Sunday, January 9, 2011

All The Way To See Kiss at The Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn., in 1978

I've been a fan of the rock group, Kiss, for a long time.



The first time I heard about Kiss, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_(band)I was 13 years-old in 1975 living with my mom in an apartment complex in East Memphis, Tenn. This was in the mid-1970's after the sexual revolution and women's lib at hit our nation like a ton of bricks. Many homes were breaking up and apartment complexes were springing up in American cities across the nation with many single parents living in them. Our apartment complex was near Germantown, Tenn., to be exact, where the really nice, new big homes were being built in super nice subdivisions at the time.
My parents had divorced after 27 years of marriage and being the youngest of five, I was a pretty lonely kid at that point of my life. When I moved to the apartment complex, I had to make some adjustments and meet new friends. For any young teenager this can be a very difficult time. One of my new friends I found out was a really big Kiss fan. He had a drum set in his room and Peter Criss (Cat Man), the drummer was his favorite member. He had a couple of their albums and his favorite album was "Kiss Alive." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive!_(Kiss_album) He would play that album just about everyday that I went over there and he would drum to each song on the album as it played on the record player stereo.
Don't get me wrong. I was not one of those overboard, crazy Kiss fans. There's nothing wrong with that for sure. I had a couple of their albums and I think I even had a Kiss t-shirt at one point. Unfortunately, I was not a member of the "Kiss Army"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_Army either. I hate to admit it but some of my newer friends that I met when I went to go live with my father in North Mississippi were not Kiss fans. They did not like Kiss that much. They liked Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush, Pink Floyd and Foreigner, just to name a few. However, even though I was a Kiss fan and I never did wear it on my shirt sleeve and advertise it that at that point in my life. So, when I heard that Kiss was coming to Memphis to perform at The Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis in December of 1978, I didn't suggest to my friends that they go with me to the concert. I asked my mother to purchase me one ticket for myself so that I go and enjoy the show without any negativity. And that's exactly what I did.
At the time, I was 16 years-old. I cleaned my dad's house so that I could borrow his car and he gave me some gas money and a little extra spending money. One the way up to Memphis, I stopped at Stateline Liquors in Southaven, Miss., and bought a bottle of Boones Farm Apple wine. I drank it on the way it to the arena and by the time I got there, I had a pretty good buzz going from the wine. When I arrived at the Mid-South Coliseum, I had about a fourth of a bottle left and threw it behind some bushes before I went it. (See, we did crazy stuff when were younger! I would never do that these days-drinking and driving). When I found my seat in the the sold-out , filled to capacity arena, I was luckily sitting next to some pretty cool guys from somewhere way out in the countryside. They were from in East Tennessee, I think. They fired up something and it was not a cigarette either and began passing it. Apparently, the timing was right and the mood was set as we were in awe of the million dollar stage that sat before us as a cloud of smoke hung in the air of the arena. (Back then you could still smoke in public buildings) All the sound and technical guys kept saying, "Check, check, check" and flashing lights off and on. They were checking everything out to make sure it worked. Then, the house lights were dimmed and all of sudden the thunder of loud band on stage can be heard, screaming guitars and drums and it was this little known rock band at the time by the name of "AC/DC" who happened to be touring the United States with Kiss. They were the opening act. All of us in the Mid-South Coliseum that night were saying, "Who in the hell is that little dude playing guitar riding on that big dude's shoulder while running through the audience with a spotlight on him?" We found out later it was Angus Young who had tons of energy, jumping and running all over the stage. Bonn Scott, who was still alive at the time, was the lead singer.
Then it was time for Kiss to perform after a brief intermission. Everybody was blown away by AC/DC but we weren't quit sure who they were until their "Highway To Hell" album came out the next year which I bought. All of sudden, the lights went dim again and a loud booming come over the loud speakers and said, "Are you ready? The hottest band in the world, Kiss!" Then Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley were lowered onto to the stage by hydraulic lifts and began playing their butts off as loud explosions and flashes of light went off and flames shot up in the air from the stage. To me it was one of the greatest rock show with incredible sound and lights that I had every seen at that point in my life. And it has still stuck with me all these years.
I remember during one of the final encores, I walked down to the floor level and as I approached the stage, a security guard was pointing to me to go back. But I kept walking forward anyway. Just as I got to the stage, I was able to see everyone of the members faces up close and Peter's Criss drum set had been lifted really high up in the air and this big black cloth with cats holding out their paws was dropped. Then I heard them say, "Good night!" And that was it. As I look back now as a grown man with a wife, son, a home and a full-time job, Kiss apparently filled a void in my young life at the time. It was an escapism for a young kid who was suffering from his parents divorce and a broken home. So every time I listen to Kiss these days, I still get that warm, fuzzy, feel-good music feeling. Thanks to Kiss for all your great years of rock and roll and entertainment!



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