When I was three years old, my father and I had matching KISS t-shirts with slick ’80s glittery iron-on transfers on black backgrounds, shiny odes to the band. I picked Ace Frehley for both of us.
In the light of KISS bass player Gene Simmons’ recent comments on depression, I’m so glad I didn’t pick him for my T-shirt icon.
For those of you who might not have read his statements to SongFacts.com, here they are:
Drug addicts and alcoholics are always, “The world is a harsh place.” My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck all about “the world as a harsh place.” She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, “I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.” Fuck you, then kill yourself.
I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says “Jump!” when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump.” Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd.
Huh. How blithe. How dismissive.
Here’s the thing, though, Gene: People are listening to you. And they might take your advice.
In 1985, two young men made a suicide pact, smoked weed and drank beer and killed themselves. Metal band Judas Priest was sued, along the record label that released their albums, CBS. The families of the young men alleged that Judas Priest’s music contained subliminal messages encouraging listeners to kill themselves.
And let’s not forget Ozzy Osbourne, whose “Suicide Solution” was blamed for three suicides around the country.
Breaking laws, knocking doors
But there’s no one at home
Made your bed, rest your head
But you lie there and moan
Where to hide, suicide is the only way out
Don’t you know what it’s really about
Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker
Suicide is slow with liqueur
Take a bottle, drown your sorrows
Then it floods away tomorrows
The lawsuits against Osbourne’s record label, also CBS, were also dismissed.
I might be wrong, and I have admittedly not listened to a ton of Judas Priest or Ozzy Osbourne, but I do not think that either of these bands directly told anyone to off themselves. Yet their music was blamed. I’m sure this has something to do with the social climate of the time, when parental warning labels were slapped on every album you wanted, when song lyrics were blamed for people’s desire to die.
In 2014, in the wake of the suicide death of a beloved actor, we have a metal musician bypassing the song format and directly telling people, depressed people, to kill themselves. And that they lack dignity.
Gene has backpedaled, but the comments are out there. I hope no one takes him up on his comments. Because, Gene, people are listening. They are listening to your music and they are listening to your comments. And maybe some of them are vulnerable enough to take you at your word.
In the U.S. in 2011, 28,103 white males committed suicide — more than three times the amount of white women (7,672); more than black men (1,828) and black women (413).
I have never been to a KISS show, but there’s a tour coming up and all the of people I know heading to the show are lily white men.
You will never read this, Gene Simmons, but let me tell you: You are blaming the victims of depression for their own illness. And you are urging your demographic — one which is already proven itself quite willing to take the plunge into the abyss — to kill themselves.
If bands such as Judas Priest or singers such as Ozzy Osbourne could be blamed for suicides because of their songs, what do we say to another metal musician who now, some 30 years later, could not be clearer or more cruel in his message about depression and suicide?
Gene, how will you feel when someone pulls the trigger in your name?