Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Kiss And Make-Up

Shanghai Aug 2012I belong to the MAC Generation. Okay, maybe not MAC (but it sounded better in the context of the Richard Hell lyric) more like the Maybelline or Yardley Slicker generation. Now Elvis may have rocked a bit of guyliner in “Love Me Tender” or “Jailhouse Rock” but it was my generation of rockers who started to sport the serious makeup. I imagine they were sick of hippies, beads and tie-dye and wanted to, as Alice Cooper once quipped “to drive a stake through the love generation”. Alice, Iggy, The New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Kiss and scores of others brought the glam to rock. A decade or so later “hair bands” from the west coast would, with a healthy spray of Aqua Net, redefine the look and claim it as their own.

Ultimately that fad would be squashed by a sack full of Seattle rockers who donned their flannels and Doc’s and became the grunge generation. By this point the hair band scene became a little too extreme as the labels snapped up everyone with a good ‘do and a little attitude and soon the talent pool was thinner than a drummer’s pair of spandex pants. The grunge scene mocked the hair band scene but in reality they were no better as their plaid uniforms were just as cliché as the motley metal crew before them.  Here’s a look at the top ten made up rockers.

1.       Alice Cooper

alice-Hulton-ArchiveAlice is the rocker who brought make-up to the suburbs. First with his “spider” eyes and then with the classic Coop design Alice launched a million compacts. For the youngsters in the crowd it will be hard for them to imagine the impact that he made. Parents were shocked when they found out Alice was a guy and then horrified when they heard the rumours of a stage show that included a guillotine, hangings and the killing of chickens on stage and the drinking of their blood. The last instance was a big of an urban legend but there was a kernel of truth as Alice had pitched a live chicken back into the audience at the 1969 Rock N Roll Revival concert in Toronto and the overzealous audience tore the bird apart like a Swiss Chalet dinner.  Alice is a true original and one of rock’s greatest live performers.

2.       The New York Dolls

NewYorkDolls_fanart_03How could they not wear make-up with that name? I remember reading about the band in “Rock Scene” magazine and when I first saw their debut album cover at Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street they money popped out of my pocket.  However feminine the album cover depicted them these were street savvy New York pre-punk rockers who sang of the sleaze and tease of an early seventies New York City. The make-up didn’t last too long and remnants of the band are still recording and touring to this day.

3.       David Bowie

bowieThere are few more iconic rock images than David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” lightning bolt” album cover. Although he used make-up before and after this is the ultimate Bowie visual. Although the image is legendary I don’t believe he ever wore the lightning bolt on stage. I love the scene in The Runaways movie where Cherie Currie applies the bolt before a high school concert. Many a high school kid from my generation rocked this look at a Halloween dance or two. A few decades later Marilyn Manson would borrow many a Bowie make-up tip.

4.       Kiss

kissAlthough it is no mystery now there were many years when Kiss’s identity was a closely guarded secret and photos were never published of them without their make-up. We are talking the original four designs for Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter, the classic Kiss line-up. Others would come and go, hey, who can forget the dreadful Vinnie Vincent “golden ankh” or the nursery rhyme “fox” that was sported by the late Eric Carr. Wish I had a buck for every time I doodled the Kiss make-up designs on school books. I wouldn’t be surprised that a Malvern Collegiate student stumbled across a Gene Simmons design in the King+Diamond+unholy_flameback on an old library book.

5.       King Diamond

This was some scary make-up. Former Mercyful Fate singer King Diamond may have had the most intense metal make-up of all time. I worked a couple of his solo records and this Danish rocker almost scared me as much as his audience. Couple that look with a falsetto vocal and you had one very weird combination.

6.       Motley Crue

crueAround the time of “Looks That Kill” Motley Crue deftly walked the line between punk and metal, much like their neighbours Guns ‘n’ Roses. To see their influence on middle America all you need to do is read Chuck Klosterman’s brilliant book “Fargo Rock City” wherein a Motley Crue tape changed his life forever.

Michael-Monroe7.       Michael Munro – Hanoi Rocks

The first time I laid eyes on Hanoi Rock’s vocalist Michael Munroe I thought he was a pretty hot looking chick. Hanoi were in Toronto to record their new album with Bob Ezrin but our label still had the rights to their current record and we were responsible for their marketing. The Finnish rockers carried the look of the New York Dolls and influence both Motely Crue and The Gunners. One of the greatest live bands ever.

8.       Peter Gabriel – Genesis

peter-gabrielIn his Genesis days Gabriel was a master of make-up and could morph from “the flower” to the “watcher of the skies” during a single live performance. Theatrics, costumes and make-up were a mainstay of any great early Genesis show and it all revolved around Gabriel. His blue mask look was aped by both REM’s Michael Stipe and Marilyn Manson.

9.       Keith Flint – Prodigy

Keith Flint - The ProdigyHow could you not look the look of Keith Flint in the “Firestarter” video from The Prodigy? Things were pretty stale on the make-up front in the mid-nineties and all it took was one brilliant performance from a British band to bring it back to vogue. Couple the make-up with a fair amount of facial piercings and an absurd reverse Mohawk and we had a whole new look. Very rarely did a video make we want to buy an album but this one did.

10.   Adam Ant

adam antBefore he hit with “Goody Two Shoes” Adam Ant was a pretty cool character. “Dirk Wears White Socks” was a pretty good record and the debut and the follow-up “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” introduced the world to “Ant-Music”. With his pirate make-up and puffy shirts Adam knew the score long before Seinfeld.

If I had to give bonus marks for make-up in current Candian rock’n’roll I would have to give Diamond-Ringsthem to the towering Canadian rocker Diamond Rings who is physically channeling David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Marc Bolan. As I stated a couple of weeks ago he brought it to the SiriusXM Indie awards. Still needs a drop-dead killer song but he’s got the looks that kill.

Speaking of make-up it should be more than evident tomorrow night at the Balmy Beach Canoe Club for the “mock wedding” of my pals Alex and Heather. Good luck on the mock and even better luck when the real wedding occurs later in the year.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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DBAWIS_ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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