Elvis Presley Once Revealed His Thoughts on KISS: “Keep it Simple, Stupid”

“OK, I get it!,” said Elvis Presley while listening to KISS in the basement of Graceland in 1974.

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In a recent interview, Presley’s stepbrother Billy Stanley shared the memory of a time he and Elvis once listened to KISS’ 1975 live album, Alive! together.

Prior to buying the album and playing it in the basement of Graceland, Stanley had seen KISS for the first time and was clearly a fan.

“I got it cranked up, playing air guitar,” said Stanley. “Elvis comes down [and asks] ‘What are you listening to?’” and Stanley replied, “It’s a band called Kiss.” Stanley added, “And I showed him the album cover and he said, ‘Uh, OK.’ He sat down on the couch, looking at it, and he said, ‘OK, I get it.’”

Still taking in what he was listening to, Presley wanted to hear one song, in particular again, “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” according to Stanley. The song was originally released on KISS’ second album, Hotter Than Hell in 1974, before the live version was featured on Alive!

“He said, ‘So play that song again that you was just playing,'” added Stanley. “It was ‘Let Me Go Rock [and] Roll.’ I played it. I actually played it two times for him, and I was surprised when he said, ‘Play it again.’ I played it again.”

Stanley added, “I said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, I understand the whole thing. You know, KISS – keep it simple, stupid. And they got the makeup so they can walk around when they get off the stage. Nobody sees them and knows who they are or anything like that.’ He said, ‘Good idea.’”

Presley elaborated more on the track, hearing deeper roots of 1950s influences in KISS music. “He said, ‘Billy, listen to it. All it is is a ‘50s groove. But that guitar player,'” remembered Stanley. “I said, ‘That’s Ace [Frehley].’ He said, ‘That guy’s got some X-rated guitar licks. I really like him.’ Before he walked out of the room he said, ‘I get it. It’s three chords and a cloud of dust [and] that’s how you do it. And you leave them wanting more. I’m sure that’s how they do it in their live performances.”

KISS founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have always praised Presley. In 2017, statues of the four KISS members were featured in the ICONS: The Influence of Elvis Presley Exhibit at Graceland, featuring a collection of artists influenced by The King over the decades.

“Elvis is King,” said Simmons. “Period.”  

KISS’ Stanley added, “No one’s name says more than his Elvis. It roars while others whisper.”  

Read our interview with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in the 2023 Legends Issue of American Songwriter HERE.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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