While many of Kiss’ earlier albums have received their share of critical reevaluation, in particular after the group’s recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Paul Stanley isn’t budging on his opinion about 1981’s misguided concept album Music from ‘The Elder’: He hates it.
“We were clueless,” Stanley said, during a fan Q&A in Indianapolis. “We had become so full of ourselves, and so enamored with success and fame and money, that we really forgot why we started making music. We forgot about the love of rock ‘n’ roll. We forgot that we did this without any regard for whether other people liked it. And, all of a sudden, we’re trying to make music and it had no teeth.”
Stanley says this general sense of directionlessness led to them accepting producer Bob Ezrin’s half-baked idea for a concept album “hook, line and sinker.”
Whatever critics thought of the idea, Music from ‘The Elder would have been hard to pull off anyway, because the band’s lineup was in flux. Eric Carr was still getting comfortable as founder Peter Criss’ replacement, while guitarist Ace Frehley was lost in a pitched battle with addiction. “Ace wasn’t around,” Stanley says, “and it wasn’t because he hated the music. It was because he was horizontal most of the time. I mean, Ace was at a point then where he was basically drunk all of the time. Now, why? You can talk to him about that. But it wasn’t a fun time.”
Fans ignored it in droves. Music from ‘The Elder’ was Kiss’ first-ever album to fail to achieve at least gold-selling status in the U.S., and with a peak at just No. 51 remains one of their worst-charting UK albums ever. They made a smattering of TV appearances, but never mounted a supporting tour.
Even if Music from ‘The Elder’ had been better received, however, Stanley says he’d feel the same. “Honestly, for me, everything gets colored by the situation that surrounds it,” Stanley says. “It’s not just an album. It’s a time, and it’s an event.”