Unseen Kiss ‘Elder’ stage designs highlight massive rock auction

music news 01/11/2019

Previously unseen stage-design sketches for a Kiss Music From 'The Elder' tour that never happened highlighted a 1,200-item rock-memorabilia sale from Backstage Auctions this month. 

The band can be seen clustered around a glowing orb and performing in front of a lighthouse and wishing well in sketches, shown below. They were drawn by Mark Ravitz, who created the first-ever Kiss stage logo as well as the stage for their tour in support of 1976's Destroyer. He has also worked with David Bowie, Frank Sinatra and the Who.

In a new interview Ravitz explained that he was approached by the band in early 1982 to come up with ideas for a new stage show. Even though he said he was unaware that Kiss had released their first-ever concept album the previous November, several of his sketches match up with the medieval setting and myth-based lyrics of The Elder.

"I had no relationship to that album at all. I created the first-generation Kiss tour. And now I [was] creating the generation that I wanted to see. There was no music involved. I didn't hear about any album or anything like that,"

Unfortunately, nobody else really heard about Music From 'The Elder' either. The album was a spectacular flop. In 2004's Kiss: Behind the Mask, singer Paul Stanley said the LP was "probably the biggest misstep of our whole musical career."

The lack of sales and fan interest torpedoed any chances of Kiss mounting a successful tour, so the band instead quickly regrouped to record four new straight-ahead rock songs for the face-saving 1982 compilation Killers.

Later in 1982, they rebounded even further with a new and better-received studio album, Creatures of the Night. The stage design for the tour in support of that album funnily enough appears to have its roots in Ravitz's Elder designs. One of the pages included in the new auction shows drummer Eric Carr adding a tank turret and treads to one of Ravitz's designs, creating a dead ringer for the stage used on the Creatures of the Night tour and seen in the "I Love It Loud" video.

Jacques van Gool of Backstage Auctions says Kiss have been one of the bands that always performs well at his company's auctions. "We've always managed to [work with] interesting and fascinating individuals who had a past with the band," he said, citing past auctions featuring collections from longtime band adviser Sean Delaney, producer Eddie Kramer and drummer Peter Criss' ex-wife Lydia.

In addition to these pieces of previously unknown Kiss history, there's plenty of items up for grabs from other classic rock bands.

"We have items from David Bowie's publicist and his former production manager. We have an amazing collection of Queen items. Probably the most prestigious thing in the entire auction is their original 1973 'Keep Yourself Alive' demo. It was that demo that was played on Boston radio for the first time and introduced Queen to America. We also have [items from] Van Halen's publicist, Steven Mandel, who started working with them in 1980, and stayed with them all the way to 1994. We're talking hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of great pieces, just a collector's dream," van Gool explains.

The Rock and Pop 2019 auction ran from October 19th through to October 27th.