(Credits: Far Out / Gage Skidmore / Island Def Jam Music Group)
At the start of the 1970s, rock audiences were getting their first taste of what heavy music was supposed to sound like. Even though The Rolling Stones and The Doors may have started to make sonic structures that were a lot more avant-garde than what listeners were used to, it took bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to point rock in a new direction. They created songs that were a lot thicker than what many expected. While America would respond in kind, Steven Tyler wasn’t exactly cordial with his American counterparts.
Before Aerosmith had even gotten off the ground, though, Tyler was already making songs that were a bit too reminiscent of his heroes. In the band’s first reviews, Aerosmith were dragged through the mud because of their easy comparisons to The Rolling Stones, with Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry being an American surrogate for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
While Tyler was unafraid to wear his influences on his sleeve, another band out of New York was looking to reshape the theatricality of rock and roll. Donned in horrifying makeup, Kiss turned rock and roll into a spectacle the first time they hit the stage, putting as much attention into their stage effects as they did to their musical capabilities.
Even though the bands crossed paths on the touring circuit, it didn’t take long for Tyler’s relationship with the group to turn sour. According to the frontman, the reason why both outfits fell out came down to the staff backstage getting into a violent fight, saying, “I remember when we went out with Kiss in ’76 or something. One of our roadies got into a knife fight with their guys, so I hated them ever since.”
Despite the personal differences, it’s easy to see that both bands have similarities. Both born from the golden age of rock and roll, many Kiss and Aerosmith deep cuts tend to have a similar formula, with Tyler and Perry operating from a slightly more bluesy foundation than Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
Both groups also managed to reinvent their sound along the way as well. By the time the 1970s gave way to the hair bands of the 1980s, Kiss and Aerosmith were both welcomed as elder statesmen of the genre, with each of them having high points during the decade with songs like ‘Lick It Up’ and ‘Love in an Elevator’ respectively.
Although both bands may have steered clear of each other on the festival, Tyler didn’t seem to change his tune about how he felt about their presentation, calling them “[a] comic book rock band [with] spackled faces [and] a couple of hits”.
Regardless of Tyler’s comments, Perry has been friendly with the members of KISS, even showing up during one of their sets with Simmons’s trademark dragon boots to play the song ‘Strutter’. Then again, even Perry later admitted that the differences between both bands are like night and day whenever they take the stage, explaining, “It’s two different animals. [Kiss] went the theatrical way and used rock ‘n’ roll kind of as their soundtrack, and for Aerosmith, the music is our show.”