Maybe sometimes it’s better to not learn too much about your heroes. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve been a KISS fan since 1976, when I was 10 years old. Granted, I didn’t know what most of the songs were actually about, but I liked the way they sounded. Of course, I’ve known for decades that Peter and Ace were kicked out of the band because of drug abuse. But I had no idea about so much of what Peter reveals in his thoughtful, emotional autobiography.
There is the expected material in the beginning about a young Italian boy growing up going to a Catholic school in New York City. There are fights, gangs, interesting relatives, bad grades, etc. And music. He talked about his early bands, his influences, his failed attempts and close calls at success before joining Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of Wicked Lester to form KISS, adding Ace Frehley later.
One of the things I really liked about Peter’s book was how he gave credit to a lot of people outside the four musicians for the band’s image and choreography. Ace completely skipped all of that (he skipped a lot of things in his book) and to hear Gene tell it, there isn’t another working brain cell in KISS outside of his own head. Peter not only remembers that other people helped make the band, he remembers their names. His lucidity throughout the book impressed me. Whereas Ace seemed to have forgotten decades of his career, Peter has very good recall.
For so many years Paul and especially Gene badmouthed Peter and Ace for the excesses that drove them out of the band. Ace was a chronic problem who couldn’t stay sober; he admits that in his book. Peter, though, went to rehab once and that was enough. Ace was always wasted during the reunion years, but Peter wasn’t. And yet Gene and Paul continue to paint Ace and Peter with the same brush. What comes out more than anything in Peter’s story is that for some reason Gene and Paul simply don’t like him, as evidenced by the pay he received during the reunion years. It’s a shame, and Peter’s description of their behavior is enough to shake the foundation of any diehard fan.
Still, the book would have rated only three stars if not for the ending. See, Peter kind of made me laugh sometimes with all his talk about God and how he kept praying every night, even when he was high and had a hotel room full of naked people. It seemed a little hokey. He also kept saying how important his daughter is to him, but never discussed their relationship in much depth (protect her privacy?). However, the thoughtful tone of his epilogue pushed my rating up a level. He’s a man who knows he was weak, who made many mistakes, but who also was part of something truly unique and great. But he also realizes the value of other things he’s done, such as being a father, a grandfather, and an advocate of breast cancer awareness in men. Still, he questions if he has done enough in his life. I like that.
Peter was never my favorite member of KISS. I never really cared for his solo work because it was generally too mellow or too jazzy. But with Makeup to Breakup Peter Criss has become the KISS member I most respect.