The Starchild unmasked

Book reviews

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Face The Music: A Life Exposed, Paul Stanley, Harpercollins, 2014.

I always suspected that if one day the four original KISS members each had a book out, Paul Stanley’s would be my favourite and the best written of the bunch.

It is now much later and Ace Frehley has a book, Peter Criss has a book, Gene had two (well, actually three) and now, KISS frontman and resident Starchild Paul Stanley has his own book as well with Face the Music: A Life Exposed. My initial suspicions turned out to be right.

I was surprised at how literate and intimate the book was. Paul always seemed the most private member of KISS so I never assumed he would ever release a book. I don’t know how much the ghostwriter who helped with book did, but Paul comes across as very articulate and intelligent person in real life and interviews and that’s precisely how he is in Face the Music.

I knew Paul had an ear condition but not to this extend. It was revealing how much suffering he endured and how much it troubled him and l think it played a big part in him creating the persona of the Starchild. Becoming who he wanted to be, fabricating this rockstar personna.

Honest. I think Paul comes across as honest about the people he has worked with and ultimately, himself. The managers and people who worked in the background to make KISS happen and gives credit to those who deserve it. He talks about therapy and how’s been doing it since he was a teenager. He even mentions the songs he ripped off at times which I find interesting.

In Face the Music, he comes across as especially harsh towards Ace and Peter, especially Peter which was to be expected, but he also throws quite a few stabs at Gene (and it’s these that are the most interesting). It shouldn’t be all that surprising to fans. Through the years since the farewell tour, he and Gene have been putting down Ace and Peter quite a lot. But it seems that even though he says there are good memories with them, he can’t find space to share any of them. Even Eric Carr gets some of it.

It’s no secret that Paul did not like Gene at first, and in this regard things don’t seem to be all that different today. He rips on Gene for his views about marriage and calls him a hypocrite for later getting to Shannon Tweed. Stanley also doesn’t think Gene is as good as business man as the world seems to think. But then there’s the part of him that was appreciative of Gene when he helped him out and was supportive when he was going through a divorce.

Paul touches on a lot of topics that fans know about but have very limited knowledge on. I doubt fans know all about his divorce or the details of his time portraying the Phantom of the Opera. I didn’t know how much he enjoyed being a father and having a family. Some I knew, some l didn’t, but I certainly wasn’t bored and enjoyed the ride. He gives great insight as to how it was when he took over the reigns of KISS in the 80’s and how felt about Gene, his contributions, the band, the music itself and who was in the band.

Paul goes how when the other band members of KISS went home off tour to their families, relationships and side projects as things that kept themselves occuphed he was alone and by himself. That’s why l find Paul more relatable than the other members of KISS when l read their bios.

He talks a lot about the loneliness he felt and the irony that he fronted one of the biggest bands in the world. He felt he had a void to fill and its interesting because for him committed relationships and kids came later for him than the other members of KISS. His life looks pretty full now with his wife and kids, the band and his art but it seems that in the 80’s he was especially lonely and heartbroken, only falling in love to get hurt. It’s an interesting period of time when he looks back on it, especially considering how much of a “happy” band KISS had become in that decade.

It will definitely be essential reading for the hardcore KISS fan, and worth reading for those who enjoy biographical books and rock books. Paul said something in the book about being all about ongoing self-discovery being more important than creating a myth that wasn’t who he was and l think that’s the best way to summarize his memoir.

Yes he’s the guy from KISS, wrote great songs, influenced musicians, but he’s still his own person. Even though he seems comfortable on stage as the ringleader, it took him time to find inner peace. I would recommend Face the Music, it’s certainly not as self-boasting as Gene’s, or left with blanks like Ace’s or as resentful as Peter’s and that probably makes it the most accessible and honest bio we will ever get from a member of KISS. 5/5 stars insightful and enjoyable reading.

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