Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kiss Saves Santa: the Christmas cartoon that never was

Rarebird's Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas, or whatever you personally call this time of year.

If you've ever visited my site or blog before, you've probably noticed that I have a peculiar fascination with rare recordings and films related to rock music. My friend once joked that my website is about "albums that don't exist", his tongue-in-cheek description of my site about albums that are out of print. As we celebrate this holiday season, and as we congratulate Kiss on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, I want to debunk the myth about a "rarity" that really, literally doesn't exist: a supposed TV Christmas special called Kiss Saves Santa.

Where does the myth of its existence originate? From a 2001 episode of Seth McFarlane's Family Guy: Season 3, Episode 16, to be exact. During this Christmas-themed episode of the irreverent animated series, the Peter Griffin character expresses a desire to watch a Christmas special called Kiss Saves Santa, an animated show-within-the-show in which the original make-up-clad members of Kiss are depicted as superheroes who save Santa Claus from pterodactyls. The four original members of Kiss (Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) lent their voices to the episode. The Amazon.com Instant Video page for the episode mentions the Kiss cartoon as if it was the main plot point, even though it only makes up a tiny part of the full satirical episode. Here is a YouTube video that distills the three scenes from the fictitious Kiss cartoon from the Family Guy episode:

It seems that some people have mistaken Kiss Saves Santa for a show that was actually made in real life. If you Google the phrase "Kiss Saves Santa", you will see that people have posted questions about its existence on Yahoo Answers, among other sites. And if you look at the Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase, you will see "a real movie" and "1979" as suggested additional keywords. 1979! The myth even has a year attached to it, even though the Family Guy episode does not mention a year in which the special was supposedly produced. If you add that year into the Google search term, you will come across websites that actually suggest (jokingly, I presume) that the cartoon was a real 1979 production! Also, if you search on YouTube for "Kiss Saves Santa", the autocomplete suggests adding "full movie" to the search term, suggesting that people have searched for exactly that.

I must regretfully inform everyone that Kiss Saves Santa is not a real show. And that's a shame, because based on those three scenes, it looks like it would have made for one cool Christmas special. Darn it, I want to see how the band saved St. Nick from falling from that dinosaur nest!

Evidently, I am not the only person who feels this way. If you add "a real movie" into the Google search term, you will notice (among other things) a Facebook page and an online petition requesting that Kiss create a real full-length version of the cartoon.

I don't blame anyone for thinking -- and wishing -- that the show was real. It looks like something that the band really would have been interested in making in or around 1979, the same time period in which there were Marvel Comics magazines and a live-action made-for-TV movie (Kiss Meets The Phantom from 1978) which also depicted the quartet as superheroes. That's what makes this particular Family Guy gag so funny: it's believable to anyone who is familiar with how the Kiss brand works.

I stand with the Kiss fans who wish that Kiss Saves Santa was a real show, even if it might have become a rarity that I would have had to search out. As I said before, I love searching for rarities like that!

Realistically, if Kiss Saves Santa did exist, I imagine it would be available as part of the 2007 DVD box set Kissology Vol. 2: 1978-1991, which does include Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park. Now that movie is so bad that it's funny, but when I watched it on TV as a child, I thought it was great!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 18

Last week I received the eighteenth set of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postal service, my package was sent on December 4th. I received it on the 10th.

This eighteenth set of items includes a live double-LP by the Raconteurs, a DVD documenting the same performance, and a 7-inch single containing two new studio tracks from the Dead Weather.

In a departure from past Vault singles, the Dead Weather single (pressed in “yellow jacket” vinyl) contains two brand new, fully developed studio cuts. The quartet plans to record a series of exclusive two-sided singles until 2015, when all of the tracks will be included on their next full-length album. The two songs on this single are both satisfying slices of the Dead Weather’s brand of dark, fuzz-drenched hard rock. The A-side “Open Up” is propelled by punchy riffs, giving Alison Mosshart (billed as “Baby Ruthless” on the sleeve) a sturdy foundation over which to sing the odd lyrics. The B-side “Rough Detective” is actually the better track; it’s a unique, complex swirl of aggressive noise, something like a Queens Of The Stone Age jam that’s been diced apart by Dean Fertita and pieced back together in a surreal fashion, with White and Mosshart sharing the lead vocal duties. This is a song that only the Dead Weather could have concocted with their individual personalities put together.

The Raconteurs double-LP Live at the Ryman Auditorium (pressed on one “rawhide and tobacco” colored record and one “gold and oil swirled” record) documents a September 2011 concert at the Nashville venue. This is the third live Raconteurs album issued through the Vault, which means that the band’s live Vault releases now outnumber their studio albums. This one has crisper sound quality than the previous two: Live In London from 2009 had noticeably muddy audio quality, while Live At Third Man Records from 2011 was purposefully recorded to analog tape. On Live at the Ryman Auditorium, the band are in good form as you would expect, performing 13 songs from their two studio albums without a single disappointing moment. Still, it is debatable (at least to long-time Vault subscribers) whether or not we need another live album from a band who have only two studio albums to draw material from. Two of the high points are “Top Yourself” and “Blue Veins”, where the Racs deliver strong Led Zep-like blues-rock jams – but I’ve had that same basic story to tell about all of their live Vault albums so far. Support from Dean Fertita on keyboards helps to make “Level” and “Intimate Secretary” sound fresh; a tasteful three-piece Nashville horn section gives extra class to “Many Shades of Black” and “The Switch and the Spur”. If you don’t own either of the other aforementioned Raconteurs live albums and only intend to obtain one of their Vault albums, then Live at the Ryman Auditorium is the most polished one of the three; it is the easiest one to imagine as a proper commercial release.

The DVD is the item that makes this package special, presenting that same Raconteurs concert to better effect. Seeing the band perform this set helps to create more excitement, making the viewer feel more involved in the event. Watching the band members interact, with clear chemistry and camaraderie, makes the set more fun and more illuminating. It’s particularly riveting to watch their extended blues jam during “Top Yourself”; the visual medium also draws more attention to the horn arrangements on “Many Shades of Black” and “The Switch and the Spur”.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The A-side of the single has “That’s Too Much” and “GEO @ 3rd Man Live” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has “Active” and “GEO @ 3rd Man Live” carved. The double-LP has these four messages carved on its respective sides: “Confederate Gallery Opening”, “Understood”, “Schotts, Schotts, Schotts”, and “Go ahead ask him”.

The Dead Weather - Open Up (That's Enough) / Rough Detective

Dead Weather “Open Up (That’s Enough)” b/w “Rough Detective” (Third Man single TMR 243) 2013

Track Listing:

a. Open Up (That’s Enough)
b. Rough Detective

The Raconteurs - Live at the Ryman Auditorium

Raconteurs “Live at the Ryman Auditorium” (Third Man TMR 241) 2013

Track Listing:


1. Consoler of the Lonely
2. Hands
3. Level
4. Old Enough


5. Top Yourself
6. Many Shades of Black
7. The Switch and the Spur


8. Intimate Secretary
9. Broken Boy Soldier
10. Blue Veins


11. Salute Your Solution
12. Steady, As She Goes
13. Carolina Drama

Raconteurs “Live at the Ryman Auditorium” DVD (Third Man TMR 242) 2013

The DVD documents the same concert, with the same track list as above.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Remembering Jim Morrison and John Lennon on this date

First off, I wish to acknowledge the birthday of Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of the Doors. The Lizard King was born on December 8, 1943. He died in 1971 at the age of 27; if he was still alive today, he would be 70 today. Hard to believe! This question inevitably comes to mind: what would have become of Morrison if he had stayed alive? In terms of popularity, I've always thought that he would likely have faded away if he hadn't burned out. That is, of course, open to debate, and we'll never know the answer for sure. It's really impossible for me to imagine Jim at age 70, because the only way he could have reached that age would have been to do away with his self-destructive tendencies -- and I just can't imagine Morrison without those tendencies! He would have needed to make major changes to his lifestyle and personality, and who can say where that would have led him? Perhaps I'm overthinking it. You might be saying: "Well, what if he could have stayed the way he was and lived to be 70?" Sorry, but in my view, he just couldn't. That's why (like so many other famous rockers) Morrison passed at age 27. And I've certainly never been a believer in the conspiracy theories about Morrison faking his death. Even if he had done so, I cannot imagine him reaching age 70. I hope this doesn't offend, as I mean no disrespect to this great, legendary singer on what would have been his 70th birthday.

Also, this date marks the 33rd anniversary of the death of another rock legend: John Lennon. The co-founder of the Beatles was shot and killed on December 8, 1980, at the age of 40. For a fascinating piece of history, the WFMU blog offers an mp3 of a recording of a dial scan of New York City's FM band from that tragic day:


During one part of this recording, a radio commentator reads a telling Lennon quote which is very relevant on this day, taken from an interview in Playboy given shortly before his death. The interviewer asked Lennon, "You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in 'Rust Never Sleeps'-- 'It's better to burn out than to fade away....'". To which Lennon replied:

"I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. I don't appreciate worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or of dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison ...it's garbage to me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They're saying John Wayne conquered cancer... he whipped it like a man. You know, I'm sorry that he died and all that. I'm sorry for his family, but he didn't whip cancer. It whipped him. I don't want (my son) Sean worshiping John Wayne or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it's garbage, you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn't he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I'll take the living and the healthy."