A Birthday Kiss to Ace Frehley
When you're the founder and guitarist of a band like Kiss, and your brand is literally stamped with makeup on your face, what other peaks are left to conquer?
That's the dilemma faced by Paul Daniel - A.K.A. "Ace" Frehley. Frehley, who was born April 27, 1951, adopted the persona of "The Spaceman" and helped etched the band's indelible image in the minds of millions of teen admirers early on. Ranked the "14th Greatest Metal Guitarist of All Time" by Guitar Player magazine, Ace (a nickname given him while still in school) summed up his unlikely career in a recent conversation with Rock 'n' Roll Experience magazine: "I'm an anomaly," he suggested. "I'm an un-schooled musician, I don't know how to read music, but I'm one of the most famous guitar players in the world. So go figure."
Frehley was born and raised in the Bronx New York, the son of Dutch and
German immigrants. He was a music enthusiast early on, picking up his
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first guitar at age 13 after becoming enamored with the Who and the
Rolling Stones. An early band called Cathedral brought him steady gigs,
encouraging him to drop out of school and play music full time.
Unfortunately, he also began to run with street gangs, leading him to
later credit music with saving his life. Following a string of local
bands, he saw an ad in the Village Voice announcing the fact that the
band Wicked Lester was auditioning for a lead guitarist. He got the gig,
joining members Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Peter Criss in a group
that would soon change their name to Kiss. It was Frehley, in fact, that
first offered the idea of wearing make-up on stage, as well as the
band's trademark double lightning logo.
While Frehley rarely sang in the band (an early exception was his song "Shock Me," inspired by his near electrocution in Tampa), he regularly contributed several of Kiss' signature songs, beginning with "Love Theme from Kiss" and "Cold Gin" from the band's 1974 self-titled debut.
Nevertheless, following the departure of Peter Criss, Frehley found himself overruled by Stanley and Simmons when it came to group decisions and became increasingly at odds with their producer Bob Ezrin. In December 1982, he opted to leave the band and pursue a solo career. It wasn't his first individual outing; in 1978, he and the other members of the group released four solo efforts simultaneously. Thanks to the success of the single "New York Groove," his album saw the most success.
The album was well received, garnering critical kudos from the press and a healthy reaction in the marketplace with sales of half a million copies. However, two succeeding efforts as Frehley's Comet failed to do as well as their predecessor and the Frehley's Comet banner was eventually abandoned. His next album, Trouble Walkin', was issued under his own name and featured a guest appearance from Peter Criss, as well as members of Skid Row. Frehley, in turn, contributed guitar to Criss' Cat #1 album in 1994 and the next year, both their bands toured in tandem.
An album, Psycho Circus, followed in September 1998, and prompted another tour, complete with new costumes and a new stage show. However, this outing wasn't nearly as successful as the previous jaunt, and a Kiss movie, Detroit Rock City, flopped as well. After a final performance at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Frehley left a second time, replaced by former Black 'n Blue guitarist Tommy Thayer, whose other claim to fame was that he had played Ace in a Kiss tribute band.
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