Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review - Ace Frehley No Regrets

I ripped through Ace Frehley’s book No Regrets in about three days. I am a life-long KISS fan and thought I had read it all, but let me tell you – I learned more about Ace and KISS than I had in years. The book fills in all sorts of holes in KISStory and gives the first really comprehensive picture of the man behind the Spaceman persona.

Usually I want to skip over the ‘childhood’ portion of biographies but Ace’s is really interesting and goes a long way to explain his laid back live-and-let-live demeanor. His entry into music is really interesting too, with some great, great stories, like how he used to sneak backstage at concerts and one time got dragged onstage to set up Mitch Mitchell’s drums at a Hendrix concert!

I was pleasantly surprised that Ace didn’t spend a lot of time on stories that have been told a thousand times by Gene and Paul, such as the fact that the band set up hollow speaker cabinets in their first club gigs to make the backline look bigger. He wisely skipped all of that and instead told new stories – plenty of stuff I had never heard before. I feel like Ace could fill a whole book with stories about drunken escapades and escapes from near death, and… oh wait that is exactly what he does here!

Ace does not shy away from being a life-long addict and how it impaired his decisions and his career. He is brutally frank about how during the recording of the Destroyer album he switched from being mainly a drinker to doing lots of cocaine. This begins a vicious decades-long struggle with dependency (Ace has been clean for five years), and many crazy stories.

He is very understanding as to why Paul and Gene didn’t want to work with him after a certain point (neither are drinkers or drug-users). And despite the No Regrets title of his book, Ace does express some regrets that he could have handled certain situations with more poise in his drugging days. He also credits Paul and Gene for being understanding about his desire to leave the band, and says they both made earnest pleas for him to stay in, which I don’t know I had heard Ace admit in the past.

Despite the fact that the media portrayed the book as slinging loads of dirt at Gene Simmons, it’s pretty tame in that department. Ace does say that Gene is a sex addict, and that he never really understood music (was more focused on business, marketing etc etc) but he has way more good things to say about Gene overall. Not a bad word in the book about Paul Stanley either. And while he says Peter Criss was his best friend in the band (because he partied too) Ace concedes that Peter became an unpredictable and unpleasant person towards the end of his (Peter’s) stint with the band – yes, due to drug and alcohol use.

Ace’s description of what it’s like to be an addict is very intense. He basically says when he first did coke, it was incredible but then he was always seeking that same first high, which was unobtainable because his body had developed a tolerance. He also said that alcohol as a depressant and cocaine as a stimulant was the perfect cocktail mix for partying for days on end. But then you’d get too strung out and have to take sleeping pills to rest. Then you wake up hung over and start taking prescription medication for that. Pretty soon you become a walking pharmacy and your only concern is where you are going to get your drugs in the next town because you can’t bring enough with you. He makes it sound like a real hassle and a nightmare, and it is. Keith Richards told similar tales in his book of trying to think steps ahead to get his fix in the next town.

Aside from the rise of KISS from a no-name bar act to the biggest band in the world in just two years, Ace provides a great in-depth look at the making of his solo album in 1978 and how he came into his own as a singer and songwriter. He has kind words for manager Bill Aucion and band ‘coach’ Sean Delaney, who helped with a lot of the early stage look and even coordinated the band’s stage moves. Lots of credit given to those two for the band’s success.

Ace concedes that once he left KISS his career and life went south due to the drugs but he does touch on his solo career and the recording of the albums he put out post-KISS. He does not provide as much insight into what happened on the KISS reunion tours – maybe those memories are too fresh. But the story ends on a high note, with Ace celebrating five years of sobriety and the release of his recent solo album, Anomaly. I pulled Anomaly off the shelf after I finished the book and still really enjoy it. Sure there is some crap on it but there are many gems. Sounds like classic Ace and that’s a good place to be.

Ace seems happy and healthy. That’s the impression I got from the book at least. He is at a place where he can look back and marvel on his accomplishments and share a laugh or two with the world about the crazy road he has taken. If you dig KISS, get the book.


sue hanes said...

isorski - Happy Thanksgiving and don't eat too much!

Tom said...

Just wondering why your review basically reported the content blow by blow, but as a book review are you giving any of your actual reaction in response to the read, as a reviewer?

Isorski said...

Hey Tom - that's the way I roll! Thanks for your comment.