As I mentioned, I was in the 4th grade when my parents decided to pull me out of the public school and place into the care of the Catholic Church’s educational infrastructure. I was heading down the wrong path, at home and in school, and my parents thought, perhaps wisely, that I needed to be in an environment that taught morals and values. A healthy fear of God to put me on the straight and narrow. Their decision was a pivotal moment in my life, one that affected me in many ways, both good and bad, and one which continues to inform my behavior to this day.
About this same time, I was frequently going to my aunt’s house. They lived right up the street from this new school, and when I couldn’t be picked up right way, I would go there and wait for my parents. Which I was fine with because my aunt made awesome lemon meringue pie and M&M cookies. Lemon meringue pie was my shit. Also, I got to hang with my older cousin, who I will refer to as Ant.
Ant was, as I said, older and therefore cool. He was into hockey, a strange, exotic sport that no one played. He would sneak beer into his 7-up bottle and let me taste it, which was awesomely disgusting. And he had a sweet stereo system with two foot speakers, turntable and 8-track, and synchronized disco lights. Bad ass.
It was on that auditory impregnating masterpiece that Ant introduced me to the band that would continue to be the backbone of the soundtrack of my life: KISS. “Check this out,” he said, holding aloft a 45 single like it was holy. “What is it?” I asked. He put the single on the turntable, set it spinning, and placed the needle on.
Ace Frehley‘s New York Groove came over the speakers and set off the hypnotic disco lights.
From the opening percussion, I was hooked. It was an infectious anthem. And it sounded so much cooler than the stuff my parents were listening to. This was awesome. The B-side single, Snow Blind, didn’t change my opinion any. It was more dark with its driving guitar and spaced out vocals. And that guitar solo.
Ant explained to me who Ace was, that he was a member of the band KISS. He showed me an 8-track of Destroyer that he found in the field behind the school. It didn’t play, but boy did it look impressive. The outfits, the platform shoes pounding on the rubble of a ruin city (I assumed), and the makeup… He told me that no one knows what they look like behind the makeup. No one.
Whoa. I was enthralled. I wanted to know where I could get KISS.
Then Ant did something for which I will be eternally grateful: he offered me the 45, of his own free will, without my having to evoke my evil powers to trick him into it. He just let me have it. I rushed upstairs to show my parents, who allowed me to take it home once they had confirmed I hadn’t deceived anyone to get it. And once home, I played it over and over and over on my portable record player. KISS was my new shit. I was determined to get more.
Little did I know that this newfangled Catholicism I was being indoctrinated with would put a bit of a kink in those plans…