Dating photos pt. 1


I talk about dating photos a lot more than I probably should but it is an essential part of my current brand of KISS nerdery. I want to create a consistent time-line, a chain of events that will allow us to construct the best possible story, that will allow all the discrete pieces to actually form a puzzle that resembles something.

So, a new set of Asylum photos lands in one’s lap (see above). What to do? The Asylum Tour in 1985-86 is relatively thankful because it has three distinct phases. We’ve all known about it, it’s fairly obvious from looking at the photos after all, but it wasn’t really until KISS Alive Forever! was released that the phases got some dates attached to them.

PHASE 1 – From opening night in Little Rock, AR 1985-11-29 (shown below) to Austin, TX 1985-12-08. This stage was clean, it was basically all about that ridiculously large logo. The drum podium was black with yellow stripes and there were low incline ramps on either side of it. Two lightning staircases on either side allows the band to ”play” to the fans in the stands and the Asylum cover faces were on the floor.


PHASE 2 – From Richfield, OH 1985-12-11 (shown below) to Kansas City, MO 1986-01-25. This version brought back the US Animalize stage set and created a hybrid. The logo remained as did the drum podium albeit painted silver. The lightning staircases also survived.


PHASE 3 – From Tucson, AZ 1986-02-02 to the end of the tour. This was a stage that was dominated by (mostly) fake speaker cabinets that were arranged in various ways depending on the size of the venue. The drum podium remained, still silver, but there were no ramps and no lightning staircases.


Looking through our ”hypothetical” stack of photos we spot one that shows the majority of the stage and, lo and behold, this is from PAHSE 2: silver drum podium and re-used Animalize ramps. That means that we can narrow the search down to the span from 1985-21-11 to 1986-01-25.


Properly dated photos from 1985-86 aren’t exactly easy to find. Most of the time you have to believe somebody’s word as long as it fits correctly into the three phases. I’ve likened this process to a house of cards more than once and that’s because all it takes for a date to ”crumble” is one detail that doesn’t fit.

In this case there are a few black-and-white photos from the show at Madison Square Garden on 1985-12-16 where we are fairly sure of the date because they came from a magazine that referenced the date. When comparing those to the new ones we find this:


It’s the right combination of outfit and bass. The strap matches as well. (These three details also allow us to say for sure that the new photos are not from one of the few dated shows from that time, Atlanta, GA 1985-12-31. None of these details match the photos from that show.) I’ve circled the gold stripe on the tights for emphasis.

Even though this is far from conclusive it’s at least a ”wedge” that allow us to compare the set of photos to the video from Madison Square Garden. The date of the video is well-known and Paul mentions New York or their ”home town” a number of times. So, video versus photos.

Round one – the screenshots from the video aren’t very good so details tend to get lost but we can say for sure that Paul has the same guitar (B.C. Rich Ironbird) and there is something lying on the right side of the drum podium.


Round two – Gene has the same outfit and the same bass. The Staccato doesn’t show up in many photos from this period so that’s a good sign. And the white piece of cloth on the microphone stand… that looks really similar.


Round three – there’s a white banner with a small patch of red on it right in front of the microphone stand. That couldn’t have happened at too many shows, right?


Round four – and then we find that one shot that is almost identical in angle and position on the video. Granted, KISS have been doing choreographeed moves since late 1973 and this probably happened at a lot of shows, but still…


Any one of these would be decent evidence that would allow one to assume that the photos were from the show at Madison Square Garden; together they make a really strong case. Unfortunately they also make a very strong case that I should have some kind of diagnosis…


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