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Kiss declared Detroit "Rock City" 45 years ago

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2021

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Detroit was well-known as a rock 'n' roll capitol prior to 1976.

But that's when Kiss made sure the world knew it was "Detroit Rock City."

The blazing rock anthem, which turns 45 this spring, opens Kiss' double-platinum fourth studio album, "Destroyer" and was fully intended as a salute to one of the first cities to warm to the costumed act from New York.

"Detroit, for me, has always been an incredible city with a great allure and a great history," says Paul Stanley, who co-wrote "Detroit Rock City" with "Destroyer" producer Bob Ezrin. "You have Motown ... which is mind-boggling. And then you have this great, blue-collar city with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, early Alice Cooper, Stooges, MC5, Bob Seger. It's a city that really embraces rock 'n' roll."

Detroit also embraced Kiss early on. "We were a headliner in Detroit before we were anywhere close to that in other parts of the country," Stanley recalls. The quartet, in fact, recorded its May 1975 show at Cobo Arena for its breakthrough 1975 concert album "Alive!"

"When I was writing 'Detroit Rock City,' I wanted a song that really championed and gave props to a city that was so important to us, and to so many others," Stanley says. "It started off as just a song to sing the praises of this rock 'n' roll city."

Ezrin, however, pushed Stanley for more. Inspired by hearing about the death of a fan on the way to a Kiss concert in Charlotte, N.C., he expanded the lyrics to make it a song "that celebrates life in the process of losing life and memorializing somebody that didn't get there.

"It's not really about Detroit, but it still champions the city," he adds.

"Detroit Rock City" was the third single from "Destroyer" and shared the disc with the ballad "Beth," which became Kiss' first Top 10 hit. "Destroyer," released during March 1976, was Kiss' highest-charting album to date (No. 11 on the Billboard 200). Both songs remain fixtures in Kiss' concert repertoire "Detroit Rock City" often the opening number during the past three or so decades.

"It's certainly a dream come true," Stanley says. "I do believe that when you write truths, they don't have to be complex to stand the test of time. ('Detroit Rock City') connected in a big way, and still does."

Kiss' End of the Road Tour, with David Lee Roth opening, is scheduled to play Sept. 1 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Independence Township. Tickets on sale via 313Presents.com. Tickets for the postponed 2020 show will be honored.

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