Blogs Of War: Happy birthday Ace Frehley

Forget the cat in the hat or Papa Het, when I was a kid I wanted to be the Spaceman. I wanted a Les Paul that doubled up as a rocket launcher and a suit that looked like the twisted pornography of Neil Armstrong and David Bowie’s most cosmic dreams. I wanted to don the boots, paint my face and change the world one riff at a time (spoiler alert: it never happened).

Ace Frehley, however, did change the world. Or my world, at least. I look at Kiss’ self-titled album as one of the greatest recording debuts of all time and while it’s no secret Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley dominated creative control, it was Ace that penned Cold Gin: a pure-bred party anthem that would go on to intoxicate the ears of generations to come. It was Ace that played the solo over the half time interlude in Black Diamond that made my hairs stand on end for hours after each listen. It was Ace who stood there looking ice cool as his pickup turned to magma, filling the room with clouds of smoke. His cheeky trills and bends coloured these perfectly-crafted songs in an unusual way, with an unpredictability that came from the Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck school of guitar: a bit off-the-cuff and perhaps even verging on sloppy at points, but from the heart and perfect for the music. How four musicians in their early 20s managed to catch lightning in a bottle and trap rock’n’roll in its purest essence so early in their career will never cease to amaze me.

Within 18 months of that game-changing debut, Kiss were on a roll. They had three studio records already under their belt as well as Alive! – which in my eyes smokes Thin Lizzy’s claim for the best live album ever released (even if it was recorded over four dates and still heavily overdubbed in the studio after that). The list of guitarists that picked up the instrument directly after hearing these early Kiss records goes on and on, most notably a young Darrell Abbott, who would later go as far as getting the Spaceman tattooed on his chest, followed by Ace’s autograph some years after that. Now there’s a thought – would Pantera have existed without Ace Frehley? Quite possibly not. And as everyone knows, a world without Pantera is no world worth living in at all…

Happy Birthday Space Ace. Keep on riffing.

Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).