Pete Townshend, the guitarist for The Who, has never been one to hide his opinions on his contemporaries. Pete Townshend still lacks a linguistic filter and has disparaged too many of his contemporaries to list throughout the years. The artist has a clear vision for what rock and roll should be, and Kiss is one band that doesn’t fit that description.
Due to their outlandish makeup and attire, the glam-rock band established notoriety after their 1973 formation. As each member of the group adopted a persona resembling something out of a comic book, Kiss stood out from the rest of the crowd and had an air of mystery surrounding them, which helped elevate them to the biggest stages. They put just as much attention into creating their style as they did their music, and by the middle of the 1970s, they were among the most well-known bands in America.
However, for Townshend, Kiss represented a style of rock music that was very different from what was popular in the UK or throughout Europe. Townshend wasn’t impressed since the band members played characters rather than being real because they sought to conceal their identities and wore disguises.
Pete Townshend revealed to Hazy Rock in 2014 why the band failed to persuade him. He commented, “One thing that Kiss are absolutely, unquestionably not — in any sense, whatsoever — is European or English. They are straight out of Creem magazine meets Las Vegas. Or New Orleans, even. There is a bit of New Orleans in it, a very American kind of Mardi Gras thing.”
“They couldn’t have happened here. They could maybe have happened in Berlin — in which case their music wouldn’t have been like their music. They would have looked like they looked. But they would have made a different kind of music. They’re a very American phenomenon.”
The guitarist repeated Townshend’s scathing evaluation of the American by calling Kiss a “parody”. He said, “The early years of Kiss were difficult because there was sort of a parody of rock inherent in what they were doing. Also, that business of wearing disguises. Not quite sure about it. You know, I think I’d have to do an academic study to try and work out what’s really doing on there.”
In a conversation with Kyle Meredith, Gene Simmons said that his band unwittingly inspired their sound.
“Of course, we were influenced, you can’t be here without those who have gone before. So you’ve got a point to the greats that came before you – Jimi Hendrix, and so on. Whenever you see Jimi Hendrix footage, the classic stuff is him on the floor, on top of his guitar lighting it on fire, or Townshend smashing his guitar, and all that stuff. It’s showmanship, stagecraft.”
Simmons makes a crucial point about how Townshend smashing his guitar like a pantomime villain is a type of rock ‘n’ roll expressionism, just like their larger-than-life personas, as much as the guitarist would prefer to reject any analogies between The Who and Kiss.