This Date in Rock n Roll History: KISS Releases (Music From) The Elder by Scott Carr

(Music From) The Elder is the ninth studio album from KISS released on November 10, 1981.

After the less than impressive sales of their 1980 release Unmasked, which saw the band take a turn towards a more pop-oriented sound, it was initially teased in the office KISS Army newsletter that the next KISS release would be "hard and heavy from start to finish — straight-on rock and roll that will knock your socks off." Ultimately what they delivered is without a doubt the strangest album in the KISS catalog. Instead of a no frills straight ahead rock record....the fans got a concept record based on a story by bassist Gene Simmons. The album was produced by Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with the band on their 1976 Destroyer album and had also worked with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and many others. The idea was to make a record that would showcase KISS as serious musicians and try to pander to the critics who were never too kind to KISS.

The Elder was truly a transitional record for the band as it was their first release with new drummer Eric Carr who had replaced departed original drummer Peter Criss a year earlier when Criss bowed out to begin his solo career. Eric toured throughout Europe with KISS on their Unmasked tour and proved to be a breath of fresh air for the band and brought a level of energy that had been missing on their last tour with Criss. 

Initially there were big plans that would tie in with the release of The Elder.......there was a movie planned, a new tour was on the horizon with a whole new stage show and a new look for the band......they had all cut their hair shorter than it had ever been and the new costumes were a more streamlined look than the previous costumes they had for the Dynasty/Unmasked tours, and there was also talk of several sequels that would continue the story of The Elder. As quickly as these plans were announced....they were soon cancelled. The movie idea was scrapped and the tour never came to be. 

Picture Disc for single "World Without Heroes". Olivia Newton John's influence was hard to escape during this period in American music. CG

Picture Disc for single "World Without Heroes". Olivia Newton John's influence was hard to escape during this period in American music. CG

The only live performance of any material from The Elder was on a late-night sketch comedy show on ABC called Fridays. Fridays was ABC's short-lived answer to NBC's Saturday Night Live. KISS appeared on Fridays and performed three songs from The Elder......"The Oath", "A World Without Heroes" and "I." This is the only time any material from The Elder was performed live until August, 1995 when KISS taped their MTV Unplugged concert and surprised fans with "A World Without Heroes." After the MTV taping it seemed The Elder had been put back into the closet to never be heard from again.....until recently when KISS played "The Oath" on their fourth annual KISS Kruise.

The Elder was quite a dud sales-wise for the would be their commercial low point and worst-selling album of their entire career. At the time most fans weren't sure what to make of this new serious KISS record that sounded more like a Pink Floyd record than a KISS record.....a lot of fans felt let down by their comic book heroes and began to move to bands like Motley Crue, who released their iconic debut album Too Fast For Love the same month as The Elder . A new breed of rock and metal bands were coming out of LA and taking a lot of influence from the early days of leather, studs, fire and really raw rock music. These bands were filling the void that KISS had left behind and it would take another year or so before KISS would begin to get their career back on the right track.

As time has passed The Elder has become a fan favorite....although there seems to be no middle ground for this either love it or you hate it. The members of KISS have pretty much disowned the album and rarely have any positive things to say about it. I personally love it and it is ranked in my top 5 all time favorite KISS records. I liked that they were trying something completely me it sounded fresh and interesting but I completely understand why it didn't work on a mass level. People want KISS to rock and roll all night and party every day....they don't want them singing about the recruitment and training of a young hero (The Boy) by the Council of Elders who belong to the Order of the Rose, a mysterious group dedicated to combating evil. And an elderly caretaker named Morpheus. It's hard to write catchy songs about that kind of stuff.

There always seems to be interest surrounding The Elder.....On November 16, 2011 it was announced that pre-production had begun on an independently produced adaptation of Music from "The Elder" word on when or if this project will ever get off the ground....but the film company has released a teaser trailer for the movie.

So...Happy 33rd birthday to the weirdest and most controversial album in the KISS discography.......

Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH  bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.

Editor's note: Obviously, I was going to first embed the footage of KISS performing said material on ABC Fridays. UNTIL, Scott  dropped the bomb that  a "new Elder" movie is currently in production being made by Seb Hunter, a cultish looking figure from the U.K. It's due for release in 2014 and it may or may not be a hoax. Brilliant. My jaw is on the floor this is sooooo awesome. I think Brian Phillips and myself may have a reelin' and rockin' candidate. Check out the trailer below before enjoying KISS in all their 1982 glory.

Under-rated as musicians.   CG