Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kiss and Make Up

It's late, and we're very drunk, and I'm gazing around the walls of a beer bar somewhere near Wenceslas Square, Prague.

It’s kind of incongruous, a reminder of the two worlds this country has known over the last fifty years.

Standing on tables behind us, a birthday party or works outing is bellowing out songs at the top of their voices, some of which, our guide tells us, are old revolutionary communist fighting songs.

But the walls are laden with framed pictures of that greatest example of Western decadence - the rock and roll band.

Here's one of Johnny Cash, backstage at Hammersmith Odeon in 1966, looking disturbingly like The Fall's Mark E Smith.

There's one of an indie rock band who were huge globally in the mid-nineties, their flame haired singer crawling towards us on all fours, burning the world with the flash of her eyes. This band always make me wistful because I met the singer a few times and she definitely fancied me, and I did nothing to reciprocate. No one believes me when I tell them, but this was back when she was a lot less famous and quite a bit less attractive than she is on this poster, and, it has to be said, when I was an entirely different shape.

But over here is a poster of Kiss, and it pulls me up short and stops me feeling sorry for myself, because I feel loads sorrier for one of Kiss.

I've noticed it before, but never really processed it till now. Sure Kiss were camp and larger than life and ROCK in a way that now only a fully-fledged novelty act could get away with, but look at them. 

Let's play Kiss! Baggsy not being the one on the bottom left - oh, why do I always have to be the cat one?

Three have face make-up that makes them look very cool, very rock and roll. One's demonic, one's got a star, and one has some kind of explosion or lightning flash. All guaranteed to make the seventies groupie swoon.

And then... one of them looks like a cute little pussycat.

His face paint is not glam rock face paint; it's the kind of thing children get painted on their faces at village fetes. The poor bastard looks like he's lost a bet, or was a regular target for being bullied by the rest of the band. Surely he can’t have chosen that design himself, in contrast to his band-so-called-mates?

Did no one think this unusual at the time?

Did Kiss fans cold shoulder him, or was there a special enclave of sensitive Kiss fan who instead of shagging his brains out put him on a cushion and fed him bread and milk?

Either way – poor bastard. No wonder he was one of the first to leave the band.

When I got back from Prague I read Kiss’ Wikipedia page and found out some more about what each band member’s face paint was meant to represent, and why. But it wasn’t half as interesting as the drunken mental story I’d created for myself, so I won’t repeat it here.

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