Percussive Arts Society

PAS Playlist: Top 10 KISS Drumming Songs: Non-Makeup Era: 1983–96 by Greg Crane

Crane Playlist

Like many of you, I have been a nerd-like KISS fan since I was very young. I also began playing drums right around the time my brother turned me onto that serious and dramatic sonic opus that is 1977’s Love Gun (insert sarcasm here). Playing along to Peter Criss’s groovy, swing-influenced parts and then later Eric Carr’s heavier, more pounding style of drumming played a major role in the way I approached being a drummer. That was the 1970s.

When the early ’80s approached, we would finally see KISS without their makeup. Not only were they changing their look, but their style of music greatly changed. KISS’s music went from heavy metal, to glam, to sugary sweet pop-rock, to grunge in a decade and a half. What did not change was the great drumming on all those non-makeup-era records.

On this playlist are my favorite drum-related songs from the non-makeup KISS albums. I hope you agree, or at least take a listen to each tune and decide for yourself. I am sure once you dig into these albums, you will have your own top-10 list as well.

“Rock and Roll All Nite” and part of every day!

10. “King of the Mountain”
Drummer: Eric Carr
Album: Asylum
1985’s Asylum album kicks off with a ferocious bang. This bang is comprised of what sounds like 3,500 drums and 1,800 cymbals in an absolutely crushing mini-drum solo from Eric Carr. He keeps the pace of this song going with mega-tasty double kick blasts through the verses and never lets up. One of the great opening songs in KISS’s catalog.

9. “Boomerang”
Drummer: Eric Carr
Album: Hot in the Shade
There are not a lot of gems on 1990’s Hot in the Shade album. If I am being honest here, it is kind of a snoozer. After you make it through the (wow) first 14 songs, wipe the sleep from your eyes because things are about to change. I am talking about “Boomerang.” This song feels loose, much like a demo that slipped its way onto an album. Eric Carr once again shows his double bass prowess in an almost punk rock fashion. This is a loud and free drumming standout on an otherwise just okay album.

8. “Who Wants to be Lonely”
Drummer: Eric Carr
Album: Asylum
What I loved about Eric Carr’s drumming was that he could easily add big, booming, tribal tom hits and fills to the music. What is even better, these hits and fills all made perfect sense and never felt out of place. You can hear this loud and clear in the bridges of this MTV staple.

7. “Creatures of the Night”
Drummer: Eric Singer
Album: Alive III
For KISS’s third live album, we find former Badlands, Black Sabbath, and Gary Moore drummer Eric Singer taking over the KISS drum throne after Eric Carr’s untimely death. Note to my fellow KISS Army Members: Yes, I know that nothing can top Eric Carr’s original version of this song from the album with the same name, but hear me out. To that point, this is the “new guy,” Eric Singer, coming strong out of the gate like a racehorse. Singer always adds his signature feel to every early KISS song that he performs; this track is no different. His feel is tighter and more precise than the original recorded version.

6. “Hate”
Drummer: Eric Singer
Album: Carnival of Souls
I really love the drum sounds on this entire record. For Carnival of Souls, KISS brought in producer Toby Wright ,who had previously worked with Alice in Chains and Korn. The drum sounds on this record are very reminiscent of a lot of records from the mid-to-early 1990s with super dry toms and kick and table-top-tight snares. Do the drums sound like any other KISS albums? Nope, not at all. Do they fit perfectly for this mid-grunge-era title? Absolutely. You can get a feel for what is inside by just looking at the cover of the album. Gone is the mirrored-chrome double-kick kit with delightfully flat crash cymbals, and enter a very small, vintage 4-piece number with Singer behind it. He kicks off this album with the song “Hate.” He comes out swinging with tom/ride cymbal accents that are so tasty you would think Nabisco co-produced it. If there is such a thing as “Heavy Delicate,” that is how I would describe the drumming on this song.

5. “Fits Like a Glove”
Drummer: Eric Carr
Album: Lick it Up
Eric Carr brings more thunder in this 1983 cut. There are big, big drum sounds in this tune. You can really feel the drive that Carr brings to the song during the guitar solo.

4. “Childhood’s End”
Drummer: Eric Singer
Album: Carnival of Souls
Listen to the simple, tight, and peppered-with-drummy-goodness groove that Eric Singer delivers in the verses. This is a tender moment for KISS in a record wallpapered with dark and gritty themes. As I mentioned before, the drum sound on this record has an almost vintage tone to it. You will really get what I mean on this particular track.

3. “Unholy”
Drummer: Eric Singer
Album: Revenge
Finally, we get a scary KISS song after a few lost years on the planet “Glamtron 5.” The song’s video was also our first look at Eric Singer behind the kit. Eric uses his signature mega-tight tom accents and well-timed double kick powers so well in this song. I would point out specific spots to listen to for drum greatness, but they are everywhere. That being said, check out his playing right before the guitar solo and the outro!

2. “God Gave Rock ’N’ Roll To You II”
Drummer: Eric Singer
Album: RevengeThis was Eric Singer’s first single with the band. It is actually a cover of the 1973 song by Argent, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.” The song starts off like a cannon. If there were ever a KISS song that I would say that Eric Singer was playing in the style of Eric Carr, it is this one. Singer’s tightness is always apparent, but you will hear open tom fills and wide-open cymbal assaults more reminiscent of Carr’s style. This is a modern classic KISS tune.

1. “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”
Drummer: Eric Carr
Album: Animalize
I am a sucker for high-pitched and flowing tom fills; think of Neil Peart or Nicko McBrain. In “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire),” Eric Carr intros the song with a double bass and cymbal accent combo that grabs you right away. Listen for the perfect accents with the guitar parts during the chorus. This is a flamethrower of a drum tune that never lets up. Also, listen to the overall sound that Carr gets out of each drum. You really hear precision in the hits. Tie on those bandanas, cut off the sleeves of your favorite drum company’s black logo t-shirt, and slide into those parachute pants, because this is pure 1984 drum goodness.

Greg CraneGreg Crane is the Artist Relations Manager for Yamaha Drums USA and has worked in the M.I. industry for 31 yrs. He plays drums in several bands throughout the Los Angeles area.

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