Det är ju fredag idag, så varför inte bjuda på ”Heaven’s On Fire”.
En klassiker från 1984, mer information om albumet ”Animalize” hittar ni nedan:
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Produced by Paul Stanley. Associate producer: Gene Simmons. Drums produced by Michael James Jackson. Recorded at Right Track Studios, New York City, NY by Chris Minto and Timothy Crich, May – July 1984. Additional Recording by Dave Wittman. Mixed by Dave Wittman. According to Paul Stanley the album “Has more balls than the World Series… In the past KISS put out albums that would crack glasses: I wanted one now that would turn them to dust” (Uncredited review, 1984). Gene commented, “Animalize is the climax to Lick It Up’s foreplay.”
Kiss Album Focus – Animalize
The conclusion of the “Lick It Up” tour, in America at least, had not seen the band’s fortunes increase tremendously. The tour had been patchy at best and only somewhat better than the previous “Creatures Of The Night” tour. KISS had to get back into the studio to record another album quickly to build on what impetus “Lick It Up” had provided, especially at a time when rock music was making major waves. 1983 had been a massive year for the likes of Def Leppard (“Pyromania”) and Quiet Riot had scored the first #1 metal album with “Metal Health.” There was one minor problem: Vinnie had exited the band, one way or another, at the conclusion of the “Lick It Up” US Tour in April 1984. This time there would be no coming back and it seemed that his departure was acceptable to both parties. He’d had enough of KISS, and Gene and Paul had had enough of him. Regardless, by the time KISS was preparing for their next studio visit, Vinnie was already entrenched in the studio working on songs that would later be released on the first “Invasion” album. It could be debated that the band members had all gone their own directions, for a brief period, following the end of the tour and that Vinnie had simply decided to sever his ties with the band since his position in the band really couldn’t result in his being fired. In playing their “Ace” card by removing the makeup, KISS now had to live with that decision.
While “Lick It Up” had been a musically successful album, and both videos had seen wide MTV rotation, the band’s financial situation had not improved. According to CK Lendt, “KISS was millions of dollars in the hole with Phonogram and would need a lucky streak to dig themselves out. Income from song publishing had shrunk since Vinnie Vincent had co-written eight of Lick It Up’s ten tracks. The gross profit on the album would quickly disappear when recording costs, overhead, and other expenses were deducted. KISS was sitting on top of a cliff. The ‘Lick It Up’ tour was a break-even proposition and once the tour ended in the early spring of 1984, their cash flow had dried up” (Lendt, CK – KISS & Sell). What would not change is that the majority of KISS songs from 1982 onwards would have co-writes, regardless of any negative impact this could have on publishing, though the negotiated “splits” for specific songs are unknown (just because a song is credited to two writers doesn’t mean that it’s a 50/50 split).
Without Vinnie, KISS was back on the market looking for a new guitarist, and new song-writing partners. KISS’ lead-guitarist position was quickly becoming the “most temporary job in town.” Rather than go through the expense of auditioning another 100 guitar players, guitar maker Grover Jackson gave Paul a list of 10 guitarists. One of these prospective candidates was one Mark Norton. Mark was a technically gifted Californian guitarist, who’d be re-christened Mark St. John, but his audition tape had something special, and Paul knew whom the next guitarist in KISS would be. Paul commented, “He can play Beethoven on the guitar in such a way that it sounds like tough-as-nails boogie” (Hurricane Special). However few people would really want to hear Beethoven on the electric guitar as a “tough-as-nails boogie.” One exception to that would probably be the Great Kat who would corner that particular market with albums such as “Worship Me Or Die,” “Bloody Vivaldi,” and “Beethoven On Speed” performing speed-metal renditions classical “hits.” J.S. Bach, perhaps, the original “heavy metal”… Gene, on the other hand, took little interest in these matters.
As soon as the tour had concluded he had essentially surrendered control of the band to Paul while he went off working on a variety of personal projects. Foremost among these would be his production role on Wendy O. William’s solo album. On this very KISS related project he would utilize some demos KISS had cut during the “Creatures Of The Night” sessions and other unused material. He would recruit Mitch Weissman, Ace Frehley, Micki Free, and Eric Carr to help out often without those people’s presence in the same time space! Eric once commented that he was only on the album since he was on a demo KISS had recorded in 1982, and hadn’t set foot in the studio with Gene or Wendy for the album. Gene played the majority of bass on the album credited as ‘Reginald Van Helsing.’ This surname some fans of the horror genre will immediately recognizer as being from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” character Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.
There have been suggestions, stemming from an alleged Wendy O. Williams interview in the French magazine “Enfer” that the bassist was actually a well-known guitarist who had also played bass on a post-1985 Sammy Hagar solo album. That comment would indicate that the bassist was one Edward Van Halen. No Van Halen source has been able to confirm that Eddie Van Halen played any bass on the album, and while it is an interesting possibility, it is unlikely. A more valid explanation of Eddie’s association comes from talk, at the time of the album’s production, of possibly trying to get Eddie to make a guest appearance on the album. That never materialized. Another factor which bolsters the case against Eddie’s involvement would be that his band was on tour nearly continuously from January-July 1984 (there was a 10 day break at the end of May), before taking a break between July 16 and August 18 prior to European shows that would run through early August.
Since most of the songs included on the album were already demos, which makes the contributions of those mentioned something of a moot point, the project was quickly completed. With Wendy’s sawdust and rust vocals the resulting album was a reasonable effort and a definite progression from her earlier Plasmatics work. On one track, “Bump And Grind,” Gene persuaded Ace to spend an hour recording a guitar solo. This would provide Ace with his first post-KISS vinyl appearance. Gene was quickly off to Hollywood to try and get some film roles, now that his lack of a hidden identity would allow him to appear on screen. Gene would get more than just his film career started, he would meet his long-term partner Shannon Lee Tweed at a party at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion in Los Angeles during 1984. What is truly ironic is that according the book “You’ll Never Make Love In This Town Again” (Joanne Parrent with Liza, Linda, Tiffany, and Robin, 1995), Shannon had allegedly been banned from the Playboy mansion permanently after Hugh allegedly discovered that she had used hardcore drugs there. Considering Gene’s own opinions on drugs and alcohol it is interesting that the two ‘hooked’ up, if that story is accurate, but that is an aside…
During the mid-1980s KISS took something of a back seat for Gene as the freedom from the makeup identity issue allowed him to start trying for film roles. Initially Gene would get offered some roles that would be of no interest to him. He recalled, “I was offered the male lead in ‘Flashdance’ with Jennifer Beals, but I hate dance films and musicals. After that they wanted to cast me as a pimp for ‘Doctor Detroit’ with Dan Aykroyd, but the character to be portrayed was to my mind too weak and creepy. I would really like to play only strong personalities, no wimps. That’s why I was also very disappointed when at the time I had to turn down Sergio Leone due to pressure of engagements. He wanted me for his film ‘Once Upon A Time In America,’ with me in the second role, ‘Max’ next to Robert DeNiro as ‘Noodles’” (Hurricane Special). James Woods would eventually play that role. There has also been the suggestion that Gene turned down the “Flashdance” role due to fear of damaging his ‘tough’ image by wearing a leotard without his armor! However it didn’t take Gene too long to get a role that he liked in the Michael Crichton film ‘Runaway.’ The author of “The Andromeda Strain,” and later “Jurassic Park,” not only created the concept behind the film, but also wrote the screenplay and directed the film.
Shooting would take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Moses Lake, Washington. With Gene playing the villain Charles Luther, the story’s plot concerns a futuristic vision of the world where robots are practically in every aspect of human living, so much so that a special police unit, with leading character Tom Selleck, exists to deal with any malfunctioning devices. Those devices would be the so-called “Runaways.” Most of these robots turn out to be gun toting cyber- lunatics, and Jack Ramsay (Selleck) and his new partner Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) are soon battling the robots gone awry. Simmons, of course, plays the role of the evil Charles Luther who is responsible for the unleashed robotic terror after creating a chip that can turn any robot into a lunatic killing machine. Kirstie Alley also appears in the film. While it wasn’t the greatest film, it was not as bad as some of the films Gene would do later. CK Lendt summed it up best, “Gene played a mad scientist who sets a team of remote-controlled robots on a path of mayhem and destruction” (Lendt, C.K., KISS & Sell). From that description one could wonder whether “Phantom Of The Park” was being described or slightly paraphrased!
With filming taking up much of the summer Gene was well and truly distracted from recording a new KISS album, something the band needed to deliver on a yearly basis. He recalled, “After we finished the basic tracks and I finished my vocals, I told Paul that I would trust him to finish the album. He wasn’t pleased…” (KISS & Make-up). His growing interest in acting had him transplant himself from the East to the West coast where he could more easily work on that aspect of his career. Initially, though, Gene studied acting in New York with Alice Spivak.
When the “Runaway” film was completed Gene was satisfied with how the movie came out, commenting, “At any rate I personally like thrillers of this kind. What’s more, in the film I have a load of women buzzing about me, which is not bad either” (Hurricane Special). He would also later comment, “You know what I saw when I looked at myself on the screen? Evil incarnate. And that’s great, because it’s exactly what I was aiming for. Luther is absolutely evil- not bad in the sense of your average bad guy, but a different life form altogether. He kills people as though he’s flicking a piece of lint off his jacket” (Manitoba Free Press). That “evil incarnate” comment will have some fans recalling the response he once got when he used the line on television in 1974! The film would be released in December 1984 while the band prepared to hit the road on the American leg of the “Animalize” tour.
By August, Gene was also doing other things, producing Keel’s second album, and first for Gold Mountain/A&M Records. The album was being recorded at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles and Media Sound Studios in New York City. As was becoming a usual practice for Gene, he would bring the artists he was working with plenty of his own material for them to consider using. Not only would this sometimes offer bands without suitable recording material options, but the writing credits and accompanying songwriting/publishing residuals would also be useful financially to Gene. In the music industry such residuals are profitable, on top of the cut a producer often gets, and anyway, why waste material if it can be used to generate cash! In the case of Keel’s 1985 album, Gene contributed “Easier Said Than Done,” “So Many Girls, So Little Time,” and “Get Down.”
“Get Down” had started out as “Keep Your Tail Between Your Legs,” written by Gene and Howard Rice. The demo has long been lumped in with other material described as “Asylum” demos, though they primarily date from 1982 to 1984. However, it was a song considered for use on the “Animalize” album, but still felt somewhat unfinished and wasn’t used. “So Many Girls, So Little Time” was also written by Gene and Howard. Keel would also not use the original “log in your fireplace” lyric from Gene’s demo of the song, probably because Gene had already recycled that line for one of his songs that would appear on “Animalize” – “Burn Bitch Burn.” That song in particular is a patch-work quilt featuring many lines from various demos in its lyrics: “So many girls and so little time,” “wanna put my log in your fireplace,” “anyway you slice it,” and “gotta keep my tail between my legs.” “Easier Said Than Done” was also an “Animalize” leftover, and had been written by Gene and Mitch Weissman. The song was originally titled “Sooner Said Than Done.” Gene’s never ending self-promotion machine would lead to his face being prominently featured on a 12” promotional single issued from the album. However, the promotional work did the job for the album as Keel took a step up the rock ladder. The album not only cracked the Top-100, but also became the fastest selling record in A&M’s history (to that point) when released in January 1985. Yet, one should not give Gene too much credit, the album only managed to nip into the top-100 reaching #99. It was Ron Keel who’d picked Gene’s name off a list of possible producers of the album after the band had been signed.
After meeting Gene at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Ron Keel recalled, “We went up to his room and talked for a while; he wanted to hear some new material, so I plugged in a cassette of that jam track of ‘The Right To Rock’ – there were no vocals on it, so I just stood up in Gene’s face, in his hotel room, and screamed the lead vocal at him. He pushed stop on the cassette player, looked at me, and said: ‘I’m going to produce this album. And we’re going to start recording Tuesday’” (http://ronniekeel.tripod.com/).
KISS, on the other-hand, started recording “Animalize” at Right Track Studios in New York City. Very early on in the process Eric laid down his drum tracks that were produced by Michael James Jackson. Once again it had been planned to utilize his services in the production booth, but eventually his role would be limited to the production of the drums, and getting the sessions running smoothly before heading West to produce the debut Armored Saint album. At least getting him to help retain the bombastic drum sound was a positive input on the album. Paul defended the decision to not use an ‘outside’ producer, “At the moment, there really isn’t a need for anybody else… When we’ve worked with other people in the past it’s often been just to have an extra pair of ears; we haven’t used a producer as a producer for quite a while now. We’ve reached a level where we want to accept our failures and accept the praise and success” (Kerrang, #78).
There was also the small matter of not having to pay others to do a job that you were more than capable of doing yourself, at a time when financial issues affecting the band would have been very apparent to both Gene and Paul. Call it one less “cost,” or out-of-pocket expense. Regardless, both of them had more than enough production experience by 1984, though the majority of the work would fall to Paul. The problem with not using an external producer is that the artist often doesn’t get an outside perspective about the material they are recording. KISS had benefited from this most with the likes of Bob Ezrin.
Mark, regardless of who was listed as producing the album, worked mostly without supervision. He recalled, “Well, I don’t know why they even booked studio time when none of them were there. Gene was doing a movie in a Canada, his ‘Runaway’ thing, so his mind is on other things and he doesn’t even care about doing a record. He is going to be a movie star now. Paul, on the other hand, is in Bermuda with Lisa Hartman that week, and Eric is in Florida fucking some girls. So I’m in the studio recording – just me and a couple of engineers. We laid down a basic track and I just kind of took the guitar and went one way and then other way and filled up both tracks of different guitars. So when they came back they were horrified. It was like, ‘that doesn’t sound like us!’ And I was going, “it isn’t, it’s me. Of course it doesn’t sound like you, it’s not you playing!’ They got all kind of weird about that and decided that they had to be there all the time while I was playing guitar, watching over me. It was one of those dog on a leash things” (KISS Asylum).
Mark was initially pleased to be in the band commenting, “I was glad when I got in the band, I didn’t have to wear any make- up. I think it was great fun for the kids. I’m finding out more and more that people don’t listen with their ears, they listen with their eyes” (Uncredited interview with Mark, 1990). What was clear was that Mark’s contribution was going to be very much controlled by Paul and Gene. No longer would any guitarist be given the leeway that Vinnie had initially enjoyed. It was too much of a risk to the finances and image of the band to let the individual characters of hired members of the band develop outside the control of Gene or Paul. They were determined to remain the focus of the band, rightly so since they were the remaining founding members of the band and had worked so hard to build the band in the first place. It was hardly a new development either, for even with Ace and Peter in the band, Gene and Paul’s vision had guided the band.
This was made clear to Mark from the beginning. He recalled, “They didn’t want me to get any publishing, meaning I couldn’t contribute any songs to the band. It’s like, you can play guitar in the band but we don’t want to use any of your music. If I had said no they wouldn’t want me in the band because they wanted someone that they could control so they could make all the money. And at the time I am thinking to myself, am I going to be greedy or is this going to be a chance for me to get inside an actual band? Am I going to be stupid and say no and turn down what could be the best gig of my life? So, it was one of those type of things. I took the contract without the publications otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the band” (KISS Asylum).
Other terms for his employment were clearer: “I signed a contract for five years and there was no escape clause. After awhile I was going, God, I need to get out of this band” (KISS Asylum)! One can bet that after Vinnie, KISS had a built in “escape” clause just in case any new member suddenly developed any traits that went counter to their predefined views of employment! Call it a contractual “panic button” of sorts. It was also clear in the studio that Mark’s style, which had initially interested Paul so much, was too much a deviation from the accepted scope of the KISS sound – parameters, rigidly defined, with very little room for expansion. Mark defends himself, “I don’t have just a single style. With KISS, some of my best stuff, ended up on the cutting room floor. I would do stuff that would send shivers down my spine, and the next day, Paul would have erased all of it. Paul knew I thought it was great, and he erased it on purpose. It was a whole ego trip” (Uncredited interview with Mark, 1990).
Once Gene’s focus returned to the album things became worse for Mark. He commented that his situation within the band rapidly deteriorated: “It got to the point where, this kind of pissed me off, it got like a game. It was like what I liked didn’t matter to me anymore. As long as they were happy, I was happy to make them happy. You know what I am saying? It was like I couldn’t care less anymore. And when it comes to that, you really don’t give a fuck about what you are doing. All you want to do is get the fuck out of there and go home, knowing that the next day you are going to have to do it again. What kind of band comradely is that? Give me a break. That really wore me out because Gene would be in one studio and Paul would be in another studio – they wouldn’t record together their egos were so big. So Gene would ask to Paul, ‘Can I use Mark now?’ So then Mark would have to get in a taxicab, go all the way across town to the other studio and record with Gene. Then Paul would call Gene, ‘Can I use Mark now?’ So back and forth I go like a guy delivering pizza! That wore me out because I’m getting up early in the morning, doing that, going home late at night, and then still having to rehearse my stuff to make it sound good for me, I could feel my world shredding, and I’m doing it all over and over again for two weeks straight” “ (KISS Asylum).
Even worse was the toll that the stress was taking on Mark’s health. Bitterly, Mark commented, “I was doing the work load; they worked me. They worked me hard, and when it was all said and done I wanted to go ho me for a break before we started practicing for the European tour. They wouldn’t let me go back! I kept on bugging them and finally they did let me go back, but they shouldn’t have let me go because that was when I woke up one morning in California with the inflammation in my hand. It started all there. I don’t know what it was. I think it was the stress, I really do. I never had arthritis in anywhere in my family. I was playing violin concertos on the guitar before KISS, you know? I think it was just the stress of the whole thing. And people only see the tip of the iceberg. ‘Oh he’s in the band, he’s the fourth member. They all get the same, everything is equal.’ There was nothing equal about it at all. I was a hired hand. Period. Think everybody got a piece of the pie? I got maybe some crumbs off a piece! That’s all bullshit. My work is all over that album, but I don’t get credit or paid for it. No type of royalties at all” (KISS Asylum). Yet, in the face of these later complaints, Mark knew all f that when he signed on with the band and made the decision that he wanted to be in the band regardless of the items specifically spelt out in the contract. He would quickly know from Eric was it meant to be a non-original member of the band. The KISS that Mark joined was the KISS that had evolved in a period where there was personnel and financial instability.
Gene and Paul were not trying to regain lost ground for the benefit of employee members, but for themselves. As an employee, you either came along for the ride, or got a job elsewhere. But the relationship with Mark seems to have been one that started out promisingly. Paul liked his guitar style on tape, but as a member of the band probably quickly found out that it really wasn’t going to work out well for the band. Neither had Mark the stature of previous players, particularly with performing for the sorts of crowds the band hoped to play for.
During the 1980s KISS, notably Paul Stanley, was searching for the simple anthem to compete with the rest of the music scene. According to Paul, “I was going for simplicity and sometimes that can be the hardest thing to do because your sense, as with ‘Lick It Up,’ is that maybe there’s not enough there” (Box Set Liners). For “Animalize” the anthem would be “Heaven’s On Fire.” Paul has also commented that he played all of the guitars on the track and is unclear whether Gene played bass. Paul and Desmond Child wrote the song and the video quickly became popular on MTV. It would be a result of hearing this song that Jon Bon Jovi got in touch with Desmond Child to co-write with him for the band’s new album, which would become “Slippery When Wet.” According to Desmond, “they liked ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ which I co-wrote with Paul Stanley so much that they copied it with their ‘In And Out Of Love.’ I really felt honored even because they never denied the robbery” (Desmond-Child.com). Paul reportedly played bass on “Heaven’s On Fire,” and “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire),” leaving Gene playing bass on only four of the album’s songs.
Through the whole album there is a mix of players, a result notably due to Gene’s absence. On “Thrills In The Night,” “Under The Gun” and “Get All You Can Take” bass duties were covered by Plasmatics bassist Jean Beauvoir. He had also co-written “Thrills In The Night” with Paul Stanley. When released as the album’s second single in early 1985, backed with “Burn Bitch Burn,” it didn’t chart. A video was made, which was originally intended a concept piece, with segments being filmed in Louisville, Kentucky on December 16, 1984.
Directed by Albie Vos the “concept” idea was abandoned with the video instead becoming a live performance piece using parts of the December 8 show in Detroit which was filmed for MTV (a 60 minute edited concert was broadcast on special on January 26, 1985). “Get All You Can Take” was written by Paul Stanley and Mitch Weissman, and is described on the Box Set liners as being one of Paul Stanley’s favorite songs from the “Animalize” album due to its “Zeppelin kind of groove.” According to Paul, “The song also contained a chorus line that most people don’t quite hear and the line is, ‘What fuckin’ difference does it make?’” Paul would also play part of the guitar solo to get the feel he was looking for that he felt Mark wasn’t providing.
“Under The Gun” provided Eric Carr with another rare song-writing credit. According to Eric, “I had nothing to do with the song after the initial rhythm thing. What happened was Paul and I, I think at rehearsal or on a day off, went in the studio. I just started playing a double-bass beat, I heard some accents in my head. I said: ‘Paul, why don’t you play these three chords….’ I think it’s like D – A – D – A – D – A…. We started fooling around with that and we liked it. And then we didn’t go anywhere else with it. Paul remembered that part and wrote ‘Under The Gun’” (KISS Neon Glow #1, 1992). Eric would get some of his most noticeable backing vocals on this recording, hollering out “Fire!” during the bridge.
Gene’s contributions to the album were limited to “Burn Bitch Burn,” “Lonely Is The Hunter,” “Murder In High Heels,” and “While The City Sleeps,” a song that had been included on a 5 track demo tape of material offered to the band Heavy Pettin’ earlier in the year (the tape also included “Chrome Heart” along with other material that would get recycled). With lyrics such as “Ooh baby, wanna put my log in your fireplace,” “Burn Bitch Burn” competes with the sort of lyrical content found in a popular movie that had been released earlier in the year: “This Is Spinal Tap.” Eric Carr would love performing this song, though it didn’t last in the band’s live set on the “Animalize” tour very long.
Bruce Kulick made his first known appearance on a KISS record on two of Gene’s songs. On “Murder In High Heels” his additions to the song would be minimal: “Just a couple of riffs at the end of the song” (Scream #46). However, on “Lonely Is The Hunter” it was felt that Mark St. John was not able to provide a suitable guitar solo for the piece. As a result Paul made a call to Bruce and asked him to come in and do the solo. Bruce recalled, “Recording a guitar solo for the ‘Animalize’ album which was before I actually joined the band was a real cool experience. The whole thing went really well, and after it was over I remember Paul saying to me, ‘Don’t cut your hair’ and as soon as he said that I figured I might one day be asked to join KISS” (Firehouse #75).
For the packaging of the album, Gene is shown wearing one of his worst wigs, a result of his cutting his hair for the “Runaway” film. The photo shot, long a questionable image, comes in for ridicule from Mark St. John: “Oh, it is a total cut and paste job! I went up to the KISS office everyday and would go by the art department, and every day it would be the same picture, changed just a little bit. There would be 20 arms and legs off on the sides and they would just paste ‘em up and put which one looked best, which hair, heads. And I’m thinking, why did we even do a photo session, ten hours of pictures, if you are chopping it all up anyway?! But whatever. They spent so much money… What a waste of money. If you really look at it now, if you really look at it, you can see where things are pasted in. That arm is too long, that leg is too short, his neck looks broken. If you really look at it, you can start seeing things. We did the photo shoot in New Jersey in a rock quarry. Some German guy did the production. You see all the smoke and fire? Well let me tell you, it was windy and that fire was either out or only about one inch! It was never like those big flames it looked like everywhere on the picture. There was no smoke. I’m not going to lie about things” (KISS Asylum).
According to Paul Stanley the album “has more balls than the World Series… In the past KISS put out albums that would crack glasses: I wanted one now that would turn them to dust” (Uncredited review, 1984). Gene would comment, “Animalize is the climax to Lick It Up’s foreplay.” Paul would even try and create a theme for the album: “Real rock is primal, and we should remember that human beings are basically animals. We intend to put the flesh and blood back into music.” When released on September 13, 1984, “Animalize” quickly reached #19 on the US album charts and #11 on the UK album charts. This was an improvement on the success of “Lick It Up” the year earlier and demonstrated that KISS was at least moving in the right direction. “Animalize” would spend a very respectable 37 weeks on the charts and even Billboard’s review was good, “The band may no longer have the costumes to underscore this set’s title, but their music remains a hardy, textbook example of hard rock at its most energetic, built on venerable power chords and paced by hearty vocal choruses and relentless backbeat. The metal renaissance may be underwritten by a new generation, but this quartet will have no problem keeping up” (Billboard, 9/22/84). With MTV in full metal/rock mode, the excellent video for “Heaven’s On Fire,” directed by David Lewis, got regular air play even if some people couldn’t tell that it was boys kissing girls in the video rather than lesbians! However, while the video may have helped album sales, the single only reached a disappointing #49 on the US charts. It faired slightly better in the UK hitting position #43, but performed best in Sweden reaching #19.
“Animalize” received RIAA Gold certification on December 3, an improvement on the four months it had taken “Lick It Up” to reach that plateau. What would be even better was that within two weeks (on December 12) the album attained the coveted RIAA Platinum certification, becoming the first KISS album to attain that status since “Dynasty.” According to CK Lendt, “Its success was strong confirmation of the wisdom of the group’s decision to abandon the makeup and costumes. With a Top Twenty album, more shows could be booked on a US tour” (KISS & Sell). The platinum album would be a consummation of the decision to change the band’s direction. From a sales point of view, while things were looking rosy, KISS were getting less than they used to for sales following PolyGram’s renegotiation of their contract. Unfortunately, the band had a heavy load of debt from the low years where tours and records didn’t do well. After Vinnie Vincent’s alleged stage antics towards the end of the “Lick It Up” Tour in March 1984, Gene and Paul were clear that they would never be overshadowed, in their own band and on their own stage, by a hired gun ever again.
It was this sort of sentiment that Mark recalled: “Paul would get on his knees and play something, and I’d do a couple of windmills, and play with my teeth, or behind my back and be standing a few feet in front of him, and Paul and Gene would look at one another, and then say that I was trying to upstage Paul” (Uncredited interview with Mark, 1990). This would appear to have been during the rehearsals for the tour, because of the health issues that would soon affect him and the time frame for the European Tour with Bruce being brought in to work with the band. As for the album, it cause more friction in an already difficult situation, Mark recalled “It was good in a way that the album did go good, it went better than I ever expected. And at the same time most reviews I saw, like 80%, were all about the new guitar player. They didn’t talk that much about Gene and Paul during that little period of time and they didn’t like that at all! Every time we would go to an airport they would get a magazine and they’d say, ‘It’s about you again!’ and they would throw it over to me. Well sorry! Sorry for helping you. It could be worse. The article could be about another band. We wouldn’t be on tour except that this album in two weeks did what, a million? And the last two albums took over a year to go gold? I don’t know if I am stupid or those guys are just fucking assholes” (KISS Asylum). But as quickly as the bubble inflated it burst, as his hand “inflated.”
With Mark’s health issues, and a European tour already booked, KISS knew that they could not afford the time to allow Mark to heal. The band would recall what had happened in 1980 when European shows were scheduled, and then cancelled. Paul turned to old friend Bob Kulick for what was initially intended to be a stand in guitarist. Bob suggested his brother Bruce who was at something of a loose end in his own career. Having played with a diverse group of musicians during his career, Bruce had the personality that was perfect. It is ironic that Bruce had already had a bit of a try out with the band during the recording of the album, though one must wonder whether that had been something of an audition for him. Mark recalled, “Originally he knew he was temporary and he was just happy to be in that position. I worked hard to do the album and beat out hundreds of guitar players to get the gig. When this thing happened, they needed somebody like that day almost, not even in a week. They didn’t want to go through all that preliminary shit to find the right guy. So Bob, who was like a friend of these guys, hooked up Bruce. It was going to be temporary and just going to be in Europe. They thought nobody will know who it is, they still put my picture on everything, people will think Bruce is me and all that bullshit. And then I didn’t mind, because it’s big business to spend a lot money on the album’s success. I’m thinking that Bruce is just helping, but which turned out to be that it was another plan in the big picture, you know what I am trying to say? But I don’t have a problem with Bruce, it’s not his fault. I mean, just because my girlfriend is fucking another guy it’s not the guy’s fault, it’s my girlfriend that the problem is with” (KISS Asylum).
While there were most certainly some health issues with Mark, there is little doubt that the situation could have been overcome and that had the band wanted him back Bruce could have just fulfilled the ‘temp’ role. However, being on tour as a group bonds people together and Bruce’s style integrated him more and more into the band whether it was conscious or not. The experience in the studio indicates that there may have been second thoughts about having Mark in the band. According to Mark, “The arthritis thing was really a cover up for the other reasons; you know what I am trying to say? I think a lot of people might know that. I can still play guitar. The situation was a meeting of East meets West type of thing. We didn’t hate each other, but they solved things ‘their way or hit the highway.’ I just wanted to do it right” (KISS Asylum). Once again, it was clear that the new guitarist was not clicking with the band, and that the health issues that Mark was hiding could not be allowed to delay the band. Mark’s health issues provided the perfect pretext to get someone else into the band. Bruce recalled, “I got a call from Paul in late ‘84, asking me to fill in for their guitar player, Mark St. John, who was sick. They realized they had the right guy, after they’d had some changes in their lead guitarist and drummer slots” (Moseley, Willie G., Vintage Guitar Magazine, 8/96). Bruce was a known commodity to the band, having known them, through his brother, for years. He had already, apparently, auditioned for the band during the “Creatures Of The Night” lead guitarist search.
On September 30 the “Animalize” Tour began in Brighton, England (following a radio interview the previous night). As had been the case with the “Lick It Up” tour, KISS would have problems with the smaller market venues that they were playing again. Even though “Animalize” was a successful album for the band, that success didn’t translate into stable well-sold tour dates. As had been the case on the two previous tours a hefty amount of new material was included in the set. For the first show the band opened with “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire),” and included “Burn Bitch Burn, “Get All You Can Take,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” and “Under The Gun.” Both “Burn Bitch Burn” and “Get All You Can Take” would quickly be dropped, not surviving past the first show. Soon to be super-group Bon Jovi received the opening band slot for the tour.
One member of Bon Jovi had had previous interaction with KISS. During the search for a replacement for Ace Frehley one prospective candidate who auditioned with the band in Los Angeles was a young Richie Sambora. His audition was anything but successful, he recalled, “they were actually pissed I showed up… They liked they way I played but they were going, ‘you know this one? That one?’ And I’m goin’ ‘No’” (Guitar.com). While Richie wasn’t successful with the KISS audition he’s questioned how serious he was for the role in the first place commenting, “Honestly, I didn’t really want it. I was really only trying for it as a good business measure” (Guitar.com). Instead, he’d replace Dave “Snake” Sabo in Jon Bon Jovi’s band prior to the band recording their self-titled debut. By the time the European Tour ended on November 5 at Le Zenith in Paris, it was clear that Mark’s position within the band was tenuous, with Bruce Kulick fitting in well with the band and delivering solid performances.
“I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)” lasted for all of the European tour before being dropped early during the American leg that began on November 15 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The US leg of the tour would use a new metal grill styled stage with a floating lighting truss on which the members could stand. The European leg had used an old stripped down stage decorated in animalized stripes. On November 27 Mark St. John finally made his live debut with the band at a concert in Baltimore, Maryland. Bruce would play the first part of the show before Mark came on to play the rest of the set. Mark’s playing was not smooth (then again, nor was Gene’s bass solo that night!) – compared to Bruce who was already warmed in with the band in a live setting and the set list the band were performing, and these songs see Mark affecting the tempo and letting rip into a Vinnie-esque fret board attack at the end of “Cold Gin,” which probably not the sort of thing Gene and Paul needed to see from him at that point. Interestingly both lead guitarists took bows at the end of the show with the other three members of the band. The following night Mark played the show Poughkeepsie, New York. Finally, on November 29 Mark played his final concert with KISS, playing a full show at Broome County Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Binghamton, New York. Following those three shows, Mark’s career with KISS was essentially over. Bruce would earn the nickname “Spruce” for standing still rather than running or moving around on stage like some of his predecessors, thus leaving the limelight solely to Gene and Paul.
On December 8, in Detroit, the band recorded “Animalize Live Uncensored,” initially for broadcast as a special on MTV and on the radio. “Thrills In The Night” was added to the set briefly during the early part of the US tour. During December the band received an offer to lay the notorious Sun City in South Africa. According to CK Lendt, “Sun City wanted KISS to do a series of shows. They were willing to pay all expenses and a fee of $800,000. It would have been a windfall for KISS but South Africa and Sun City in particular had a kind of pariah status at the time” (KISS & Sell, p. 300). Some posters for the show, with an April 1985 date, have surfaced in collector’s circles though KISS refused the concert though it seems the date was officially scheduled and sanctioned by the band. According to Gene Simmons, “KISS cancelled the Sun City concerts, although they sold out in advance, we were told. The reason? At that time, Apartheid (segregation) was in force. Meaning, local black people, the original people were not allowed to attend. We cancelled as a quiet, personal protest” (GeneSimmons.com). This is probably the only time that KISS came close to playing a concert on the African continent.
With Mark officially “gone” by mid-December, promotional material for the remaining shows on the US leg were changed to feature Bruce’s rather than Mark’s image. However, most members stuck to the story that it was health issues, rather than personality issues, had forced yet another change to the KISS lineup. For Mark it was a learning experience: “So when it was all said and done, all the work I did and everything, I got fucked. You know, seriously. I spent all the money on attorneys and stuff and it really didn’t do any good. So I said, whatever, I’ll sign it. And I did the album and everything, and I still didn’t sign the contract until I was all done, and that was stupid. It was a good learning experience. I will never do the same thing again, but when I think back at it if I had known more about the business it wouldn’t have happened that way. But I was just a musician. It is funny being a musician and not knowing anything about the ‘business’ and then jumping into one of the biggest business bands in the world. I got my feet got wet real fast… real fast! Like, ‘Hello!’ But it’s all good, it’s all good” (KISS Asylum). In January 1985 Mark teamed up with David Donato and Barry Brandt (Angel) to work on demo ideas. By March he would be playing live again, at an all-star jam session at the FM Station Club, in a lineup that included Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge (KISS Revolution, April/May 1985).
On March 29, 1985 the “Animalize” Tour ended at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In the period following the end of the tour even Eric Carr would start to get involved in other projects outside the band. Eric wanted to expand his experience in the music business and started shopping the band “New York” to record companies. He hoped to eventually produce them. This band had released their debut EP, “Carry The Torch,” in early 1985 and Eric would quickly become interested in them: “Their material and show really impressed me. The energy and intensity remind me of KISS” (Faces Rocks: Metal Muscle, Spring 1986).
On April 19 RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video released the “Animalize Live Uncensored” video. Directed by Keef the video was produced by John Weaver. It featured : “Detroit Rock City,” “Cold Gin,” “Creatures Of The Night,” “Fits Like A Glove,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” “Thrills In The Night,” “Under The Gun,” “War Machine,” “Young And Wasted,” “I Love It Loud,” “I Still Love You,” “Love Gun,” “Lick It Up,” “Black Diamond,” and “Rock And Roll All Night.” The video charted for 55 weeks reaching a high of #5. The video received Gold certification on February 10, 1986, and was the first in a long line of successful KISS videos. Platinum certification followed on October 1, 1987. The Japanese laserdisc has 19 tracks listed that include solos and intro rather than any additional songs or material.
Following his departure Mark was soon back in California working on his next project: “I have an eight track studio at my house now and Dave (Donato) and I have written 12 songs so far. Our goal is to write a few more and take the best of the bunch and record them for an album. That will hopefully be done by the first of the year. I’m into quality, not quantity. Some of the songs I’ve written include: ‘Rock Warrior,’ ‘Chase The Lightning,’ and ‘Live to Rock, Rock to Live’… If everybody liked what I did on ‘Animalize,’ then they’re really going to be in for a surprise this time! It’s going to blow their minds! I’m going to pull out all the stops and play mainstream rock! I want to play rock ‘n roll hit songs. If my guitar shines through that’s great, but it’s not my main concern” (KISS Force ‘85). This band would later become White Tiger and included Mark’s younger brother Michael on bass.
Mark lost very little sleep over his short tenure with the band. If anything he was somewhat relieved to have been out of what he perceived as being such a negative situation: “Well, it was a blessing in a lot of ways. Seriously, because after a while you want to get out of it. It was actually the worst time of my life, but everybody thought, ‘Oh he missed a good chance.’ It was the worst time of my life! Just because you are in that spotlight doesn’t mean things are going good. You play music with them a couple hours a night and that may be fun, but the other 22 hours you have to deal and live with people and if it doesn’t work… Your communication skills have to be better than saying, ‘You work for me and you know I’ll fire you if say anything.’ That type of attitude doesn’t work at all with me. Everyday was lies and deceit, all kinds of little weird things. Everyday was like a little test or mind games, you know what I mean? I don’t know if they do it because that is the way they are, or it is because they want to be, I don’t know. I don’t mean it disrespectfully, and I could have it all wrong and they will probably sue me again, but I really don’t care!” (KISS Asylum). KISS, on the other hand, barely took a break before heading straight back into the studio, a recurring theme of Record-Tour-Record-Tour-Record-Tour, a formula they’d followed for most of their career…
In terms of collectibles, “Animalize” is somewhat lacking in items of major interest. Both the Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick versions of the tour book are readily available. The album would be issued as a limited edition Dutch picture disc (Mercury/Phonogram PIC822-495-1). The promotional sampler album, “Hot Hits To Warm Your Winter” (Mercury/PolyGram SA/C-054), is readily available. The “Heaven’s On Fire” 7” single turns up in most markets, excluding America, with a picture sleeve. In the case of Holland’s release, two different covers would be issued, one a band shot with Mark, and the other the somewhat atrocious “flaming tennis ball” cover that had been used on the English release.
Brazil’s picture cover for their “Heaven’s On Fire” single mimics the album’s cover. One special release would be the Dutch Fan club 7” & 12” edition of “Thrills In The Night” which came in a die-cut picture sleeve. The records featured picture center-rings with Paul and Bruce on one side, and Gene and Eric on the other. Japan issued “Heaven’s On Fire” using the album’s rear cover art for the picture overlay sheet. For “Thrills In The Night,” “Burn Bitch Burn” would be substituted with “Murder In High Heels.” Spain would be the only other market to deviate substantially from the American singles release model.
Both “Heaven’s On Fire” and “While The City Sleeps” were issued as singles, both with “Lonely Is The Hunter” as the B-side. In Australia, “Thrills In The Night” was quickly withdrawn following the single’s release, making it another of the harder Antipodean singles to find. However, it’s not impossible. In England, “Heaven’s On Fire” was also issued as a 12” single, backed with “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose.” Some copies of the single came with a poster. Both singles were issued as promotional 12” singles in the United States. The most notable item from the “Animalize” era is probably the Brazilian double-LP compilation “O Rock De KISS” (PolyGram Discos/Fontana 818-980-1). This twenty song compilation would come in a gatefold sleeve and featured the standard sort of “Greatest Hits,” and some interesting oddities such as “All American Man,” “Naked City,” “Charisma,” and Paul’s “Take Me Away (Together As One).” Copies of this album sell for around $100.