Revisiting Kiss’ ‘Unnecessary’ ‘Double Platinum’ Compilation
Kiss were cruising at high speed during their late-'70s heyday. But as evidenced by the outside changes made to the songs on their first-ever greatest hits album, Double Platinum, even they couldn't always control exactly where the ship was headed.
The band's label, Casablanca, decided to do things a little differently than it would to a standard greatest-hits package. Sean Delaney and Mike Stone remixed many of the tracks, peppering them with noticeable sonic tweaks. Whether Double Platinum, which was released on April 2, 1978, presented the tracks in a fresh way or sacrilegiously retooled classics has long been debated among fans. Either way, the band was unhappy with the decision to remix the tracks and the overall results.
"It's just a compilation where somebody went in and started rearranging songs that didn't need to be rearranged," Paul Stanley said in Kiss: Behind the Mask. "Honestly, the band had nothing to do with that album. ... We were riding such a wave of success that there were certain people in the camp that wanted to put out as much product as possible." Delaney defended his work in the same book by noting that that the remixes were done to offer a bit of sonic cohesion between the tracks.
"We found with each of the producers that had done a Kiss album that they had done them totally different," he noted. "For instance, Eddie Kramer recorded all of the drums in mono. We had to come up with a sound that all the other stuff could be brought up to. Bob Ezrin's [production on Destroyer] was the tape we had to go and try to match."
The main point of contention was "Strutter '78," a re-recording of a popular song from the band's debut album, which was used as an incentive for completists to purchase the new collection. Even though most fans consider the following year’s “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” as the group’s initial foray into the disco end of the pool, this is their first flirtation with the genre: The hi-hat is at the forefront of the mix, harmonies in the chorus are higher and the original chunky guitars are lower. There’s also an extra “Wooo!” and additional vocal inflections thrown in for good measure by Stanley.
Watch Kiss' 'Strutter '78' Video
"'Strutter '78' was Neil Bogart's idea that we could get more mileage out of 'Strutter' if it was recut with more of a quote unquote disco feel," Stanley wrote. "Once in a while you do things to make your record company happy. ... If you painted the 'Mona Lisa' once I don't know why you have to do it twice. Not that 'Strutter''s the 'Mona Lisa,' but once something's been done, there's no reason to do it again. ... It was totally unnecessary."
Ace Frehley agreed. "I thought it was kind of a silly thing to do because I don't think the new version was that different," he said. "It was just extended solos and what-not."
“Strutter ’78” was the only totally new recording among the 20 tracks, but there were other songs that keen ears would quickly recognize sounding slightly -- or, in some cases, drastically -- different from the versions fans were familiar with.
Drummer Peter Criss doing his best Rod Stewart impression on “Hard Luck Woman” sounds much airier, mainly due to the holding off on drums until after the first verse. It feels looser too, with the improvised outro vocals by Criss more pronounced. And after a few plays, a repetitive drum reverb low in the mix starts to earworm its way into the listener’s head too. “Calling Dr. Love” isn’t just cut by nearly 30 seconds, it has a radically different intro, with the track's lead vocalist, Gene Simmons, repeating the song's title in a decidedly demonic manner, making it a more menacing version than the one found on Rock and Roll Over.
“Firehouse” is sped up a bit and, instead of the sirens that close out the original track, the beginning of the song restarts during the fade here. “Detroit Rock City” has the most extreme cuts, losing more than a minute and a half in total. The intro radio broadcast and revving car from the original version are scrapped entirely. So is the car crash that ends the song.
Watch Kiss' 'Double Platinum' Commercials
Perhaps the most bizarre change on Double Platinum involved taking the final 50 seconds of acoustic intro on “Rock Bottom” from Dressed to Kill and fading it in at a snail’s pace and then pairing it with “She,” which was on the other side of Dressed to Kill. If that wasn't enough, the song is made even longer by starting over the first verse and then fading it out. "Black Diamond," which closes the compilation, was given a similar extension.
Because neither Kiss nor Casablanca ever did anything on a small scale, Double Platinum was launched with a high-profile television campaign. "The Kiss Double Platinum album, a tribute unprecedented in music history," intoned a voiceover before label head Bogart, dressed in a tux, is introduced to present the artwork for the album. “For the success story of the decade, Casablanca honors Kiss with Double Platinum!” he declares.
It was a part of the market-flooding of Kiss-related product of the day. Love Gun had come out the summer before and Alive II the prior October. Later in 1978 came the solo sets from each member, making for a mind-boggling seven releases in less than 15 months -- two of them double-LP sets.
Add to that a pinball machine that hit arcades later in April, the original run of Mego dolls, the Marvel Comics launch with the band’s blood mixed into the ink, a second one without their DNA, a board game, a transistor radio, a toy guitar and trading cards, and the dedicated Kiss fan’s wallet was feeling seriously light by the end of the decade.
Still, for all the hype, "Strutter '78" failed to make the Billboard Hot 100. Decades later, Double Platinum still hadn't gone double platinum. That certification, however, was awarded to another Kiss compilation, 1988's Smashes, Thrashes & Hits.