Heavy Metal Jacket

Kiss…..And Things You Don’t See Anymore #3: Denim Jackets With Band Names on the Back

Heavy Metal Jacket
It’s a Louis Vitton…

So what is one of the most powerful advertising weapons utilised by bands such as Kiss and Aerosmith to attract the youth of Britain to buy products?



Search Engine Optimisation?


Oh no. Compared to the real success story of the last forty years these things are mere bagatelles. In fact, over two decades from 1970-1990 the most effective branding exercise ever accomplished was achieved through the power of………embroidery.

As a fan of Aerosmith, I looked everywhere for a patch to sew onto my denim jacket – but it was hard enough buying their albums in 1986, never mind knitwear. In the end, I borrowed my mum’s embroidery cotton and needles and did it myself. A year later, they were headlining Wembley Arena. (I have always been modest about my part in their rise to fame, but I think now is the time to mention it…).

And until they scored a hit with Crazy Nights, Kiss were a band that most people in the UK had never heard, but were nevertheless aware of, mainly due to the power of sewing: their faces and logo were plastered over the back of unwashed denim jackets in town centres and youth clubs throughout the land. Great branding and free advertising for a band never played on the radio.

I bought a VHS video of the band (make-up free): Animalize Live Uncensored (quite who wanted to censor it or why was never made clear) to find out what the fuss was all about.

The first surprising thing I noticed was just how camp Paul Stanley was. John Inman had nothing on this man. For someone who allegedly went through women like “a hot knife through butter” as one of their songs of the time delicately put it…he was clearly playing the androgynous card, not that I knew what “androgynous” was.  Looking back Stanley must have been heavily influenced by Bowie (Stanley’s Star Child vs Bowie’s Star Man…?)

Introducing the song Cold Gin, Paul Stanley addressed the crowd in a shrill Queens accent – think Fran Drescher from TV series “The Nanny” (and briefly in Spinal Tap) and you’ll have the right voice in your head.

“I hear that you good people in Detroit” he pouted, coquettishly yet earnestly  “like to drink Vodka and Orange Juice!!”

He said this like a schoolboy pulling a rabbit from a hat and looked just as pleased with himself, as if the aforementioned drink was anything other than the most dreadful cocktail that your mum only drinks after she’s finished with the Baileys, and the Khalua has run out. If I had been in the Detroit crowd I would have felt insulted. They whooped and cheered like he had somehow been privy to a great local secret.

“Paul Stanley is one of us” buzzed the whole of Detroit…”he knows about the vodka and orange juice thing…” “But how?” someone else said. “That’s a local secret!” … “What vodka and orange thing?”…”Ssshhh…”

He then pranced about like a Spanish dressage pony, only hairier, and with a shaggier mane.

Gene Simmons meanwhile gave a contemptuous look across the stage – the sort Simon Cowell reserves for when dismissing a particularly inept butler, footman or girlfriend.

The video was a great introduction to the band..but where was the face paint? I’d seen that on the back of jackets, but there was no sight of it here. For that I would need to buy another video… (he said, cleverly lining up a cliff-hanger ending to get you to come back to read the next post….)

Record #43 – Kiss – Cold Gin





13 responses to “Kiss…..And Things You Don’t See Anymore #3: Denim Jackets With Band Names on the Back”

  1. mikeladano Avatar

    Very nice. When I make a mix CD employing raps from Paul, I usually go here first. This is a goldmine of Paul raps!


    1. every record tells a story Avatar

      A mix CD of Paul’s raps – that I have to hear!


  2. mikeladano Avatar

    I stole the idea from something I saw online once — a 2 CD bootleg of nothing but Paul raps. The title of that was “People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest”. If you ever see one throw me a note!


  3. mikeslayen Avatar

    good job…funny stuff! Nothing says I smoke a lot of cigarettes like the denim jacket with all the patches…at least on this side of the pond.


    1. every record tells a story Avatar

      I think there are some things that both sides of the pond have in common with each other…


  4. Jason Wendleton Avatar

    I recently attended a Symphonic Tribute to Led Zeppelin at the St. Louis Louis Symphony–it was a mixed crowd of people in ball gowns AND a few chick in denim vests with patches. It was rad.


    1. every record tells a story Avatar

      More evidence it would seem that I am simply not hanging out in the right places…


      1. Jason Wendleton Avatar

        I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to make one (patch vest). But my lack of sowing skills + the whole “where the hell do you wear them without looking like a complete burn-out?”-thing always stood in my way.


      2. every record tells a story Avatar

        Like I said in the story, the one and only time I ever did any embroidery was to stitch the Aerosmith Wings Logo on the back of my denim jacket. It looked alright – someone at Donington once asked me where I got it from, and I don’t think he was being sarcastic.


  5. Phillip Helbig Avatar

    There was a Hell’s Angel who had the following embroidered on the back of his jacket: “If you can read this, the bitch fell off.”


  6. Victim of the Fury Avatar

    After attending a few great concerts here in La Paz, Bolivia (believe it or not) by aging, but still rockin’, bands like the Scorpions and Accept and seeing hundreds of Bolivian kids in patch-covered denim jackets, I can report that the “branding exercise” is still going strong in at least one corner of the world yet. I’ve been so impressed by the array of mostly-homemade patches that I have decided that, even nearing my half-decade mark, I definitely need to get my own jacket immediately and start sewing. There are always a few more-fermented types at most hard rock concerts who have pulled their old jackets out of storage for the occasion, and I’m now probably just ripe enough to join them. So, while my denim won’t be vintage, it’ll still serve as my own personal freak-flag billboard for the bands I love. Great post!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Hello La Paz! Lovely to hear from Bolivia! Thanks for your comment – it’s great to see the traditions living on in other parts of the world. The live concert DVDs I see from South America show some very passionate audiences – good to hear from one of them!


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