Most of what we say we ”know” is not really direct empirical knowledge. The vast majority of what we ”know” is constructed by piecing together indirect evidence into a narrative that makes sense. This is true of life in general but doubly so for the research into all matters KISS. I can claim that the first set of costumes were exceptionally well-made or that Ace was close to quitting music altogether in 1981-82, but both of those statements are obviously based on putting together many small pieces of information. If, say, there was to surface an interview with Ace from late 1984 or early 1985 where he plainly stated that the state of KISS in 1981 and 1982 almost put him off of music, then that corroborating evidence would allow us to say that we know this fact. As it now stands it’s a decent theory based on a lot of circumstantial evidence.
The goal when it comes to historical facts is to have a number of different pieces of evidence from various sources that all agree. That’s what allow us to go from ”knowing” to actual knowledge but, alas, for the most part that’s very hard to do. For a long time we knew almost nothing about, say, Peter Criss in the early 80’s, and then newspaper archives started up online and we could at least start to piece some things together. (That picture is a relatively sad one, a repeated story arch which ultimately comes down to Peter not being able to escape his past, and we honestly don’t ”know” very much but with new information we can at least start to look in new directions and dispel some long-standing myths. But, that’s for another day.) As I’ve previously noted, touring in 1974 was a fly-be-the-seat-of-their-collective-pants kind of thing: shows came and went at the drop of a hat and the itinerary changed almost weekly, collecting numerous crossed out dates and changed venues along the way. Much like Peter in the 80’s, getting the facts about 1974 is hard work.
Above we see part of the itinerary for the first week of April, 1974. Although the show in Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t listed as cancelled it is crossed out and, according to Kiss Alive Forever (1), it was cancelled. Inititally scheduled for the Embassy Theater, the booking first saw a change in venue, and then it was (supposedly) changed so that KISS were to open for Genesis. That didn’t happen, or was perhaps just erroneously reported in the local newspapers, and Genesis ended up playing that show at The Armory by themselves. (I don’t have access to Fort Wayne newspapers so I can’t vouch for whether or not Genesis played the show and, if they did, when. Genesis fan sites seem to disagree on what date the show took place.)
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: when on tour, off days are expensive days. Granted, in 1974 neither the crew nor the band traveled with much gear and they were apparently used to, shall we say, less than rustic fare for dinner, but money was still needed to grease the cogs of the machine. It’s probably fair to say that in 1974 the fee collected for one show was what enabled the tour to reach its next destination. So unless a show was canceled for health reasons such as the April 2 show in Toledo, Ohio, efforts were made to fill up the calender. The canceled show at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio most likely wasn’t replaced by a show at the Nordic Arena in Hartland, Michigan as Kiss Alive Forever would have us believe. The advertisement that we have clearly states that the show was on Friday, April 4 and in 1974 April 4 was on a Thursday. (The ticket clearly says ”Apr 4 1975” so it was probably never part of the evidence in favor of a 1974 show.) In addition, according to the Livingston County Press, the very first rock show ever put on at the Nordic Ice Arena in Hartland, Michigan was on April 4, 1975. (2)
With canceled shows left and right money must have been tight in April 1974. All things considered KISS didn’t command much in the way of fees at this time, the contract with ATI for three shows April 1-3 in Ohio was for $1,200 a night for ”One forty min. perf. nitely bet: 8-10PM”. When KISS were forced to cancel the second of these three shows, the one on April 2 as mentioned above, they were suddenly making a whole lot less money. Since the contract explicitly stated that ”This wage includes expenses agreed to be reimbursed by the employer” [my emphasis] the prospect of three days without a show must have been daunting. That’s why the canceled show on April 6 in Fort Wayne, Indiana was probably replaced by…
At first glance this almost looks like an ad for a different band. Although KISS were mentioned as glitter ghouls in some corners of the press and the Winnipeg Free Press called them ”New York’s latest glamrock aggregation” (3), the term that was most widely mentioned in relation to the band in early 1974 was ”thunderrock” with heavy metal a close second. (Then again, in 1974 the term ”glitter” was bandied about almost indiscriminantly.) Most disturbing is the assertion that the band comes ”Direct From England…”. KISS have been many things throughout their career but British hasn’t really been one of them.
But then there is that mention of the ”In Concert” appearance. In Indiana, and in most of the US, KISS made their TV debut on Friday, March 29. In several Indiana newspapers – but, notably, not in the Indianapolis papers – there was a photo of Gene from the February 21 taping which clearly mentioned the name of the band. (The reader might be interested to know that in Indiana the program was also broadcast in stereo on WVTS FM, 100,7.) I’ve tried to go through the episodes that had aired up until that time in 1974 and there were no other bands on ”In Concert” in January to March 1974 that had a name that even remotely resembled KISS so we can be fairly certain that this is ”our” KISS. (I feel I would be amiss if I failed to mention the wonderful lineup from the Friday, January 18 episode of ”In Concert”: Del Shannon, Little Anthony & The Imperials, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Talk about classics!)
Despite the look of the ad I’m not sure that Midnite Madness Productions were actually the promotor of this show. For one thing, this is really the only time the name is used in Indianapolis in 1974 in reference to a concert. In fact, it’s the only time I’ve come across it at all. Later on in April there was WNAP’s Midnite Madness at the Clermont De-Luxe drive-in which was a double-header featuring ”Yellow Submarine” and ”Let It Be”. (4) Yet another movie theater – Cinema I in Munster, Indiana – used a similar Midnite Madness Presents tagline when showing the Woodstock feature in December of 1973. (5)
Casting a slightly wider net turns up a number of other midnight feature screenings throughout Indiana that had the same theme. Both South Bend (6), Munster (7), and Hammond, Indiana (8) had something called Midnight Rock that showed music/concert movies at, you guessed it, midnight. It seems highly likely that Midnite Madness was simply a phrase used for movie screenings that started at midnight rather than any proper promotor. (Lest somebody thinks I’m withholding information to further my theory, there were a few Midnite Madness shows in 1973 featuring classic horror movies.)
This second ad repeated the British connection but failed to mention the ”In Concert” appearance, otherwise the ad was the same. Personally I think it a little odd that the ”Englishness” of the band was so heavily emphazised here; it wasn’t enough to label the band as English, they also had to be ”Direct From England”. The fact that this was a double-header of sorts feels a bit odd, especially since KISS seems to have been the opening act to the feature presentation, but fits neatly with my idea that the Midnite Madness moniker was just something used for midnight screenings of music/concert movies. This particular midnight screening just happened to feature live music.
On the day of the show, April 6, the news item on the right appeared in The Indianapolis Star. I would like to claim that the use of this photo somehow makes it much more likely that this was a real booking, that the photo was only used for this particular instance which would imply that the paper had to have gotten it specifically for the promotion of the April 6 show. That would make for a much better story. Alas, this photo is from December 31 at the Academy of Music and it was part of the band’s first press kit. We don’t really know how widely disseminated that first press kit actually was but considering the promotional machine behind the band – which actually got them on TV twice (!) within the first six months of 1974 – it would be highly unlikely that a paper in a major metropolitan area like Indianapolis wouldn’t have gotten one. (This photo was also used by the Chicago Tribune when they reviewed the April 19 show at the Aragon Ballroom.)
So what does all this mean? It depends. I try desperatly to be aware of my own confirmation bias but, as most of us are hopefully aware of, it’s hard to even acknowledge that bias. We all have frameworks that dictate our understanding of the world and these also dicate how we interpret new information. I have a certain theoretical framework in place about the early touring days about KISS that is, it must be said, grounded in the realities of touring, but that also means that I might try to shoehorn information into that framework. This show on April 6, 1974 fits my narrative well but in all honesty the evidence here is a little lacking; two ads, a miniscule news item, and a lot of (relatively reasonable) assumptions don’t add up to much. At best we can say that it is highly likely that this was an actual show that happened but without further corroborating evidence – and it’s actually a little problematic to imagine what that evidence might be (9) – all we can say is that it is unconfirmed. So, ask all your internet friends and see if somebody remembers seeing a weird band in a movie theatre in Indianapolis in April 1974, maybe we can turn up some more evidence.
- Curt Gooch & Jeff Suhs Kiss Alive Forever p. 31
- Livingston County Press of Howell, MI 75-04-30, p. 1
- Winnipeg Free Press of Winnipeg, MT, Canada 74-02-02 p. 9. To be fair, the review of the show at the Sunshine In also used the term ”glitter rock band”, see the Asbury Park Evening Press of Asbury Park, NJ 74-03-30 p. 6
- Indianapolis News of Indianapolis, IN 74-04-19, p. 23. WNAP was a local radio station.
- The Times of Munster, IN 73-12-27, p. 26
- The South Bend Tribune of South Bend, IN 74-06-13, p. 32
- The Times of Munster, IN 74-07-19, p. 45
- The Times of Munster, IN 74-06-14, p. 31
- The best I can think if is a photo pf a marquee showing both KISS, the concert film Stamping Ground, and the name of the theater. It seems extremely unlikely that they would ever appear together except in this particular instance.