Nine Albums That Changed My Life - by Anne Marie

(This is the second installment of what we here at Pencilstorm hope becomes a regular feature of the site: X-amount of records – it doesn’t HAVE to be 10 – that changed our writers’ lives. Our Virginia correspondent JCE launched the series a week ago, his inaugural offering is linked here…Ten Albums That Changed My Life - JCE. Anne Marie is featured here for the second round.)

I first wondered who this JCE was when he wrote a TV Party Tonight! about Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse. I’d never met another person who listened to Sparklehorse or who had even had heard of Linkous. Since then, I have gleaned from JCE’s writing that we’re around the same age and have daughters around the same age, so I guess it’s not surprising that in taking up his challenge tonight, two of my albums overlap his list.

Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack) - When this movie was released in December 1977, I had just turned 11, and was the oldest of my siblings, ranging in age down to 5. I remember that somehow, however improbably, we convinced my father to take us to see this movie and he had to argue with the ticket guy to get us in, but in we went and see it we did and it was the most exciting two hours of my young life and then we got the soundtrack for Christmas and I became obsessed with the Bee Gees and their younger brother Andy Gibb for at least the next year, spending any gift/babysitting money I’d receive on fan magazines with glossy (fully-clothed) centerfolds.

The Cars / The Cars, Candy-O and Shake it Up - When their self-titled debut came out in 1978, it was not on my radar (that being full of Brothers Gibb that year), but by 1982, Shake it Up’s title track was getting major radio play and I bought that album and the debut and Candy-O. I had just gotten my license and when my cousin Karen would visit from Texas for extended vacations twice per year, I would drive my old Chevy Nova to mall parking lots where no one could hear us sing the songs from all three at the top of our lungs. Karen was my closest cousin in both age and personality and sadly she died in an auto accident when she was 18. But I’ll have these memories forever.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers / Damn the Torpedoes - How Tom Petty managed to sneak onto the radar to shake me out of my disco fixation in 1979 is still a mystery, but I think that it was when I had my Columbia House membership where I would get all these 8-track tapes sent to me each month. Anyway, Petty entered the picture and my sister and I, who just years earlier were jumping on our beds and arguing over whether David or Shaun Cassidy was cuter, both totally agreed that we loved this guy and every song on this album - and so it went with pretty much everything he ever did. Over the years, if a Petty song came on the radio and I was with my sister, we’d both reach out instinctively to crank the volume. This album was pretty much the first thing I can remember us agreeing on and is one of those points of connection that years later allowed us to transition from feuding siblings to lifelong friends.

Steely Dan / Aja and Donald Fagan / The Nightfly - By the time I started at Boston University in late 1984, MTV had been around for years and I thought that even though I hailed from rock-heavy Rochester, NY, I had been exposed to the world of music. And yet, I was wrong.  There was so much music that I had missed. Among my classmates at BU were two quirky best friends from Philadelphia, Bob and Brian, who were obsessed with a band called Steely Dan.  And this was music unlike any I had heard before – rock combined with jazz - and it blew me away.   

Ben Folds Five / Ben Folds Five - I love it when I hear fresh music, music that seems new to me. That gets me excited to find out, who is this? And once I know the answer, when can I see them live?  That’s how I felt in 1995 when I first heard Ben Folds. The debut is an amazing album and I’ve followed Ben Folds - with his distinctive voice and storytelling and piano- pounding delivery - ever since.  What’s really cool is that about five years ago now, my daughter Caitlin decided that she too loves Ben Folds and so we have been seeing his shows together ever since.  That makes three acts that she and I will see together if at all possible: Ben Folds, Guster and The Flaming Lips. Enjoying music with both of my kids (and having taken each of them to their first concert - both saw different Flaming Lips tours) is definitely life-changing.  I almost cheated and selected my favorite Ben Folds Five album - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner – which is the first that came to mind. While it doesn’t fit the rules of the challenge, my favorite song on that album, the heartbreakingly beautiful Magic, has provided comfort following the untimely death of my sister’s son Matthew this year.

Alvvays - Antisocialites - In December last year, I went to the CD 102.5 Holiday Show, mainly to see Spoon, but was blown away by opening act Alvvays, a Canadian indie-pop band fronted by Molly Rankin, who looked like she had stepped straight from a J Crew ad but proceeded to give a high-energy performance full of songs from their then recently released Antisocialites album, decidedly more punk/harder edge than their 2014 self-titled debut, especially as performed live.  Just a few months later, I would move to Boston to start a new job and life and that album would become my personal soundtrack, in steady rotation for a six-month period of 2018 and still played regularly.

AML 11/18/18



I Like the Dead Schembechlers Too, But Why Do They Have to Swear So Much? - by Jeff Hassler

This story originally ran November 22, 2014. The Dead Schembechlers have a new coloring book @

Hey everybody! It's great to be back blogging at Pencilstorm! Well, it is "Hate" week here in Columbus, so everybody is talking about Ohio State vs "That Team Up North" which happens this Saturday at noon in the "Big House."

As usual, I will be getting together with Colin, Brian, Ricki C., Johnny and all the other guys for our annual "Beat Michigan" Pencilstorm party. And unfortunately, I will no doubt be subjected to hours of Dead Schembechlers songs at ear-splitting volumes.

Listen, I am a pretty big Bucks fan myself and I like to think I can handle a joke, but sometimes it just seems like the Dead Schembechlers take it a little too far. I'll be the first to admit that the whole concept is pretty clever and the "Conspiracy" page at is damn near the greatest thing ever posted on the internet, but still, as big as they are, think how much bigger they could have been without all the bad language.

I mean, songs like "Bomb Ann Arbor Now," "The Ballad of Mike Lantry," and "I'm So Bored With the SEC" are really cool and you can play them in mixed company. The same cannot be said for, "I'm Not Gay But I Want to F*#k Brutus Buckeye," "Rich Rodriguez Can Suck My D*#k," and "USC, You S**K C**k." 

They even take a sacred classic Buckeye anthem like "Hang On Sloopy" and change the words to "Hey F**K Lloyd Carr, Lloyd Carr F**K You!" I could go on and on, but I think my point is obvious. Frankly, I think if the Dead S. could act more professional, they could even has been as successful as the Danger Brothers. 

"Hassler, you are such a dickhead," is usually what Johnny DiLoretto always says before he goes off on one of his long-winded, whiskey-fueled rants explaining why I am always wrong. 

"The ONLY thing that makes the Schembechlers work is that they are truly crazy. They go way over the line because Bo Biafra doesn't know or care where the line is. Shit, Hassler, they are easily the biggest punk band to ever come out of Columbus. Bigger than the New Bomb Turks, Great Plains and Gaunt all put together. They have had millions of web hits and features about them in Sports Illustrated, Esquire, ESPN and the New York Times. That HBO movie "The Rivalry" literally starts with Bo Biafra. He comes on-screen before freaking Bo or Woody themselves. I'm pretty sure they don't need advice from some dude who works in a call center on how to become bigger than the Danger Brothers. Hell, last week their video for "Chad Henne is a Motherf***ing Joke" went over 400,000 YouTube views. And the Dead S played most their career BEFORE the internet even existed."

But I explained to Johnny he had made my point for me: "Not so fast J.D., (he hates when I call him that) what if the title of the song had been changed to "Chad Henne is a Motherscratching Joke?" Still funny, but now children, grandparents and Danger Brothers fans could all enjoy the song without all the salty language. I bet it would be over a million views. Just sayin....."

As usual, Johnny got short with me, "Hassler, you have seen the band live and should know what this is all about. Now, shut the fuck up and get me another fuckin' beer. And not one of yours, one of mine." Johnny isn't exactly known for keeping the "bandito talk" south of the border himself, if you know what I mean. 

It is true the band is pretty intense live If you can get past the sailor talk, sporadic violence and bone-rattling volume. I got turned onto them early when I was roommates with Brian and Colin at 65 East Patterson, so I got to check them out when Watershed opened for them at Little Brothers. The next year Watershed opened again at a sold out Newport Music Hall show. Colin never admits it, but I think it bothers him that a joke band like the Dead Schembechlers are way bigger than his band Watershed will ever be. I think that is why he drinks so much at those gigs. He claims it's because he truly hates Michigan and likes to drink. Yeah, right. 

The last time I saw them was at Skully's on High Street. The show was also sold out. In fact, all seven shows they have ever played have been sold out. Anyway, my now ex-wife Kim and I had just started dating so I invited her to the gig. She asked if it would be cool if she wore a U-M Charles Woodson jersey and I figured since I sort of knew some of the guys in the band, if there was a problem, we could take care of it with Security.

I guess she became a Michigan fan because a guy she dated in high school went on to to play tennis in Ann Arbor and it just kind of stuck. And I have to admit, she looked pretty hot in that Charles Woodson jersey. I, of course, wore my vintage Jim Karsatos jersey from 1986. Pretty sweet. I thought we made a cute couple. I used to anyway.....

Because of our divorce, I'm not legally allowed to share exactly what happened next, but let's just say I'm forever thankful to Ricki C. for helping Kim wipe off all the Wolverine blood that Bo Biafra vomited on her during "Michigan Stadium is a Pile of S**T." I guess now I know why bands demand a pile of fresh towels backstage before every show. Sometimes they do come in handy!!! Anyway, thanks for reading my blog and Go Bucks! Muck Fichigan! (Ha!)   - Jeff Hassler


Jeff Hassler is a blogger at Pencilstorm. You can e-mail him at 


Below. 1) Rare footage of Dead Schembechlers legendary sold-out Hate Michigan rally 2006 at the Newport Music Hall. 2)  An inside look at the recording of the single "Rich Rodriguez Can Suck My D**k."

Ten Albums That Changed My Life - by JCE

Not my ten favorite albums, not my “desert island discs,” but the ten albums that CHANGED MY LIFE. Don’t get me wrong, none of these records got me off of a ledge or anything. It’s just that rock and roll music, after family, means more to me than anything. So, certain records that impact how I feel and what I listen to, really do change my day-to-day life on occasion. Here we go:

1. Paul Revere and the Raiders / Greatest Hits – My first LP record. I had purchased quite a few 45 rpm’s, but this was my first full length album. I bought it for their cover of “Louie, Louie” which I could not find on a 45 but I had to have it. My Mom took me to Korvettes department store and I paid for it with nickels and dimes. When I got it home, I discovered that most every song on it was great, especially “Kicks.” And so began my full-on rock n roll addiction. This was released in 1967, but I know I must’ve been more than four years old when I got it, but I’m not sure how old. It’s very fitting that “many now see it as a bold 1960’s rock n roll record with a defiant punk edge” according to one review I just read.


2. The Beach Boys / Endless Summer – I played this double-LP in my room and day-dreamed about girls for hours and hours on end. I had a little all-in-one stereo that I absolutely loved, and I think my true love for vinyl records began with this one. It had a gatefold cover and great artwork. It was released in 1974. I loved the song “Wendy.” I would have been eleven or twelve years old when I got it. Yep, that sounds about right.


3. The Cars – My sister Molly went to Boston University (we lived in Virginia). She discovered a local band there called The Cars, right before they broke it big. When their debut came out in 1978, I got a copy on her advice and I loved every song on it from the first day. I had been listening non-stop to the first Van Halen record, which I also loved, and which had been released a few months before The Cars record. The Cars were the band that somehow sent me down the path to punk rock. R.I.P. Molly, I miss you.


4. The Clash – I probably got this record having never heard any songs on it. It was already older (1977) than the Cars record, but I didn’t learn about The Clash and the Sex Pistols and punk rock until after. I will always love everything about this record. It led me on a direct path to The Damned, The Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Buzzcocks, 999, Stiff Little Fingers, Generation X and on and on…. HUGE impact on my life.


5. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers / Damn the Torpedoes – This record just couldn’t be any better. In high school, being a punk and a skater made me somewhat of an outcast. Damn the Torpedoes was one record I could play that I was pretty sure everyone could agree was pure genius. “Here Comes My Girl” was a song that ran a shiver up my back every time I heard it, still does. The record was released late in 1979. I would have been a junior. The record got me through some of those times when I felt a little alone, maybe a little too much like a loner. I don’t know why, it just spoke to me. It still does.


6. X / Los Angeles – After about a year listening to punk mostly from across the big pond, this record came out and re-energized me. I found it to be scary and dangerous and urgent. It is truly one of my favorite records and one I feel is very important. I consider the Dead Kennedy’s “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” almost equal to this X record, but I got the X record first, so it gets on my list. Both records came out in 1980.


7. Government Issue / Joy Ride – With my musical tastes firmly entrenched in punk rock, I found myself immersed in the punk scene which was percolating in the city in which I was born, Washington, D.C. The HarD.C.ore scene was very exciting to me, but being honest, I felt that quite a bit of the music itself was not up to par with other stuff I was listening to. Initially, I found it hard to truly enjoy the super-speed, play-as-fast-as-you-can style coming from the D.C. hardcore punk scene. Then I discovered Government Issue. John Stabb (R.I.P.) was spectacular live. This 1984 release had a song on it called “Understand” that really got a hold of me, although every song on the record is great. From this record, I embraced HarD.C.ore and I still listen to a steady diet of it today. I have many fond memories of the scene in its heyday.


8. The Neighborhoods / The High Hard One – There was a guy in the music scene in Charlottesville, VA, where I went to college, by the name of Maynard. Maynard played in some great bands and he promoted some shows. He started putting up fliers all over town one day that said “Fire Is Coming.” I didn’t know what it meant at first, until I found out it was the name of an EP by a band from Boston called The Neighborhoods. I got very close to a bunch of amazing people in Charlottesville, including, eventually, my wife. We all saw tons of great shows, went to every gig played by our friends in a band called 98 Colours (some of those opening for the ‘Hoods)—it was a great time in my life. Everyone I knew absolutely loved The Neighborhoods upon the release of “The High Hard One.” I must’ve played “WUSA” ten thousand times. This record, for me, was the soundtrack for one of the happiest times of my life. I actually like the “Reptile Men” record even better, but this was the record (1986) that I associate with discovering so many new things and new people and so much new music.


9. Enuff Z’Nuff – From the hair metal, Sunset Strip, glam and sleaze era, a few bands emerged that were so much more and so far above many bands from that genre. Every song on it is excellent and because of this record, I began listening to some different bands that I may have previously blown off as “not punk enough.” On the more metal side, I discovered The Hangmen. On the pop side, I went back and rediscovered my love of Cheap Trick. I started dating the beautiful woman that has now been my wife for 27 years in 1990. This Enuff Z’Nuff record, released in 1989, was played damn near every single day for the first few months of our relationship. We saw the band at The Bayou in Georgetown as they toured in support of this record. We have a handful of “our songs” but this is definitely “our record.”


10. Social Distortion – This self-titled release came out in 1990. The album “Mommy’s Little Monster” was released in 1983 and I have been a Social Distortion fan since that time. There are a number of reasons why this record is on my list. This record came out the year I started dating my wife, and like the Enuff Z’Nuff record, it was a record we loved together. The song “Ball and Chain” is one of my all-time favorites, and my wife adores the Johnny Cash cover, “Ring of Fire.” The record also includes “Sick Boy” and “Story of My Life,” which are both classics. My wife and I gave up alcohol for about twelve years, during the time that we conceived our daughter and during the formative years after she was born. We also saw very little live music during that period of time. Upon taking up beer and wine drinking after a long hiatus, the first show we went to see was Social Distortion at the 9:30 Club in D.C. in October 2010. It was so frigging awesome that we have been to see an average of more than a show per month from that day to the present. I recently got my first tattoo, to honor my sister who I lost, and during the process, at my request, the artist played the Social Distortion Pandora radio station. I can’t express how truly integral music is to my daily life, and this very personal experience was definitely enhanced by the soundtrack that accompanied it. This band has meant a great deal to me since 1983. This particular record is the most representative of the impact they have had


This list is in chronological order.  I cannot guarantee that the list wouldn’t change if I thought about it longer, but I think I’m pretty happy with it.  You might notice there is nothing on the list newer than 1990.  That may be a mistake, as I love and continue to collect music now just as much or even more than ever.  I love music more than ever, but there probably just aren’t that many instances where it can change my life at this point.  My list is heavy on the 1977-1980 releases, but I think that’s natural because when you’re 15 years old, your life is just starting to take shape.  This is a list of records that truly left their mark. - JCE

(editor’s note: JCE thinks it might be cool if some/all of the other Pencilstorm writers - Colin, Ricki C, Anne Marie, Scott Carr, etc. write up THEIR life-changing disc picks. For that matter, it might be nice if we could figure a way for READERS of Pencilstorm to chip in and send their two cents worth on the matter, participatory journalism at its best.)

Little Steven Van Zandt is Playing at the Newport THIS Wednesday Night, and You Should Go - by Ricki C.

Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul will be appearing at the Newport Music Hall Wednesday, November 14th. Doors are at 7 pm, details available here: Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul.

I didn’t see Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band for the first time until April 5th, 1976, at the Ohio Theater here in Columbus, Ohio on the Born To Run tour.  Consequently, I never saw the E Street Band when it did not contain Little Steven Van Zandt – or “Miami Steve” as he was nicknamed in those days – on lead guitar & harmony vocals.  Despite everything I read back then in the rock press of the 1970’s before that 1976 tour – about the legendary prowess of Bruce Springsteen as a live performance force of nature from the very beginnings of his career – I cannot believe the E Street Band was EVER as good WITHOUT Steven Van Zandt as they were WITH him.   

People tend to forget that Bruce didn’t play much lead guitar until the Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour in 1978.  That first night at the Ohio Theater, and the next show I saw, in 1977 at Veteran’s Memorial in Columbus (the so-called “Lawsuit Tour” when the E Street Band were scrabbling out a living on the road after being sued by original manager Mike Appel), Little Steven carried the lion’s share of the lead guitar duties in the soul-smashing E Street Band. 

And make no mistake, though Big Man Clarence Clemons on saxophone was undoubtedly Springsteen’s main onstage foil in those mid-period E Street Band days – and I LOVED Clemons’ stage presence & superlative playing – it was Van Zandt who was the Keith Richards to Bruce’s Jagger, that sure and steady hand on the rock & roll rudder that kept everything locked TIGHT and rocking. 

So did it break my heart a little when Van Zandt left the E Street Band in the 1980’s to go solo?  Yeah, I admit it did.  And do I believe for one minute that any of Steven’s “replacements” in the E Street Band – Nils Lofgren, Tom Morello – could (or should) follow five paces behind Little Steven and carry his guitar case, great as they are in their own way?  No, I really don’t.  

And don’t even get me started on Steven’s sartorial style or the verbal brilliance he deploys on his Underground Garage Sirius radio channel.

Anyway, I could go on gushing like a 15-year old girl all night, but here’s the point: If you can’t get yourself out to New York City and the Great White Way to witness Bruce Springsteen On Broadway, at least get yourself over to The Newport on Wednesday night and see some rock & roll the way it should be done.  It can’t hurt ya.  – Ricki C. / November 13th, 2018 

The Pencilstorm Interview: Jerry David DeCicca - by Colin Gawel

Now residing in Texas, Jerry David DeCicca returns to his old haunt of Columbus for a show Sunday, November 11th at Ace of Cups. (2619 N High St.), 6pm showtime. (Click here for more info ). Jerry is spending the rest of 2018 touring to support his latest record, Burning Daylight, released on Super Secret Records. He was nice enough to tap out some answers to my questions on his phone while traveling. - Colin Gawel

C.G. - You released two very different sounding full length records in 2018. Was that always the plan? What got into you?

J.D.D. - I wrote the songs on Time the Teacher awhile ago, thinking I’d be recording them in Texas with an acoustic guitar - lots of fingerpicking - and some friends. But then the chance to work with some UK producers came up. They wanted to take my songs out of that dude-with-acoustic guitar world (which has always been a bit cliche, but more artistically conservative than ever lately) and create a new world for my songs with piano, horns, and backing vocalists. They removed my guitar. It took a while to make that album. Lots of bouncing files & mixes, that sort of stuff. Then there were big labels interested, because they loved the album, then not interested because I’m, uh, old-ish and lacking metadata and management. (I think that’s a nice way to put it...) So then the producers released it on their own label. Well, that took up a ton of calendar pages. In the meantime, Super Secret Records in Austin asked me to make record for them, so I did that, too. It just piled up. I thought releasing two records - and my best two, I think - in the same year might be cool, especially because of how different the records are from one another. I may have been wrong. The verdict is still out.

C.G. - You recently wrote an excellent essay about your affection for 90's-era Springsteen and fighting your own depression demons in your youth. Did you subconsciously create your own Human Touch and Lucky Town? (Click here to read the essay at

J.D.D. - Well, Human Touch was an exercise. Lucky Town is high art. Darkness & The River are probably better analogies, though I’m comparing them in terms of ideology, sound, and politics more than similar levels of quality. And I appreciate you reading that essay - it was easy to write, tough to live.

C.G. - In related news, you have the drummer who played on Lucky Town playing on Burning Daylight. You always seem to work with an eclectic range of musicians on your projects, what is your process for deciding who plays on what?

J.D.D. - In music, as an artistic pursuit and a marginal career, geography is destiny. I use what’s accessible to me and what feels right. I try not to reach too far away from a home base for collaborators - I’m still more comfortable having looked into the whites of the eyes of players to give life to my songs. Making records with people is still intimate to me. Time the Teacher was full of brilliant strangers, but one of the producers I deeply trust, so that’s what helped me let go of control. The drummer in Burning Daylight, Gary Mallaber, has long been a favorite. He took a bigger leap of faith than me, flying into nowhere west Texas based on a random phone call. I am working with more strangers these days, but that’s because I moved somewhere not knowing many people. But, I’ve got good instincts and music is still my vehicle to make new friends.

C.G. - You seem to spend as much time producing records for other folks as you do recording your own songs. What’s happening on that side of the glass?

J.D.D. - I just wrapped up final mixes & approving masters for two records I produced due out next year. One is a new Chris Gantry record. It’s gonna blow minds, best thing he’s ever done. He had one huge hit, “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” that Glen Campbell cut. He was a favorite writer of Johnny Cash and Kristofferson, had lots of other cuts. It’s an incredible album. He’s in his 70’s and one of the best acoustic guitar players I’ve ever heard. The other artist is a guy named Will Beeley. He had two records in the 70’s reissued by Tompkins Square recently. This is his first in almost 40 years. We made it in San Antonio. He’s an over-the-road trucker now. You’ve heard of Americana Fest? All those people are bullshit, playing & writing fan fiction, fashionable garbage cans in the shape of an acoustic guitar. Beeley is the real deal. As soon as you hear his voice you’re reminded that authenticity can’t be defined, but you know it when you hear it.

C.G. - Very cool. I’m excited to check both of those out. Switching gears, as a young man, you worked at Used Kids records during the height of the Columbus Indie music scene, alongside such notables as the late Jerry Wick, Bela K. and Ron House. How did a Springsteen-loving newbee such as yourself land such a prestigious gig anyway?

J.D.D. - They were all music freaks. So am I. Freaks attract freaks. I was friends with you back then, too, so connect the dots…..

C.G. - What are some of the bars & bands you remember from your days on High Street?

J.D.D. - Bars: Stache’s, Bernie’s, Larry’s. Everyone at those places were kinder to me than they should have been. Bands: too many to name, but so many Big Brothers & Big Sisters let me tag along. You were a big part of my development. I was 20 years old when you & Joe began tolerating me. You took me inside your house one night and listened to my songs. After 4 or 5 tunes, you told me none of my songs had a bridge, we talked about Dwight Yoakam, and then you taught me how and why to write a bridge, it’s purpose & content, musically & lyrically. I remember every word, still. You were so right!! I was so excited you told me you liked this new record, because I applied what you taught me over 20 years ago to many of these songs. I owe you a beer.

C.G. - Wow! I do remember that night, though the details escape me now. I don’t know how we wound up at the Watershed house on 65 E Patterson, but I suspect it was late and beers were involved. Ok, final question. If I would have told the 20-year old Jerry that in 2018 he would release two full length records and travel from Texas to play a show in Columbus at a club owned by Marci Mays, what would he have thought?

J.D.D. - I would have said: of course! I knew I was going to make records that were art > commerce, that was the plan. I thought it was going to look different than this - more sustainable, more listeners, more opportunity to explore. But that was the 90’s then, the heyday of music, financially, where money trickled down to weirdos like me. I knew I was going to live somewhere else. I love Columbus, but also obsessed with the adventure of the Next. I mean, when I was 20, I was still a kid. But I knew I valued music as art, that I wanted it to be heavy and deep and be taken seriously. I really do appreciate how sweet you were to me back then. It meant a ton, then & now.

C.G - Always a pleasure, my friend. Safe travels and hope to take you up on that beer soon.

Rating the KISS Unmasked Draft Albums - by Nick Jezierny

Click here for complete results of KISS Unmasked Fantasy Draft

(editor’s Note: On a 100-degree day in Boise, Nick decided not to ride his mountain bike like he does every Tuesday and chose to sit around in his Kiss boxers and rate these records. “Seems like a productive thing to do,” his wife said sarcastically.)

This is going to be harder than I anticipated – I’ve studied the albums, tried my own crazy formula to rank them (way too complicated and probably too scientific). I thought about ranking all songs from 1-71 and then scoring the records like a cross country meet.

That seemed like a lot of work, and since my love of Kiss sometimes means a song I’m not super-high on one day becomes a favorite the next, I’ve decided I’m just going to go with my gut and that means this: the best rule for unmasked Kiss – the fewer Gene songs, the better.

Let’s be honest. The Demon struggled mightily between the last makeup record “Creatures of the Night” and the last non-makeup record (at least in this draft) “Revenge.” He was making movies and the 80’s fashion trends didn’t suit him well.

So the record that starts with “Domino” and ends with “Lonely is the Hunter” and has a total of eight Gene songs is automatically eliminated. Not only does it have eight Simmons songs, but none of his best five from this era are included.

  • Thou Shalt Not

  • Secretly Cruel

  • Unholy

  • Betrayed

  • Fits Like A Glove

The highlight of this last-place record in “Silver Spoon,” one of my favorites.

Time to eliminate another record. Two others records have at least five Gene songs, but Gene songs are created unequal. The album that contains two of his epic duds – “Murder in High Heels” and “Any Way You Slice It” – among six Simmons offerings is the next on the chopping block.

While the Gene songs didn’t help — “No No No” is another stinker — it was the lack of great Paul songs that led to its demise. While “Exciter” and “Tough Love” are above-average, they aren’t enough to warrant this record as the winner. And it has “My Way,” which is “no way” in my book.

The next cut was difficult. It would be easy to take an album with five Gene songs, but I’m going a different direction. The album that starts with “Take It Off” and ends with “Carr Jam” is the next to go.

While this album featured a legitimate No. 2 pick in “A Million To One,” there wasn’t enough substance to follow it. I found myself wanting to rank this higher, but there are a lot of forgettable or blah songs, including “(You Make Me) Rock Hard,” “While the City Sleeps,” “Get All You Can Take” and “Who Wants To Be Lonely.”

This disc only had two Gene songs – “Not For The Innocent” and “Spit” – but those aren’t album killers, but they also couldn’t help it stave off elimination.

That leads us to the five-Gene song album that starts with “Unholy.” Between that hit and “Fits Like A Glove,” some of Gene’s best non-makeup work shows up. So does his worst: “Love’s A Deadly Weapon.”

There are some other strong picks – “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire),” “Heart of Chrome” and “Thrills in the Night” – but there’s too much filler to warrant a top-two finish. I consider “Reason to Live” like much of the “Crazy Nights” record – average at best. “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You” is a forgettable tune and might be the worst second song on any Kiss record. (It’s worse than “Any Way You Slice It”!)

That takes us to the top two records. Both are strong records for different reasons, but I’m going to eliminate the record that opens with “Crazy, Crazy Nights” and ends with “The Street Giveth and The Street Taketh Away.”

This record had a lot going for it. “I’m Alive” and “Tears Are Falling” are very strong, and two of Gene’s best - “Thou Shalt Not” and “Secretly Cruel” - are as good as it gets from him in this era. I even like “Forever” enough to ignore “Let’s Put the X in Sex.”

What really sunk this record is the inclusion of “Hide Your Heart.” Back in 1989, when I was a senior at Ohio University, Kiss released “Hot in the Shade” around the same time as Ace Frehley released “Trouble Walkin’,” which as you may know, also featured a version of “Hide Your Heart.” I thought Ace’s version was vastly superior to the poppier Kiss version to the point where I dislike the Kiss version. So that was my tiebreaker – “Hide Your Heart” made this record worse than our champion.

Congratulations to the record that starts with the ultimate opening song from the non-makeup era, “King of the Mountain” and ends with perhaps my pick for the steal of this draft, the 11th-rounder “You Love Me To Hate You.”

In between, this record includes “Lick It Up,” “Heaven’s On Fire” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” for hits. If you want some under-the-radar magic, you’ve got “Gimme More,” “Under The Gun” and a not-so-bad “Betrayed” as one of only two Gene songs on the mix.

We can overlook “Radar For Love” and “When Your Walls Come Down” and realize each of these albums has a dud – “Bang Bang You.”

So that’s it. I intentionally didn’t look at the names of the albums or who drafted them. I wanted to keep this on the up-and-up. Really, I’m jealous I couldn’t participate and would have liked to have included “Carnival of Souls” because there are five or six songs that would have been fine additions to some of these records.

Nick Jezierny is a former journalist who has seen Kiss 10 times on nine different tours and in eight different venues in six different states. He works as a Communications Specialist at Blue Cross of Idaho where he writes a Song Lyric of the Day each morning on the whiteboard in his cubicle.