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?
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
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