From the moment Kiss first permanently conquered rock, metal, and, in fact, all forms of pop culture in the mid-1970s, artists have been covering the group’s songs.
Typically, dipping into the Kiss catalogue is a favorite activity of garage bands, hardcore bruisers, and, of course, heavy metal artists. In fact, when it comes to headbangers paying musical tribute to their face-painted heroes, metal’s entire spectrum, from glitzy glam to brutal blackness, covers Kiss.
Alas, hard and/or heavy is not a requirement when it comes to covering Kiss. Discounting tangentially metal sounds such as Nirvana’s grunge rave-up of “Do You Love Me?” and the Replacement’s drunk-punk “Black Diamond,” delving into non-metal performances of Kiss material makes for some mighty odd musical bedfellows. Here are ten of the oddest excursions.
“Fui Hecho Para Amarte” – Menudo (1981)
“Fui Hecho Para Amarte” is Spanish for “I Was Made for Loving You.” It’s fitting, then, that when Latin music’s premiere, eternally youthful (via forced teenage retirement) dance-oriented boy band took a crack at a Kiss song, it would be Kiss’s initially bellyached-about, ultimately deemed kickass attempt to go disco. Menudo’s cover ups the song’s inherent pop factor and those prepubescent voices successfully sell the message. Menudo, too, was made for loving you, baby.
“Heaven’s on Fire” – Hayseed Dixie (2003)
Novelty bluegrass act Hayseed Dixie formed in 2001 largely to put out the cult album, A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC (their name, of course, is a play on AC/DC). Following the 2002 multi-artist cover album A Hillbilly Tribute to Mountain Love (which contains “rockgrass” reworkings of Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” and Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom”), in 2003 Hayseed Dixie delivered Kiss My Grass: A Hillbilly Tribute to Kiss. The title delivers what it promises, impressively hick-ifying nuggets from the entire spectrum of Kiss’s career.
“Beth” – The Cast of Glee (2010)
Since the music of Kiss has been responsible for innumerable teenage pregnancies, Fox TV’s high-school sing-along show Glee made proper use of the Peter Criss ballad “Beth” in a first season episode dealing with what to name two of the lead kids’ unplanned baby. Somebody first suggests “Jackie Daniels,” after which somebody else suggests “Beth.” At the time the original song was a hit, it’s possible even Peter Criss might have voted for the first moniker.
“Shock Me” – Red House Painters (1994)
San Francisco alt-rock combo Red House Painters apply their “slowcore” approach to Kiss’s electrifier from 1977’s Love Gun, inspired by Ace Frehley getting excessively jolted on stage once in Lakeland, Florida. RHP’s take is indeed slow… to the core.
Hide Your Heart – Bonnie Tyler (1988)
Bonnie Tyler scored her signature career smash in 1983 by collaborating with Meat Loaf songwriter Jim Steinman on “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Five years later, she swung for platinum again via epic hard rock’s other dominant musical architect, Desmond Child, on “Hide Your Heart,” a soaring storm-ballad co-penned by Child and Kiss’s Paul Stanley for the group’s Hot in the Shade LP.
Tyler’s take flopped stateside, but performed well in Europe. Regardless, buzz built around the composition frantically, and in 1989, four top-ticket versions of “Hide Your Heart” hit vinyl: the one by Kiss, another by ex-Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, a Southern Rock interpretation by Molly Hatchet, and one final cover by throaty songbird Robin Beck. There wasn’t a bona fide hit in the bunch.
“Goin’ Blind” – Dramarama (1996)
Kiss’s debatably most bizarre song has been covered masterfully—and in fitting bizarre fashion—by sludge beasts the Melvins, as well as their freak-metal brethren Dinosaur Jr. New-wave power popsters Dramarama take an acoustic approach to “Goin’ Blind” and, in doing so, they also get to be bizarre for a few minutes.
“Strutter” – Drive-By Truckers (2010)
Alt-country good time guys the Drive-By Truckers issued their rollicking run-through of the very first Kiss song on the very first Kiss album as a bonus track on their 2010 release, The Big To-Do. Their “Strutter” is a real stomper, replete with a fun Southern twang.
“Detroit Rock City” – Vitamin String Quartet (2004)
The four classically trained musicians in L.A.’s Vitamin String Quartet have applied their traditional approach to numerous rock favorites via cover albums honoring Black Sabbath, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Slayer, System of a Down, and White Stripes, among many, many others.
The 2004-released String Quartet Tribute to Kiss delivers violin-and-cello-intensive takes on eleven Kiss favorites, including Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove.” It followed, of course, Kiss’s own commingling with orchestral sounds on 2003’s Kiss Symphony: Alive IV.
“Rock and Roll All Nite” – The Moog Cookbook (1997)
The Moog Cookbook is an electronic music duo that exclusively plays Moog synthesizers and other analog machinery in the tradition of vintage 1960s space-age artists such as Perry and Kingsley. The pair’s self-titled 1997 collection Ye Olde Space Band includes covers of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ 'Bout Love,” and, of course, Kiss’s go-to anthem-above-all, “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
“A World Without Heroes” – Cher (1991)
The closest thing to a hit single from Kiss’s affably remembered 1981 concept album misfire, Music From “The Elder,” Cher actually does justice to the heavy ballad “A World Without Heroes.” She injects the song with her one-of-a-kind Vegas soul and, some would dare say, improves on the original track, sung by her God of Thunder ex-boyfriend, Gene Simmons.
“Hard Luck Woman” – Garth Brooks (1994)
Country mega-star and hardcore Kiss fanatic Garth Brooks had long performed the Rod-Stewart-inspired love ballad “Hard Luck Woman” in concert, and so he jumped at the chance to lay it down for the high-profile 1994 multi-artist release, Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved.
Garth does songwriter Paul Stanley and original vocalist Peter Criss proud. The rest of Kiss My Ass is a mixed bag, featuring “Rock and Roll All Nite” by wimp squad Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Plaster Caster” by the not-always charmingly ironic Lemonheads, and an enjoyably groovy run-through of “Deuce” by Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder.
“I Was Made for Loving You” – Lynda Carter (1980)
Wonder Woman belting out Kiss’s dynamic disco sensation “I Was Made for Loving You” is an experience that must be seen to be believed. And you do have to see it, as TV’s all-time most alluring Amazon superhero performed the song as an elaborate production number during her 1980 CBS primetime extravaganza, The Lynda Carter Special.
The great Kiss-Carter crossover occurs during a segment titled “Lynda Carter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.” It begins with Lynda driving a convertible onto a dark soundstage, stepping out in fancy fur coat, and wailing out Bad Company’s eponymous hit. She then gets lost in thought.
Lynda imagines herself as Tina Turner belting out “Proud Mary” in a ring of artificial fire. The segment later wraps up with Lynda vamping and camping it up as Bette Midler as she sings “Friends,” although she does so in a costume comprised mainly of bananas, leading a chorus line of dancing gorillas.
The explosion in between those two already higher-than-high points is what nabs Lynda the #1 non-metal Kiss cover spot, though. Emerging from a giant arachnoid web and clad in an unspeakably sexy “spider woman” get-up, Lynda bursts into “I Was Made for Loving You.”
The lady of the hour is surrounded by über-flashy chorus boys done up in full Kiss regalia. The dancers strut, thrust, spin, sashay, boogie, play air guitar, and hurl themselves to and fro, clearly under Spider Lynda’s spell. You’ll understand how they feel.
One fascinating bit of Kiss trivia further emerged from this Armageddon of big laughs and tacky taste. Gene Simmons himself later donned Lynda’s costume when he played transsexual villain Velvet Von Ragnar opposite John Stamos and Vanity in the 1986 cult action head-scratcher, Never Too Young to Die.