The first time I heard Rock and Roll all Night by Kiss was the night I discovered that rock music, played loudly and well, could get between your legs and shimmy.
Of course, maybe that sensation of being able to feel your heart pounding against your thighs just comes from a fantastic rhythm section and a really good amplifier.
I was 12 or 13 when I saw Kiss. My favourite aunt’s new husband took me, my two older brothers and my cousin Lisa to their concert at the old Halifax Forum, thus becoming my favourite uncle. My mother laughs that it was the one way he could get away with going to the concert – my aunt is not a rock fan.
I don’t remember talking the concert up at school, don’t remember any budding, can’t-sit-still, gonna-do-something-great, anticipation. It’s entirely possible we weren’t told we were going, that we were just packed into the car after school and taken into the city. Maybe Ron only got tickets at the last minute, maybe it was summer. My mind draws a complete blank on the prelude.
Before that night I’d been to one concert in my life – outdoors on a summer afternoon at Acadia University, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. My favourite aunt, her best friend and my mother were going and somehow ended up with an extra ticket, which they let me have – reluctantly probably, I was young and didn’t understand the appeal of this lanky, stumbling-drunk growly man up on the stage, though I was entranced by Rita Coolidge’s long, straight, black hair and the sense I got from her that she was perfectly centred within herself on stage, even when she was helping Kristofferson to remain on his feet. I’d never seen that kind of self-possession before and have seen it only rarely since.
I was a country girl barely into her teens, I would have been excited about a trip to Halifax.
There was no way I could have been prepared for Kiss.
They were and are a touring band, consummate showmen, all bizarre makeup, 12-inch platform heels, body-hugging leather, strategic metal and sets that spewed smoke and fire and amplification that would blow your mind if you stood too close to the speakers.
The audience mingled and danced in front of the stage (if we had assigned seats we didn’t use them), drank from bottles hidden in their denim jackets, breathed air sweet and thick with the smell of tobacco and pot.
Lisa and I were giddy with excitement by the time Kiss came out on stage, which they did with a bang, scaring the shit out of us.  I’d never heard music that loud, had never seen a man spit fire.
I’ve had years to measure and study the appeal, so I know, beyond the rhythm section, what it is that got my heart pounding faster and made my knees weak – these men were sex on legs, strutting around like rampant lions on the stage, swinging their manes, arching their backs, making love to their guitars, their makeup rendering them mysterious and even more seductive because of their anonymity – even my stuck-up cousin Lisa felt it. And Gene Simmons would stick out his tongue at the crowd – a few years ago I saw Oprah melt as Simmons, when she asked him how long that iconic tongue was, stuck it out and assured her it was long enough to make two of them “very good friends.” I knew how she felt – even though at 12? 13? I had no idea why.
A couple of cute older boys let me and Lisa sit on their shoulders for quite a bit of the concert and if you don’t think that was a thrill and a half you were never a teenage girl. Uncle Ron, when he realized where we were, asked them to put us down, something about the vodka bottles he saw sticking out of their pockets. But by then Lisa and I had the fever.
(I want to) Rock and Roll All Night (And Party Every Day) was the last song on the set list before the encores. I say that concert was the first time I’d heard it because while  I’m sure I’d heard it before – I think Beth was the only completely new song that night – I’d never heard it THAT WAY, never FELT it before. I was 13 at the most, I’d been sitting on some cute guy’s shoulders half the night,  had maybe had a sip or two of vodka, definitely had a contact high from all the pot being smoked in the place, had already been infected with the volume and the drums and the guitars and Gene Simmons’ tongue and THEN they pull out their rip-stoppingest song, their anthemic Rock and Roll all Night, after a good hour of explosions and fire and smoke and heat and sweating and stomping and clapping and shouting and posing and holymotherofgod the crowd was one seething, pulsing orgasm waiting to happen. Wasn’t a guy in the room who wouldn’t have bowed down and declared himself unworthy, not a girl who wouldn’t have willingly responded to the slightest crook of a finger from any of them. Or barring one of them, any of the roadies. I was at a Kiss concert when that band was on fire, I’ve never needed anyone to explain groupies to me. My heart crashed with Peter Criss’s drums, my blood pulsed in my veins in time with Ace Frehley’s guitar. Gene Simmons frightened me a bit – still does. But I would have wrapped myself around  Paul Stanley – he’s still my favourite – and  rocked and rolled all night. That kind of music has muscle, and sinews, has heft and shape to fill a room and carry you away on it. And I was transported.
When we filed out onto Almon Street after the concert, I was far older than I’d been going in. I went back to school changed somehow, knowing something none of my classmates did, something I couldn’t explain to them, between my lack of vocabulary, and their ignorance of the context. We played the albums, sure, but it wasn’t the same.
Years later, a lover asked me what kind of music gets me in the mood. Kiss came almost immediately to mind, but he would have laughed if I’d said so, so I tried to identify what it was about Kiss that hit me in all the right places. Finally I answered, “What kind of music? Loud. With a pulse.” He looked at me strangely and never brought it up again. I guess you had to be there.