My buddy Steve Smith has an interesting post up on his blog about the thrill he recently got doing a phoner with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley. I had a similar experience a few years ago, when I contributed to the Ozzfest tour book (which was being assembled by the editors of Alternative Press) and got a phone call at home from Tony Iommi. At that point, I'd been a freelance music critic for something like eight years already, but it didn't matter; I reverted back to age 15 the instant I heard that voice on the other end of the phone.
That wasn't the most interesting thing about Steve's post, though; I was most intrigued by his description of how he became a Kiss fan, because it pretty much matched up with how I'd always imagined that process would work.
I've never been a Kiss fan, and I've always suspected that in order to become one, it's best if you come in blind, so to speak - if you're young enough to not really know much about rock music, then Kiss's blend of (admittedly) catchy hard rock and over-the-top, kid-friendly showbiz (explosions! armor! cartoon demon makeup!) would appeal to you on an almost visceral level. But I missed that window, and consequently never became a Kiss fan. I spent my early-rock-fan years (say, between 8-12) listening to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and punk rock - Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Flipper. In fact, I bought my first-ever Kiss album about a month ago - the two-CD set Gold, which covers 1974-82 pretty handily. (It has most of the songs I'd already heard of going in, and certainly all the ones I actually wanted to hear.) Experienced purely as music, they're not bad - relatively catchy hard rock with boneheaded lyrics in one of two modes: single-entendre sex anthems, or goofy power-of-positive-thinking anthems. But I think I'd still rather listen to any number of other '70s hard-rock/proto-metal bands. Serious Kiss fandom is like any other religion - if you don't get caught up in it when you're young, with your critical faculties not yet fully formed, it's probably not gonna happen for you.