Space Ace Frehley – legendary guitarist and alien spaceman from deep space, specifically the planet Jendell… or the Bronx, depending upon which legend you choose to believe. For his No Regrets autobiography, written with assistance from Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, Ace determines to focus on the Earthbound tales of his back history, examining his memories from childhood, to wild teenage years, to his days with KISS, and his time as a solo artist.
I read No Regrets with immense anticipation. Being a KISS fan is not just about enjoying their music, it is quite literally an obsession that becomes a lifestyle. [Geeks of Doom editors Eve and Dave will back me up here – go on, Eve, tell 'em about it right here: There is a shrine to Ace at the Geeks of Doom Headquarters, and in lieu of a framed wedding photo above the bed is a framed print of the cover of Ace's 1976 KISS solo album, undisputedly the best by far of the four KISS sole albums.] And a chunk of that lifestyle is discovering more about the history of the band members (original and otherwise), as it makes up a much larger picture of the KISS family.
Part of that depiction, over the years, has been that each individual has had different perspectives of incidents from KISStory – particularly the lower moments – and so it’s often hard to get an accurate conceptualization of experiences when it’s just Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley telling their side of the story. With Ace finally putting his autobiography out, it gives fans an opportunity to hear the Spaceman’s side of events.
Of key interest is Ace’s early retelling of his younger years – particularly the teenage ones, as he recounts how he became the way he is. No interest in school, most interest in guitar/music, with some interest in alcohol and weed – and how this way of life affected his relationship with his family. In today’s context, little young Ace probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD, drugged up with some kind of medication, and he would certainly not have become the musician he is.
But Ace, in reality, is a tortured soul in many ways. He knew he had trouble with schooling, and does often reflect on it in the book, and upon reflection, looks at his times of early intoxication and gang membership as the beginning of a difficult road that would lead to addictions – life changing addictions.
On the other side of the coin though, it’s also fun following Ace’s development as a musician. His accounts of meeting big artists of his era, sneaking backstage and so on, evoke memories to me of times back home in Australia when KISS toured and I tried meeting Ace and the guys in the band. He highlights a strong connection between himself and his fans at that moment.
When it comes to his days with KISS, the early years of the band are of major interest – mainly because Ace can remember much of it. His discussion about the history of the first three albums, plus the seminal KISS Alive, make for an intriguing read, as many of the other accounts previously published by Gene and Paul have been remarkably similar.
It is as the Seventies continue that things begin to diverge a bit – and most of it has to do with Ace dealing with addition. An alcoholic for most of his life, Frehley recounts how deeply he fell into the drink during this time, and eventually found his way to a drug that would become the inspiration for his song, "Snow Blind", on his self-titled solo album from 1978.
Whereas most fans have suspected Ace had an interest in cocaine, here in No Regrets it comes out in (perhaps almost) full disclosure. He discusses his initial hesitancy in falling for the drug, and goes into incredible detail as to how far he fell into cocaine addiction – enlightening elements of his friendships with many people, including John Belushi. Cocaine became a problem for Ace, a problem he now fully acknowledges; and expands upon with many harrowing close calls related to this.
His discussion of KISS-related events from approximately 1977 to 1983 is somewhat of a let-down. It is clear to the hardcore KISS fan that Ace has little to no memory of these years, and the stuff he does recount in the book are copied verbatim from pre-existing video footage that has circulated among fans for decades.
For example, Frehley goes into great detail of the Tomorrow Show interview with Tom Snyder (embedded at the bottom of this post for convenience) in 1979. The video is a longtime favorite among fans. Peter Criss, original drummer, seems somewhat tipsy – perhaps had a few drinks (he also during this time suffered from some very harsh drug addictions). Ace, on the other hand, is off the hook – perhaps from the assistance of alcohol, cocaine, and weed. Gene and Paul look on in shock, embarrassment, and frustration. The whole situation is hilarious, and one of the best KISS interview videos out there.
Though this may be the case, Ace clearly has no memory of it. Every line quoted from the interview is quite literally copied exactly as it was spoken, with absolutely no expansion on other moments from the night itself. Logically, this is probably Ace’s way to patch up the holes in his memory to make a more complete novel; but one cannot help but be disappointed at this.
Conversely, his years after leaving KISS, from 1983 up until his first Frehley’s Comet album in 1987, are also a captivating, though difficult, read. These years are perhaps the lowest for Ace, built on an infrastructure of grog and snow, tearing hell down highways with cops following his every move. It is during this time that Frehley begins his lengthy dance towards and away from sobriety – and issue he has wrestled with for years.
For Ace, his chemical dependencies have been the cause of major ups and downs in his life since this time. He describes his rehab experiences, and then other times examines those moments of “falling off the wagon”. I can recall seeing interviews with Ace back in 1989/1990 where he asserted he was completely straight and clean – but moments from this book highlights that this isn’t the case.
Inside the context of the novel, Ace insists now that, with the assistance of his daughter Monique Frehley, he is completely sober and drug-free. I truly hope he is – and I believe he is after seeing some interviews with him of late. Ace is looking and sounding better than he ever has, and came out with a fantastic album in the form of Anomaly in 2009.
One of my major disappointments about this novel is how Ace simply glosses over and ignores much of his Frehley’s Comet years. Several folks get mentions – from Tod Howarth to Ritchie Scarlett to Anton Fig… but one person in particular is notably absent from any reference whatsoever. Bassist John Regan barely gets a look-in within the pages of No Regrets, which is extremely sad, as he helped keep Ace’s band together as long as it did. There is hearsay from around the rumor mill that the two had a considerable falling out during the mid-nineties, around the time Ace rejoined KISS, but none of this is addressed in Ace’s book.
Nor does Ace tackle any of his major financial problems that were happening during that time. He may perceive it as “too personal” perhaps, but it is actually a crucial time for him as an individual – the fact he looks over this in his own story makes me question what else he chose to leave out. Perhaps it’s called No Regrets because all the things he does have regrets about he deliberately omitted? Who knows…?
In the face of the disappointing omissions, Ace’s book is not terrible. It’s actually quite good, and while some passages are enlightening, others are downright hysterical. There are moments when the classic Frehley humor comes through, which is splendid. And there are other times where he does focus on his dark moments in the past – crucial moments that he was able to use as a springboard to move forward from, to get where he is today.
KISS fans will appreciate the book, though most may find the robotic recounts of well-known band interviews to be annoying. Some will find his honesty about his type of friendship with Gene Simmons in particular to be of interest, and illuminating in some passages. Rock fans in general will love the read though, as it does capture the “crazy days of rock and roll” – from the highlights of his career, to the crazy partying, and even the low moments he rebounded back from – it all makes for a page-turner.
Essentially, in many ways, this book is Ace reconciling with his past blunders; and continuing to exorcise his personal demons. His boast that he is now clean and healthy is a positive vibe, and I’m hopeful we’ll see more from Ace over the coming years.
Ace is back, and he told you so!
Overall Rating: 3½ out of 5
The hardcover edition is currently being offered at Amazon for the Bargain Price of $10.40 (down from $26), so grab it now!
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvFNs3_uaUg