Last week saw the birthday of the most charismatic and energetic frontman in rock and roll history. Paul Stanley of KISS turned 65. As a way to celebrate his legacy as a musician, we wanted to highlight five of the Starchild's crowning achievements in his illustrious career with the Hottest Band in the World.
Let's keep in mind that Stanley has also released a few solo albums and does shows with his band Soul Station. Although most of his solo work shares a similar vibe to that of KISS, Soul Station gives audiences a different flavor. He delivers a healthy helping of rhythm and blues when hitting the stage with that ensemble of backup singers and musicians.
Some of the songs we've included were co-written or co-arranged by outside writers and musicians. However, Paul Stanley brought the original concept of each composition to the table in its infancy. Pop in your earbuds and get ready to Rock and Roll All Nite with our list of the top five Paul Stanley tracks.
5. "Heaven's on Fire"
Longtime collaborator and Songwriters Hall of Fame member Desmond Child helped Paul bring "Heaven's on Fire" to life for KISS's 1984 album "Animalize." Everything about the song is catchy from the opening wails of Stanley's voice to the guitar licks and catchy chorus. The song was a Billboard hit and continues to be the only song off the album performed in their regular set to this day.
"I was striving for simplicity. Desmond and I wrote that at his house. There were a lot of people who liked that song 'cause I've heard it since on a whole lot of albums with different titles. It was a track, in listening to it, where I did wonder if it was too simple. But I love it," Stanley reflected in David Leaf and Ken Sharp's "KISS: Behind the Mask - The Official Authorized Biography."
4. "I Was Made for Loving You"
1979 saw KISS head in a direction many thought their favorite rock and roll band would never venture into. Paul Stanley, Producer / Songwriter Vini Poncia, and Desmond Child worked together to create KISS's second Gold-selling single, "I Was Made for Loving You" for their "Dynasty" album. Imagine the shock of their millions of fans when a disco beat met the KISS Army's ears for the first time. And let's not forget that awesome lasergun-sounding pop the drums make at times. I used to act like I was shooting my toddler with my fingers every time that drum hit and was met with a resounding laugh. It was also one of the songs I chose to be played at my wedding reception.
When asked about the track, Paul stated, "Disco was big. I listened to that stuff and said, 'This is a cinch to write.' So it was kind of like a lark or a dare. I said, 'I'll write one of those songs.' So I just turned on a drum machine and just got that kind of thing coming out and wrote ' I Was Made for Loving You.' It's a real formula song. It was like, 'Let's use everything on dance records. Let's use all the sound effects.'"
3. "Love Gun"
Paul Stanley claims that "Love Gun" is one of his favorite KISS songs and he's not alone. Many would consider this Billboard-charting single to be the Starchild's unofficial theme song. It's been performed on every tour since it debuted on the 1977 album of the same name. If you've seen KISS live, then you know that each member gets his moment in the spotlight. "Love Gun" is the song Paul Stanley steps out to. He flies over the crowd to a small stage in the middle of the audience and performs the song to folks who might not be able to get those enviable front row seats we all wish we could afford.
"I wrote 'Love Gun' on the airplane to Japan. That was written in my head, the whole thing... I always thought 'Love Gun' was a great song, and today I still think it's a tremondous song. It's probably the song I enjoy playing the most. To me 'Love Gun' is quintessential KISS and is probably one of the five signature essential songs," said Stanley.
2. "Detroit Rock City"
Written by Producer Bob Ezrin and Stanley, "Detroit Rock City" opened 1975's "Destroyer" with a thunderous bang. Although it wasn't as huge a hit as it was expected to be upon its release, the song has been used as the opener on several of KISS's tours. It's quick-picking riffs and pounding opening drums gets audiences revved up and ready for an exciting night of rock and roll, explosives, and fiery mayhem. I remember my parents buying me "Alive II" and I would play my plastic toy guitar to "Detroit Rock City" at the age of six. The song completely captures the energy and electricity I've felt every time I attend a KISS show. Paul spoke about the secret behind the song.
"People sometimes react strangely when they hear a word, like horns or piano. Everybody likes 'Detroit Rock City' a lot. Well, what is making the guitar chords sound so cool is there is a piano playing along with it. Instead of being afraid of words, listen to it and see if you like it."
Paul Stanley partnered with pop artist Michael Bolton to pen an unforgettable tune that was the first KISS single to chart in the Billboard Top 40 since 1979's "I Was Made for Loving You." It also reached #1 on MTV's "Most Requested Videos" several times. I would venture to say that if two KISS fans are getting married, this song is played at their wedding at one point or another. Stanley has written a few ballads for KISS over the years, but "Forever" is the one that stands out above the rest.
"You can trust your gut a lot of times. If it feels right in your gut, it's right... I was sitting with Vini Poncia and I just picked up a guitar and he said, ' What do you have for the record so far?' I played him on an acoustic guitar just the verse and the chorus. He said, 'You're there,'" commented Stanley.
Just the five songs above are enough proof of the talent and hard work of Paul Stanley. This is just a taste of the hundreds of great rock anthems he's written both as the Starchild of KISS and as a solo artist. We salute you, Mr. Stanley, for your forty plus years of entertaining the KISS Army and continually proving to be the hardest working man in show business. Happy Birthday to you, Paul!
If you don't have "KISS: Behind the Mask - The Official Authorized Biography," you should get it immediately. It has a song-by-song breakdown and commentary from the band members and others for every album up to "Psycho Circus." You can get a copy of it right here.