Written by John Jeffrey
Normally, when reviewing a release for RockMusicStar, we will either post our review just prior to when it comes out, or during the week of the actual release. However, when the opportunity arose to review the latest KISS book, "Nothin' To Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)" written by Ken Sharp, with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, I was a bit apprehensive about writing a review on the book for a couple of reasons.
One, due to some miscommunication, while we expected to receive the book well in advance of the release date, we didn't wind up getting our review copy until some time after the book had already been released, which meant we wouldn't be able to get our review up within our normal self-imposed deadline. Two, while any book written about KISS immediately peaks my interest, the story of the beginning of KISS is a topic which I'm so familiar with, I was skeptical about whether or not I would learn anything new that I hadn't already heard or read before. And if there was nothing new to be learned, what positive things could a really say about the book?
After digesting "Nothin' To Lose" from cover to cover, I realized that what I knew about the beginnings of KISS were simply the 'CliffsNotes,' as this book really tells the story in vast detail and fills in a lot of the blanks about things that many KISS fans (including myself) did not know about KISS' initial rise to success. Considering many KISS fans obsess over minutia, "Nothin' To Lose" delivers, as it is chock full of details, allowing the reader to be the 'fly on the wall' for early band meetings, rehearsals, days/nights in the studio and the escapades which occurred after the show, backstage and at the hotels. All written in good taste, as Ken Sharp & co. does not allow "Nothin' To Lose" to read like a smut filled dirt rag. It's an easy read, but does not insult any reader with an average or above average education.
Many interesting facts come to light throughout the story told in "Nothin' To Lose" and many of the myths and legends about the group's formation get debunked as well. You see what Ace Frehley and Peter Criss' pre-KISS 'classified' magazine ads REALLY said. Did Ace really unplug Bob Kulick's guitar and just start playing during their KISS auditions, like the story has been told so many times? How important was the addition of "KISSin' Time" to the sales and success of the first album? How did the release and failure of a Johnny Carson album (an audio version of "The Tonight Show") prevent the demise of Casablanca records and the potential end of KISS?
"Nothin' To Lose" may be one of the best KISS/KISS related books ever to be released. For factual content, Gene Simmons' "KISS And Make-up" may be the best overall, but at times it kind of reads like a text book (which makes sense considering Gene was a one time school teacher). For entertainment value, Peter Criss' "Makeup to Breakup" is a fun read, but there seems to be so much emphasis on sensationalizing everything, you may question the validity of some of the stories (which several people within the KISS circle have done so, both publicly and privately). With "Nothin' To Lose," you get the story from all different perspectives. Not only from the band members, on the inside looking out, but from the viewpoint of the people who were close to the band, on the outside looking in. Although the book is credited as being written by Sharp, Stanley & Simmons, you could really add a long list of names to the writing credits, as there is a literally a magnitude of people who help tell this "epic oral history." Ultimately, you have to give Ken Sharp the credit for having the ability to edit and intertwine everyone's stories, which virtually reads seamlessly. At points, you would almost think it was written by one person, if you didn't read the name of the person(s) telling their side of the story.
"Nothin' To Lose: The Making of KISS 1972-1975)" is hopefully just the beginning chapter of what could be an excellent volume of work, chronicling the entire history of KISS.
Special Thanks to Ken Sharp and Heidi Metcalfe Lewis