At the age of ten, I walked into the green shag-carpeted family room of my best friend and flipped through his record collection. Walt Disney soundtracks, Sesame Street Disco, Village People, and - what the hell was this?
The album that caught my eye was emblazoned with a red and blue, stylized double lightning bolt S logo and four small pictures of what looked to my sensibilities at the time as comic book characters. I turned the album around to see the back cover which had the same pictures, only bigger. There was a pretty man who could very well have been a woman superhero, a cat guy, a spaceman, and a nightmarish sweaty creature with bloody dripping from his mouth and smeared across his face as if he might even be bleeding from his eyes. I immediately opened the double album to reveal the centerfold - the same four characters on a multi-level Dante's Inferno-motif stage that was consumed with sparks and mushroom clouds of fire. I was transfixed, fascinated, obsessed, possessed....I hypnotically asked my buddy to put the record on..."YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST...."
To say that my life changed at that moment may seem like hyperbole, but that afternoon during my summer vacation between the fifth and sixth grade was the pivotal moment when I went from being a little kid who listened to music that my Top 40-loving mom liked to an independent-thinking big kid who inadvertently got a taste of something new...rebellion and possibility - and I loved it.
I listened to the songs on the album obsessively and repeatedly. I learned every single word. King of the Nighttime World. Calling Dr. Love. Ladies Room. Love Gun. Rocket Ride. I had no idea what their lyrics actually meant, but that wasn't important. I suddenly wanted to read everything I could about these guys, find out when they would next appear on TV, and plot how I would one day talk my parents into letting me see them in concert.
I didn't just want to follow them. I wanted to be them. I couldn't look like them because...well, my parents weren't going to tolerate that (although I was the Spaceman a year later for Halloween). So I asked them for a guitar the following Christmas. The moment I strapped the guitar around my neck, I wanted one more thing those guys had on the cover of Love Gun...
...A bevy of worshiping, hot, semi-naked women at their feet. Suddenly, the girl who lived across the street from me..."looked good. She looked Hotter Than Hell"...
In the ensuing three decades, the music of this band has played in my head like a soundtrack on an endless loop, and motivated me to live out my own rock and roll fantasy - not just in my pursuit of music, but in life, in general...and that grand sense of possibility.
Happy 60th birthday, Paul Stanley!