"Music From 'The Elder'" Album Notes:
Produced by Bob Ezrin. Associate Producer Brian Christian. Recorded at Ace In The Hole Studio, Connecticut, March - July 1981, A & R Studios, New York City, New York, May 1981, Record Plant Studios, New York City, New York, May, July - September 1981, Ezrin Farm Studio & Sounds Interchange, Toronto, Canada, March & May 1981, by Brian Christian, Rick Hart, Robert Hrycyna and David Brown. Additional Engineering by Rob Freeman, Corky Stasiak and Kevin Doyle. Mixed at Manta Sound Studio, Toronto, Canada.
Were any track to be singled out to illustrate the pomposity and absurdity of the "Elder" concept, this 1:22 Bob Ezrin and Paul Stanley composition would be it. With its medieval instrumentation and feel, the piece served as an interlude in the original track order of the album.
Just A Boy
Written by Bob Ezrin and Paul Stanley while working together in a small 8-track studio in Ontario with Bob playing drums. The concept between this piece is the protagonist of the plot, "feeling exempt from the responsibility of leadership because of his age" (KISS PR). In other notes concerning the storyline, the premise of the song is that the young hero, and indeed individuals, need to look inside themselves and take control of their destinies to, as the analogy goes, "steer their own ships" without looking for excuses not to do so. Several different experimental mixes of this song exist, including an odd version with a Bach "Toccata & Fuge" styled organ background. Several rehearsal takes show Paul to have had some issues with the falsetto in which the song is sung. According to Bob, they really should have stopped the whole project when they heard this resulting piece!
While KISS recorded the song before its writer Tony Powers recorded his version, it is still technically a cover. Tony was a songwriter in the employ of hit songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. He later wrote and performed a comedy video piece, "Don't Nobody Move (This Is A Heist)," which included "Odyssey" and two other songs, the title track and "Midnight Trampoline." This would also be released as a record on Sony in 1984. Tony Powers has been rumored to have been the "?" in the classic 1960s garage band "? And The Mysterians" who had a hit with "96 Tears" (a song Paul Stanley's band Uncle Joe would perform). That band had also been signed to Cameo/Parkway records and had material produced by Neil Bogart. In the storyline this song represents the hero's knowledge "that there is something greater than one's self involved" (KISS PR). This song includes Alan Schwartzberg on drums and Gene had originally wanted to sing the piece with Paul only taking the lead vocal at the last moment.
While this song would be written by Gene Simmons, its concept seems more likely at home with the sort of things Paul would rap about in concert. It's about believing in yourself, in the context of the boy-hero, and accepting his destiny that he is the only one who can fight the powers of darkness.
Under The Rose
Early on during his career with KISS, Eric Carr would make an immediate impact adding to the creativity within the band. This song would begin with Eric Carr. Eric recalled his role in the writing of the song: "I had all the music exactly the way it is on the album. I then brought it to Gene, and he worked on the lyrics. I think Ezrin was involved in that too, but I don't remember at this point" (Dark Light, Spring '90).
Eric had chosen the song from a list of song titles that dealt with the plot of Gene's embryonic idea. With the challenge the boy-hero faces, the first step was for him to accept his destiny as he appeared before the Order Of The Rose. According to Eric, "It was supposed to be about the chant meetings, the oath that these people take in this ancient 'order.' So I just decided that might be something to work on. A lot of the stuff that I would play on my own when I play guitar kind of had an eerie kind of thing to it. I figured maybe I could handle that. I just went in and I fooled around with stuff. And I brought the finished track, musically, anyway, to Gene. That was it. I had a scratch vocal on it. No words. I could not do lyrics at that time" (KISS Neon Glow #1, 1992).
Ace's interesting "Don't Run," which he had written with Anton Fig, would be co-opted by Gene and Lou Reed to be representative of the fear being caused by the powers of chaos and destruction who revel in disorder. Contrary to popular belief, Anton Fig would not drum on the studio track in place of Eric Carr.
A World Without Heroes
This song evolved out of an idea piece that Paul stopped working on. Gene, however, liked the melody of the piece, rather than the sappy lyrics Paul had originally come up with for his song ("Every Little Bit Of My Heart"). Gene took parts of it and with Bob Ezrin revamped the piece into what would be the album's sole single released in the United States, "A World Without Heroes." The title would come from Lou Reed simply writing the title down, as an idea, on a piece of scrap paper that caught Gene's attention. According to sample artwork for the abandoned "Exposed II" video cassette (1992) a version of the song exists with Lou Reed on lead-vocals. The song would also be KISS' first full concept video, due to being an artistically shot performance piece ending with a tear from the Demon's eye. This is in contrast to the pseudo-live performance videos which the band had first used for promotional purposes in 1975 ("Shandi" is partially concept mixed with performance).
Written by Paul Stanley, Bob Ezrin, and Tony Powers. According to Paul, "For whatever reason, I didn't seem able to hit the high notes full voice at that point and wound up singing some passages in falsetto, which is hardly to my liking at this point" (Box Set Liners). Comparing the album version with the one Ace would perform on "Fridays" live in early 1982, it would seem to indicate that Paul plays lead on the track and Ace's work wasn't used.
Oddly, in one plot synopsis for the "Elder," Mr. Blackwell is a Washington D.C. power broker "who turns out to be the story's villain, and the worldly representative of the Powers of Darkness" (KISS PR) who is holding hostage a world leader. This seems quite different than the character Gene and Lou Reed would write into the song, a character who seems almost Dr. Jekyll-ish.
Escape From The Island
Written by Eric Carr, Ace Frehley, and Bob Ezrin while jamming in the basement of Bob's house. Bob would play bass on the recording of the song. This would be KISS' first instrumental since the debut album in 1974. According to Eric the 2:50 instrumental "was a jam that me, Ace, and Bob Ezrin did. We got together at Bob's house jamming in his little studio room in his basement. They started pulling things together, and that's how that song came about" (Dark Light, Spring '90). This puts the track in a class of its own for not including either Gene or Paul on it, though it would return the use of sirens (in this case air raid versus fire sirens) on a "KISS" song. Initially the song would not be included on the Japanese version of "The Elder," and it was instead the B-side to "The Oath" released in that country as a single. The song would be included on the release of "Killers," in Japan the following year.
Written by Gene and Bob Ezrin, the song sums up the change in the boy as he learns to believe in himself. The 3:52 song includes one verse that has long been seen to be both a dig at Ace's lifestyle and a statement of Gene's personal philosophy: "Don't need to get wasted / It only holds me down / I just need a will of my own / And the balls to stand alone." Interestingly, this would be the last song until "Revenge" on which Gene and Paul would share lead vocals.
This song also includes Alan Schwartzberg on drums. According to Paul, "As far as 'I,' it is indeed Alan Schwartzberg on the drums. Alan was a well-known session player in NYC and Bob Ezrin our producer at the time felt Eric was not playing the sound with the feel that Bob felt it needed. One of the rules we have always tried to adhere to when we work with Bob is to give him final say. It avoids ongoing, endless and sometimes unresolved issues" (KISS Online - Paul Speaks). Gene has been somewhat more blunt in his explanation of Alan's involvement suggesting that Eric simply couldn't provide the desired feel so they used Alan. What is interesting is that Eric would play the song live on "Fridays," without any problems.
Following the end of the song, one of the remaining spoken-word parts closes the album. "Elder: Morpheus, you have been summoned here to offer your judgment of the boy. Do you still deem him worthy of the fellowship? Morpheus: I certainly do my Lord. As a matter of fact, I, I think you're going to like this one. He's got the light in his eyes. And, the look of a champion. A real champion."
I (Single Edit)
This single edit was released in several countries and used as the backing track to lip-synched performances. It simply replaces the lyric "I just need a will of my own / and the balls to stand alone" with "I just need a will of my own / and the guts to stand alone." Nothing earth-shattering. "I" was released as a single in several markets and managed to reach #24 in Australia. According to Gene it was also a hit in Italy where it was issued with two sleeves, the second commemorating the "San Remo" event, where KISS, as a trio without Ace, would perform a lip-synched version of the song from Studio 54 in New York.
Every Little Bit Of My Heart
While working on the "Elder" project, Paul had the beginnings of a ballad called "Every Little Bit Of My Heart." While Paul had a very clear melodic structure for the 3:54 song, it was very apparent that he was still fleshing out the lyrics for the piece when he essentially abandoned it to work on other material for the album. Those original sappy lyrics essentially went: "I know you / Don't know what you want to do / I want you only // 'Cause there's nothing better / We went through it all before / I was so lonely / I want you only // Every little bit of your heart / They're not the only tears you've got / Our lips are lonely" (or something similar since the lyrics are extremely difficult to decipher). This also explains why some of the early instrumental takes of "A World Without Heroes" are often referred to as being "I Want You Only."
However, those lyrics may simply have been scat vocals, partially at least, since there is a slight similarity between them and Linda Rondstadt's "Hurt So Bad" (originally written by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Hart for Little Anthony & The Imperials). In the case of some of those instrumental versions, it may simply have been a matter of the tape generation in trading circles resulting in the decline of the sound quality of the song, since the vocals are so low in the mix in the first place. The similarities between this piece and "A World Without Heroes" are most noticeable on the bass line and the initial minute of the song before the piece changes tempo and style.
Essentially, "Don't Run," which would be Elder-fied into "Dark Light," would be Ace Frehley's final musical contribution to KISS. Originally a rather disjointed song with Ace talking more with low vocals, there seems to be a distinct lack of direction for the song, and it seems to fit closer, stylistically, to the songs Ace was co-writing with "Crazy" Joe Renda (e.g., "Eugene"), though the comments are humorous at times. "What's wrong? / You're not happy girl (Well what can I do about it?) / Now, be strong / And get confidence (You know you can't stick your head in the ground forever) / You got problems / So does everyone, so does everyone (You don't want me to give you charity) / So use your mind / 'Cause it's all you've got (Well your body's not too bad.... humph!)." "Don't Run" was based on a riff that Anton Fig had created. Anton recalled, "Well what happened there was I had a riff which Ace really liked and so he took my guitar riff and then he wrote some more stuff and the song kind of came out" (KISS Online). This version runs 3:09.
Don't Run (Version #2)
Another version, or perhaps take, of Ace and Anton's "Don't Run." Apart from some tape speed issues, the track runs some 6:13. Because of the quality of the recording that circulates, it is entirely possible that this recording is a fan concoction. The most noticeable differences include the very prominent bass line high in the mix and extended chorus repetition at the end of the piece.
Just A Boy (Strong Keyboards Mix)
This 2:15 alternate mix of the song has an almost "Phantom Of The Opera" feel to it with the very prominent and strong organ that permeates the track. It's very Bach, a la Toccata & Fuge in D Minor! Structurally, the song differs from the album version in that it is simply the first verse and chorus repeated twice with no breaks or guitar solos. Paul also sings the whole piece in falsetto and the piece eventually fades out over the keyboards.
Just A Boy (Heavy Guitars Mix)
With all that Ace has said about having his solos cut out of "The Elder," one could assume that this mix of the song is one of the prime examples where this could have been the case. While the keyboards are still noticeable lower in the mix, the primary focus of the song is the guitars. Lyrically, like the other alternate mix, the song is simply the verse and chorus repeated with no solo. Over the second repetition of the verse a rougher electric guitar is present versus the acoustic guitars of the first.
Just A Boy/Nowhere To Run (Segue Mix)
The source of this oddity is not clear, but it is most definitely a fake, simply combining the two demos. That a version circulates in which "Just A Boy" segues directly into "Nowhere To Run" is something of an interesting enigma, which would initially seem to make a certain amount of sense in the context of the "storyline" of the "Elder." The whole piece runs 7:14. Interestingly, the version of "Just A Boy" is nearly identical to 27.16 without the guitar solo, though the guitars are lower in the mix (again possibly the work of a fan). Its duration is 2:16. The 4:58 version of "Nowhere To Run" is slightly different in that it lacks any lead guitar work. This version is some 20 seconds longer than the other demo version of "Nowhere To Run."
"Heaven" would be an incomplete idea piece left at the instrumental stage by Ace Frehley and Eric Carr in Toronto during the "Elder" sessions in 1981. While the song structure basically follows what would become the main music in Frehley's Comet's "Breakout," the song was notable for including the only studio recording of an Eric Carr drum solo. According to Eric, "It was supposed to be my 'Moby Dick' with the drum solo on it. I don't have a copy of it anymore. You know there was like a three minute drum solo in the middle of the song then came back in the way Ace did and end it. We tried, all during the recording of 'The Elder,' to write lyrics for this thing and nobody could figure out what the hell to sing to it! That was one of the few things that Ace and I worked on separately. We couldn't get anywhere.... It just kind of sat there" (KISS Neon Glow #1, 1992).
Because of comments later made by Gene and Paul about the recording, it is unlikely that either of them had input on the track. Since the song was not lyrically completed at the time, the masters would remain in Bob Ezrin's vault until 1992. See also "Breakout" in the "Ace Frehley post-KISS" section and "Carr Jam 1981" in the "Revenge" section. Several different takes of the recording exist in collectors circles for those who want to compare the exquisite original with the later KISS hatchet job. With no count off, this version of the track simply starts with the main riff and runs 6:18. This features the full 2:46 drum solo rather than the shortened 46-second version.
Heaven (Version #2)
The common 4:48 version that circulates has a 28-second period of "warm up" at the beginning where Ace practices the riff before Eric hits a couple of notes prior to counting off the start of the piece with his sticks. Both versions of "Heaven" circulate with excellent sound quality, allowing fans to properly enjoy Eric Carr's drum work in its original form.
An unused lyrical piece from the "Elder" project by Lou Reed: "Give us a verdict now / Now is the hour of decision / Don't be slow when you go / Unless you can quickly show to us / A boy prepared to be our hero // Morpheus descending from the spirit / Morpheus descending to our court / Morpheus do send to us a hero / And, Morpheus we thank you very much." Brought into the sessions by Bob Ezrin, Lou's input in the writing of "Music From 'The Elder'" was very much about throwing around snippets on lyrics or concepts.
Council Of The Elder (Instrumental)
Kix Are For Kids (Instrumental)
Both of these titles were assigned to the untitled instrumentals as they appeared on the "Fancy Fair" bootleg and probably have no official sanction whatsoever. "Council Of The Elder" runs 3:51 and is essentially a very poor-quality version of "Every Little Bit Of My Heart." "Kix Are For Kids" is more the sort of material one would expect from KISS as a studio jam. It runs 4:15, though it has some elements that make it difficult to definitively call a KISS instrumental.
Another of the untitled and unproven instrumentals, this 4:01 instrumental has elements which make it sound closer to Blackjack's "Heart Of Stone" rather than being a KISS demo. However, the guitar does have something of an Ace sonic signature. The jury is out. This and the other instrumentals often circulate as "Lick It Up" instrumentals and may date later than 1981.
Untitled Instrumental #2
These last two instrumentals are essentially different takes of the same piece. This version runs 2:08 with basic rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. However, the material is stylistically different from the sort of material KISS was doing in the period it is alleged to have been from, so it is possible that neither is actually by KISS.
Untitled Instrumental #3
At 2:05 this instrumental is simply a speeded-up, and somewhat more crisp, version of "Instrumental #2".
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