Pink Floyd’s The Wall
was all the rage in 1981. A concept album dealing with weighty issues plus a bona fide
feature film in actual production alongside, it managed to elevate the rock template to a whole new level of pretentiousness. Not only was it jammed full of metaphorical and symbolic imagery, The Wall
also featured choirs, orchestras and spoken word sections, all expertly woven together by uber-producer Bob Ezrin. More importantly for KISS, however, was that it was topping the charts all over the world and making its creators millions.
KISS looked on, green with envy. Long denied any critical success whatsoever and now financially beached too, they decided to lift Floyd’s The Wall
concept wholesale, and apply it to their own subjugated muse. Here, at last, appeared to be the maligned quartet’s redemption. KISS block-booked the most expensive recording studios in Manhattan, hired Bob Ezrin, paid the orchestra and choir – they even hired Lou Reed to write some intelligent, meaningful lyrics. Everything was in place. The band emerged six months later clutching what they were convinced was their masterpiece – gone were the three-chord blowjob singalongs; here instead were giant orchestral backing tracks and thorny allegorical lyrical gambits delivered in falsetto. Finally the world could - and would
- take KISS seriously, with this, their definitive cerebral clarion call.(Music From) The Elder
didn’t just bomb, it was a humiliation. Within six months of release, KISS were forced into renouncing it, publically admitting they had acted under “delusion”. The band then retreated back to the studio to knock out a balls-to-the-wall straight heavy metal album entitled Creatures of the Night
, and breezily carried on as if the entire Elder
debacle had never taken place.
Let’s just press the stop button here – it’s just too unfair.(Music From) The Elder
bombed simply because it didn’t sound like KISS. It was too different, too radical for the band’s dwindling fan base, who were already feeling bruised from having been force-fed the more-pop-than-rock Dynasty and Unmasked
LPs. (Music From) The Elder
was the final straw for these exasperated fans, devotees of simple, three-chord bubblegum rock ‘n’ roll, like how they used to make, back in the now seemingly distant 1970s.
However if one looks beyond the inherent anomalies, (Music From) The Elder
was, in fact, a musical triumph – it works
as a cohesive creative and conceptual statement, it really does! (Many super-attuned KISS fans have known this for a long time – the record maintains a devoted following among the band’s hardcore fans.) Sure, it’s not OK Computer
, but it more than carries its own weight as a standalone musical/conceptual statement. Just a Boy, Under the Rose, Dark Light, A World Without Heroes
– these are some of KISS’s finest songs, and in my opinion The Elder
remains the band’s best album. The orchestration, choir, the sheer Ezrin-ized
aural depth of the record delivers an unparalleled richness to the band’s hitherto somewhat one-dimensional sound; lyrically as well as musically. People have been laughing at this record for 30 years, and mostly out of ignorance and sheer laziness. Leave your prejudices at the door and just listen. It’s a great record. With a little more luck on their side, this could have been their defining cultural moment, launching them off into a whole new realm of musical and conceptual possibility, picking up a more sophisticated fanbase along the way. (This would however have denied the world the excellent Lick it Up
, but hey. We might have been spared Animalize
?) The fact that an Elder movie was never made obviously didn’t help either.
But we’re going to right that particular wrong. Together.
Let’s put The Elder
back on the map – raise it back up to its rightful position in the canon as not only one of the best KISS albums, but also as what it was originally conceived to be – i.e. the soundtrack to a movie. A movie which – with your help – we are now going to attempt to make. And a great movie, worthy of the name.
Come and help us right one of history’s great wrongs… JOIN US!!
Seb Hunter, November 2011