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.
From all sources, the fact that Eric Carr was a genuinely nice guy comes across as well. And then there was the drinking. Multiple interviewees mention how Carr could drink everyone under the table, yet never show any signs of intoxication. Make of that what you will, but the overriding feeling is that he just had a high tolerance, and was never a mean, or even sloppy drunk. He just liked his cocktails, I guess.
One has to wonder if the drinking contributed to his early death though. There are various opinions voiced by those who Prato interviewed. In the end, nobody really has an answer.
In any event, this is a very enjoyable book. Even though Greg Prato does not make his opinions very obvious by just outright stating them – his questions show the framework of what he had in mind. There is no doubt that he is a fan of Eric Carr, but was willing to allow the pins to fall where they may.
The end is as hard as one can imagine, especially as voiced by the people who loved Eric Carr. But bravo to Greg Prato for writing this book. It puts the emphasis on a man who has been sadly written out of the “official” KISS history in many ways. And the book shows that he clearly deserves much more credit as a musician than he has previously received. Eric Carr’s life was much more than the simple “Replaced drummer Peter Criss in KISS” kind of nonsense that is the usual obituary tidbit.
For fans of KISS – from any era of their nearly 40 years together, this book is a must. It sheds a lot of light on what was going on when they came so close to completely ending it in 1980. In many ways, Eric Carr is the unsung hero of their so-called comeback. The Eric Carr Story lays it all out, spoken by many of those who were actually there. The book is available exclusively through Lulu.com