Thursday, July 23, 2015

40 years ago tonight, KISS rocked Wildwood!

During the Summer of 1975, the tale of a killer shark terrorizing a small resort town sent moviegoers into a frenzy, nationwide. For obvious reasons, Jaws resonated in the Wildwoods in a unique and enduring way.

The influence of the film that created and came to define the “blockbuster” genre was everywhere. Up and down the Boardwalk, shops sold Jaws apparel and posters, as the movie played to packed houses at the Blaker Theatre throughout the summer.

In the midst of the mania, an important chapter in the story of another emerging pop culture phenomenon was written. Despite gaining a reputation as a top-flight live act, KISS had earned moderate commercial success with the releases of its first three albums.

"Kisstory" and the Wildwoods collided 40 years ago tonight - July 23, 1975 - when Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley came to town and rocked Convention Hall. The performance was a make-up after a scheduled show several weeks earlier had been cancelled due to the band reportedly being involved in a car accident.

A band named “Mushroom” opened for KISS, which was at its blood-spewing, fire-breathing best in performing the hits from Kiss and Hotter Than Hell (both released in 1974) and Dressed to Kill (which came out earlier in 1975 and included the band’s eventual trademark anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite”).

Unbeknown to the raucous audience at the time, the show was recorded and several songs would later be included onKISS’s fourth release – the double live album Alive! They included “Deuce” (the show opener and album’s first track), “Hotter Than Hell,” “Firehouse,” and “Black Diamond.”

Songs from the 16-track “Alive!” were also recorded that year at concerts in Cleveland, Detroit, and Davenport, Iowa.

The album, released on September 10, 1975, was a landmark release for a number of reasons.
For KISS, it was responsible for their breakthrough into the mainstream. “Alive!” went Gold, spawned the band’s first top 40 single (the live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite”) and essentially saved its record label at the, Neil Bogart’s Casablanca, from financial disaster.

Still regarded by many as KISS’s best album, it peaked at #9 on the album chart, and charted for 100 weeks (by far, the longest I the band’s history). In 2003, it was ranked #159 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

For the music industry as a whole, “Alive!” proved that live albums were a more than viable commodity.

Today, the former location of Convention Hall is the lawn that sits directly in front of the Wildwoods Convention Center, between the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue (near Burk).

The next time you pass by, gaze over and try to imagine the history that took place on that very spot. From Elton John to Black Sabbath, Cheech & Chong to Alice Cooper, and Jim Croce to the Marshall Tucker Band, the venue played host to many legendary acts.

Thanks to that unforgettable summer night 40 years ago, the sounds from within will always remain “Alive!”

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