Face the Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley

Another year, another KISS book, and this one is perhaps the best one so far! It's certainly the best-selling, as it spent 3 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list after debuting at #2. What makes this book a cut above the rest is original bandmember/guitarist/singer Paul Stanley's honesty about his various insecurities as he rose to the top, as well as the personal challenges he faced when in one of the most well-known rock bands in the world. The fact that this book came out while KISS was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame probably didn't hurt sales either

The big revelation from this book is the fact that Stanley was born with microtia, a deformity of his right ear that left him deaf in that ear. Growing up with a deformity caused fear and insecurity for young Paul and he appreciated being able to take refuge among fellow rock and rollers, where he could create a larger-than-life character onstage. Years later he had surgeons reconstruct the ear (though he remains deaf) and was able to channel his feelings of being different into a starring role in a successful run as the star of Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, while also donating time to AboutFace, a charity dedicated to helping children deal with physical deformity.

Of course being in one of the world's most successful rock bands did not hold him back when it came to the world of women and parties. But like his bandmate Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley largely rejected drug and alcohol use in order to stay focused on his career. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss's books have more road stories about destroyed hotel rooms (and equally smashed musicians) and while Stanley certainly didn't completely hold back, part of his longevity as the now 62 year-old leader of KISS has to do with his focus on the music instead of the parties. And as far as the ladies go, he acknowledges that he had quite a few relationships while eventually settling into a world of domestic bliss. Relative domestic bliss that is, as his first marriage ended in divorce and he's now onto his second. One of the most ecstatic moments of the book is when he shares his favorite brussels sprouts recipe.

Of course Stanley gives us the scoop on all of his original fellow bandmembers. Ace Frehley was a funny, strange guy whose immense talent went to waste because of his substance abuse. Stanley is harshest on drummer Peter Criss, whose huge ego and extravagant demands were, in his opinion, quite undeserved. Beyond personal issues, he feels that the later reunion of the original four members couldn't have continued because of Criss' diminished drum-playing skills. As far as the other original member - Gene Simmons - Stanley talks about how much of the band's success is based on how they each brought different personalities to the table, while also being honest about Simmons' ego and self-promotion. The roughest patch of the band's history seemed to have been during the 1980s when Stanley felt that Simmons was overcommitted to other projects while bringing very little to the band itself. You also get the sense that Stanley feels somewhat hurt that Simmons seems to get all the credit for being the one behind the band's incredible merchandising efforts. It does seem like a family dynamic between the two, with various occasional confrontations steering them back to a successful working relationship.

For music lovers, part of the appeal of this memoir as opposed to the other recent band members' memoirs is that Stanley has been actively involved in KISS through its entire lifespan. He details the changes in personnel as well as the psychology behind why and who they chose to bring into the fold. He also covers the many shifts that the band made in sound, from their early hard rock to their live breakthrough to their "hair metal" years, with a toe dipped into disco for good measure. While I wouldn't recommend this book to people unfamiliar with the band KISS, as far as rock memoirs go this is a very readable one.

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