Saturday, November 25, 2017

Back to Record Collecting

It all started for me when I was a young teen looking for a copy of the KISS classic KISS Alive II. For some reason none of the local music stores had any copies of the album so I was forced to order it from a record dealer that I found in a monthly rock magazine. Even though I was only looking for one particular album there was a title that caught my attention: KISS Killers. What was that? I already knew all of the albums and hadn't heard of this one. So after brief reading I learned that it was an album that the band had only released in Europe and Japan that was a compilation of classic songs with four new songs recorded in early 1982.


And this led to a passion of collecting not only every KISS album that had been released but also the band's rare, import and bootleg KISS albums that were being sold both my mail order, in special stores and of course from some interesting people that I met along the way. Sometimes they were packed in very creative ways as some people were very creative and made some really cool album covers. Sometimes they simply made a flier of the show and slid it into the packaging with the middle sticker of the record being written by hand. I didn't care because in both cases I had something that I didn't have yesterday as well as something that most fans didn't have at all.

It turned out the that album the version of Killers that I bought was the European release as the Japanese release had two additional tracks that were not included on the European release. Right away I felt the need to get both releases so the hunt began. That's when I also learned that some import records were sold as picture discs where the cover of the album was printed directly on the vinyl disc with many of these being rare collectibles since the record label would only print so many of them. Then I found out that it wasn't just European records that were of interest but also the German records specifically since they had a different KISS logo due to the normal SS looking too much like the Nazi SS. Therefore, KISS had to have a different logo for anything German including their stage logo whenever they toured in Germany.

I could see right away that I had a lot of work to do but I also knew that this would turn into a life long pursuit with me looking for things of specific eras and members. Also, I was only interested in records, pictures as well as magazines & books because I always loved reading interviews and other articles about the band (this also included merchandise put out by former KISS members who embarked on solo careers). Of course KISS has tons of merchandise with a lot of it being just rubbish in my opinion so I focused on the my main interests in order to keep me from overdoing it and from wasting money on things that are really of no value to me anyway.

Right away I started to do really well. First off, the company I purchased KISS Alive II and Killers from continued to send me catalogs. That's when I would ask my parents for certain things for my birthday and Christmas and to my surprise my parents were awesome about it. My mom was one of those mothers who took you seriously if something was important to you. She loved to encourage my passions and interests so whenever she could help she would. My father was a record collector himself as he had tons of Latin Jazz and Chicano rock albums so he understood how I felt about the music I wanted. Then we would frequent records stores as they were still a big part of our culture at that time and if you happened to walk into an independent record store it was amazing at times what they might have: KISS imports, bootlegs of both audio recordings & concerts and many other cool things. Many times my parents were more than willing to hook me up with these rarities so my collection continued to grow. Once I got a little older and was able to drive on my own I would frequent these special stores to see what they had and it was very rare for me to walk out with nothing in my hands.

Later on I would go to record shows and then meet some music dealers who will remain nameless who also had some interesting things to sell. That meant that a lot of what I had was not an official release and strangely enough, some of these bootlegs were also becoming collectors items. The music business is a dirty one so at times there were some homemade records that were either pressed to vinyl of put on cassette of everything from demo recordings of songs that had never been released (The KISS box set would not come out for more than 20 years), concerts from around the world that were copied onto VHS tapes and of course the audio of concerts from the sound board or from a radio broadcast. At times it might be a fan with a hidden tape recorder at a special show so while the quality of the recording might not be that great it was knowing that I had a special recording such as Eric Carr's first show with the band and/or recordings of KISS concerts that I had attended.

I kept everything that I collected over the years and have some records that are so rare that many KISS fans have begged for me to sell them. Of course I would never do that and now that vinyl is starting to pick up again the value of these records continues to go up.  Until recently the most valuable records I had were Peter Criss' first two post-KISS solo albums. Out of Control, which was released overseas in 1980 and Let Me Rock You, which was also released overseas with a different cover in Europe and Japan. Therefore, I have 3 records for 2 releases. On May 2, 1990 I attended a drum clinic of his in Hawthorne, CA and had the privilege of speaking to him afterwards. I brought these records along with many KISS items, all of which he signed but he was most surprised to see a 17 year old kid with these hard to find records.

As time went on I grew up and once I finished college I started my career, got married, went to graduate school, started having children, bought a home and all of the above so while I continued to buy music that I loved I wasn't really interested in the import and bootleg market anymore. Later, the internet changed everything for better and worse. The worst part was how anything and everything seemed to be on You Tube. Yes, it was kind of cool to have such rare recordings at my disposal but it also took away the thrill of finding something rare and then having it in my possession. The best part of course was eBay and other websites that still sell rare recordings as now I wasn't limited to the few record stores that still exist or to those anonymous music dealers.

Still, it wasn't enough to bring me back into the game until my son became a major Iron Maiden fan. Once that happened I started to see myself in him and it was nice to be on this end of things for a change. First, he wanted every CD he could get his hands on especially when he discovered rare recordings that needed to be ordered. Then, one day I showed him my vinyl collection and once I gave him my classic Iron Maiden vinyl records he was on a mission to get the rest. Right away I went back to my collector instincts and there I was again hunting things down for him and seeing the thrill on his face when he increased his music collection.

The next thing I know I started to get that itch again and there we were one day at our candy store, Zia Records in Tucson, AZ. While we were on our way to the cashier's stand to pay for his birthday present I decided to stop in the KISS section....and BOOM, I saw something that got me right back in the game. There was a German CD of KISS Killers with the altered logo and it was only $6.99. I grabbed it and brought it to the counter to pay and felt that surge again. Then I brought it home and was excited when I put it next to the Japanese release of the CD that I bought over 20 years ago!

My KISS Killers far! Japanese vinyl, Dutch vinyl, German vinyl, Japanese CD, English vinyl picture disc, German CD, Dutch cassette and German cassette

At this point I have no desire to be as committed to this cause as I was in my youth but there were still a few things that I never found and thanks to the internet I decided to take another look. One of them was the Japanese vinyl release of KISS Killers and the German release of the cassette. With that purchase I have just about everything one could have of KISS Killers: The Dutch, German and Japanese vinyl, the English picture disc, the Japanese and German CD's and the Dutch and German cassettes. This means so much to me because KISS Killers was the first import album I ever bought.

Aside from that there is also the what many call the Holy Grail of KISS collecting, which is a compilation called KISS The Originals II. It was released in Japan in 1978 in order to promote their tour of Japan that year and it is extremely rare because there was a limited amount of copies that were printed. Back in the 80's I was told that I would never find it but still, it never hurts to look. Then one day while searching on eBay I found it!!!!! The timing couldn't be better as I just had a weekend of good paying gigs so even my wife was cool with me making this big purchase.

Record collecting is a passion of mine and it's always fun to meet other enthusiasts so we can talk about all of the good stuff that we have. Here are some highlights of some "official" releases in my collection:

The Japanese release of the first KISS album. This was signed by Peter Criss

A Hotter Than Hell picture disc, which is rare since that was their second album

The Originals 

The Originals II

Creatures of the Night single. It is a double grooved album and features the autographs of each member carved into the album on the other side. This includes the late Eric Carr.

Dynasty picture disc and the I Was Made For Lovin' You extended vinyl single, which was an import.  This is one of my favorite KISS albums.

Music From the Elder Japanese release vinyl release with a different cover and the picture disc, German vinyl release and the picture disc single for A World Without Heroes

Japanese release of Lick it Up. It's the album where the band removed their makeup but they still had it on the Japanese release

Out of Control and Let Me Rock You, which were Peter Criss' first two post-KISS solo albums. These records were only released in Europe and Japan with Let Me Rock You having two covers, one for Europe and one for Japan. Peter Criss signed all three records.

Boy, it's good to be back in the game!

Carlos Solorzano

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