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The Animalize Sessions
Originally written for KISS Magazine, this article appeared in issue #54 of KISS Kollector fanzine, as part of the memorial tribute to Eric Carr.
After the plethora of material that circulates from the "Lick It Up" sessions, very little seems to have made it into circulation from "Animalize," KISS' most successful studio album of the unmasked era. For several years "demos" of "Thrills In The Night," "Get All You Can Take," and "Under The Gun" have circulated. Unfortunately, the first two of these are atrocious in sound quality, and the last is fake. Before getting into the new material, it's useful to look at the existing "Animalize" material in circulation.
The supposed "Under The Gun" demo runs 3.38. This is around 23 seconds shorter than the album version of the song. On the face of it this would be a substantial time difference that would seem to indicate "something." However, listening to the track makes it obvious that it's been speeded up - Paul ain't no chipmunk! Once the song is slowed back down to the album track's length it is simply a very poor quality copy of that track. It matches the final album mix of the song - completely. During the 1980s and early-1990s it was a common occurrence on the trading circuit for "fake" or fan-altered recordings to be traded as "demos," "alternate mixes," or "unmixed." There are probably more than a few collectors who increased their own collections by making their own material.
Running 4.58, what circulates as the "Thrills In The Night" demo is not really a demo. It's more of a rehearsal piece with Paul scatting. There are no proper vocals as such throughout the song. There are sections where it appears that Mark is working out some lead parts for the song, notably during the solo section. The piece ends with the music just falling apart as the band (or perhaps "players" would be more accurate since it's not clear who is participating, apart from Paul) stumbles to a halt. The existing version of "Get All You Can Take" is a 3.59 instrumental. There are no vocal attempts whatsoever, and it is probably more apt to describe it as being a studio rehearsal. In the case of these later two songs, it's sad that the sound quality is so poor since they're different versions from the new material we'll explore...
While the "Lick It Up" tour had concluded on March 17, 1984, it is clear that the band were already in the studios by late-April/early-May. This is in contrast to the generally accepted June date. The logic in the argument of the dating will be made clear later. Most of Paul's songs were in forms nearly identical to the album versions by the end of the month. An early S.I.R. rehearsal of "Thrills In The Night" starts off with a bit of guitar and drum warm-up. Following a false start, the band performs a 4.39 instrumental version of the song. This rehearsal includes a full guitar solo that is somewhat similar to the album version following a basically similar structure. However, it lacks many of the scales and whammy-bar effects, though it is different from the previously circulating rehearsal track. The rehearsal is also nearly 10 seconds longer than the final album version of the song. After the solo the instrumental continues through the final verse and what would have been two repetitions of the chorus before breaking down. Mark plays some lead over the final two chorus repetitions, similar to on the album. Following the attempt, Paul comments, "I have to live with it overnight, 'cause I'm not sure. I can't quite sing and play at the same time." Regardless, the arrangement was essentially nailed even though the timing would indicate that there was some fluidity at this point. Paul certainly doesn't seem convinced about the form of the track even when Gene suggests that they play it again. The full track runs 5.31 including the discussion. Amusingly, this recording comes off a rehearsal tape that recorded over some Wendy O. Williams material. Part of "Thief In The Night" and all of version of "Opus In Cm7" survive. These mixes appear to be different from those on Wendy's album with the drums being absolutely massive in the mix, akin to the original "Creatures Of The Night" drum sonics. This raises questions that won't be addressed in this article...
By the last week of May (25th) the basic music tracks for Paul's songs had essentially reached the point of completion. A 21 second clip with Mark's raw solo overdub on the end of "Under The Gun" is nearly identical to the final version. It's followed be 6 additional repetitions of the end of the song without any guitar overdubs. These have a different drum pattern to the album version of the song, with metronome-like timekeeping being present in the space where the ending guitar solo would be placed. A full 4.00 basic track of the song follows. It's essentially the final arrangement, with some basic lead work at the beginning of the song and the full guitar solo. Vocally, it only includes the "Under The Gun" chorus refrains and Eric shouting "Fire!" This is followed by a full basic version of "Get All You Can Take" that is titled "You've Gotta Get What You Can Take." This version lacks lead guitar work, but like the previous song has vocals on the choruses.
A rough mix of "Heaven's On Fire" follows and is essentially the same 3.17 form as would be used on the album. This indicates that this song, that isn't particularly complex, was finished (or at least in finished form) by the end of May. In essence, the song had been "done" since the middle of May, though the arrangement was tightened up with the removal of a second guitar solo section. On the earlier mix (May 16) Mark's basic first solo is followed by a return to the basic chorus, "Whoa-oh, Heaven's on fire / Whoa-oh." This is in turn followed by a second solo similar to the first. This mix runs 3.31 and has an interesting vocal miscue on the "Whoa-oh" prior to the "Heaven's on Fire" refrain following the solo, with there being several starts of the vocal at that point - almost as if several Paul's are trying to sing, not quite in sync. These could be artifacts of the vari-speed overlay process.
"Thrills In The Night" also underwent shrinkage in arrangement during May. An early rough mix (May 16) runs 4.51, though it seems somewhat plodding. By the time another mix was done (May 25) the tempo had been increased resulting in a 4.28 instrumental. Neither of these mixes have any lead guitar overdubs. The first mix only has vocals during the chorus sections, while the later mix has the full vocals throughout the song. A later mix (May 25) also sees Paul scatting on "Get All You Can Take." The 3.43 track is complete, except for the lead guitar overdubs, and the chorus vocals are in place. It's clear from his scat that Paul was planning a stratospheric vocal delivery for the song. Continuing the efforts to flesh out the lyrical application there is also an instrumental version of "(I've Had Enough) Into The Fire." Paul again scats during the verses though the "I've had enough..." parts on the choruses are present. Melodically, Paul seems unsure about where the song is going at this point. Compared with his scat on the previous "Get All You Can Take" he seems unsure about his pitch, though he does have the "wishing and hoping, won't get you nothing" part of the break lyrically. This song runs 3.53 and is one of the gems on the collection.
By the end of May work was being done on lead guitar overdubs. Mark St. John was working on the lead overdub at the start of "Thrills In The Night." Lasting only 30 seconds, the attempt is slightly off in terms of timing prior to Paul's vocals beginning. The attempt fades out during the first verse. Other guitar solo overdubs are attempted with a 35 second piece, and rather raw attempt at "Get All You Can Take." The attempt seems awkward, though there are similarities (in parts) to the final version. Four additional basic tracks follow where St. John doesn't attempt a solo, leaving that one attempt the only one from this tape for that song. Rather than an overdub, it is more of a practice piece. Finally, Mark makes a 45 second attempt at the solo for "(I've Had Enough) Into The Fire."
One thing that is noticeable from these recordings is the number of drum overdubs that were later added. Even in nearly finished form, these tracks are rather basic, but it's obvious that they're the solid foundation of the album's material.