KISS fans are a very stubborn lot. Many of them refuse to listen to anything produced by the band after the departure of founding members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. To others, the unmasked era of the band never existed. A few of us, though, have held on tightly as the KISS rollercoaster took many twists and turns.
A very touchy subject with fans of the band is the makeup and who's actually behind it. When Ace Frehley left the band in the early 80's, Vinnie Vincent was brought in to replace him. Much like relatively new drummer Eric Carr donned the Fox makeup instead of Peter Criss' legendary Catman paint, Vincent was given a new character, the Ankh Warrior, to portray on stage.
While fans hated to see Frehley go, they weren't too disturbed by the fact that the Space Ace was gone and a new, very much capable replacement was in his place with different paint. Vincent would go on to prove to be a very good writer for the band as well.
Of course, Vincent's time in the band wasn't very long. Even shorter was the time for Mark St. John, who had to leave the band after only one album due to chronic arthritis problems. Bruce Kulick was then brought in (December, 1984) and remained with the band all the way to mid-1996.
It was at this time that Ace Frehley and Peter Criss returned to the band for the Reunion and eventual Farewell tours of the original KISS lineup.
In 2002, Frehley left the band again and in a very controversial move, Tommy Thayer was brought on board...but in the Spaceman makeup.
Many fans hated this move (initialized when Peter Criss first left the band and was replaced by Eric Singer in the Catman makeup), and the band took a lot of heat for it. However, you cannot deny that Tommy Thayer is a very capable and perhaps better guitar player than Ace Frehley was during his tenure with KISS.
Thayer was born in Portland, Oregon and has played in a number of bands over the years. Outside of KISS, he is probably best known for his time in the band Black n' Blue. He recorded four studio albums with that band.
Thayer was also part of a KISS cover band named Cold Gin (named after the Ace Frehley-penned, Gene Simmons sung tune). It was while a part of this band (portraying Ace), that KISS first noticed Thayer. He was given a job with the band as an all-around gofer. He also re-taught Frehley many of KISS' songs during the Reunion and Farewell tours (and recorded some tracks for Psycho Circus but wasn't credited). Eventually, Thayer was called in to replace Frehley when he left the band.
Personally, I believe that Thayer is a perfect fit for the group. Not only can he seamlessly play Ace's old licks, he can also handle the work of Vincent, St. John, and Kulick. Many fans forget that Frehley wasn't the only KISS guitarist featured on some of the band's hits. Having seen KISS with Thayer live, I can say that he handles all of the band's old material, with and without makeup, with no problems and sounds great on the new material from Sonic Boom.
Thayer is in a very tough situation as the guitarist for KISS. He has to deal with the fact that to many fans, KISS just isn't KISS without Ace. He also has to deal with critics who say he's nothing more than a copy of Ace (which is far from the truth). Also, if Thayer deviates too much from Ace's old songs, he risks being chastised by fans who want to hear songs like Love Gun as they were originally played back in the 70's.
In short, Thayer is in a classic "darned if you do, darned if you don't" situation. I personally think Thayer will always be looked at as a "copy" of the original Spaceman by loyalists of the original lineup, despite being an excellent guitarist in his own right. As far as I'm concerned, Thayer is KISS' lead guitarist. If you have a problem with that, check them out live and then tell me what you think.
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