Eric Carr (1950 - 1991) replaced Peter Criss in KISS just in time to record their ill-fated Music From ‘The Elder’ album in 1980. It represented them at the nadir of their career (at least in the U.S.), but Carr was just happy to be in the band. They bounced back of course, and had a number of hair-metal hits in the eighties, sans makeup. Greg Prato’s new book The Eric Carr Story details the man’s life, and his heartbreaking demise from cancer at the tender age of 41.
Prato is something of a master at the art of the oral biography. To be honest, I have never been much of a fan of this type of writing, but Prato is the exception. I have read previous books by him, including Grunge Is Dead and The Tommy Bolin Story, and came away very satisfied.
One of the inherent drawbacks to this type of writing though is cooperation. Prato very obviously did not get to speak to either Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley. Knowing those guys - they probably wanted a 99% to 1% split on any royalties. Prato works around it though, by speaking with quite a number of people who were involved with Eric Carr and KISS during the time he spent as their drummer.
A few things about the man come across from multiple sources. Number one is just how thrilled he was to have gotten the job. As anyone who considered themselves a rock fan in the seventies can tell you, there was no cooler, better group out there in the middle of the decade than KISS. Alive, Destroyer, and Alive II were/are monster albums. Definitely their peak. Just a couple of years later though, they cut their hair and went disco with “I Was Made For Loving You,” and we all pretty much walked away.
Eric Carr didn’t. One of the more enjoyable aspects of Prato’s book is how he details the difference a “big” drummer like Carr brought to their music. The drums behind KISS were no longer the simple five-piece set so common to the era. He had a huge, double-bass drum setup, with every type of accessory imaginable. Only Neil Peart of Rush was going this balls-out with his equipment at the time. It certainly did bring a new element to their music, and quite possibly saved them from terminal oblivion.