KISS: ‘Double Platinum’

KISS
DOUBLE PLATINUM
Released on April 2, 1978 (Casablanca Records)

Review by John Stoney Cannon:
If you were to tell me a few years ago that one day I would sit down to pen a retro review for a sleaze rock website about an album by the first and biggest act signed to a ’70s record label mainly known for disco acts, I would have immediately said you were nuts. The fact that the label was started by one of the biggest forces behind the rise of bubblegum pop music in the late ’60s / early ’70s only makes the whole thing weirder, stranger, yet oh so much more cooler.

By now the world knows the story of KISS, how they were the first act signed to Casablanca Records, eventually endured through three minor selling (and now considered classic) albums and then out of nowhere, blew up thanks to the success of the double album Alive!  Yeah it’s all true, jotted down in rock and roll, pop culture, AND American history not to mention plastered all over just about every hair metal album of the ’80s and beyond. The band’s influence on music is not just limited to glam rock though. Artists from all walks of music that feature catchy hooks and any kind of flashy live show owe a huge chunk of their careers to KISS.  To say that KISS were popular in the ’70s is kinda like saying Farrah Fawcett was just another popular pin-up chick. Sure, in the privacy of their room, teenage boys were blasting KISS to keep their folks from hearing what they were doing while drooling over Farrah’s wet red bathing suit and feathered hair but in the public eye, you couldn’t escape seeing KISS (or luckily Farrah for that matter) which by 1978 were plastered all over notebooks, trading cards, clothing, jewelry, and more. Eventually, they would find a way to cover even caskets and condoms but in 1978, KISS were mainly a merchandise machine geared towards acquiring the hard-earned allowance dollars of puberty-stricken boys dealing with zits and rejection.

How unpopular geeks could relate to rock stars who seemingly had no problem getting girls is beyond me but I would have to figure that someone passed around a note mentioning that the rock stars in question dressed like comic book heroes, which perhaps offered at least a hedge of hope to pimple popping kids who until KISS, mainly escaped to the pages of comic books and Isaac Asimov. I know this how?  Well, in 1978, my hobbies included, of all things, reading Archie and Ghost Rider comics, pretending to be Luke Skywalker and walking home from the library with piles of Sci Fi books. Yeah, I know it’s hard to imagine that this guitar toting, rock band fronting rock music writer could have ever been a fantasy geek but hey, so was Gene Simmons and like I said, KISS WERE EVERYWHERE! You think I’M weird?!?! Go online and see how many rock stars gave praise and condolences recently when scientist Stephen Hawking passed away. In the ’60s, you had The Beatles and the Stones inspiring the next generation of music stars. Well, in the ’70s, it was Kiss, a whole mess of glitter, and all things “star” related including the ones way up in the sky.

One of the coolest most vivid memories I have from my musical youth was a television advertisement featuring Casablanca founder Neil Bogart dwarfed by a giant version of KISS’ album Double Platinum. Even as a prop, the all-silver open gatefold album with embossed graphics was to most kids the coolest thing ever and landing at a time when all things futuristic and shiny were all the range. This greatest hits retrospective filled with a ton of songs from eight albums released in a mere five years was out of this world! I still have fond memories of placing blank paper over the images of the band on the inside cover and using a pencil to create images while songs like “Calling Dr. Love”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Hard Luck Woman” and anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite” leapt from out of my huge ’70s headphones and into my still developing teenage brain.

Now some might think “What’s the big deal? You already had all the songs on the original albums,” but for a kid in the ’70s totally stoked with KISS fever, it was all about having everything to do with KISS and a shiny new huge double album was a shiny new double album no matter how old or new the tunes were. Besides, why not have even more ways to blast your head off with KISS? You gotta remember, in just the couple years leading up to the release of Double Platinum, KISS rocked a TV Halloween special, put out a comic booked partially inked with the band’s own blood, slammed home a trio of killer studio albums (including the iconic Destroyer), released a SECOND double live album and now the massive all silver coolness of Double Platinum! The only thing not earth shattering is that despite the name, the album only went, well, single platinum! The scary part is that greatest hit albums typically lead up to a break in action but KISS filled up the rest of 1978 releasing four separate solo albums as well the second most watched TV movie of the year in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.

As I sit here reminiscing all these years later, it’s funny to me now how these days, every greatest hits or reissue comes with bonus tracks and for every band, there is a multitude of “greatest hits” offerings including actual best of releases but also various collections or what I like to call, “truck stop compilations.” Well back in the ’70s, a greatest hits album was just as important a part of an artist’s catalog as the original albums the songs for a best of were pulled from. To this day when I listen to old Aerosmith, my head still hears certain songs follow other songs based on the order of their 1980 Greatest Hits album and to this day, the first Eagles‘ Greatest Hits platter is still one of the biggest selling albums of all time and that was released before the band’s two biggest selling albums even came out!

KISS not only offered up an album that fit perfectly in their catalog but also, they were kinda ahead of the game in that Double Platinum came with “bonus” material in the way of remixes and recuts. Yeah, people always talk about the thin mix, which is said to have been due to an attempt to make the cuts from various albums sound good together but rarely does anyone mention the fact that some songs were edited and one completely re-recorded (and well, before, bands got into this crazy habit of re-recording all their cool material). But honestly, kids in 1978 were hardly zeroing in on that perfect mix or anything like that. We were really just interested in having some rock and roll to blast while riding a bike, cruising on a skateboard, playing ball, or trying to figure how to charm a girl. Seriously, sonic HI FI was the least of our concerns.

Despite the supposed “cons”, what makes Double Platinum shine (besides the cover) is the massive coolness of the entire package.  Even when it was properly re-released on CD, it felt cool. For a kid back then, the cover alone was part mesmerizing and part blinding depending how the light hit it and at first glance, it was like a crazy rock and roll light show. Just when your eyes got adjusted to things, your mind was blown by opening the album up. KISS were then the kings of album goodies and the inserted album certificate, while in every copy, made each kid feel like “the” KISS fan.  Opening the gatefold to see the huge shiny faces of KISS was breathtaking and I remember the first time, I just kinda stared and soaked it all in, taking moments to shake myself back to reality. But just as soon as things settled down AGAIN, the song list hit prompting a flurry of thoughts ranging from disbelief to utter excitement and jubilation. Yeah, other than the “Strutter” redo, we pretty much had heard it all before but somehow that didn’t change that feeling that something brand spanking (and shiny) new was about to take us to a whole other planet!

Part of the disbelief didn’t just lie in the amazing tracks chosen to represent the KISS catalog to that point but also in what tracks were left off.  While KISS was not a singles band per se, fans knew each and every song with a whole mess of them already deemed classics by the faithful KISS Army who also surely asked why tunes like “Shout It Out Loud” and “Shock Me” were nowhere to be found.  While it’s true that in 1978, all things KISS were great, the current flavor of the KISS month could mainly be found on the second trilogy of KISS studio albums (Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over, Love Gun) so some fans at the time may have pondered why over half the tracks were pulled from the first three albums, six alone from the 1974 self-titled debut release. Of course as time would soon tell, despite less than stellar response on the albums’ initial release, those six songs would end up carrying just as much weight going forward as any in the KISS catalog.

While it’s true that there were other tracks more than worthy of muscling their way on to Double Platinum, it’s still tough to argue with the track selection and honestly, most bands would give up their denim to be able to have a dilemma such as how to whittle down six albums of tracks to a mere 20.  Even so, it does make for a fun debate between KISS Army soldiers as to what other tracks could have made the grade. Maybe “Parasite” from Hotter Than Hell or perhaps Love Gun track “Christine Sixteen?”  The possible choices and combinations are plenty and as mentioned, always open to fun debate but I still believe that in 1978 the overall opinion of KISS fans everywhere was that Double Platinum was totally beyond cool. Even if you might have preferred a few omitted tracks over chosen ones, you still loved the majority (if not every single one) of the tunes and again enough can never be said about the mind-blowing packaging.

Over the years, it could be said that due to the release of entirely way too many KISS compilations, Double Platinum has slowly turned into just another “collection” release when compared to the original studio albums but I believe that in the hearts of true KISS fans, that this once mighty slab of double vinyl goodness will always have a place in rock and roll as one of the holy grails of greatest hit releases. Matter of fact, when tossing out one of his top 20 lists, KISS megafan Eddie Truck even eluded to the fact that without a massive catalog of consistent releases, it’s almost pointless to even try to create a list of 20 top songs for a single band and within just a span of less than five years alone, KISS did just that and Double Platinum is the proof. Further proof being found in the fact that any of a handful of other studio tracks could have also been included. Add in the band’s studio input since and it would be near impossible to create a 20 track Double Platinum in 2018. Luckily, Double Platinum kicks ass on its own even with the great tracks left off or any to come in the band’s history, so my suggestion?

Just put on the original KISS best of and forget about the what ifs and what could have beens…after all, the first step of the cure is, a KISS.

Review by Lance Lumley:
By the time 1978 came around, there was no bigger band than KISS. The band with the pyrotechnic over the top stage shows, with the fire breathing bass player, and the members with the face paint were one of the my earliest memories of the hard rock genre. As a young kid, I was more into the pop music, along with country acts at the time, until my cousin made me listen to the Alive II album while we played Legos. He was the only person I knew who was a KISS fan, having all things KISS at the time. Since I didn’t get my first KISS album (or cassette back then) until the 1980s (it was Destroyer by the way), I came to the music a little later than some, but KISS have always been one of my favorite bands.

1978’s Double Platinum is one of the albums that is played very little in my collection. With all the other greatest hits collections the band has put out throughout the years, many fans have their one favorites. Just like any other KISS album, with KISS fans being so passionate about certain members and albums, that’s what makes them unique. Even though there have been many greatest hits CDs by KISS, looking at the first one again, and seeing how it holds up was interesting listening to it now. Since most of these songs were previously on other albums, this reviewer is looking at how the songs fit in the package as a whole.

KISS fans know the Double Platinum album for its remade version of “Strutter,” renamed “Strutter ’78,” which was done by the record company’s request. Casablanca‘s Neil Bogart asked for the song, with was going to be included with a few other remixed versions while the band worked on their solo albums. While today, some KISS fans view this song as a start to their disco phase, with Dynasty coming out in 1979, the song is still a good opener for the 20-song collection. “Do You Love Me” kicks off the second song, which flows nicely after the opening track, as opposed to the placing on the original album as the last track on Destroyer.

The third song, “Hard Luck Woman,” seems out of place with having a mid tempo song right after two up-tempo songs, especially after the ending of “Do You Love Me” where the song tends to be a loud rock out mixture of the vocals. Putting “Hard Luck” in the third track is awkward listening to it today. The next grouping of the songs, “Calling Dr. Love,” “Let Me Go Rock’ N’ Roll,” “Love Gun,” and “God Of Thunder,” all are placed nicely in the rocking out in your face type songs that KISS fans would see if they were listening to these songs live at the concert. Keep in mind purists that I am reviewing the CD, not the album, where you would have to turn over the side after “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll.” These songs fit well together.

Skipping down to later tracks, “Rock Bottom/She” is a strange placing right after “Detroit Rock City,” with a slower song right after a grooving mood then slowing the songs down again, which then kicks into the anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite,” and then slows it back down into “Beth.” This placing gives this reader a bit of listening lag, due to just getting the rocking feel to the collection, it places two slow songs in between the rockers (suggestion could been putting “She” and “Beth” after each other). The last track, “Black Diamond,” fits nicely as an ending song, as it was on the band’s debut album, but this time, there is no slow eerie ending, like on the debut. It was that ending of “Black Diamond” as a child that made me freak out (and I’m sure many parents too) when I first heard that at the end of the debut album. However, the run time of this collection is over an hour long, so one can’t complain too much of the admittance, especially with these versions of the songs probably used for new fans that wanted “radio” or “single” versions of the songs.

KISS fans know that after Double Platinum was released, looking back now, it may have been a record company save to keep the band together. The band members went on to do their solo albums, made a movie, and then started dealing with a new music decade with member changes.

Overall, the collection is a good mix of the band’s earlier album songs, and even though there are some odd placing of songs in the grouping (CD wise), the album is still a good introduction to the original line-up for today’s listeners who are first discovering the band without going into the deeper album cuts. With all of the many KISS greatest hits CDs that have been released, one can’t go too wrong with the very first one.

Track List:
01. Strutter ‘78
02. Do You Love Me?
03. Hard Luck Woman (Remix)
04. Calling Dr.Love (Remix)
05. Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll
06. Love Gun
07. God of Thunder
08. Firehouse (Remix)
09. Hotter Than Hell
10. I Want You
11. Deuce (Remix)
12. 100,000 Years (Remix)
13. Detroit Rock City (Remix)
14. Rock Bottom (Intro) / She (Remix)
15. Rock and Roll All Nite
16. Beth
17. Makin’ Love
18. C’mon And Love Me (Remix)
19. Cold Gin
20. Black Diamond (Remix)

Band Members:
Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Gene Simmons – bass guitar, lead vocals
Ace Frehley – lead guitar, backing vocals
Peter Criss – drums, lead vocals

Production:
Remixed by Sean Delaney and Mike Stone

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook

Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon and Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, April 2018

KISSDouble Platinum Commercial (Version 1):

Kiss – Double Platinum Commercials [Ver.1]

Uploaded by Alex Wald on 2017-07-06.

KISSDouble Platinum Commercial (Version 2):

Kiss – Double Platinum Commercials [Ver.2]

Uploaded by Alex Wald on 2017-07-06.