Ace Frehley Recalls the First Single He Ever Bought
KISS legend Ace Frehley was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The guitarist was on hand to discuss his latest release, the second edition of his Origins cover album series, which finds him revisiting his early influences (and one KISS song) across the 12-track record.
During the interview, Frehley also spoke about the guitarists that had a major impact on shaping his style of guitar playing. He also recalled the life-changing moment he saw The Who and Cream play for the very first time in New York.
Unlike your first Origins album, Vol. 2 revisits the music that affected you as a kid. Who's music was most challenging to learn when you started playing guitar?
Well, I started off with the easy stuff like three or four-chord songs like "Gloria" — just three-chord progressions. (Laughs) When Led Zeppelin came out, that was a challenge to try and copy Jimmy Page, so I had to slow down the records to figure out his guitar solos on some of the tracks. But Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Who, Jeff Beck, the [Rolling] Stones, and The Beatles, they all influenced me greatly. That is why I am doing these songs from all these bands.
Much of Origins, Vol. 2 covers British bands. What did they do differently than American musicians that still affects you, even now?
Well, the British Invasion, was a lot of the British groups repackaging Black rock 'n' roll — stuff like Chuck Berry [and] some of the great blues guitar players. It’s interesting — the songs weren’t really accepted by white people because they were Black musicians and then the British re-recorded a lot of the American Black artists and then suddenly the songs became big hits. That's rock 'n' roll.
Ace Frehley, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (Rolling Stones cover)
Although there have always been hints of guitarists you admire in your playing, your style is uniquely identifiable. What made your playing go beyond simply emulating your heroes?
I combined some of the greatest guitar players that ever played rock 'n' roll. My style is a combination of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend of The Who, George Harrison [of the] The Beatles.
The first single I bought — I remember staring at it — was [The Beatles'] "I Want to Hold Your Hand." I remember "Satisfaction" coming out by the Rolling Stones as a teenager, and then after that, the flood gates were open. The Beatles and the Stones then you had Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, they took over - but Led Zeppelin was really the group that I think pretty much wiped out a lot of bands. You can't stand up to Led Zeppelin.
Ace, there's such craftsmanship to KISS songs. The way all the instrumentation comes together. What made you, Peter, Gene, and Paul so musically symbiotic?
Chemistry and talent. We were all talented — four talented guys that could all sing lead. So we were able to pull off three and four-part harmony. We all wrote the music and I think that there are so many bands out there that tried to emulate KISS and put on a great show, but they just didn’t have the music or the hits or the songs.
You can blow up a stage and do everything you want, but unless the music is equally as exciting and the quality is there... We have hits like "Beth" that transcended a lot of different genres and music and a lot of other groups didn't have that quality.
Ace, your band is a group of extremely diehard KISS fans. What has their perspective revealed to you about the impact of that music?
I mean not just my band, but everywhere I go people come up to me and say if it wasn't for you I would have never picked up a guitar. Most of the time most guitar players cite Alive I as their rock 'n' roll bible as far as making them want to play rock guitar. It’s pretty much like a souvenir of a KISS concert, that is why that album is so successful and broke so many records on the charts. My style, like I was saying before, is a combination of all the great English guitar players from the ’60s.
Well, Jimi Hendrix was American and was actually a paratrooper in the Army. He went over to England, but then he came back to the U.S. He was part of the England invasion but he was really American and another great guitar player that influenced me was Jim McCarty, the guitarist from the Detroit Wheels.
If it wasn't for his influence I would have never seen The Who's first New York appearance and Cream's first New York appearance because I cut school and went to the Murray the K [radio] show in midtown Manhattan and to see Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and the Who. Cream were opening for them and I had never heard of them. It just snapped my socks off and changed my life.
Thanks to Ace Frehley for the interview. Get your copy of 'Origins, Vol. 2' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn on qualifying purchases) and follow Ace on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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