On Tour with Bob Gruen
I STARTED working with KISS in 1973 when they signed with Buddah Records, a company I had worked with regularly. Working with KISS proved to be a different experience from most of the bands I had photographed. It’s not just that they wore makeup; the New York Dolls did that too. It was that their makeup created a different identity, as if they were superheroes. Right from the beginning when Buddah’s president, Neil Bogart, wore makeup and had the contract handcuffed to his wrist for the photo announcing their signing, I knew this was an unusual band.
The first time I saw them play, they opened for Iggy Pop on New Year’s Eve, 1973. I went backstage after their set to take photos of them with the celebrity guests, but I was stopped by their manager. He told me that the band would never be in pictures without their makeup. This made my job harder since the band only “existed” for about 10 minutes between when their makeup was done and when they went on stage. It was very rare that they would put on makeup during the very rare that they would put on makeup during the day for a photo shoot. But they did it twice for me!
The first time was in 1974 when I was making a photo-comic story for CREEM magazine. The story starts with KISS in makeup wearing suits and ties as if in disguise, and then they change into their KISS costumes in a phone booth. The band liked one of the photos from that session so much that they used it as an album cover and named the album Dressed To Kill. The fact that Gene is wearing one of my suits, which was far too small for him, makes him look even more like a giant monster. KISS had decided early on that instead of competing with good-looking bands, they would be the monsters of rock ‘n’ roll. On stage Gene would even breathe fire and spit blood like a dragon!
The complete article can be found in Issue #274 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.