Monday, November 26, 2012
Guest Review: No Regrets by Ace Frehley
I became a huge fan of KISS in the sixth grade. I find it amazing that a band gets to such popularity on word of mouth alone. The entire first wave of KISS took place without MTV, without YouTube and with very little radio airplay. I was a fan of Ace's, and I wanted to play guitar like him. He is the person who first inspired me to pick up the guitar more seriously. Later on they became too cartoonish for me, mostly due to the merchandising and Phineas T. Barnum-impersonating Gene Simmons.
I picked up Ace's book, No Regrets, because I was looking for another rock bio and my Amazon preferences led me here, as they say. My dear friend Kathryn reads and reviews them here, and somehow these have always proven to be great late-night conversation fodder for us. We enjoy sharing details of bands and their books and do, like most people, discuss what we read, watch, and listen to.
Ace starts his adventure in his youth and spends a lot of time talking about his seemingly nice middle class upbringing. He came from a loving home, had hard-working parents, went to Lutheran school, and all was a nice time growing up in the Bronx until he decided to join a gang. Ace's life moves more into juvenile delinquency, but all along he remains a student of the world and his surroundings. He can diffuse things with humor which he displays in abundance in this book with intelligence. Yes, I said it, intelligence. Ace is definitely a bright guy. Funny, too. He almost became a graphic artist instead of music, and even designed the KISS logo that we see today.
He takes us through the KISS story by letting us in on the early inner workings of the group. Gene and Paul were introverted, nerdy, and not the "ladies men" they would later turn into. Ace got his nickname by being the Ace, the one who got all the girls. He was a master at talking to girls. He had and still does have the gift of gab.
So does Ace let Gene have it in this book? I'd say he does, but he also is very kind. I won't reveal how the "Gene issue" goes but I think it's an interesting part of the book, but not all. Ace does not blame anyone for his misadventures except himself, and what misadventures! His drug use and abuse, alcohol, glue sniffing and car crashing is legendary. As someone who lives between where he lives and NYC we often heard stories by locals of Ace's misadventures. All are documented here.
The book is well-written, and he had help via Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, but having heard Ace speak in interviews the voice appears to be his. The events in the book, any of which could have taken his life, are described in vivid detail. He takes responsibility, and yes, this is a rehabilitated individual who chooses not preach about it. He's surprisingly sensible throughout and values his relationships and honors his family as much as humanly possible for a person in his state. There could have been more detail about KISS and his relationships in the band. This book is heavy on Ace and somewhat light on the rest of the band. There is great detail on the early days, and it gets lighter about the band as the book goes on. He does take the high road here, in a lot of places.
There is plenty of dirt, as these books are made for it, but there is not a lot of dirt on other people in here. Sure you'll get a good back story of the infamous Tom Snyder appearance (YouTube it, Ace was drunk and on fire!) but you won't get a lot of detail about Peter's departure or Gene's money-making schemes. Even with the lack of KISS dirt, this is a great read and I highly recommend it. It went fast, too fast, and was hard to put down. You don't have to be a KISS fan to appreciate it, the story of Ace is enough to carry the book because there is just so much story to tell. Amazing he has lived to tell it.