Disco Kiss At 40

Dynasty remains the Kabuki rock icons’ most polarizing album

Kiss Dynasty, Casablanca 1979

The seventh album from Kiss, Dynasty, is, ironically, the album that marks the end of the dynasty Kiss created in its first five years.

There are many things that went wrong leading up to Dynasty, not the least of which is the release of the individual members’ dismal solo albums the year prior. This quadruple failure came hot on the heels of Double Platinum, the greatest hits compilation released just months prior. It was proliferation of product would require members of the Kiss Army to give up all of their rations in exchange for five albums in the span of six months—which they didn’t do.

Then came Dynasty, the disco album. The album with synthesizers and 126 BPM drum machines at the heart of its engine. Too many visits to Studio 54 by Paul Stanley resulted in the dancefloor candy, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” A shock to hardcore Kiss fans and a far cry from vomiting blood and pyrotechnics, yet to this day it is the group’s most popular song according to the public at large. It is the number one Kiss song streamed on Spotify, by 65 million streams more than the group’s second most streamed song, 1975’s “Rock and Roll All Nite.” 

 

VIDEO: “I Was Made For Loving You”

Despite the embarrassment of the solo releases strongly signaling to keep out of this territory, Kiss chose Vini Poncia (Melissa Manchester, Leo Sayer), the producer of Peter Criss’ solo album, to helm Dynasty. Another mistake, particularly and comically, for Criss, who was told to stay off the album by Poncia as his drumming had suffered due to hand injuries from a recent car accident. That, along with purported erratic behavior on Criss’ part had Ace Frehley’s wingman drummer Anton Fig sitting in the drummer’s stool in the studio. Fig is heard on all but one of the songs, the Criss-vocalized “Dirty Livin’.”

Interestingly, Gene Simmons only plays bass on three of the songs, two of which he sings, “Charisma” and “X-Ray Eyes.” In a change of pace, perhaps bolstered by the success of “New York Groove” from his solo album, Frehley steps up to the mike with his, for the most part, charm-free vocals more than before. He takes the lead on the cover of the Rolling Stones’ “2,000 Man,” “Hard Times” and album closer, “Save Your Love,” where he finally sounds a smidge more confident.

Kiss 1979

While all of Dynasty is super glossy, thanks to Poncia, it is when Stanley is on vocals that the album is at its most disco. Soften up the chorus on the already too twinkly “Sure Know Something” and it could be a great Olivia Newton John song. The thing is, “Sure Know Something” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” are absolutely irresistible smashes. They were just a step too far for Kiss, and solid signifiers of the group’s downturn. 

 

Forty years later and none of that stigma, disco or otherwise, has had an effect on ticket sales for Kiss’ current tour. Dubbed “The Final Tour Ever,” the virtually sold out #EndOfTheWorldTour which kicked off in January of this year is, on average, making well over a million dollars in revenue per performance. About 75% of the songs are those from 1977 and before. Even so, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” is a highlight of the show as one of its pre-encore finale numbers. And you know it is bringing the house down night after night. 

 

STREAMING: Kiss Dynasty sessions

Lily Moayeri

Lily Moayeri is a music journalist who also covered television, art, fashion, and other facets of pop culture. She is a major contributor to the textbook The Guerrilla Guide to the Music Business. Find her work aggregated at Pictures of Lily and follow her on Twitter @PicsOfLilyBlog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *