Why Bob Dylan has had a complicated relationship with Kiss

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan / George Rose/GettyImages

Bob Dylan has had complicated relationships with other artists, but one of his most puzzling is with the members of Kiss. Dylan and Kiss couldn't be more different. However, the "Blowin' in the Wind" singer hated the rock band, their music, and even their fans one minute and loved them the next. Here's the full story.

Bob Dylan said Kiss fans were going to hell

In his memoir, Kiss bassist, Gene Simmons, wrote that a lot of misinformation about the rock band started spreading throughout the Bible Belt states in the U.S. (per Grunge). Many people thought the band were devil worshippers and that the name Kiss stood for Knights in Satan's Service.

In 1979, Bob Dylan didn't need to hear the rumors to believe Kiss was satanists. He formed that opinion all on his own once he became a born-again Christian. His new religiousness started featuring in his songs, and he saw Kiss as the enemy who would pollute the world with satanistic music. He saw them as a threat to rock 'n' roll.

Dylan's conversion was ignited when a fan threw a cross on stage. The singer-songwriter put it in his pocket. Following his next performance, he returned to his hotel room, where he claimed to have seen a vision of Christ.

"There was a presence in the room that couldn't have been anybody but Jesus," Dylan later shared about his spiritual epiphany in the late 1970s. "Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up."

Dylan started adding Bible references to some of his famous songs on that tour. Fans were perplexed by his new attitude change and weren't afraid to voice their agitation.

During his show at Tempe, Arizona, on November 29th, 1979, Dylan argued with an audience member who demanded "rock 'n' roll!" Dylan angrily responded: "If you want rock 'n' roll, you go down and rock 'n' roll. You can go and see Kiss, and you can rock 'n' roll all the way down to the pit!"

The ironic thing about Dylan's comment about Kiss and their fans is that the rock band actually inspired him years before his religious conversion.

Kiss inspired Bob Dylan to paint his face during Rolling Thunder Revue

Four years before his conversion to Christianity, Dylan embarked on his Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour that was characterized as a circus-like rock show. The tour was designed so Dylan could perform in smaller cities, but it is most famous because of Dylan's choice of looks.

On the tour, Dylan entered the stage in shocking white face paint and a broad-rimmed hat topped with flowers. In Martin Scorsese's 2019 Netflix documentary, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, Dylan touched on the face paint: "When somebody's wearing a mask, he's gonna tell you the truth. When he's not wearing a mask, it's highly unlikely."

Dylan also claimed he'd been inspired to wear the face paint after seeing Kiss perform in Queens, New York City when they were playing small venues. However, according to Ultimate Classic Rock, Kiss hadn't played a show in Queens since 1973. So, Dylan couldn't have seen the band perform.

Still, Dylan likely knew about the band in 1975. It was hard not to with their innovative performances and equally innovative on-stage outfits. In September 1975, a month before rehearsals for the Rolling Thunder Revue began, Kiss released their first live album, Alive!, which hit No. 9 on the Billboard 200 months later.

Dylan and Kiss later collaborated

Years after Dylan called Kiss fans satanists, he collaborated with Simmons. They wrote a song called "Waiting for the Morning Light." 

"Everybody buys lottery tickets. What are their chances of winning? Not much. So what? There is a chance you can win, and I'm like that," Simmons said on Pulse of Radio (via The Statesman). "So I called his manager: 'Can I speak with Bob?' 'What do you wanna talk to him about?' 'I … I wanna write a song with Bob.'

"And all of a sudden, within two days, an unmarked van shows up at my house and Bob gets out with an acoustic guitar in his hand, and tells his driver, 'I'll see you at the end of the day,' comes up and we start strumming. I mean it was just like that."

So, clearly, Dylan's comments didn't affect Simmons. It's unclear what the rest of Kiss thinks about the singer-songwriter, though. However, everyone has to remember that Dylan has always been contradictory and tends to exaggerate and fabricate stories. That's been evident in Dylan's relationship with Kiss from day one.

Next. Bob Dylan said George Harrison had an 'uncanny ability to just play chords' that weren't connected. Bob Dylan said George Harrison had an 'uncanny ability to just play chords' that weren't connected. dark

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