"Even now it can still get the tears running down my face": Paul Stanley - the soundtrack of my life

Paul Stanley with a bottle of hairspray, 1977
(Image credit: Michael Putland)

This year was a momentous year for Kiss frontman Paul Stanley, as the band finally finished their long goodbye with the final shows of the End Of The Road tour. 

Born Stanley Bert Eisen in New York City on January 20, 1952, he dedicated 50 of his 71 years to the self-proclaimed Hottest Band In The World. As he reflects on the music that has inspired him, he speaks with reverence of Led Zeppelin, Steve Marriott and the great soul artists of a bygone age. But when it comes to rock anthems, he says that nobody did it better than Kiss.


The first music I remember hearing

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t hear music. I grew up in a family where music was so much a part of our lives. One of the first things I remember hearing was Beethoven’s Emperor concerto. And when I was no more than a toddler, there was rock’n’roll. 

The first songs I ever sang

As a kid I would sing a-cappella around the house. I loved the pop hits – A Teenager In Love by Dion And The Belmonts, All I Have To Do is Dream by the Everly Brothers… Everybody in my family had terrific voices. 

The greatest album of all time

The first Led Zeppelin album is a must. I love The Temptations and Otis Redding. And The Beatles’ Rubber Soul is so eloquent in its simplicity. The emotion in it makes it extraordinary.

The songwriter

There have been so many great writers – Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Carole King and Jerry Goffin, Lennon and McCartney – but Bob Dylan is pioneering and his groundbreaking lyrics were revolutionary. I would say that Dylan influenced Lennon and McCartney, and not vice versa.

The singer

Steve Marriott was absolutely phenomenal. He got on stage and preached rock’n’roll, which was very much the inspiration for what I did. In the rock genre, Steve Marriott and Robert Plant were phenomenal singers. And in soul music, there was Sam Cooke, David Ruffin and so many others. 

The guitarist

Jimmy Page is like Beethoven, a conceptual genius, an orchestrator, and somebody who paints with sound. It was his vision and scope that separated Led Zeppelin from all the other great bands of that time. His playing is so brilliant, always passionate, and he’s never willing to sacrifice that passion for perfection. 

The anthem

Obviously the monolith is [Kiss’s] Rock And Roll All Nite. And I have to credit Neil Bogart, the president of Casablanca Records. One day in LA, he took us into his office and said: “You need a rock anthem, a rallying cry for the band that your audience can sing and identify with.” He cited two songs by Sly & The Family Stone – Dance To The Music and I Want To Take You Higher. And I got it, because I saw Sly & The Family Stone open for Jimi Hendrix, and they were incredibly powerful, with songs that you could really grab on to lyrically. 

So I went straight from Neil’s office to our hotel and wrote the chords and melody for that chorus: 'I wanna rock and roll all nite, and party every day…' That song summed up the band’s philosophy, and it became the template for rock anthems – not only for us, for everybody.

The best record I’ve made

We constructed the ultimate Kiss album and the ultimate live album in Kiss Alive! We wanted to immerse you in the audience at a Kiss show – to hear the noise of people around you, for the explosions to be as loud as if you were there. And as soon as that album came out it flew out of the stores. 

The worst record I’ve made

There are two: Unmasked and Music From The Elder. Unmasked was tepid and had no balls to it. Actually, the band at that point probably had no balls to it either. The Elder was a misguided attempt at impressing people who we shouldn’t have been trying to impress – the critics – while forgetting the people we should impress – the fans.

The best live band I’ve seen

Led Zeppelin in New York City, August 29, 1969 [Note: the August 29 show was actually in Queens, at the Singer Bowl Music Festival]. It was a transcendent moment. There was such magic and synchronicity and telepathy between those musicians. That a band of four guys could create something that was a melding of all of them and be able to change on a dime was something I will never forget. 

The most underrated band of all time

It’s a tragedy that all that great Philly soul and Motown has been relegated to being the back beat for a rap tune instead of given its due as some of the most brilliant music ever made. The O’Jays, The Stylistics, The Spinners… that music is monumental. And it was every bit as instrumental in my music and my love of music as the more obvious rock’n’roll influences.

My Saturday night party song

It has to be Motown. Anything by The Temptations or the Four Tops would do just fine.

My ‘in the mood for love’ song

Hopefully not All By Myself by Eric Carmen!

The song that makes me cry

Nessun Dorma is incredibly emotional for me. The first time I heard it, as a kid, it was spine-tingling. It showed me the power of music, in that you didn’t have to know the lyric to understand the depth of it. And even now it can still get the tears running down my face.

The song I want played at my funeral

Maybe it would be a good kick in the ass if I had Wild Thing. I’d like to leave them either crying or laughing.

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”