45 Years Ago: Ace Frehley Looks Outward for Kiss’ ‘Rocket Ride’
They had built a lot of momentum since the release of their Alive! in 1975, serving up a trilogy of classic albums in the next two years that followed. Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over arrived first in 1976, with Love Gun completing the cycle the following year.
Kiss decided to commemorate the period with a new live album, which would be released only three months after Love Gun hit the shelves. This time, however, the band wanted to do things differently – and Gene Simmons had a thought that drew inspiration from an interesting source. “I got the idea of putting new studio songs on side four from a ZZ Top live album [1975's Fandango!] where half of it was live and the other half was new material,” he said in 2001’s Behind the Mask.
The fourth side of Alive II collected four new Kiss originals plus a cover of “Any Way You Want It” by the Dave Clark Five. Frehley’s sole contribution, “Rocket Ride,” was the unexpected highlight of the batch, co-written with band associate Sean Delaney.
According to Frehley, he and Delaney initially wrote the song with the idea that it would go on his solo album. But he decided to submit it for Alive II instead. It marked an important transition for Frehley. “That’s the first time I was satisfied with my vocal projection,” he explained in Behind the Mask. "More than that, 'Rocket Ride’ was the song that really gave me confidence that I could sing and really project a song.”
Listen to Kiss' 'Rocket Ride'
The accounts of exactly where “Rocket Ride” was written differ. Frehley says Delaney came to his home in the New York area to write it, while Delaney says it was written in Japan. He says Kiss' members were all experiencing writer’s block, so Delaney traveled there to help open up the creative dam.
Delaney began by asking Frehley if he had any riffs. “Oh yeah, there’s this one, but I don’t think the guys in the band are capable of playing it,” Delaney remembers Frehley saying. “Ace had this incredible guitar riff. He was playing the riff for ‘Rocket Ride’ and I came out with the lyric and the melody."
The recording finds Frehley in top form, playing a dizzying solo at the midway point that is more than worthy of a song named “Rocket Ride.” Built on top of that initial riff, there's driving energy, as Frehley’s guitar tone gives everything an appropriately lunar feel.
Frehley and Delaney were powered by “ice-cold beer and two uncut eight balls of cocaine,” Frehley wrote in his 2011 memoir, No Regrets. He remembered working in his attic studio, and that the house's air conditioning was broken. “We were sweating our balls off up there,” he wrote, “but we kept working because our creative juices were flowing.”
They worked until dinnertime and according to Frehley, they left all of their energy on the tapes. “[We] were so exhausted from the heat and pace of the session that we both passed out on the couches downstairs in the living room and slept 'til the following morning.”
Frehley and Delaney felt good mojo had been captured with “Rocket Ride” – and they weren’t wrong. After Alive II was released, “Rocket Ride” became the seventh Top 40 single for Kiss after its release on Feb. 22, 1978, rising to No. 39 on the Billboard charts.
He never wrote with Delaney again, but Frehley had warm thoughts of his collaborator, who passed away in 2003. “‘Rocket Ride’ will go down in Kisstory as the only Frehley/Delaney composition, but I’ll never forget the experience and I’m sure he never did, either,” he wrote in No Regrets. “I’ll always have fond memories of Sean; he was a character, to say the least.”
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