was permanently attached to a riser with mirrorball squares. The other riser was still used at gigs that couldn’t accommodate the lift, for whatever reason. So the new rule emerges From January 25, 1976 onward: If Peter’s drum riser has chrome mirrorball squares, it levitates. If not, it doesn’t.

    76-01-25 Detroit, MI - Cobo Arena

    76-01-25 Detroit, MI – Cobo Arena

    From here, the backline changed very little, though in some smaller venues in Europe the amount of guitar and bass cabinets would be scaled depending on venue sizes. June 6, 1976 was the last time this naturally evolving KISS tour stage backline would be seen.

    Well, not completely. When KISS embarks on it’s 1976 Destroyer tour the amps remain, although now covered by the “city in ruins” scenery.

    For more on the original KISS Krew, check out Out on the Streets.

    Check out Kiss Alive Forever – The Complete Touring History.

    Ros Radley’s Book Magic – Kiss Kronicles 1973-1983 will be an amazing reference. Stay tuned to his Facebook page for updates.

     


  2. The Kiss Backline Part Two: Hotter Than Hell and Dressed to Kill

    January 9, 2015 by Nick Vivid

    The Hotter Than Hell tour began October 17, 1974 at a club called Thunder Chicken in Comstock Park, MI. For whatever reason, Kiss’ backline didn’t make it to the gig. The amps, drums, and drum riser are all rented and/or borrowed from members of the opening band. The logo appears no where to be found, either. Ace debuted a new guitar at this show, which would eventually be stripped of it’s homemade paint job, played for a while with it’s natural finish, and then ultimately turned into the 3 pickup black guitar adorning the cover of the “Alive!” album in 1975. Notice JR Smalling in the background tuning up Gene’s Fender P-Bass, his original backup bass which had been with him since the club days. He used the P-Bass for gigs regularly during the following week and never seemed to use it again after that.

    74-10-17 Comstock Park (Grand Rapids), Michigan, Thunder Chicken, courtesy Chris Haner

    74-10-17 Comstock Park (Grand Rapids), Michigan, Thunder Chicken, courtesy Chris Haner

    The following night in Hammond Indiana, the usual backline returned. The lighted KISS logo was re-assembled, now in it’s 4th configuration. It still only operated in two modes – on and off. This configuration would last until the end of 1975.

    74-10-18 Hammond, IN  - Parthenon Theatre

    74-10-18 Hammond, IN – Parthenon Theatre

    After this gig, Gene’s 3rd bass head would start making appearances more often, as would the second set of Marshall 100w heads.

    75-01-09 Vancouver, Canada - Commodore Ballroom

    75-01-09 Vancouver, Canada – Commodore Ballroom

    … and into early ’75, things have stabilized a bit, though there’s still the occasional circumstance where the levitating drum riser is not present. When KISS Started the Dressed to Kill tour, which started a month after the Hotter Than Hell tour ended, it was the same backline.

    75-03-21 New York, NY - Beacon Theatre

    75-03-21 New York, NY – Beacon Theatre

    When KISS performed on the Midnight Special on April 1, 1975, the Marshall logos are covered. Peter’s drums are the second kit he’s ever played live officially for KISS and the first evidence of his looming endorsement from Pearl Drums. He instinctively destroys the kit at the end of the show. His Ludwigs return shortly thereafter, probably at the next gig 3 days later in Flint, MI.

    75-4-13 Kansas City, KS - Soldier's And Sailor's Memorial Hall

    75-4-13 Kansas City, KS – Soldier’s And Sailor’s Memorial Hall

    And like this photo above indicates, they were still hitting venues so small that the amps needed to be configured to fit the limitations of the space. The KREW still had to make it up as they went along. Ace’s 3-pickup black les paul is now around at this point. This is the same guitar that is the black les paul at the top of this blog post. And it’s another gig where the drums don’t levitate. The night after this photo was taken, perhaps inspired by his experience playing the Concert Tom-configured Pearl Drums at the Midnight Special taping, Peter had the bottom heads removed from his Ludwig toms, to give them the ability to be mic’d from underneath as opposed to overhead.

    75-04-24 Johnson City, TN - Freedom Hall Civic Center

    75-04-24 Johnson City, TN – Freedom Hall Civic Center

    For more on the original KISS Krew, check out Out on the Streets.

    Check out Kiss Alive Forever – The Complete Touring History.

    Ros Radley’s Book Magic – Kiss Kronicles 1973-1983 will be an amazing reference. Stay tuned to his Facebook page for updates.

     


  3. The Kiss Backline Part One: The KISS Tour

    January 7, 2015 by Nick Vivid

    Another in the Kiss Geek-o-phile series (as also seen at nickvivid.com)

    I spend a lot of free time completely over-analyzing everything concerning the early days of KISS. As opposed to today, not every little bit was archived, so it takes some real detective work to piece together the known elements into a cohesive image, in order perhaps to truly grasp the ultimate sense of “being there” for those of us who weren’t. Those who have been there don’t have much interest in the finer details, but do have some incredible stories all their own. If you were witness to every Kiss concert performed on their first 4 tours, you probably wouldn’t be interested in reading this article either.

    Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs spearheaded an archeological dig so inspiring that guys like Ros Radley, Chris Bennett, and myself, were afforded an opportunity to, in our own ways, pick up some more rocks with a few shovels of our own. Check out Curt and Jeff’s book, Kiss Alive Forever, if you haven’t done so already.

    A KISS Fact finding mission’s goal is to figure out something from the 70’s era KISS that has never been noticed, seen, or discovered before. This is one of those missions.

    Today’s mission is to study the KISS Backline. Nothing too interesting for the average reader. But die-hards will be fascinated to discover that Kiss did not, in fact, have a levitating drumset every night.. many more times than they’ve publicly admitted, that the Kiss logo hadn’t always been used, that costume pieces from tours were sometimes thrown on and off in the midst of other tours. You’ll find that the first several tours for KISS were the most interesting because things changed every night. And because things changed every night, there are always fun things to possibly learn about each gig. One begins to understand what the original Kiss Krew and band members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss mean when they talk about spontaneity and magic in the early days. The “make it up as you go along” mentality that drove the band to success and ultimately to a very static and, perhaps, boring vegas-like routine of doing the same thing over and over, is always the most interesting part of the process.

    The first KISS tour was a mess of tour routing that made little logistical and geographical sense. Getting kicked off tours and having tours fall out from under them seemed like a daily occurrence. The band made themselves available to play anywhere they could even if it meant driving clear across the country to the next job. Despite all of this, the first tour had a very stable production design based on the fact that Kiss were headlining clubs and playing mid-to-arena sized venues as an opening act. They went into it knowing where they stood, and the consistency of their stage production on the first tour reflects that.

    The Kiss Tour had a 4 foot tall lighted logo that had two modes – on and off. The logo consisted of 4 pieces, one for each letter, that were individually hung from a beam via chains. This was quickly changed after their first Canadian trek due to issues with the letters looking uneven and hanging oddly different from one another when things didn’t get set up “just right”.

    74-02-06 Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Student Gymnasium

    74-02-06 Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Student Gymnasium

    Gene’s bass rig consisted of 4 8×10 Ampeg SVT cabinets with black tolex, black grillcloth, and white trim powered by 2 matching Ampeg SVT heads, and Paul and Ace played through 3 Marshall 4×12 full-stacks – also with black tolex, grey grillcloth sprayed flat black, and white trim powered by 3, sometimes 6, 100w Marshall Model 1959 heads  (Thanks Ace Steele) . Peter had a sparkle Ludwig 8 piece Drumkit (with 4 rack toms and 2 floor toms). The drum riser stood a foot high, was made of wood, and was attached to a modified electric forklift, which took the center space behind Peter’s kit. The forklift was the basis of the levitating drum effect, which the Krew called the “LVM”. The LVM had the capacity to raise Peter’s drums 6 feet off the ground and was used during the show’s finale, “Black Diamond”. This Marshall/Ampeg combination gave a sense of visual continuity between the 2 stage sides and purposefully reinforced the “black and white” appeal of the band’s image.

    At the first official Kiss show, New Years Eve December 31, 1973, and the subsequent press/promo gig on January 8th, 1974 at the Fillmore East, Peter’s levitating drum riser was not present. Peter “Moose” Orekinto, who helped in the development and operation of the LVM mentions first testing it at the Fillmore East on January 8, 1974 and having it ready for the New Years Eve show. He is most likely referring to the band’s next show at the Academy of Music which took place 2 1/2 weeks later. Also, there’s no evidence to suggest it was used at the Fillmore East show, since it’s not present behind Peter’s drum kit in any photos of that gig. It made it’s official debut on January 26th, at the Academy of Music, opening for Silverhead and Fleetwood Mac. Footage of Peter’s drums rising for the first time is archived on 8mm film in private fan circles. You’ll notice as we go on, that there’s a rule of thumb in regards to Peter’s drum riser on the first few tours: if it’s on the foot-high wood platform with fringe trim, it probably rises. If it’s on road cases or another type of riser, it doesn’t.

    After the December 31, 1973 show, the Ludwig logo was no longer seen on the front of the Kick drum head. Peter’s attempts throughout 1974 to get an endorsement from Ludwig went unanswered, which is part of the reason why the band switched to Pearl drums in 1975.

    At Kiss’ label showcase in Los Angeles on February 18th, one of the Marshall logos is noticeably missing from one of the Marshall heads. All 3 heads have logos on them 3 days later for the In Concert TV Taping. This bit of trivia will factor in later.

    Back to the Kiss lighted logo for a second, the logo was reinforced most likely sometime early to mid-March of 1974, which was after their appearance on In Concert and before their official first tour began, which in essence didn’t end for several years.

    74-04-13 Detroit, MI - Michigan Palace

    74-04-13 Detroit, MI – Michigan Palace

    You can see the reinforcement of the logo in this shot from the Michigan Palace on April 13, 1974. Interestingly, you can also see a second set of Marshall heads in this shot. The mystery second set of heads made their debut on April 12th, and disappeared again around April 20th. The fact that one of the Marshall logos was missing from the second set leads me to believe they were traveling with a second set of heads the whole time. One could theorize the band either kept them for emergencies or merely used them in circumstances where the P.A. system wasn’t powerful enough to handle the guitars without them. Probably both of these theories are true to some extent.

    Around May 17th, 1974, somewhere during a Canadian leg, Gene added a 3rd Ampeg SVT head to his arsenal. His speaker stage configuration changed as well. This reverted to the standard setup when they returned to America the following week.

    74-05-20 Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Foothills Arena

    74-05-20 Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Foothills Arena

    Sometimes the Kiss logo couldn’t be hung behind the stage and was placed stage right next to Gene, or sometimes it was in front of the stage. Some odd examples of logo placement on the first tour:

    74-06-12 Flint, MI - IMA Sports Arena

    74-06-12 Flint, MI – IMA Sports Arena

    In this shot below from Atlanta, you can barely see it, hidden on the right of the stage to the right of the P.A. system. No matter what it took, the Krew was determined to put all the show’s production elements onstage every night if it was at all possible.

    July 18 1974 - Atlanta GAFor a period near the end of the first tour, Peter’s drums took their first break from levitation.  My only guess is that the LVM needed repairs, or perhaps during a series of opening slots for Blue Oyster Cult, they were not allowed to use it. From mid-July to mid-September, the drums are pretty consistently set on a makeshift riser set on roadcases with the KISS logo spraypainted on them. Here’s a shot from the exact same venue in Atlanta from September ’74.

    74-07-17,18 Atlanta, GA - Same Venue - Different Riser

    JR Smalling, original Krew road manager remembers “I have no specific memory of the comings and goings of the LVM, but you recall from OOTS that it was never meant to travel. After getting hauled around the country during 1974 it was pretty beat and only saw sporadic action after that…” JR then followed up with, “Yeah, we worked that sucker into the ground. LOL. Seems like we had to find somebody to work on it every other day.”

    The levitating drums made their return for an important headlining gig September 28th, 1974 at the Michigan Palace. The logo was given another once over at this point as well, refastened at the center of the letters with the letters slightly spread out from each other. This is the production staging which would remain for the final dates of the tour.

    Paul’s Flying V was stolen during the Hotter Than Hell Recording Session. He got a new white flying V before the September 28th Michigan Palace show. Prior to that, he had a clear double cutaway that lasted about a week.

    74-09-28 Detroit, MI  - Michigan Palace

    74-09-28 Detroit, MI – Michigan Palace

    For more on the original KISS Krew, check out Out on the Streets.

    Check out Kiss Alive Forever – The Complete Touring History.

    Ros Radley’s Book Magic – Kiss Kronicles 1973-1983 will be an amazing reference. Stay tuned to his Facebook page for updates.


  4. That time Dave Walker sang for Black Sabbath

    December 1, 2014 by Nick Vivid

    Dave Walker has a good set of pipes. Check.

    Really bluesy, got that British soulful thing down. Check.

    Boring as fuck to listen to. Check.

    I really only know him from his time with Savoy Brown in the early 70’s – stuff like “Hellbound Train” comes to mind. But Dave Walker wasn’t what you’d call very creative. The way he clung for life to the pentatonic scale pretty much sums up everything I hate about white men doing blues rock. Like, “Hey man, I gotta wait for you to vamp that chord progression a couple of times, while my head slowly figures out the next 6 notes I’m gonna hit in order.” – A real “by-the-numbers-blues” kind of dude. Yeah, for that time in Savoy Brown, Dave sounded pretty cool. And even as the roots of Sabbath are in the blues, and the Sabs knew Dave from the early days, they were far more progressive and inventive than your local pub band from Birmingham.

    So, when the charismatic and melodically creative Ozzy Osbourne first left Sabbath in late 1977, who did they call? “Boring-as-fuck” ‘ol Dave, of course.

    Poor Dave. But don’t worry. He won’t read this cause he doesn’t own a computer, so fuck him..  No seriously, I don’t know the guy and this ain’t a personal attack. Seems like he’s a good dude. All I know is you can see Dave’s next melody from a mile away cause it’s the same one you just passed a mile back. And you can’t fill Ozzy’s shoes with that.

    Dave only stuck with the Sabs for maybe 2 months. At which time, Ozzy called (or was called – read further) to come back and record the punk-inspired and often overlooked Never Say Die. Which, to me, is a pretty kickass album. Better than Technical Ecstasy for the writing alone. The garagey production and new wave keyboards show the band attempting something new and fresh. Cool! “Hard Road” is a great anthem, and the title track is killer.

    But before all that, and despite his brief tenure, fans would get a full frontal of the Dave Walker version of Black Sabbath, to be recorded and documented for all eternity. Yes, in a moment of what can be described only as sheer management brilliance, and with one month’s rehearsal breaking in their new frontman, Black Sabbath performed on a BBC Midlands show called “Look Hear” on January 6, 1978. I mean, it must have been an attempt to test the waters with the public, right? I can’t see a publicist saying “Awesome boys, no one knows you have a new singer. He’s barely played with you, and you haven’t finished even writing the record, so let’s get you on TV to promote nothing so you can show the ENTIRE nation how much awesome chemistry has developed in the past 17 days!”

    So, yeah, this was probably more or less a case of gauging audience interest in an Ozzy-less Black Sabbath and nothing more. That, or it was a ploy to get the Ozzman to Comebacketh. Dave himself admitted in interviews that Ozzy was hanging around the whole time he was in the band (hash tag #awkward). Dave was also under the impression that Ozzy didn’t seem too sure of the decision he’d made in leaving.

    At the end of the day (literally – at the end of the day on January 6 1978), it was clear that the fans were not interested in this version of Black Sabbath. I’ll go one step further and say it’s perfectly reasonable to speculate that “Iommi and Co.” weren’t interested in this version of Black Sabbath either. Weeks after the TV show aired, Ozzy was officially back, and Never Say Die was recorded. Woohoo! What a happy ending.

    The BBC has the “Look Hear” tapes, and I’m sure some of my die-hard collector friends have gotten ahold of them too (Where’s my copy you hoarding a-holes?!? You know I’m good for that shit!), but the only things google-able from this era is one photo Dave took with the band at a writing session, and a screenshot and audio of “Junior’s Eyes” from  the BBC appearance. The band also performed “War Pigs” on the show. That’s just gotta be a trainwreck.

    The archivist in me is glad this appearance happened, as without it, there’d be literally nothing documented from this very strange era. Fascinating for that fact alone.

    … And something cool to note about this performance musically – Dave plays Harmonica, and that shit was badass in Sabbath. Why it wasn’t used more is beyond me. Not a whole lot more, just like, you know, one or two more songs in the repertoire. This slower and heavier version of Junior’s Eyes sounded good with that.

    dave walker black sabbath

    dave walker on bbc tv with black sabbath


  5. When I get a boogie van…

    November 29, 2014 by Nick Vivid

    This will probably be a long photoblog series of cool kickass vans I see. Thuy and I someday will just leave everything behind and ride into the sunset in one of these things.

    Think it’d double as a good touring van?

    pirates-of-the-caravan2


  6. Led Zeppelin Signed Pressing for 22,500?!?

    November 29, 2014 by Nick Vivid



    Click Here to See This

    To many, the first LP of Led Zep is one of the high-rated pressings to get. The original blue label UK among them, but this average copy is extra special because of the signed cover. Insane price.