WENDY O WILLIAMS
Without a doubt the best, most consistent, most infectious KISS album of the 80s was this first solo album from ex-Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O Williams.
After several years as Mohawk wearing avant-punk priestess, during which she received the ire of officialdom pretty much everywhere as she chainsawed TV’s and blew up cars on stage, not to mention received a savage beating from a group of pissed off cops in Milwaukee, Wendy released a cover of Tammy Wynette’s country classic ‘Stand By Your Man’ dueting with Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilminster (unwittingly helping to break up the first classic Motorhed line-up in the process).
When it came time for her first solo album it was Gene Simmons who stepped into the breach as producer, co-writer, bass player (billed as Reginald Van Helsing) and chief rockstar wrangler.
‘Bump and Grind’ features Ace Frehley on scorching lead guitar, ‘Ready To Rock’ boasts Paul Stanley in the same role. Eric Carr pounds the skins to great effect on ‘Legends Never Die’ – one of Simmons’ finest ballads ever – and ‘I Love Sex (and Rock n Roll)’ is another great Simmons song.
Best of all is ‘It’s My Life’ - undeniably the finest KISS song of the decade. The first Simmons/Stanley co-write in a long time, Wendy snarls and sneers her way through this classic hard rock tune and makes it her own. KISS’s own 1998 version would later appear on their KISS Box Set in 2001, but it’s the W.O.W. version that I would recommend.
There’s not a dud song on this unlikely classic – ‘Priestess’ and ‘Thief In The Night’ are both great rock songs, ‘Opus in cm7’ shows Wendy had a fantastic singing voice and wasn’t just a punk growler, as well as featuring a beautiful piece of rock piano courtesy of Mitch Weissman, and album closer ‘Ain’t None Of Your Business’ is another great middle finger to the world, snarled gleefully by Wendy.
Wendy’s next album “Kommander of Kaos” was heavier and more belligerant, but suffered from not having the firm guiding hand of Simmons in control, and her last project, “Maggots” was a mess, sharing more in common with her old punk days than anything else.
Sadly Wendy retreated from the rock world and her days played out volunteering at an animal refuge until she put a gun to her own head in 1998.
To many Wendy remains an icon of punk, an anti-establishment crusader and a sexual revolutionary. “W.O.W.” proves that she deserves to be remembered as a punk priestess with electricity and sex in her veins, thunder and lightning in her heart, and the power of rock at her fingertips.