Friday, April 5, 2013

Peter Criss' From Makeup to Breakup

About a year ago I posted a review of Ace Frehley's memoir No Regrets. Apparently Kiss bandmate Peter Criss was inspired (or felt challenged) to write his own memoir, entitled Makeup to Breakup. It's going to be hard to sell either of these memoirs to you if you're not a fan of Kiss, but if you are a fan then you'll certainly be satisfied by reading either (or both). I'd say that Criss' memoir is the better of the two since he seems to remember a lot more, though at times his level of detail is a little too much.

Criss was the eldest member of Kiss and after drumming in a number of  New York bands he was brought in to the band before it had recorded an album by an ad in Rolling Stone magazine. Criss is excellent at offering portraits of the band members as they changed through the years. He seems to have some affection for Gene Simmons, though he mostly portrays him as arrogant and ultimately cutthroat. Some of the details of Simmons' lack of hygiene must be read to be believed. Ace Frehley, who entered the band at around the same time as Criss, is shown to be a lazy drug addict and drunk though he was perhaps the one that was Criss' greatest friend in the band in the early days. Paul Stanley remains enigmatic (as was the case in Frehley's biography as well) and in love with his own reflection.

Criss also does a good job giving credit to Bill Aucoin who managed Kiss in its earliest days and even paid for their tours with his own American Express card before the band was able to make it to the big time. We also get stories of seemingly every girlfriend that Criss has had, including multiple ex-wives (and one current one).

It's pretty clear that Criss feels betrayed and cheated by his former bandmates and much of the second half of this book is dedicated to clearing the air about how he was treated on later reunion tours. We also learn about his drinking, his depression and his medical issues, including a late bout with breast cancer. As far as rock star biographies go, this is a pretty entertaining one with much credit going to Larry "Ratso" Sloman, who has co-authored a number of other musician biographies. Unfortunately, at times it also feels like Criss needs to fit in every single anecdote that he can remember, so it does occasionally feel wearying. But if you are the audience for this kind of book there is no reason why you won't enjoy it.

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1 comment:

  1. The Criss memoir is by far the best to date. The comment about the Frehley or Criss memoirs being difficult to sell to non-KISS fans has now been proven to be erroneous, as the Criss memoir made the N.Y. Times best sellers list.
    Just when you thought that Simmons might be the "final word" about KISS, Peter levels the playing field and in a blunt and very moving memoir fills the reader in on the other aspect of KISS: control and ego. Simmons wrote that KISS often ran on two flat tires. Peter and Ace, on all accounts, liked to numb their senses. At the same time, however, KISS had (and perhaps still has) two over-inflated tires. Two (Simmons and Stanley) original members have always had a view of their own song writing and musical abilities that far exceeded reality. Psycho Circus is classic case. Peter's memoir attests to what many fans knew decades ago. Peter and Ace were creatively constrained in KISS.
    Probably the best part of the memoir is the account Peter's breast cancer victory and subsequent efforts to generate awareness. The humanitarian in Peter Criss transcends KISS and is worth more than any gold or platinum record. The public recognition in this area is a silencer when it comes to those whom like to level cheap shots at the real Catman.
    Congratulations to Peter Criss on a great memoir.


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