I Articles & History I

"Rock 'n' roll needs to get tough again. It's just not rock 'n' roll to me anymore, all these neutered bands that have come out - the Nelsons, the Trixters, the Firehouses! They don't play rock 'n' roll; they play TV sitcom theme music - 'Oh, baby, we're gonna ride the wind and make it together,' my ass! If a band like Trixter had to deal with even a fifth of shit we've come up against, they'd shit their diapers! None of these motherfuckers understands anything about life outside of Hollywood."
- Donnie Purnell of Kix, Rip Magazine, December 1991

I'd imagine in the eyes of most rock n' rollers that KIX would be nothing more than a footnote. A band like Jackyl or Faster Pussycat who just happened to ride the Hair Metal gravy train into the Billboard Top Twenty with a syrupy power ballad and a quick lived MTV push. Maybe you remember their 1/4 page fan club ads that ran in nearly every issue of Hit Parader released in the 1980's. They were a band that was ripped to shreds on Beavis and Butthead at the height of grunge pc overkill, yet still managed to nail the number 5 spot with their debut album in Chuck Eddy's obviously inconsistent book Stairway To Hell - The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe. The book is inconsistent, of course, because KIX should have been higher on the fucking list! (And maybe Black Sabbath's debut also coulda crept a little higher than number #419, but we're talking about KIX here, and not another shitty rock n' roll book written by a fucking poser...so anyhoo...)

When the first KIX album was released in 1981, I was the perfect age to be corrupted by hard rock music. Too young to think it was stupid and just smart enough to realize it was. I mean, the first KIX album came out when I was seven years old and I remember my mom singing the band's first single "The Itch" to my sister when she got lice from some kid at school. And in retrospect, what made KIX so great was that they were smart and they were stupid. Smart enough to write a song so stupid that even my mom would bother to commit it's chorus to memory. And she wasn't the only one. Growing up in Baltimore (which has always been a big town for Rock N' Roll radio and a mecca Metal market in the 1980's) KIX were in constant rotation. Tracks from their first two albums shared equal airtime with AC/DC, Judas Priest, Boston, Journey, Zeppelin, and other local faves Crack The Sky. At that age, just discovering rock n' roll, I viewed KIX on the same level as AC/DC and Zeppelin. I soon learned different, of course, but to me and tons of other Baltimorons, they were rock stars. I even caught them on TV on the USA Network playing live from defunct Baltimore party haven The Seagull Inn, which further cemented their status as genuine rock heroes in my eyes [...]. But I think I liked them best because they were a hometown band...inspiration that anyone could do it....and most of all, because they were Punk as shit!

Having formed in a solid line-up in 1978 as The Shooze in Hagerstown, MD, frontman Steve Whiteman, bassist/songwriter Donnie Purnell, drummer Jimmy "Chocolate" Chalfant, and guitarists Ronnie "10/10" Younkins and Brian Forsythe, quickly blitzed the local club circuit with a high octane set which merged their Hard Rock foundation, with the aesthetics of Punk and the New Wave. To avoid confusion with the power pop band The Shoes, they changed their name in 1979 to The Generators (PUNK ROCK!) and by 1980 after blitzkrieging the mid-Atlantic club circuit were snatched up Atlantic Records and renamed KIX.

Their self titled debut album steamrolled B-More instantly and LP cuts "Contrary Mary", "Heartache", and "The Itch" hit local airwaves like atomic bombs. Suddenly KIX were the band du jour for hip rock n' rollers, program directors, Dundalk strippers, and single mothers who had kids with head lice. The band continued to tour relentlessly picking up a maniacal fan following that would remain loyal throughout their career. It's been constantly rumored that PA hicks, Poison, nicked every stage move they ever shimmied from the mighty KIX [...] whether or not it matters or if anyone cares is a different story. What is important is just how cutting edge and ahead of it's time this record was. Released the same year as Motley Crue's "Too Fast For Love", Def Leppard's "High N' Dry" and Hanoi Rocks "Bangkok Shocks Saigon Shakes", KIX stands proudly besides these releases as a yardstick in the dawn of a new age of sleaze rock.  Yet it still manages to avoid the dumb Metal trappings of their peers.  Like Motley Crue, they were a party band in the vein of the already iconic Van Halen and had shaggy New York Dolls haircuts. Unlike Motley Crue, they sidestepped the studs, make-up and Eddie Van Halen riffs for leather jackets, tapered levis, tight t-shirts and Knack style pop anthems filtered through Bon Scott era AC/DC. Production by Def Leppard/Judas Priest knob twiddler Tom Allom kept even their most poppy trax super beefy and arena ready, while the gang styled backing vocals and punk rock leanings keep their Chuck Taylors twelve inches deep in gutter sleaze. Just look at the album cover...it don't take no Einstein to tell these guys were more Ramones than Iron Maiden. This concept was obviously too bizarre for Atlantic Records who pushed for a more commercial slant for their second album, the odd "Cool Kids".

"Cool Kids" was recorded in 1982 with Wrathchild America guitarist Brad Divens taking over for Ronnie Younkins on guitar. Though they kept the DIY-style sleeve art, KIX obliged with the label's wishes and outside writers were brought in to give the band a more polished slant. 3 of the 5 tracks on the record's 1st side have no songwriting involvement from the band...and it shows. Album opener "Burning Love" is a shockingly limp Loverboy pastiche augmented with synths that sound like bubble farts. Despite the initial shock of the album's 1st track, wimp fare like "Cool Kids", "Body Talk", and "For Shame" became stripper anthems and B-more radio faves once again. It may be hard for the uninitiated to get through this one, but if you hang in there you'll be rewarded with classic KIX cutz, some which rival the material on their debut. "Let your Monkeys Out" is a genuine new wave nugget based around a Devo style bass riff...this is the song The Briefs have been trying to write about monkeys for years now...if they listened to KIX, they'd know it already has been.

So now you're probably thinking, get on it with it. When did the Flash Metal Suicide take place? Well that's the thing...it never really did. Ronnie Younkins returned to the fold in time to tour Cool Kids. Besides some stand-in tour replacements (props to Jimi K of The Vamps) the original line-up never faltered and continued to release high energy rock n' roll records into the 1990's.
But believe me, they tried to kill KIX, I'm telling you. They brought in Beau Hill to produce their third album "Midnite Dynamite". Atlantic hit big with Ratt in 1984, but as you know, Ratt sucked. They tried to make KIX sound like Ratt. And every song on the 1985 album is produced just like RATT. Sounds like torture right? Wrong. "Midnite Dynamite" rocks despite the even then dated Ratt treatment. Younkins is sporting a NY Dolls t-shirt on the record sleeve and it still sounds like the Goddamn KIX band! It's like they were taunting the label to "C'mon and try to make us suck!" How KIX managed to stay signed for as long as they did is a true testimony to their road dog ethic and and ability to just rock balls live.

Luckily for KIX and their label, by 1988 the climate of the rock world was dominated by bands rehashing KIX circa 1981-85. Their 4th album "Blow My Fuse" earned the band a gold record and a #11 Billboard single with the horrid ballad "Don't Close Your Eyes" (written by Donnie Purnell and Crack the Sky frontman John Palumbo.) Thankfully, the album's title track and the monster "Cold Blood" also got top forty radio airplay, allowing a new audience to witness the true sound of KIX at full force.

As the band embarked on bigger tours playing to larger audiences, the shifting of the musical climates were already showing by 1990. The band were demoted as a label priority and shuffled to the East/West branch of the label. The band's popularity in Baltimore never dwindled though, and upon the release of their fifth album "Hot Wire", KIX played an amazing homecoming of three consecutive sold-out shows at the legendary Hammerjack's concert hall. The album's lead off single "Girl Money" became another instant radio hit and was quite possibly the best AC/DC song they never recorded. To this day you this song most likely gets as much airplay on Baltimore radio as any other release from the same era or at least as much as AC/DC's "Money Talk."

The band continued to tour like motherfuckers in support of "Hot Wire" and some fans (and band members) say that this was the era in which KIX peaked. [...] there's no denying the band were a live rock machine and the proof was finally cemented with "KIX Live", the band's first concert album (recorded at the University of Maryland) and their last release for Atlantic records.

After parting ways with Atlantic, KIX were picked up by CMC and released one final album in 1995 called "Show Business". The album hit like a pork kebab at a vegetarian brunch and after almost twenty years of Flash Metal brilliance, the band wisely called it a day. Not much of a Flash Metal Suicide, more like death from natural causes.
Vocalist Steve Whiteman still gigs around the Mid Atlantic region with his new band Funny Money (with Jimmy Chalfant on drums), playing KIX covers and giving vocal lessons to those aspiring to sing like Bon Scott with a Baltimore accent. Guitarist Brian Forsythe joined Rhino Bucket and got some attention on VH-1's Where Are They Now, when they featured the mighty guitar slinger painting billboard's in suburban Los Angeles. Ronnie Younkins splits his time between the two coasts and plays in The Blessings and is one half of The Slimmer Twins along with my old pal and fellow Baltimoron Jeremy White!  Donnie Purnell is MIA and most likely bald as fuck somewhere in West Virginia.

by Adam T., see original article here: Flashmetal Kix
published on sleazegrinder.com
ca. 2003-2004