In the first part of this series we talked about the beginning of the KISS relationship with both myself and J.W. Pepper. Here’s more to the story.
KISS started as a folk band called Wicked Lester in New York City in 1971. Yes, a folk band. Some of the recordings still survive and a number of them are included as reworked tracks on the releases Kiss, Hotter than Hell and Dressed to Kill. The original five tracks were recorded at Electric Lady, the studio Jimi Hendrix built, responsible for some of the most incredible music in rock history.
Stan Eisen and Gene Klein (before they were Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons) were owed money for session work from their friend Ron Johnson, who was part owner and producer. He offered them money or recording time – they jumped on the recording time, but they needed more money to finish the project. Sometime in late 1971, Dean Burtch, owner and president of J.W. Pepper with a publishing arm called Gladwyne Music, was having lunch with a friend, Peter Thall, who is still a prominent New York-based entertainment lawyer. Dean mentioned he was interested in investing in the pop/rock music market. Peter said he had a producer friend, Ron Johnson, who was really hot for this band he was promoting called Wicked Lester.
In looking through our documents, it looks as though there were actually two separate transactions for the KISS titles. The first was in October of 1972 for the titles “She,” “Love Her All I Can,” “Simple Type,” “Keep Me Waiting” and “Molly.” Only two of these songs were finally released by KISS – both “She” and “Love Her All I Can” being released on the Dressed to Kill album. These were penned strictly as Wicked Lester and credited to Gene Klein and Stan Eisen. There is a letter in our records signed by Simmons sharing songwriting credit with Steve Coronel for “She.” Coronel has been a lifelong friend of Simmons since 1963.
The second and best-known purchase was in November of 1973 for the titles “Watchin’ You,” “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Black Diamond” and “Cold Gin.” We KISS fans know these titles well as they were some of the first songs we heard from them on Alive. They are still staples of KISS live show. These were written by (the now pen-named) Stanley and Simmons with the exception of “Cold Gin” contributed by Ace Frehley.
While digging through the Pepper files, I also found the contract to release these songs on Alive in 1975 along with the actual signatures of Stan Eisen and Gene Klein in pen on the original contracts for them. These were real pieces of rock music history that I held in my hands.
In the next and last segment, we outline twelve discovered songs and our final thoughts.