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The 44th Worst Album Ever by Daniel M. Shapiro Š 2012 by Daniel M. Shapiro Cover photo of Dylan Shapiro by Kristin Shapiro Title Font: Die Nasty by Ray Larabie Chapbook by NAP

The 44th WoRst Album * EveR Daniel M. ShapiRo

Pop music has become big business, whereas it once was a folk music of a particular generation. It becomes more business than art. —Mary Travers (1936-2009), of Peter, Paul, and Mary, in an interview with Daniel M. Shapiro, Indiana Daily Student, February 8, 1991

#44*: MUSIC FROM “THE ELDER,” KISS, CASABLANCA RECORDS, 1981 *Source: “The 50 Worst Albums Ever!” Q Magazine, May 2006


No one put in the time to study when definition expanded, from appeal to speak the truth to curse like a sailor, when I swear turned support-group fodder. In the scenario of fantasy, the comic book rough draft, oath often begins as a promise: to defend the code, to suppress evil. Profanity dwells in failure, the clumsy prick of a vein to extract red ink, vocals out of key. Paycheck critics curse the concept album, labeling it the children’s cereal wreaking havoc on adult bodies, while others sign paychecks over to the Korporation. They watch profits glitter in documentaries, Kiss Kam™ confections marketed as confessions, smudged borders of three-chord anthem and farce, where both brands of oath can thrive.

The Human Tongue’s Essential PuRposes (Adapted fRom The OxfoRd Companion to the Body)

1. Moving food around in the mouth. In 1980, Gene Simmons could shovel a spoonful of Vita-Brits or Crispies cereal into his mouth and work his organ. Each box included 9 different Kiss put-ons stickers. And on the back of each pack [was] a knockout picture of the band without their faces! Gene could’ve used the put-ons to decorate [his] books, bags—everything! 2. Taste. Gene Simmons sells caskets and life insurance. Each of these contains an iconic logo that never goes out of style. 3. Speech. In a 2002 NPR interview, Gene Simmons told Terry Gross, Women, and their sisters, and their moms, seem to want to express their adoration and/or fan-worship, or perhaps they want to see if my oral appendage actually does have a spin-and-dry cycle, and whether or not it has the ability to whip up a good froth. Ladies, I’m here to tell you it does.

TRack 2: FanfaRe

The brass, the ear-splitting cry of watch me. It has become old as girlfriends older than 20. When the four men sit down, they needn’t do so on thrones. A few hours on a hard bench can implode the distractions, eyes shielded from Aqua-Net poisons. Years ago, they were goin’ blind. Now they insist on walking single file past others’ instruments, the stiffly angled shouts of Yes, sir. As if the Korporation can’t function without sanctimony. As if the Katalogue, earnest legacy of written music, weren’t diluting as we speak.

ERic CaRR Auditions to Replace PeteR CRiSS

He asked for autographs in case he never saw them again. They craved his anonymity, the unknown face to ease behind the image of a fox, economical, known for looking out to avoid the dark light approaching. The Korporation turned Caravello into Carr, yet another replication of Eisen to Stanley, Witz to Simmons. Afterthought: He drummed beautifully.

TRack 3: Just a Boy

He must have been 12 when he devised the plan, his mind a crypt unable to pin the tingle, but he didn’t care, knowing he would do anything to feel it every day. He would start by changing his name, then his face. He would become a teacher to learn how to control them, to make them believe they shouldn’t just settle for twist endings, parallel lines. They would repay him with keys to their cars, secret passwords to make women eager. Stimuli would change, but the tingle would continue, a breath of fire.

Appendix A: PeteR CRiss, Who Didn’t Play on “Music fRom ‘The EldeR’” (Found Poem)

My daughter did a report in school. All the kids said what their dads did. When they got to her, she said, My dad wears 7-inch heels and lipstick and makes a lot more money than your dads.

Source: “Dinosaurs still rockin’.” Author: Daniel M. Shapiro, Cedar Rapids Gazette, 12/18/98

TRack 4: DaRk Light

The Katalogue spread its arms to hug this one, embracing a head-bobbing throb, a chocolate rice crunch. (The Katalogue is partial to the tune penned or sung by Ace, “Cold Gin,” “Parasite” and “Shock Me” its favorite sons.) When the Korporation swooped in to snatch solos from our Spaceman, the Katalogue wept in swirling treble-clef tears, black print of staff paper blending with green print of bills, with no clear winner declared.

Buying All FouR Kiss Solo Albums, Gold CiRcle, RochesteR, N.Y., 1980

We passed the scent of salted butter to ride one level up, where the heads of monsters lurked under dimmed lights, a shrink-wrapped coven. It was as if the store didn’t want to let them go, as if they were that plush gift-shop creature we had craved before the clerk scared us by sobbing goodbye to it. We just left it there. Years later, we would hear a rumor that pro wrestling wasn’t real, that half our heroes had been taking a dive. No one ever told us Floor Two had housed the bargain bin, disgraces propped up by forgotten cables and moon boots. Before the grease paint came off to reveal four standard men, we would keep our masks on, thwarting those not made up.

Originally appeared in The Toucan Magazine

TRack 5: Only You

can prevent forest fires. have the answer. can make this world seem right. are the manchild. , for a limited time, can get this exclusive signed Kiss Army patch. know the real man underneath.

PRoduceR Bob EzRin Looks DiRectly into the Kiss Kam™ to Explain Himself

It was never about artistic vision. I wish I had an answer.When I worked with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper: vision. (Alice even called me his George Martin.) Peter Gabriel’s album—the one with the raindrops on the car—vision. I had done Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”You just can’t get more visiony than that.You can’t. As a boy in Canada, I never would’ve imagined the money, the piles of money, what I would buy with the money. But cocaine—I hate to make excuses. I wasn’t raised to make excuses. No one has a better ear than I do. People bring me songs, they bring me skeletons, expecting me to make flesh, to make speech. “Elder” sounds—it’s like listening to a 911 tape, like when a woman calls and says she’s afraid of her husband, and then the line goes dead. It should’ve been about vision.

TRack 6: UndeR the Rose

It’s no use to compare. Roses of the past might have been redder. They smelled like flowers, no registered trademarks resting on embossed petals. Mythologies don’t develop from seeds. The American Dream, born overseas, may require elbowing one’s way to the front of the line. Observe the silver-and-black costumes, where patches are sewn with a purpose.

It’s AlReady Dead by the Time We See It

He chuckles when asked why he tries to hide, why the famous star on his face has five points instead of six, if he wears his hair long to cover the deformed ear. He places the blame for artificial hips on years of wearing platform boots. At concerts, women much younger than Paul Stanley bare their breasts, top-notch implants further magnified by Jumbotrons. While making “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park,” Paul learned the significance of post-production: If we must shoot laser beams from our eyes but miss our targets, we’ll simply fix things later.

TRack 7: A WoRld without HeRoes

The makeup provides the power. Think Bruce Wayne: Uptight, lonely, with no one there to empathize. Yet everybody understands Batman while he enables bystander morality. A couple of years after “Elder,” four years after Fonzarelli jumped the shark, the band showed up plain-faced, nearly pretend. A handful of worshipers still wait for real men in greasepaint to return, pull on ropes, inch up flat buildings, with Kiss Kam™ tilted sideways. Desperation feels too artificial, a musty place free of flash pots where only the power ballad ventures. Fans are more apt to believe when they’re active participants in the lie, providers of a cover.

Appendix B: New Age Jazz ARtists Tuck + Patti, Who, Like PeteR CRiss, Didn’t Play on “Music fRom ‘The EldeR’” (Found Poem)

We want our music to be positive, uplifting, and about love. Some of today’s acts have gotten hit records off music that they hate. We have the big advantage of loving what we do.

Source: “Eclectic duo to perform with voice and guitar.” Author: Daniel M. Shapiro, Indiana Daily Student, 10/2/90

TRack 8: MR. Blackwell (oR, Let’s Choose Whom This Song Attacks)

1. Otis Blackwell The writer behind “Great Balls of Fire.” (We cross out his name.) 2. Chris Blackwell Producer whose mom inspired “James Bond” character Pussy Galore. (So no way.) 3. Roger D. Blackwell Ohio State University prof imprisoned for insider trading. (Target or role model?) 4. Ed Blackwell Jazz drummer who, most likely, was admired by Peter Criss. (Therefore a candidate.) 5. Henry Blackwell Famed cricket player of the late 19th century. (Another candidate.) 6. Tom Blackwell Turned real objects into stylized art. (Need we say more?) 7. Mr. Blackwell (a.k.a. Richard Blackwell) Casting a critic as villain: But that would have been playing it safe.

Ace FRehley at Ribs on the RiveR 3, PittsbuRgh, 6/17/11

Accompanied by the right combination of vinegar, liquid smoke, and train whistle, he showers us with unused guitar picks. A Paul Stanley sound-alike sings and drums “Love Her All I Can,” the Kiss song that erects the best of all solos by Ace, who was once too shy to sing lead but learned to stand up, who put out an album called “Trouble Walkin’” but learned to stand up, who might’ve been eaten alive by hot-shot producers like Ezrin but learned to stand up, who got greased by Gene and Paul but learned to stand up, appearing before us without a memory of eyeliner. He tells us he’s been sober. He grinds crystal lines on a signature Les Paul. Don’t worry: He has enough picks. Don’t worry: The rockets never hurt him. Don’t worry: The Monongahela and glass castle across the way will still be here when he wakes up in the morning, which he will do.

TRack 9: Escape fRom the Island

We know what no man is, yet we give ladies the lay and follow with goodbye, expect they’ll accept the gift. When we wake up to marriage, when we get down on one knee, their happiest day drips carats. They look down on beggars.  

Kiss Kam™ Focuses on a TenoR fRom St. RobeRt’s ChoiR

Mr. Ezrin knew someone who knew our director. We had been rehearsing for the Easter pageant— early March, so no costumes yet.Thirteen of us sat around the long table one minute, rode the bus to New York the next. Mr. Ezrin had wanted us to sing all over that record, lyrics like I’m no hero or Once upon—not yet or I believe in something more than you can understand. These were responsible themes. Jesus never would’ve claimed to have been a hero. Some believe His story didn’t really begin until after the resurrection. It just… felt right to all of us. We worked maybe a day or two, gave all that cash to the church— no more spaghetti dinners, no more car washes that year, 1981 A.D.

TRack 10: Odyssey

With no Kiss Kam™ in sight, the Korporation and Katalogue sit down to try to work things out. Korporation: I’ve always loved you, you know. Katalogue: I don’t know if I know. Korporation: Money gives us options, opportunities. Here. Let me show you this presentation— Katalogue: Graphs and spreadsheets? Really? Korporation: Our sales from Kolorforms™ alone will buy song writing time, studio time. Katalogue: Time to write and record disco songs, new wave songs, next wave songs. Korporation: Business models shift. If you need me to explain what a diversified portfolio is— Katalogue: Don’t patronize me. Intrinsically— Korporation: [Laughs] Katalogue: I wouldn’t have agreed to this meeting if— Korporation: Sorry, sorry. I will let you finish. Katalogue: For every lunchbox we sell, a song begins to die.You don’t listen— Korporation: I’m listening now. Katalogue:Your bottom line isn’t about listening. Korporation: Our bottom lines are the same. Katalogue: [Knocks over chair while walking out]

PhRases Used in Daniel M. ShapiRo’s Review of Kiss ConceRt, CedaR Rapids Gazette, 12/21/98

Hefty price tag Hungry panther Flying demons Futuristic garb Music mattered the most Rocket-shooting guitars Not in this for the money Drummer-manned spaceship Impossibly high heels Satisfied with eyes closed  

TRack 11: I

One of the least-liked words in poetry arrives confidently near The End, a boy finally recognizing all you need isn’t love but confidence. Just believe. Faith took its time, ambling crudely like a John Wayne cowboy wannabe. One becomes jittery when he realizes if life doesn’t get better after $40 million, it must be $50 million he needs. Only then comes the prospect of will.

Daniel M. ShapiRo Sings “Heaven’s on FiRe” with Alan E. Simon duRing a Spanish Test, BRighton High School, RochesteR, NY, ca. 1987

What we did wrong: We made devil horns, extending pinkie and index finger correctly, but we locked the middle fingers with our thumbs. When Gene Simmons invented I love you, he aimed a loose thumb at the sky. We would need to learn how to love 4,000 women later. What we did right: We whispered, unplugged, an homage to Wicked Lester days. We showed our genuine faces under gawking lights, never missing a word. Prepared to take burn with me literally, we both got A’s.

TRack 12: Finale (OR, The Kiss Kam™ Talks to Itself in the MiRRoR)

To relax, not to record anything: This logo cannot be removed. After the man has reached inside me to change reels, I will not remember. He forgot to wipe the lens this time; whatever splashed on it prevents me from seeing, but I know I’m here. Only when he gives me a new reel can history begin again, unedited.


Appendix C: If Gene Simmons Hadn’t DiscoveRed Van Halen

The masses would not have complained about our post-Roth times, the gnarled beasts of Van Hagar, Ex-Extreme. We would be celebrating Van Streisand’s long, blessèd road. First place in the Worst Lyrics of All-Time Bonanza would not belong to Hagar’s Only time will tell if we stand the test of time but would rest on Sex Double Entendre’s gnarled-beast shoulders. Tribute bands named Unchained and Eruption would have written their own songs, riveted the Sunset Strip, married Valerie Bertinelli, and been discovered by Gene Simmons. No one would have needed to champion the reintegration of brown M&Ms. Gene Simmons would have claimed he discovered a cure for that gnarled beast of gnarled beasts, cancer, marketed it as Kiss Kure for Kancer™, and gotten by.

Epilogue: Scooby-Doo Meets Kiss (Halloween TV Special)

In the end, what were we to do but arm ourselves with sponges, with Pond’s, to erase the true culprit. It sickened us to chase down the monster, to melt away Ace’s silver only to glare at wan-faced Oregonian Tommy Thayer, who had been scaring folks away to keep the coal mine all to himself. In the end, beaming, Shag and Scoob would collect the six-figure reward, would retire to the Mystery Machine with sponges, with Pond’s, would remove their disguises to reveal their true Gene and Paul selves. They wouldn’t have gotten away with it had it not been for you meddling kids.

About the AuthOR

Daniel M. Shapiro is a schoolteacher who lives in Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbooks Trading Fours (Pudding House Press) and Teeth Underneath (FootHills Publishing), and he is the co-author of Interruptions (Pecan Grove Press), a collection of collaborations with Jessy Randall. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Chiron Review, Gargoyle, Sentence, and Forklift, Ohio. His poetry website is


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