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  • Writer's pictureJohn Carlow

Too loud for lunchtime.

In the latter part of the seventies our school staged a talent show . I seem to recall it took place on a noon hour break. I can really only remember 2 acts from that show. One was a group of musicians that took on a 1975 McCartney / Wings track. They did a really good version of Listen to What the Man Said , including some really stellar sax work. Incidentally the sax solo in the final version of the Wings song, was a first take. Others were done but sometimes best to go with what your gut is telling you. They did and Venus and Mars went on to be a phenomenally successful album. This applies to a lot of things. I'll often go back to a frame from a shoot that gave me pause , and though I may have gone past it, I'll come back to it. Trust what that feeling tells you. Often it's the correct path to follow. I digress. Back to the seventies and the talent show.

The next act ended up kicking off a dramatic shift in the music I was listening to at the time. Four guys tackled KISS head on ( with some behind the scenes help ) Augmented karaoke in a sense , KISS became SSIK and I believe the track was Rock Bottom. Head on lip sync , but the visual aspects of the presentation seemed to catch everyone off guard. We are talking late 70s when KISS was starting to circle the planet with their own blend of rock , glam and visually arresting showmanship. This talent show entry was by comparison a simple one in staging , costumes and such. But it was the combination of those elements and the track playback , boosted at what was later deemed " too loud for lunchtime " that made the deflated Wings band throw up their arms . They too saw the way visuals and sound were combined to fuel the big reaction that SSIK stirred in the otherwise bored lunch crowd. I'm convinced SSIK ended up winning on that reaction alone . Those boys fed off that excitement. Addicted on the high now , they staged a follow up " performance " under the guise of a fundraiser soon after. This time around the costumes were a bit more elaborate, the snuck in homemade pyro was amped and a few more tracks were synced to. This time around however , it failed to stir anyone there that day . The audience was curious but dead quiet. I guess they already knew what was coming. Interest had waned between shows and the guys gave up halfway through the "gig".

I'm sure that one show alone spurred on some basement Kiss bands from there or at best an interest in the real thing itself. It was my first exposure to the band , and indeed spawned an interest in a wider scope of music I hadn't known previously. I bought and wore out my copy of Alive. I was fascinated by the imagery of course ( feeling that never went away ) concert lighting, staging , spectacle and live music itself. Of course KISS cover or tribute bands are now in the thousands worldwide. In a sense , they serve a real purpose in that they will get to present KISS as they were in their real heyday and this was the version of the band I liked most. I have some appreciation for just the early stuff , when they were deciding what to be , they had some hunger, attitude and hadn't been hooked and cleaned by the commercial empire called the music industry. Still play the early records and love visiting the first and best arena concert imagery of those days. It , like the music was just finding its feet and it has never been as honest since.

No great philosophy here. Just some opinions and recollections. I feel for the Wings band who put in the time to sound as good as they could but were beat out by lip syncing. Imagine the feeling is mutual for really genuinely talented artists that will never see the commercial success that KISS to this day still enjoy. The guys in SSIK have my thanks for opening my eyes and ears a bit. You ruled the world that day, even if it was just for a few moments at lunch time.


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