No Regrets, A Rock n' Roll Memoir
by Ace Frehley, Joe Layden and John Ostrosky
KISS's Ace Frehley autobiography gives a few nods to
Alice Cooper and even talks about producer Bob Ezrin.
The book had some photos but none w/ Alice.
I found this book in the over stocked section
of the book store it was around $6.
Ace is talking about doing a sequel.
Pg 74 - 75
By any reasonable standard, we were destitute.
A few of us had part-time jobs - Paul and I drove cabs, Gene worked at a
magazine - but there was never much money. It didn’t seem to matter.
We all believed that soon enough we’ d be supporting ourselves solely as
musicians. We had good songs, solid musicianship, and confidence that
there was a market for theatrical rock. We wanted to take it further than
any of the acts that inspired and influenced us, like the Who, Hendrix,
the Move, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls.
The Dolls were a gender-bending, pre-punk group fronted by David
Johansen and Johnny Thunders. They wore high heels and makeup
and generally favored androgynous clothing. They influenced a lot
of other musicians on the New York scene, and they had an effect on
KISS, both musically and stylistically.
So did Alice, probably even to a greater degree, because Alice’s
sound was more polished and commercial, and his show revolved
around theatrics. Alice Cooper in the 1970’s brought blood and guts to
the stage, combining rock and performance art in a way that had never
been attempted. He wasn’t just a singer; he was a character in his own
band, and that character did crazy, repulsive things in the name of art.
Alice, like the Dolls, wore androgynous fashion, only with a sadomas-
ochistic flavor. He utilized guillotines and snakes and buckets of blood
in his shows. And people loved it.
Well, not all of the people, obviously. Conservative groups (and
more than a few parents) thought Alice was doing the devil’s work, cor-
rupting kids and peddling sex and violence. They hated him, a response
that predictably helped fuel sales of record albums and concert tickets.
Alice knew exactly what he was doing. He made melodic but hard
commercial rock, and he sold it with a grisly flourish (as well as a
wink and a nod, l might add, though not everyone noticed), promis-
ing to make every night Halloween. It was nothing short of brilliant.
He’s now one of the most recognizable icons in rock ‘n’ roll. (Little
did I know Alice and I would become good friends later on down the road.)
For all my disagreements with Gene over the years, I have to give
him credit for being a tireless worker and self-promoter. I never had all
that much interest in the financial side of the business; Gene was ob-
sessed with it. From the first time I met him, he seemed like a guy who
put as much value on the marketing and promotional end of KISS as
he did on the music we produced. Don’t get me wrong. Gene was a de-
cent songwriter and bass player, and I respected him on that level. But
it was clear to me that he considered the music to be only one piece of
the puzzle. I was like that, too, but to a much lesser degree. I saw Alice
Cooper wrap himself in boa constrictors and fake executions onstage,
and I thought, Wow, . . cool.
Gene saw the same thing and thought, How can we expand on that,
and how do we put together a business model to ensure its success?
Our next album, Destroyer, represented a departure for KISS, and
not merely because of the cocaine and Courvoisier on the mixing con-
sole. The producer on Destroyer was Bob Ezrin, a studio wizard best
known for his work with Alice Cooper, and a guy so widely acknowl-
edged as being a production genius that everyone was basically willing
to look the other way when it became apparent that he had a few vices
of his own.
That was one of the things that bothered me most about Paul and
Gene - they were very selective in their moral indignation. Bob was a
brilliant producer, so they gave him a free pass, much the same way
they did with Neil Bogart during the production of Dressed to Kill.
I think the word hypocritical might be apropos at this point.
I remember the very first time I tried coke. It was during the record-
ing of the Destroyer album, in December 1975. Watching Bob and oth-
ers partake of the glittery crystalline powder during the recording and
mixing process intrigued me and brought out my curiosity. I figured
that if a genius like Bob did it, and he was very successful at what he did,
then maybe it was the missing link I had been looking for in my life.
Around the time we hooked up with Bob, he was among the hottest
producers in the business, having worked with Dr. John, Alice Cooper,
and Lou Reed. Going strictly by his reputation and resume, I was
looking forward to working with Bob, and while I think Destroyer is an
interesting and even innovative KISS record, the recording process isn’t
something I recall with great affection. Part of that is due to the fact that
sometimes I was intimidated by Bob, especially when I couldn’t come
up with a guitar-solo idea fast enough to suit his needs.
You have to understand where Bob was coming from. I had heard
that when he worked with Alice Cooper’s band he had brought in a ses-
sion guitar player to do a lot of the solos, and I got the feeling that there
was a chance he was going to follow the same plan with KISS if I didn’t
produce quickly enough. The pressure was on and with a hangover as
a frequent distraction, I hit a brick wall occasionally.
But part of it was also due to the fact that Bob wasn’t very patient
with me; I got the feeling that Paul and Gene might have told Bob
about my drinking problem, and he may have put me in the same cat-
egory as the guys in Alice’s band. The difference is that I had the chops;
those just needed to be finessed.
Bob was an interesting guy with a great mind for music and produc-
tion, but at times he had the demanding, volatile demeanor of a football
coach or drill instructor. I guess you’d say he was a high-strung artistic
type, which didn’t always mesh well with my laid-back personality.
Bob used to bring a whistle to the studio, and while cutting basic
tracks he really intimidated Peter by putting a small box over a micro-
phone and hitting it with a drumstick, as if Peter couldn’t keep proper
time! I really felt for Peter during those sessions. It was at times a very
demoralizing experience for all of us, and no matter what any of us said,
Bob’s word was the law.
I think we all kind of felt locked into our characters, like we couldn’t
break loose. The Spaceman was my deal with the devil. When you’re
generating hundreds of millions of dollars, your work tends to have an
impact on other people. Walking away is complicated and messy. The
thing is, for me it was never about the money. It was always about the
music. I really believed in theatrical rock; from the moment I saw Pete
Townshend smash that First guitar, I knew it was the right way to go.
But Townshend never put on makeup. Even Alice Cooper stopped well
short of what we were doing in KISS. We pushed the envelope so much
that in the beginning it seemed crazy.
Then it was accepted.
And finally it was expected.
I hung out with most of the celebrities and rock stars who walked
through the portals of Studio 54; I drank and did drugs with them.
Danced with Lindsay Wagner, hung out with Keith Richards, Alice
Cooper, Mick Jagger, and John Belushi, to mention just a few. I saw
the giant bags of money and people doing drugs and having sex in the
bathrooms and up in the balcony. For the right price you could have
just about anything you wanted, from drugs to flesh. At that point in
time Studio 54 sometimes felt like the center of the universe.
The state troopers arrived just minutes later and I eagerly listened to
the conversation from under the sheets, while pretending to be asleep.
They were ready to take me away without discussion, and who could
blame them? There was furniture flying out of my room like missiles.
But Frankie, God rest his soul, handled the whole thing like a pro.
Frankie was a crazy fuck, and had seen it all and could bullshit with the
best of them. Frankie had also road-managed Alice Cooper before coming
on board with KISS, so he knew a little something about rock star excess.
Pg 128 - 129
From time to time, I rented out my studio to friends and other artists,
simply because it was there and it was such a terrific, state-of-the-art fa-
cility. A diverse group of artists passed through its doors: the 19605 folk-
singer Melanie; Neil Smith and Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper’s
original band; Rolling Stones producer Chris Kimsey; and the late Bob
Mayo from Peter Frampton’s band, to name just a few.