"Wicked Lester was a New York-based rock and roll group. The group was formed (as Rainbow) in 1970, and its most notable early members were bassist Gene Klein (later Gene Simmons) and rhythm guitarist Stanley Eisen (later Paul Stanley). In 1971 the band changed their name to Wicked Lester, and in the fall of that year they recorded an album for Epic Records, which was never released.
Wicked Lester's music featured elements of rock and roll, folk rock, and pop. Simmons and Stanley, feeling that the group lacked a unifying musical vision, began forming a second version of Wicked Lester in late 1972. This second Wicked Lester, with an emphasis on more straightforward rock and roll, as well as on theatrics, became Kiss in early 1973.
During their brief existence, Wicked Lester performed in public twice. The first show took place at the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg, New York in April 1971. The second, during the summer of 1971, was at an Atlantic City, New Jersey hotel hosting a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization event. Not long after that show, the band suffered a major setback when they had all of their musical gear stolen.
After a chance meeting with Electric Lady Studios engineer Ron Johnsen, Wicked Lester was given the opportunity to record some demos in the fall of 1971. Johnsen, who produced the demo tape, shopped it to a few labels, with no success. Eventually the tape was screened by Epic Records, who purchased the masters and agreed to fund the recording of a full album.
The entire recording process, which adhered to a haphazard schedule, took nearly a year to complete. When the completed album was presented to Don Ellis, Epic's A&R director, he stated that he hated the album and was not going to release it. The next day, Wicked Lester manager Lew Linet requested and received the group's release from Epic Records.
It was at this time that Klein and Eisen (now using the stage names Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) decided that one of the reasons for Wicked Lester's lack of success was their lack of a singular image and musical vision. They made the decision to start a new version of the group, and began auditioning for a drummer in the fall of 1972.
Whereas Wicked Lester's original sound was rooted in varied musical styles (folk and pop, for instance), when Simmons and Stanley decided to recruit new members, they also made the decision to focus on a more aggressive and simple style of rock and roll. The first new member added to Wicked Lester was drummer Peter Criss, who had placed an ad in Rolling Stone. The new Wicked Lester, without a recording contract, began a strict and regular regimen of rehearsals.
In November 1972, the group arranged a showcase with Don Ellis, the Epic Records executive who earlier had rejected Wicked Lester's album. While one Epic executive, Tom Werman, was impressed by the power and theatrics of this new incarnation of Wicked Lester, Ellis once again turned them down. As Ellis was leaving, Peter Criss's brother (who was drunk) vomited on his foot.
In early December, Paul Stanley placed an ad in The Village Voice stating, "LEAD GUITARIST WANTED with Flash and Ability. Album Out Shortly. No time wasters please," rather than the historically incorrect "with Flash and Balls." The ad ran for two issues (December 7, 1972 and December 14, 1972) and the band had to run several sessions of auditions. One early audition was by the strange Paul "Ace" Frehley who showed up wearing different colored shoes. Frehley was asked back for a second audition and was a member of the band by Christmas 1972. Within a few weeks, the group had changed its name to Kiss and played their first concert on January 30, 1973.
The proper recording sessions for Wicked Lester's album, which began in November 1971 at Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, took place during multiple sessions and were finished in July 1972. The album was a mixture of original material and covers, showcasing the group's eclectic style. Three of the songs recorded for the Wicked Lester album would later resurface as Kiss songs, with varying degrees of similarity:
- "We Wanna Shout It Out Loud": A cover version of a song that was originally recorded by The Hollies in 1970. The chorus would serve as the inspiration for "Shout It Out Loud" from 1976's Destroyer, although the two songs are completely different in every other respect.
- "Love Her All I Can": Written by Paul Stanley, this would resurface on 1975's Dressed to Kill. Both versions feature similar arrangements.
- "She": Written by Gene Simmons and Steve Coronel prior to the formation of Wicked Lester, this was also re-recorded for the Dressed to Kill album. The melody and arrangement in the two versions are nearly identical, although the original had congas and a flute that the Kiss version did not.
The only part of Wicked Lester's album to actually be released, initially, was the cover art, which was used for The Laughing Dogs' debut album in 1979. CBS Records, who owned the rights to the album, remixed it and planned to release it in late 1976 to capitalize on Kiss's commercial popularity. Kiss and Neil Bogart, the president of Casablanca Records (Kiss's label), purchased the album from CBS for $137,500 and never released it. Eventually, Kiss bought Bogart's share outright. Three songs from the album ("Keep Me Waiting," "She," and "Love Her All I Can"), however, were released in 2001 as part of Kiss's five-disc box set.
- (We Want To) Shout It Out Loud was originally recorded by The Hollies and is not the same song as Shout It Out Loud from 1976's Destroyer album.
- Wicked Lester lead guitarist, Steven Coronel, was a mutual friend of Gene and Paul's and introduced the two of them.
- Neither Paul, nor Gene, EVER want these recordings released because they think they are horrible (Paul calls the Wicked Lester recordings "eclectic crap").
- Wicked Lester only played together twice before recording the album.
- Other songs recorded include Eskimo Sun (which later appeared in a vastly different form as Only You on Music From The Elder), Suitor, About Her, Long Road, and Stanley The Parrot (which became Strutter on KISS' first album).
- The Wicked Lester album was produced by Ron Johnsen who also produced Peter Criss' pre-KISS album, Chelsea in 1971.
- The proposed cover for the Wicked Lester album features an evil-looking young boy sitting on some steps with a dog. This cover would resurface in 1979 (CBS Records had placed it in storage) on an album for the group, The Laughing Dogs.
- Gene and Paul sang a commercial jingle for AMC trucks that got them the exposure needed to gain studio time with Eddie Kramer to record the demos for an album deal.
Source: Kiss Discography 1971-75
Tracklist: 1. Sweet Ophelia, 2. Keep Me Waiting, 3. Love Her All I Can, 4. Simple Types, 5. She, 6. Too Many Mondays, 7. What Happens In the Darkness, 8. When the Bell Rings, 9. Molly (Some Other Guy), 10. Shout It Out Loud, 11. Long, Long Road.
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