What is an anthem? Merriam-Webster says it’s “a formal song of loyalty, praise, or happiness”. While that definition properly suits most cases, when it comes to the Rock and Roll Anthem, aka “Rock and Roll All Nite” (by the Hottest Band in the World, KISS), that definition falls very short.
40 years ago, 4 guys wearing 8″ platforms and more makeup than your mother (credit to Gene Simmons for that phrase) were in New York City working on their 3rd album (Dressed to Kill) and it was suggested they write an anthem for the very genre they quickly came to redefine and dominate, Rock and Roll. The idea was to create a song that would in and of itself represent all that the music stood for. In other words, if you had to sum up what Rock and Roll was all about, listening to this song would do the trick. Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley got together and did just that. The year was 1975.
40 years later, “Rock and Roll All Nite” has endured as THE Rock and Roll anthem. It was initially released on April 2nd 1975 via Casablanca records and was produced by Neil Bogart and KISS. The song was originally recorded by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. KISS has recorded several versions of the song (1 studio, many live) which have appeared on 18 KISS albums/DVD’s and the song was most recently featured in the “Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery” movie (released July 10, 2015). In 2008 it was named the 16th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.
What makes a great song and what makes a great anthem are two different things. However, you can’t have the latter without the former. A great song has a melody you can’t get out of your head, lyrics that resonate with the listener, a beat you find yourself moving to and that magical something that can instantly turn a bad mood into a great one the moment the song starts playing. A great anthem is all of that yet so much more. An anthem is somewhat like a corporate mission statement. It doesn’t represent just an idea, it represents and defines a path for an entire philosophy. “Rock and Roll All Nite” clearly not only meets that objective, it eclipses it.
There are numerous songs that are considered staples in Rock and Roll. However, when you ask virtually anyone on the planet which one song best represents what Rock and Roll is all about they will undoubtedly say “Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS“. Simply stated, there is no other song that properly epitomizes or even closely exemplifies what Rock and Roll is all about. The genius of “Rock and Roll All Nite” is that the message is clearly yet succinctly stated (lyrics) and the vehicle by which that message is delivered (KISS) is truly larger than life. These two distinct properties coalesced resulting in a newly-defined perpetual masterpiece. It would become KISS‘s magnum opus.
For Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the song’s title was an obvious one “Rock and Roll All Nite”. It summed up exactly what they were all about – being the band they always wanted to see (credit to Paul Stanley for that phrase).
The second lyrical phrase in the chorus “and party every day” is a brilliant phrase not just because the statement naturally expands the predecessors message and not just because those that “party” in the traditional sense can relate to it, but because anyone can relate to it. “Party every day” means different things to different people – but the very nature of the phrase in this context is about continuing the journey experienced during the concert throughout the next day. In other words, the excitement doesn’t have to stop at the end of the night. You can embrace it as part of your daily life.
While the lyrics can be interpreted many ways, the song is about a movement, a state of mind, a way of life and a celebration of all of the above. As for the music itself, it is beautifully simplistic in structure (rooted to the 1, 4, 5-7) yet is brilliantly accented and carried with a rolling bass line throughout that completely supports and compliments the melodic structure of the lead vocals (bass guitar and lead vocals by Gene Simmons).
The chorus of any great anthem represents the very foundation of your soul. It’s the icing on the cake (Gene loves sweets so I wanted to throw that in there just for him). “I wanna Rock and Roll all nite, and party every day”. So simple, yet so right.
“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the song every KISS fan can’t wait to hear live. It’s usually the last song of the show and therefore it’s a bitter-sweet experience. However, the song is so powerful and the energy and heart KISS puts into playing it live make every audience feel like they are a part of the concert – as if the audience was on stage performing it with KISS. 64,000 people nightly are singing along, playing air-guitars and drums, clapping, screaming, cheering and are one with the hottest band in the world.
In sporting events, the National Anthem is performed at the beginning of the event which gets the audience and both teams excited and pumped up for what is yet to come. With one team usually winning a game, playing the National Anthem at the end of the event when 1/2 of the audience just had their team lose the game would not be nearly as exciting or effective. It simply wouldn’t work. Conversely, every audience member at a KISS concert is first treated to the ultimate two-hour Rock and Roll show and therefore when KISS plays “Rock and Roll All Nite” as the encore, every single person in attendance is celebrating as they have ALL just won the Super Bowl of Rock. There are no losers at a KISS concert.
And, when KISS finishes “Rock and Roll All Nite” & thus the concert, each member of the audience is probably as tired and yet equally as energized as the 4 guys on stage who just spent two hours giving them everything they had (not to mention doing this while running around a huge stage blasted with hot lights, fog, explosions, fireworks and all while wearing 30-50 pounds of costumes/gear). This is the essence of why KISS and their “Rock and Roll All Nite” anthem have endured and why KISS will live on long after Gene and Paul stop performing.
Thank you, Gene and Paul, for creating this quintessential anthem and thank you to each and every KISS member past (Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick) and present (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer) that has had the privilege of performing this prodigious piece of art.
For 40 years, fans all over the world “keep on shoutin’ I wanna Rock and Roll all Night, and party every day” and they owe it all to you.
— John J. Simpson