RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's Tom Morello inducted KISS into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this past Thursday night (April 10) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Video footage of Morello's entire speech can be seen below. A transcript follows.
"Good evening, I'm Tom Morello.
"They are four of the most recognizable faces on the planet, and one of the most iconic and badass bands of all time. Tonight is the night that KISS enters the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
"Growing up, KISS was my favorite band — and it was not easy being a KISS fan. Just as KISS were relentlessly persecuted by critics, their fans were relentlessly persecuted by the self-appointed arbiters of taste in middle schools and high schools across America. Arguments and even fistfights were not uncommon. I recall as a 15-year-old telling one bully, 'You can kiss my KISS-loving ass!' because KISS was never a critics' band, KISS was a people's band.
"And so I waited in a long line on a bitter cold Chicago morning to buy a ticket for my first concert, a KISS concert. I was especially thrilled because imprinted on the ticket were words that hinted that it was going to be a special event. The ticket said 'A partial view of KISS.' I was certain this meant the band were going to reveal some new secret corner of their artistic souls. In reality, it meant that my seat was behind a pole. Still, that concert was the most exciting, cathartic, loudest and most thrilling two hours of live music I've seen to this day.
"While there is a often debate about who should and shouldn't be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I think the criteria are actually quite simple: impact, influence and awesomeness. KISS have all three in spades.
"Impact? KISS have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. They have 28 gold albums in the United States alone. That's more than any other American rock band in history. Their theatrics were indisputably groundbreaking, but it was KISS' music that had an impact on me. All four guys wrote great songs. All four guys were great lead singers. They practically invented the live album with 'Kiss Alive!' Then came 'Destroyer', 'Rock And Roll Over', 'Love Gun', 'Alive II', 'Dynasty', all exploding with killer riffs, anthemic choruses and screaming solos that for 40 years have been filling arenas and stadiums around the world.
"Influence? Simply put, KISS is the band that made me and millions of others love rock and roll. What Elvis and THE BEATLES were to previous generations, KISS were to us. They propelled millions of young people to pick up instruments. Their influence is everywhere. From METALLICA to Lady Gaga, KISS have inspired thousands of artists of diverse genres, some of whom may be on a Hall Of Fame trajectory themselves. They've been a formative influence on members of TOOL, PEARL JAM, ALICE IN CHAINS, SLIPKNOT, Garth Brooks, PANTERA, FOO FIGHTERS, MÖTLEY CRÜE, Lenny Kravitz, WHITE ZOMBIE, SOUNDGARDEN, NINE INCH NAILS… and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, to name just a few.
"OK. Impact? Check. Influence? Check. And the final criteria? Awesomeness. There's a simple test for that. What if you had never seen or heard KISS before? What if you had never heard a note of their music, never viewed a YouTube clip, never seen a reality show featuring any of the members? And what if you wandered into a divey club in your hometown and saw KISS in all their glory thrashing the place to the ground? One guy belching fire and spraying blood past his gargantuan tongue. A drum riser bursting through the roof. A guitar player so incredible his axe billowed smoke and shot rockets. A frontman flying back and forth across the joint like a superhero Tarzan. All of them in frightening horror movie/comic book superstar, sexifying kabuki make up. All of them in black and silver warrior bondage gear and seven-inch platform heels. The place blowing up with explosions, screeching with sirens, raining confetti, all to the pounding soundtrack of bareknuckle badass heavy duty liberating rock and roll. What would you say if you saw that? You'd say, 'That band's fucking awesome and deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame!!' That's what you'd say.
"Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer have all been important in extending and expanding KISS' impressive legacy and they deserve a round of applause. But tonight we honor the fearsome foursome; the four original, founding members of KISS. The Demon, Gene Simmons — he's the God Of Thunder, he's Dr. Love. He's BEATLES-like bass on the bottom, a bat lizard Bela Lugosi on the top. The Starchild, Paul Stanley — the heart throb ringmaster of KISS' Psycho Circus. His vision, talent and dedication over four decades have made KISS the band it is today. The Space Man, Ace Frehley — my first guitar hero. He designed the band's iconic logo and blazed unforgettable, timeless licks across their greatest records. And The Cat, Peter Criss — jungle rhythms, jazz fills, and the writer and singer of the band's biggest hit, the world's first power ballad, 'Beth'. Tonight we also honor the fifth member of the band without whom this night could never have happened. Tonight we honor the Kiss Army, generations of fiercely loyal fans who are celebrating this long overdue induction all over the planet tonight.
"Tonight proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the high school bullies and the critics were mistaken. We, KISS fans, were right. So let's celebrate.
"I misspoke earlier when I said that tonight KISS enters the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. That's almost right. Because tonight…it's not the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Tonight it's the Rock And Roll All Night And Party Every Day Hall Of Fame. And so without further ado… Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss.
"You wanted the best and you got the best, the hottest band in the world… KISS."
All four members of the original lineup of KISS — Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss — delivered warm, nostalgic and even sweet-natured speeches that put aside the simmering tensions for at least 12 minutes.
Gene Simmons spoke first, saying, "We are humbled — all of us — to stand up on this stage and do what we love doing. This is a profound moment for all of us." Simmons then spoke kindly about each of his original bandmates, while also mentioning former and current members as well as late drummer Eric Carr and late guitarist Mark St. John.
Peter Criss said, "I'd like to thank the Hall Of Fame for this honor; I never thought this could happen in my life. Thank you." He also went through a list of people he wanted to thank, while also revealing that he has been free of male breast cancer for seven years. Criss concluded by saying, "I want to say that, even out of makeup, I'll always be the Catman. God bless each and every one of you — I will remember this the rest of my life. Thank you so much."
Frehley joked that he couldn't read his speech because his sunglasses weren't prescription, then ran through his own list of thanks and revealed that he has been sober for seven and a half years. Like Peter Criss, he thanked the band's original manager, the late Bill Aucoin, as well as the late Neil Bogart, who signed them to Casablanca Records in 1973. Frehley ended by saying, "Only by the grace of God I'm here… Life's been good to me; hopefully I've got 10 or 20 more years to go."
Paul Stanley ended the speeches by thanking Morello, "who's championed us shamelessly and unapologetically," and by calling the evening "vindication" for the fans. He also took a dig at the Hall Of Fame by saying, "The people, I believe, are speaking to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and what they're saying is, 'We want more.' They deserve more. They want to be a part of the induction. They want to be a part of the nomination. They don't want to be spoon-fed by a handful of people. Choices. The people pay for tickets. The people buy albums. The people who nominate do not. Let's not forget that these are the people that make it all possible. We just benefit from it."
KISS did not perform — the Hall Of Fame wanted the original quartet only to play, while Simmons and Stanley insisted on the current lineup performing as well. In the end nobody won that battle.
The 29th annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony was taped and will air on May 31 on HBO.