The ninth studio album by KISS is perhaps most significant for being the band’s biggest mistake. Not the poppy, disco-inflected sheen of Dynastyand not even the self-implosion of Unmasked could have prepared fans for the exaggerated, empty narcissism of Music from the elderly, which was published on Nov. 10, 1981.
Have lost a drummer Peter Crisswho left two months after they started tracking The olderKISS employee Erik Carr to take Criss’ place. Feeling the urge to make a bold, larger-than-life statement after the commercial collapse of revealed, Kiss decided to come back swinging with hard-hitting songs similar to their pre-“Love Gun” material.
Additionally, the band felt that only an ambitious concept album would bring them back the credibility they lost as they softened their sound and the respect they never received from mainstream critics. And then KISS started unreasonably doing their version of Pink Floyd’s The wall – to bring in yourself The wall architect Bob Ezrin to produce.
“It’s a movie in itself that’s just about absolute stupidity,” Paul Stanley told me about the release. “It is us who overstep our bounds and trip over our own feet. I am in no way ashamed of it, but it is KISS meets the Phantom stand out as two examples of us getting off at the wrong exit.”
If KISS intended to make a louder, heavier album than Unmasked they probably shouldn’t have hired the American Symphony Orchestra and St. Robert’s Choir to add symphonic and operatic flavor, let alone incorporate a story that makes Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu similar to The Who’s Tommy.
Plotted to Music from the elderly revolved around “The Boy” who is recruited and trained by an organization called the Council of Elders, a secret society that is part of a larger group called the Rose Order, whose sole purpose is to fight evil superhero-style.
KISS, “Just a Boy”
The story is told from the perspective of the boy who battles adversity and self-doubt during his training, but ultimately proves to be as confident and self-assured as Gene Simmons in a dormitory. Interestingly, the boy’s father figure and caretaker is a character named Morpheus, which doesn’t give the album any more validity, but begs the question of whether the Wachowski brothers listened to Music for the elderly before making their thought-provoking movie trilogy The Matrix? (Simmons would answer with an unqualified “yes,” but then again, Gene is probably convinced that the Wachowskis got their ideas for The matrix from KISS comics).
Kiss started recording Music from the elderly in March 1981, work in Toronto, New York City and guitarist Ace Frehley‘s home studio in Wilton, Conn. To prevent anyone from hearing what they were up to, Ezrin and the band worked in total isolation. Due to the need for numerous sessions with outside artists, KISS did not complete the album until September.
The band then proudly presented it to Casablanca Records and were reportedly met with complete confusion. When KISS insisted their fans would understand and appreciate their efforts to expand beyond their normal parameters (the ones that led many to use the acronym Keep it Simple Stupid to describe the band’s no-frills musical approach). KISS fans were no more understanding of the album’s grand design than Casablanca. Debuting at No. 75 on the Billboard album charts, the album quickly faded into obscurity, hitting record store cut-up bins only months after its release.
“My sense was always that KISS was about no rules,” Stanley said. “And while I hold the fans in high esteem, I also expect them to understand that not everything we do might be to their liking, and the way they can show that is by not buying it. Well, they spoke loudly and clearly when that record came out.”
Music from the elderlyonly played a single,”A world without heroes,” one of two songs that did not feature Frehley (the other being “I”). Apparently, the guitarist was disheartened by the band’s departure from the hard rock direction he had promised for the album and stopped showing up for sessions .While Stanley admits the record wasn’t the success it should have been, he says it led KISS in a direction that would ultimately prove beneficial.
“It would be crazy for us not to follow the paths we want. At the end of the day, they get us where we need to go,” he said. “We couldn’t have done that Creatures of the night if we didn’t The older. I don’t begrudge anything we’ve done because everything we do leads us to where we end up.”
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legendsco-author of Louder Than Hell: Metal’s Definitive Oral Historyas well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthraxand Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, The Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.