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Music

The classic Kiss song inspired by Ace Frehley's near-death experience

@TylerGolsen

In the annals of Kisstory, December 12th, 1976, wound up being one of the most storied dates for the legendary New York rock band. Supporting their fifth album Rock & Roll All Over with a tour that brought them to Asia for the first time, Kiss were building their reputation as the hottest band on the planet. Unfortunately for Ace Frehley, that moniker almost became too true when he was almost fried on stage in Lakeland, Florida.

As Frehley was descending the metal staircase from the stage, a severe electrical shock connected with his body. The staircase was ungrounded, and the sheer amount of electricity needed to power Kiss’ live show was considerable. “If I hadn’t been able to let go, I would have died,” Frehley told the Lakeland Ledger. “My life passed in front of my eyes”. Frehley was instantly knocked to the ground and took a while to recuperate. And by a while, I mean 15 minutes.

That’s because, after resting in the dressing room for a short bit, Frehley returned to the stage to finish the set. This was in spite of losing the feeling in his hands, which seems important for playing guitar. “I knew it for an instant and then I blacked out. I woke up behind the amplifiers,” the guitarist later told the Morton Report. “I said, ‘I can’t play.’ Then the fans started chanting my name and I finished the show. But I had no feeling in my hands. I don’t know how I even did it. I guess it was all adrenaline.”

The experience stuck with Frehley, who later used the electrocution as inspiration for the song ‘Shock Me’. Featuring Frehley on most of the instruments, minus a drum track from Peter Criss, ‘Shock Me’ was also Frehley’s lead vocal debut, after having written songs like ‘Cold Gin’ and ‘Getaway’ but letting his bandmates sing lead vocals over them.

“Pretty much I wrote that song because I got electrocuted in Lakeland, Florida, on stage,” Frehley elaborated to The Disc Dive in 2020. “That was the catalyst that made me come up with the idea for that song. That was a fun record to do, it opened up the Ace Frehley lead vocal, and that’s a real, signature guitar solo I did on that.” 

“A lot of time working on a guitar solo, a lot of guitar players have asked me, ‘How do you play that? How did you master that? How do you write these solos?’ I don’t know, I’m on top of my head – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. The beauty with Pro Tools now – you know, digital recording – is that I do three-four-five guitar solos, and then we take the best part of each solo, click a mouse, and you got a solo.”

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