For me, 1985 was dominated by two major themes: Kiss and Crisis on Infinite Earths. After discovering an old cassette featuring a medley of songs from Alive II, I was compelled to score as many Kiss albums as possible, hitting up schoolmates and neighborhood kids to make tapes and to give me their unwanted Kiss albums. The first person to pitch in was a guy in my sixth grade class who got his older brother to record side three of Alive II (minus “I Want You,” for some reason) and later on, he managed to get side one and half of side three of Alive! A while later, one of my brother’s friends – who is apparently some kind of evangelical pastor these days – gave me his collection of Kiss LPs, including Kiss, Destroyer and Double Platinum. These albums were pretty much the soundtrack for my summer of ’85.
1985 and 1986 were great years for comics. Marvel’s Secret Wars and West Coast Avengers were some of my favorites but I found DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, with its elaborate and complex storytelling and continuity-altering milestones, to be absolutely captivating. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite comic series of all time. Issues 9 and 12 figure prominently in my “Wall of Fame” favorites list and Last Days of the Justice Society of America, a Crisis-influenced yarn, is my absolute favorite comic book ever.
We moved to Ohio in the late summer of 1985 and while taking a break from my Kiss craze, I discovered the local “album-rock” stations 96 ROCK and WTUE. I found a lot of new favorites on those stations, but I always came back to Kiss in the end.
Cover art for this mix CD came from the “Birth of the Multiverse” panel in the opening pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #1.
1. “I Stole Your Love” (live) (Alive II version; original release 1977)
2. “Got to Choose” (live) (Alive! version; original release 1975)
3. “Black Diamond” (Double Platinum version; original release 1978)
4. “Let Me Know” (original release 1974)
5. “Great Expectations” (original release 1976)
With my Kiss addiction in full swing, I scored tapes and albums wherever I could. Alive II seemed like a logical place to start, since my first taste of Kiss was the Alive II promotional medley I’d heard on a TV special about the history of music. As noted above, I landed cuts from Alive! and Alive II first. I played these tapes nonstop for months and I am really surprised they didn’t break or fall apart from wear and tear. I really loved the speed and execution of what I heard from Alive II but I also enjoyed the simplicity and power of the Alive! songs. For a little while, I couldn’t make out the words to “Got to Choose” and entertained the possibility that they were saying “Like your shoes.”
One of my brother’s friends caught wind of my budding obsession with Kiss and gave me his entire collection of Kiss LPs, including Double Platinum and Destroyer, the latter album having a loose copy of Kiss (their debut album) crammed in along with it. Destroyer was totally bad ass with the exception of the ballad “Beth” and the really bizarre tune “Great Expectations” which I always thought was kind of raunchy because it featured the word “breast” in the lyrics. Eventually, I started fantasizing about having my own Kiss cover band and I mapped out the music videos for songs like “Let Me Know” and “Black Diamond” in my mind. These songs figure prominently in my top 10 all-time favorites.
Incidentally, last I heard, my brother’s old pal is now a born-again evangelist type. I still listen to Kiss. Looks like I win.
6. “Popcorn” by Hot Buttered (original release 1972)
I discovered this song on an old tape of stuff that had been recorded off of television and the radio. I have no idea why in the hell anyone in my house would’ve recorded it but I liked it because it was weird.
7. “Spill the Wine” by Tommy Shaw by Eric Burdon and War (original release 1970)
I heard this song over the car radio while I was on a long car ride with my parents. I think we were headed to Lexington to get me enrolled in school. At the time, it was one of the strangest things I’d ever encountered.
8. “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” by Mötley Crüe (original release 1985)
I was pretty happy when Mötley Crüe finally started getting regular play on the radio and at the time, I thought this song was boss. In retrospect, it’s pretty bad but it’s still better than “Home Sweet Home.”
9. “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears (original release 1985)
One day, I was recording songs off of the radio and inadvertently caught the first few seconds of this song in the mix of rock and metal stuff I had taped. To this day, when I get to the end of “Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe, I always expect to hear the opening piano bars of this tune.
Selections from my Crisis on Infinite Earths soundtrack
10. “Condition of the Heart” by Prince and the Revolution
(original release 1985)
11. “The Fly” by Maynard Ferguson (original release 1977)
Even after the conclusion of the DC Comics miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, I remained thoroughly impressed and absolutely consumed with the multifaceted its dynamic storytelling. At one point, I tried to create a mixtape that served as the “soundtrack” to the stories. A lot of the music was just stuff that I’d “re-purposed” from the first Star Wars soundtrack but I borrowed from other albums, including stuff from my brother’s record collection. “Condition of the Heart” was included to symbolize the birth of DC’s Multiverse and “The Fly” was symbolized the Monitor’s creation inter-dimensional tuning forks and the Netherverse.
12. “Ninja” video game music
“Ninja” was a game for the Atari computer systems by Mastertronic. We had an Atari 800 and played this game all the time despite its predictability and relatively monotonous game play. I will never get this music out of my head. Never.
The Top Eight at Eight
13. “E=MC2” by Big Audio Dynamite (original release 1985)
14. “Vienna Calling” by Falco (original release 1985)
15. “Wet Dream” by Kip Addotta (original release 1985)
96 Rock, which I think was based in Hamilton, Ohio, was a great radio station that unfortunately went belly-up soon after we moved to the Dayton area. On of my favorite spots on the channel was their “Top Eight at Eight,” which my dad and I would catch every Friday night when we’d go out to pick up pizza from Cassano’s. These songs are the only ones I can recall from that particular show and era. It’s worth noting that at the time, I had no idea that Big Audio Dynamite was a post-Clash effort by Mick Jones, but I’d eventually realize it when I became a huge fan of The Clash during my high school years.
16. “Main Attraction” by Quiet Riot (original release 1985)
Although “The Wild and the Young” was the first official single off Quiet Riot III, my recollection is that “Main Attraction” was the first song I ever heard off the album. I heard it over the radio and I think 96 Rock was defunct by that time, and my best recollection is that I stumbled upon the song while I was attempting the relatively impossible task of getting Lexington’s WKQQ in on my old clock radio. It was a while before I actually purchased the LP and heard it in its entirety, but “Main Attraction” is one of my favorite Quiet Riot songs. It’s also a great way to kick off a dreary work week.
17. “Layin’ It on the Line” by Jefferson Starship (original release 1984)
I was never a big fan of any of the incarnations of Jefferson Airplane but I did catch the video for “Layin’ It on the Line” on an episode of Friday Night Videos and I kind of enjoyed it, so when I found the LP in the cut-out bin of the local Gold Circle store, I asked my folks to buy it. I think they were happy to do so, seeing as how I was finally asking for something other than Quiet Riot or Kiss albums. I told my Science teacher – who was (and remains) a wealth of musical and music-related information – that I’d bought the album and he said, “That must be a Paul Kantner-era album” to which I replied, “I dunno. I guess.” Later on, I was actually kind of bothered when I was looking over the album sleeve and I discovered the word “assholes” in the lyrics of the song “Champion.” My, how times have changed.
18. “Tonight You Belong to Me” by Paul Stanley (original release 1978)
19. “Living In Sin” by Gene Simmons (original release 1978)
Although my musical horizons expanded a bit, I rediscovered Kiss with a vengeance in 1986, recording about 90 minutes of songs off a special retrospective aired by Centerville High School’s radio station, WCWT. It was a fantastic show, featuring a lot of stuff I’d never heard from albums like Creatures of the Night, Lick It Up, and other records. I was always intrigued by the solo albums and the above-noted songs were the first cuts I’d heard from the Paul and Gene albums.
20. “I Can’t Wait” by Nu Shooz (original release 1984)
I taped this off the radio. Twice on the same cassette, even. Don’t know why, but I’ve always liked it.