During KISS’s now-classic interview on The Tomorrow Show in 1979, host Tom Snyder wondered what the band members got up to when they weren’t on tour, when they weren’t dressed up in costume and makeup, when they weren’t busy being KISS.
“Sometimes when I’m not on stage I sit in my apartment,” Paul Stanley joked as he tried on his best Greta Garbo accent, “and say ‘I vant to be alone.'”
35 years later, readers of Stanley’s memoir Face the Music: A Life Exposed would learn that perhaps it wasn’t a joke after all.
Face the Music succeeds on a level where most rock n’ roll memoirs fail. Though the book certainly has its fair share of debauchery and tour-related war stories, it shines in the tale of an emotional, tortured kid who struggled most of his life with painful shyness. This is a surprising revelation for fans who, until recently, knew Paul only as the mythical Starchild-even during the non-makeup years-who fearlessly stands on stage in front of thousands of people every night and rocks their socks off. Perhaps they were even more surprised to learn that one of rock’s greatest frontmen was also born with microtia, a congenital deformity of the ear.
Until his surgery in the mid-90s, in fact, Paul only had one ear. And much of his story revolves around not only the pain of his childhood as “Stanley the one-eared monster,” but also how that deeply rooted pain haunted him well into his adult life.
Contrary to his childhood, there is one thing Stanley is not in his memoir: shy. He pulls no punches writing about the emotional absences of his parents in his formative years, about his former band mates and original KISS members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, even about his long-time partner in crime, Gene Simmons.
But most of all, he pulls no punches when writing about himself. He is honest to a fault, admitting his mistakes and missteps without excusing them, accepting the blame for things that would be much easier to place on someone else, and accepting that he is a sort of work in progress, constantly striving to be a better person not just for himself, but for his family. The result is a breath of fresh air in the so-called rock memoir genre: a fascinating, moving autobiography that doesn’t read as if the author simply wrote a 400-page press release about himself.
It is the story of a human being, flawed as we all are. It’s the story of a shy kid, of a socially inept young man, of an endlessly driven and passionate musician, and of a devoted father.
It is the story of the man who, for much of his life, wore two masks.
Face the Music: A Life Exposed is available now.