GENE SIMMONS Looks Back On KISS's Controversial 'Music From 'The Elder'' Album: 'It Was A Time Of Flux'
February 9, 2021
In a new interview with Guitar World, Gene Simmons was asked about KISS's much-maligned 1981 concept album "Music From 'The Elder'".
"It was a time of flux," he said. "A lot of bands were trying to figure out who they were and so were we. Sometimes if you do the same thing forever, you think, like that Peggy Lee song, 'Is that all there is?' We did try to fool around on some tracks like ['Destroyer' song] 'Great Expectations' [sings chorus in falsetto].
"Every once in a while, we would try a little off the beaten track kind of thing. 'I Was Made For Lovin' You' was really an experiment. We were not a dance band, but obviously it worked well around the world. We didn't go back to that because we'd heard it.
"Every once in a while, we'd stick out a ballad like 'Beth'. But the early '80s was a time of flux. People couldn't figure out what was going on. It was before the hair bands came in, the BON JOVIs and the WARRANTs; that was a movement where the guys in the bands looked sexier than their girlfriends. And we were affected by that as well, don't kid yourself.
"That's why you have to give your thumbs up to the bands that just never changed. [IRON] MAIDEN, AC/DC, METALLICA… they just didn't give a fuck what was going on around them. You've got to tip your hat to people who just say, 'This is who we are!' We believe in that and but there's some musical stuff in the band that we don't put in our records.
"Music is best served hot but varied. If you keep eating the same thing all the time, I think you get bored. 'Music From 'The Elder'' was a chance for us to show we could do other things and felt like we were tied to nothing. But soon thereafter, within an album or two, we got back to business and did 'Creatures Of The Night' and all that stuff."
Upon its release in November 1981, "Music From 'The Elder'" was confusingly received by both KISS fans and the general public. By the time the calendar turned to 1982, the album was essentially a commercial failure. And KISS were already ready to move on.
"My sense was always that KISS was about having no rules," frontman Paul Stanley later told journalist Jon Wiederhorn. "And although I hold the fans in the highest of esteem, I also expect them to understand that everything we do may not be to their liking, and the way they can show it is by not buying it. Well, they spoke loudly and clearly when that record came out."
Forty years later, "Music From 'The Elder'" has attained a cult-classic status among a segment of diehard KISS fans. A great part of the album's appeal lies in the mysterious conditions under which it was created. But the general consensus is that the record was a monumental disaster and by far the band's worst.
Two years ago, former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley stated about "Music From 'The Elder'": "During the recording process, I kept telling all those guys — [producer] Bob [Ezrin, Paul and Gene — I go, 'This is the wrong album for this period of time. I think fans want to hear a heavy hard rock album.' They just had a deaf ear to me. I said, 'It's not going to work,' and of course, the album bombed. I guess I had a handle on what was happening. Those guys never had any street sense. It's no fault of their own — Gene grew up in Israel, and Paul grew up in Queens, but he wasn't a guy like me who hung out on the corner and got into fights and did crazy stuff. I always had my pulse on what was going on, and I knew at the time — I would have bet a million dollars that the album was going to fail. I didn't want it to fail, and actually, if you take that album out of sequence with the KISS records, it's not a bad record. I did some great solos on it and there's some really good songs, but it wasn't the right record for the time. I was doing an interview with Billboard magazine, and they said, 'What would happened if 'The Elder' never happened, and you went from [1980's 'Unmasked'] to [1982's] 'Creatures Of The Night'?' I thought for a second, because I like 'Creatures Of The Night' — it's heavy, it's powerful, it's everything I said we should be doing when we recorded 'The Elder'. I may not have quit the band, but you can't rewrite history unless we go into a time warp or a black hole."