The Race For Ace: Remembering Frehley’s Comet 35 Years On

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)


By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

If nothing else, Frehley’s Comet holds the distinction of almost becoming Megaforce Records’ first gold record…almost. But pull back the curtain, and the backstory surrounding the Spaceman’s 1987 return to the world of rock amounts to so much more.

By the mid-80s, Ace Frehley had fallen to earth and fallen hard. His fall from grace was swift and mostly self-imposed. For most, Frehley had garnered “do not touch status,” a long way from his 1970s glory days which saw the fretboard-burning Brox native take a commanding seat at rock music’s proverbial table.

For Frehley, taking on the moniker of “once great, now relegated” was a tough pill to swallow, and if you were to comb through interviews from the mid-80s, you’d come to find an artist hoping for another shot, laying forth his case for reliability bred through sobriety.

In a 1985 interview with indie zine Idol Chatter, Frehley had this to say at the time, “People have branded me as unreliable, but it’s not true. People can say what they want. I never missed a show. I always showed up, and I always did my job. Yeah, I have my demons, but I’m in control now. I will never understand why I’ve been labeled as ‘unreliable.’ Just because I had a problem, and got into some trouble, that doesn’t make me ‘unreliable.’For me, it sort of feels like people who used to be in my life are holding me back behind the scenes, like maybe they don’t want me to succeed, or they’re afraid of it. I’m ready to rock. I just need a chance.”

Sadly, for Frehley, his latter days in KISS, which were defined by hard-drinking, wild partying, car chases, and general instability, had left the guitarist branded, and not a single US label would take a chance on him, even though the six-stringers KISS pedigree would probably net them record sales. The risk was too great, and Frehley was simply thought of as a once-great guitarist, who now amounted to nothing more than a bad business decision. No one would touch him.

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)

Enter Eddie Trunk

A young disc jockey takes a chance on a forgotten legend.

Without Eddie Trunk, Frehley may well have never had the chance to make Frehley’s Comet, or any music at all, to be honest, “I had been working in radio, and I had started doing a hard rock/metal radio show in New Jersey, in 1983 on the local station, WDHA. I would always go and buy import records from a record store called Rock and Roll Heaven, which was also in New Jersey. Well, the guy who owned that store was a guy named Johnny Z – who would be the founder of Megaforce Records – and we struck up a friendship. At first, he just knew me as a customer that came in quite often. But he also knew that I was a KISS fan, as well as a big fan of hard rock.

So, when I started that radio show, he started giving me records, so that I would play them, and it would help him sell more of the imported stuff. So that’s how I initially made my connection to Johnny. Over time, we would see each other, and we always maintained that friendship, and then he offered me a job working for Megaforce Records in 1986. One of the big reasons he asked me to sign on was that I took a chance playing Metallica, which was his first signing. At the time, in 1983, nobody knew who Metallica was, and I took a chance and played them for the first time on the radio, and certainly on the East Coast. When I did that, he said to me at that time, ‘Eddie, if I can ever get this record label to happen, I will give you a job working for it because you were willing to take a chance on me.’ Well, once Megaforce got going, he made good on his promise, and in 1986, he offered me a job at the label. I was one of the first-ever employees that worked with him, and we worked out of his house initially. At the start, it was just me and a couple of other people literally working out of his living room or his garage, and we just built the company from there. By that time, Megaforce had Overkill, and Anthrax – Metallica was just leaving – but we still had Raven and bands like that. I was all good with that, but I had said to John, ‘You know, it’d be really cool if we sign an artist that maybe we could potentially get on the radio so that we could combine the mainstream rock and metal camps.’ I said that, and he looked at me and said, ‘What do you have in mind?’ … ‘Well, Ace Frehley’s out there. Nobody has seen or heard from him. I know he’s been gigging around New York a little bit, and I really think we’d make a big splash if we could find him, and sign him to Megaforce.’

Now Johnny was not a KISS fan, and he basically said, ‘Look, if that’s something you want to pursue, and you think there’s something there, go for it.’ So, we tracked down Eddie Kramer, who had just produced some demos for him, and he got us in touch with Ace. We called him up and basically asked if there was interest, which he said that he was. You have to remember, that Ace was very much viewed as a liability at that time. He was a guy that was still getting into a lot of trouble, and people questioned his sobriety and whether he could hold it together and make an album, let alone tour. So, it was a big risk, but Johnny was convinced enough to believe in what I saw. Honestly, I did believe in him. I believed in Ace’s ability to sell records and I wanted to take a chance on him,” said Trunk.

Putting a Band Together

The road to redemption begins with a memorable foursome brought together by fate.

With a record deal in place, and the entire world now looking squarely at Frehley, the guitarist had to deliver. While Frehley had been playing local bars and clubs around New York City with his cohort, Richie Scarlet, the fact of the matter was that Frehley had not recorded fresh material, let alone an album’s worth, in nearly six years, the last being KISS’ Music from “The Elder.” As Trunk and Johnny Z were well aware, simply put, no one believed in Ace Frehley. His 1970s star had burned so bright, and he was once considered one of the decade’s most inventive and distinctive players, but by the mid-80s, the rock world had all but forgotten Ace Frehley.

With a deal with Megaforce Records in place, before recording the record, Frehley needed to get the lineup straight, which at the time included Richie Scarlet (guitars), John Regan (bass), and various drummers. Anton Fig was Frehley’s first choice, but due to inactivity, Fig had taken to fulfilling other obligations. It wasn’t long before Regan and Trunk reached out to the longtime Frehley cohort to resume his role, “I had taken to doing other things. Ace was gigging around, but not much else was happening. I was working as a session man and making a good living to boot. That’s when they called me. I knew that I wanted to, but I had concerns for obvious reasons. In the end, my history with Ace, and the creativity we had together spurred me on. Ace and I were good friends and I was always playing with him when he was recording, but he just wasn’t recording enough. So, when I got the call, after mulling it over, it just seemed like a natural choice for me to be playing in the Comet. I don’t remember any formal process; it was just a progression of what we had been doing.”

Given Frehley’s history and chemistry with Scarlet, it came a bit of a surprise when Scarlet was jettisoned from the band to which Trunk elaborated, “I don’t really know that answer as to why Richie was replaced. I’ve been asked a lot, and I’m not really sure. I just know that we wanted to make a change. I had always loved Richie, and I thought he made some valuable contributions. The only thing that I can recall and maybe this was a bit of a concern was that at the time, Ace was viewed as a huge liability, and his sobriety was seriously in question. If I am being honest, Ace was far from sober at the time, and I think that Richie was viewed as not the best influence around Ace. He was viewed as somewhat of a party guy, and I think that everyone thought maybe taking him out of the equation would give Ace a better shot at staying sober and staying on the straight and narrow. Now whether that was true or not, I don’t really know. But I do know that there was a lot of concern because we were really viewed as taking a big risk signing somebody like Ace. Everybody thought that he was not somebody that could hold it together, so it was very much viewed as a risk. I think we wanted to surround him with people who were not going to not encourage that. Richie was never as off the rails as Ace, but I think that he was viewed as his drinking and party buddy. We had someone like John Regan, who was pretty much a straight and narrow guy, and then Anton Fig came in to play drums, and he was a total pro and didn’t have any of those issues.”

As the band took shape, as Trunk mentioned, its members would prove critical. When asked about his initial role, bassist John Regan recounted his initial involvement with Frehley, “In the early 80s, we started chatting about maybe getting together and playing some music just for the sake of playing. It wasn’t anything business-oriented because Ace had just left KISS at the time. So basically, he invited me over to his house in Connecticut. He had a great studio down there, and so I decided to come up, and then Anton and Richie came too. With Anton, I had heard about his KISS days, but he was making a name for himself as a studio musician as well. Anyway, we got together, just the four of us, and we just started jamming on the stuff we loved as kids. We had a great time, and we worked really well together. So, as that was happening, Ace said, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t we try to put a band together?’ And we said, ‘Fine, let’s do it.’ So, we started sifting through material, and that’s how it started.”

Megaforce was critical down the road, but few people know that before then, Ace, Richie, Anton, and me, we had a short-lived deal with a small record company in the U.K. We recorded a rough version of an album with them – the was before the demos that we did with Eddie Kramer – and we had gone out and started to do some small shows. A lot of the songs that were on that, ended up being on the Megaforce album. I remember Ace was not in a good place though, and when we recorded the album for the U.K. label, I had to coach Ace through and keep him sober the entire time, because he was really struggling. So, we never got to the next step with that U.K. label, because they suddenly went bankrupt, and that was it. By the time Megaforce had signed us, we had done that rough album, we had the demo, and we had been playing shows, but it wasn’t going anywhere, really.

With Regan assisting in keeping Ace on the straight and narrow, and Scarlet out of the picture, a replacement was needed, and it was around this time that Regan suggested Tod Howarth, who not only could play guitar and keys, but was an able vocalist as well, “I first met John Regan when he was with John Waite, from The Baby’s, and I was playing with Cheap Trick and then 707. We met and talked at one venue where I was listening to their sound checks and was loving the fat bottom-end sound of that band. I mentioned that I wrote songs, sang lead, and played mostly guitar then. He said, ‘Oh really?’ Later, he told me that he was working on a secret project that I might just fit into and that he would be in touch. About four months or so later John called, and said to me, ‘Hey, remember that project?’ … ‘Yeah…’ … ‘It’s Ace Frehley. We need you to come down and audition.’ So, I did, twice, and once again after the second meeting, they knew they had their member. It was the next best time in life for me, my music, and the business side too. Ace was the best. He was the most giving, and generous artist of all of the artists that I played with when it came to letting me do what I did best. Throughout most of my tenure with the band, it was great. He was fun, driven about music and the band’s future, and I think we had a great chance after the first album,” said Howarth.

When asked about Howarth’s meaning to Frehley’s Comet, bassist John Regan quipped, “When we entered the studio, the fact was that Ace was not in good shape to be making a record. He wasn’t healthy, or sober. Ace was as talented and as creative as ever, but he needed help. He needed people around him that would help keep him on the straight and narrow, and honestly, who would keep him from succumbing to his demons and losing this record deal. Sadly, that’s why Richie Scarlet had to go. As talented as he was, he and Ace loved to party, and if we wanted this to work, we needed a calming force. Part of that was Tod Howarth, who to this day, is one of the hardest working musicians that I have had the pleasure of working with in my life.”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)

Out to Prove His Doubters Wrong

A relegated guitar hero takes his first steps toward redemption.

As the initial sessions began, the concern over Frehley’s condition had not calmed, but Megaforce felt that they had the right people around the guitarist to allow him to succeed, and to Frehley’s credit, he did, “On the first record, Ace was good. I mean, he was not sober, but we didn’t really have any problems, that crept in on the second record, to be honest. But on the first record, I really think he was out to prove something because he knew what perception out there was. He knew that we were taking a chance, and he knew that I personally was somebody who had fought for him and had coaxed Johnny into signing him. During those sessions, Ace was very much about trying to prove everyone wrong, and to a large degree, he did, at least during the making of the record. As I recall it, there was no problem at all. Once he was out on the road, then some of the same demons started to creep in, but the initial recording and making of the record, Ace was all good. We loved the final product, and everyone was very happy with it,” said Trunk.

An Iconic Album Begins to Take Shape

Strewn puzzle pieces assembled to form a greater whole.

Going into the studio, despite the outside perception that Frehley had been inactive, and uninspired, as Regan said, Frehley had put together an album worth of material between the band’s U.K. deal, and the demo recorded with Eddie Kramer. The first order of business was for Megaforce to sift through the guitarist’s demos and see exactly what Frehley had, “I think ‘Breakout” was on there, and I think “We Got Your Rock” was on there too. There was a song called “Give it to Me Anyway” on there that I really loved, but for whatever reason, it never made it onto the record, although we did record it. I think Richie Scarlet was involved, and that’s why we didn’t record it, as we replaced him with Tod Howarth. Also, the idea of adding “Into the Night,” which was a Russ Ballard song came into play, because Russ Ballard wrote “New York Groove,” so we figured maybe we could get lightning to strike twice, so that came into play as far as the track listing too,” said Trunk.

Bassist John Regan provided additional insight by recounting, “A lot of the original material, it came from that other deal and can be heard it in bootleg form. We never actually got into the studio so that we could record it all as a proper album. One track that I remember from that first recording was “Breakout,” which ended up making the record. I loved the song and it’s still one of my favorite songs to play. I just love that one. It’s funny, it might have been lost forever, but I found it when we first got together. It was buried away in Ace’s studio, and I found that on a tape – which was not being stored properly – and it was simply called “Carr Jam.” It was just him and Eric Carr jamming away on that on that, and it was amazing. So, we were able to work it out into a real song, Richie put lyrics to it and we called it “Breakout.” I think that was one of the few Richie tracks to make it onto the record, and maybe “Dolls” was another one that Richie was involved in, because that was definitely on the demo, I think.”

With Frehley, Fig, Regan, and Howarth coming together to form the band’s definitive lineup, the sessions were underway with Eddie Kramer producing. The sessions were relatively smooth, and as the old material began to integrate with the new, a true classic was born, “We had those initial tracks, and then “Rock Soldiers” came into play, and if I recall, that song also had an outside writer on it (Chip Taylor), which is ironic, as it’s become one of Ace’s definitive anthems. The first record had this big mix of ideas on it, which were pulled from a lot of different places, but eventually, the material all came together. And then there was this track we had called “Calling to You,” which was an interesting story because that song only came into play because Tod Howard had replaced Richie Scarlet. Tod had come in from a band called 707, and both myself and John Regan had suggested Tod for the gig once we knew that Richie was not going to be a part of it. For my part, I had been a fan of 707, and ironically, the album Tod had done with that had been called Mega Force, and there was a song on the record called “Mega Force” too. I thought the song would be great for Ace, and when I suggested he do it with Tod now in the band – Todd being a co-writer of the song – Ace said, ‘It’d be kind of ridiculous to do a song called “Mega force.” It’ll make it sound like I’m singing about my record company.’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, that would be kind of weird.’ So, they rewrote the song as “Calling to You,” and if you know the 707 song, it’s very similar to the song except that the chorus is different. So that first record was a mix of all this different material that came from different places, some of the songs they had been doing previously in the clubs, some of it came in once he got signed, and in the case of that song, it was done because Tod came on board, and both myself and John both thought it would be a good one to do and to have Tod do the vocal on it,” said Trunk.

Bassist John Regan recounted the sessions for Frehley’s Comet as well by saying, “That album came out amazing, but the process was kind of scattered. The tracks came from all over the place, and because Ace had been out of the recording studio for so long, and was sort of paused in that way, we had to pull the band and the album together. Megaforce wanted Ace, but people were scared, so Richie was out, and I suggested Tod, who we brought in right away. Tod could sing and write, and he was talented, and most importantly – he wasn’t a troublemaker. Having myself and Anton there, it made for a calming atmosphere, which was good. Once we started, we had to pull from a lot of different areas so that we could puzzle together all these amazing tracks. We had “Breakout,” and we had “Dolls,” and then we wrote “Rock Soldiers” in the studio, and we decided to do “Into the Night” because of the Russ Ballard “New York Groove” connection. Megaforce thought we could get lighting to strike twice.”

When asked to recount his memories of the sessions, drummer Anton Fig had the following to say, “You know, it’s hard because my memory is not what it used to be. I remember being there, but the specific sessions were a blur, probably because I always had so much happening back then. Having not listened to the record in many years, I recall recording the drums for many songs, where I often would basically listen to the song, and fall into a groove. Then I’d ask Ace, and what the band thought, and go from there. I always had such chemistry with Ace, that it often came very easily. We were always able to lock-in. I loved “Rock Soldiers,” and “Breakout” was basically me trying to reference back to the drum solo on “Rip it Out” without playing the same thing. I especially loved “Dolls,” which took me all the way back to demoing that song at Ace’s studio in Connecticut in the early 80s just after he left KISS. Somehow that song sounds like very old-school English rock to me. Those were crazy days, and really good and creative times. One thing I remember, and it’s about the back cover, was that I was wearing brown boots and Ace insisted on them being black. So, we took black gaffers or electrical tape and covered them for the photo. Wouldn’t you know it – it looked perfectly fine!”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)

Ace Frehley Reenters the Musical Zeitgeist

Fruitful recording sessions find a fallen guitar hero on the cusp of reclaiming his former glory.

With Frehley’s Comet laid to tape, and ready to be unleashed unto the public, Megaforce had a challenge ahead of them. While the album was fantastic, public perception was key, and to those outside of Right Track Recording Studios doors, the perception was that Ace Frehley was washed up. Nothing short. Nothing less. It’s with that in mind that Trunk recounted Megaforces gameplan to market the record, “Early on, we grappled with the idea that this was going to be positioned as a band – Frehley’s Comet – and it was going to be marketed as that. And when we got around to marketing the album and dealing with the package, Atlantic records – who was our distributor – had concerns. So, we had a big discussion, and they said, ‘You know, we need to put everything forward that we can to sell this record. We want Ace Frehley’s name on the cover. We don’t want to release this as just ‘Frehley’s Comet,’ because people don’t know what that is. On a national level, we want this to have as much of a chance as possible, and we want to be able to sell this.’ After that, we had to pivot, and the record was still called ‘Frehley’s Comet,’ but it had Ace Frehley’s name at the top of the record. It was purely a marketing thing, where we had to lead with our best foot forward, and let everybody know clearly, and without question, who this is, what this is, and just take our best shot at selling records.”

Ace Is Back and He Told You So

A masterful performance leads to a shift in public perception.

With a firm strategy in hand, Megaforce’s next call of duty was to decide on which of the album’s tracks to lead off with as singles. With Frehley being out of the limelight for as long as he had been, the initial musical conversations with the general public would be critical. Sure, Frehley had his fans from back in his KISS days, but at thirty-six years of age, the world had passed him by. If Frehley wanted to make a splash, the guitarist was going to have to earn it by proving that he was up to snuff compared to the much younger, and seemingly more energetic contemporaries that he would be competing against. These were players who had been inspired by his 1970s output, but now, they held no quarter for Frehley, as such, if both Frehley and Megaforce didn’t put their collective best foot forward, Frehley’s Comet would sink like a stone.

Looking back on the choices the Frehley’s Comet team made, and the album’s initial reception, Eddie Trunk went on to say, “When we put Frehley’s Comet out, the reception was largely positive, but there were a lot of people that thought we should have released “Rock Soldiers” as the first single instead of “Into the Night.” One of those people being Gene Simmons, who actually called the Megaforce offices and talked to Johnny Z about it. Johnny later told me about that and said that Gene had said something to the effect of, ‘You guys blew it. I’m not sure you know what you’re doing over there. This was Ace’s reintroduction. The reintroduction should have been “Rock Soldiers.’ It’s funny because we had every intention for “Rock Soldiers” to be the second single, but Gene was like, ‘No, you blew it. It should have been the lead single.’ And you know what? In retrospect, Gene was right, because you don’t get as much of a shot on the second single, especially if the first single isn’t a massive hit. Still, that first single did well, but he was right. You have to understand, that we wanted Ace to come back in a big way, and get on the radio immediately. So, we just thought that “Into the Night” would be a more accessible song and would get more play on pop radio. It was and it is a much more commercial song, and we thought we’d have a much better chance of it getting airplay. We also were really tracking back to history, because, again, this was another Russ Balland song, and we knew that “New York Groove” was Ace’s biggest song, so we were really playing off of, ‘Let’s try to get another round of magic here with a Russ Ballard song.’ That’s what we were really shooting for, and that’s why we did that. But in retrospect, I mean, the story might have been a little different if we would have led with “Rock Soldiers.” Who really knows?

As fate would have it, Frehley’s Comet was released in 1987, the same year that KISS’ Crazy Nights was. Coupling that with the ever-ongoing rumors that Frehley was set to rejoin KISS in the late 80s, one can’t help but see Simmons’ interest in Frehley’s success as a proverbial gauging of the situation. To that end, Trunk further elaborated, “I’ve always wondered why Gene felt that way, and I don’t really know. I think it was just a matter of good business. You know, I think from a business perspective, or just out of sheer curiosity, Gene and Paul [Stanley] were probably wondering, ‘Will he really be able to pull this off?’ Remember, it was only five or six years earlier that Ace was booted out of KISS because of his instability, his lack of sobriety, and whatever else. So, I think that Gene and Paul were probably watching from afar, and had a real curiosity and were internally saying, ‘Hey, somebody is taking a chance on this guy, let’s see if he’s able to actually do it.’ And I think that Gene was just keeping an eye on things, and he may have had some additional dialogue with Johnny Z at one point about something, but who knows? I think it was more of a kicking of the tires and snooping around a little bit. You know how Gene is, he likes to let his letting his two cents be known.

I will say this, Paul and Gene were absolutely keeping an eye on what Ace was doing. I mean, they do to this day. They are always curious – whether they say it or not – because there’s always a thought in the back of their minds, ‘We may have to do something with this guy.’ Whether it’s a one-off, one song, a tour, or a show, they always know that Ace is there. Whether people like him or not, or agree with it or not, the simple truth is that Ace is a founding member of KISS, and he’s a beloved figure in the band, maybe more so than them. And yeah, he’s had his implosions and he’s been his own worst enemy at times, but people love the guy, generally do root for him, and they get a kick out of them. Gene and Paul are not stupid, especially Gene, he knows the music business, and he knows it’s in their best interest to – just from an outsider’s standpoint – keep an eye on him, keep tabs on him, and monitor both the good and the bad. I know there is the money standpoint of it, but it also comes from a concern for his wellbeing. I mean, I don’t discount that, because these guys are – no matter how much sniping they do to each other, and how many ups and downs they have with each other – at the end of the day, the four of those guys created something that nobody could ever have imagined in KISS. I think that there’s always going to be this type of brotherhood within the four of them deep, down inside.”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)

The Race for Ace

An underdog story breeds commercial success.

In the wake of the release of Frehley’s Comet, despite the initial slow sales to due “Into the Night” not performing as strongly as hoped, once “Rock Soldiers” entered the charts, the album’s sales took off. Megaforce, being an independent label at the time, didn’t necessarily have the resources to push the album as a major label might have, but still, Frehley’s devoted fanbase was ready to support the wayward guitarist, with many new fans hopping on the bandwagon in short order as well.

Once Megaforce saw that they had a potential hit on their hands, it appeared that their wildest dreams, along with Trunk’s gamble were truly paying off. With that, the label began to assemble as large of a campaign as it could, and push Frehley’s Comet full force, “So, that record was on the cusp of becoming the first gold record for Megaforce. I remember that we hit about 420,000 copies sold around the time “Rock Soldiers” was released as the second single. We saw that, and we started this campaign called ‘The Race for Ace.’ We put it we made up t-shirts and posters, and we did everything that we could to get retail stores to really put out the word that this thing was almost gold. We started the campaign, and we pushed it hard, and said, ‘Let’s get it over the top, and get Frehley’s Comet to go gold.’ The thing was that just as we started that campaign, we started getting returns. In other words, unsold records were coming back. So, we aborted the campaign pretty quickly, because the campaign was designed to get people to take more records in, and we started getting people returning records because they had too much stock. So we were like, ‘Let’s cut this right now, and call it a win.’ But in the thirty-five years since, I’m sure that that Frehley’s Comet is well past gold. A lot of people have asked me, ‘Do you have a gold record? Do you know the stats?’ And the answer is I don’t. And the reason is that to have an album recertified with the status of gold, platinum, or whatever, you have to apply for that with the RIAA, and you’ve got to pay a fee. And even that has got to be done through certain channels, and simply put – nobody’s ever done it. That said, I am completely sure that Frehley’s Comet has gone gold. It’d be great if somebody at the label actually took the initiative to do it because it was definitely something I was proud of, and I would love to have that on my wall. I think it would be meaningful to Ace, and the rest of the band too.”

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Tod Howarth/John Regan/Ace Frehley Facebook (official)

A Classic Album Recollected

A make-or-break album sets a course for continued success.

While he may not have been sober, or in the best place mentally at the time, if nothing else, Frehley’s Comet proved that Ace Frehley was not spent as a creative artist. Furthermore, the album’s success proved that Frehley didn’t need KISS to make music, and while his legacy was important, and provided him the opportunity to show that it would be his future as a solo artist that would ultimately define him as a songwriter.

With Frehley’s Comet, the veteran six-stringer stepped out of the shadow cast by KISS, and if only for a moment, Frehley set his demons aside and forged one of the most unforgettable records within the KISS canon, and of the 80s in general. The album proved once and for all that was a very simple reason that Ace Frehley influenced droves of guitarists who came after him, and that as he moved forward, despite his issues, Ace Frehley’s story had yet to be fully told.

It’s with that being said that Trunk gave his final comments on Frehley’s Comet and its enduring importance, “With that record, it was initially about proving to people that he could do it and that he could be an artist on his own. People doubted him, and honestly, next to none believed in him. They didn’t care that he was in KISS, or that he was a great guitar player. They didn’t believe – not for a second – that he was reliable, that he could run his own band, or be the guy. A lot of people seriously – and with good reason – questioned that given his history and his battles with sobriety and what have you. So, I think the 80s were about him just reestablishing himself as a solo artist and trying to able to be sober when he really put his mind to it. Frehley’s Comet is a great album, but long term, for Ace, it was about being able to create full records. I mean, up to that point, before that first record came out, he had the ’78 solo album, and he had a couple of songs on KISS records here and there, but that’s not really fronting a band, and putting it all on his shoulders. A lot of people didn’t think he could do it. A lot of people didn’t believe he could do a lot of things. It wasn’t believed that he could make a record, and sure, he could write, but even if he did make a record, no one, and I mean no one, thought that he could promote it by going around the world and touring. And yeah, the demons came back on the road, but he did it. He went out, and he made that record, and he toured the hell out of it.

He was back with KISS for a while, and he had demons crop up again in the late 80s, and again in the late 90s/early 2000s, but he’s kept making records, and he’s kept on doing it. And, of course, the biggest move that he made was he got himself sober, and it’s been over fifteen years or whatever. Ace will be the first to tell you that he wouldn’t still be alive if he didn’t do that. So, personally, that’s something I’m very proud of him for. At this point, Ace has done all of that, and he has nothing left to prove. He quieted all the haters, he’s quieted Paul and Gene, but none of that happens without Frehley’s Comet, or the band he had around him. That time and that album were just about Ace establishing himself and letting the world know, ‘I’m here, and I’m going to do this my way, and the only way I know how.’ I don’t think he ever fit in with that scene, because that was so much about visuals, the pretty boys, the hair, the makeup, and all of that, and Ace was never really about that. You know, KISS certainly tried to chase that with Asylum, and Crazy Nights, they tried to be that, but I don’t think Ace ever really tried to do that. He was just always going to be Ace and do his thing. With Frehley’s Comet, he proved that he didn’t need to do that to sell records, and Ace did sell records. He did everything he ever set out to do, and he made good on the promise of both me and Megaforce believing in him.”

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at andrew@vinylwriter.com

9 thoughts on “The Race For Ace: Remembering Frehley’s Comet 35 Years On

  1. Mom listening to the record right now it had great production guitars out front
    Ace just knows how to make a guitar take you to another level

    1. I remember first hearing Frehley’s Comet on ZROCK in Chicago in the mid 80’s , I think it was Strangers in A Strange Land, it was great! I went out and bought the album and still have it on record to this day.

  2. All in all Frehley’s Comet was somewhat of a success, I remember going to see them @ the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles & it was a great show..I didn’t like who he selected as his drummer (Oldmaker) RIP, he just wasn’t the right pick at the time. I recently attended ACE opening up for Alice Cooper but let just say ACE is not a good opener seems like he was just going through the motions. Soon after ACE fires his old band & recruits Genes back up band which I think suck!! As of the latest news on ACE wanting KISS to give Tommy Thayer the boot, it’s never going to happen, ACE burned too many bridges, and it’s sad to hear ACE practically beg to have him back. AUCCKK!!

    1. Bought the vinyl when it was released, saw the tour with White Lion, The Comet sounded good live replaced LP with the CD, vested financial in Ace since 78 solo. After all the music from Ace over the years, Trouble Walking still my fav.

  3. I knew Jamie Oldaker and he was a great guy, if not right for Ace’s band. He told me some wacky stories about Ace and his crazy life at the time but I’ve seen Ace since then and I loved the show. I’m glad to see Ace doing well and getting past Gene and Paul’s egos.

  4. I saw Frehley’s Comet open for Alice Cooper at the Toledo Sports Arena . I’ve always been a fan of Ace’s. I wore the cassette tape out. I was the only one in attendance that knew Rock Soldiers. When Ace asked if the devil wants to play his card game now he’s gonna what? Of course I responded he’s gonna play without an Ace in his deck! Better than anything Kiss put out during the same era!

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