Tonight You Belong to Me
Written by Paul Stanley
Lead vocal: Paul Stanley
From the album Paul Stanley, 1978
Produced by Paul Stanley and Jeff Glixman at Electric Lady Studios and The Record Plant, New York, and Village Recorders, California
In a nutshell: Paul’s pocket symphony.
Review: You know how Peter Gabriel’s first four solo albums are each just called “Peter Gabriel?” Well, as I was looking at the covers of the KISS solo albums in preparation for today’s review, I had a thought along similar lines that I think might be original to me.
So, looking at Paul’s album as an example, it has the big iconic picture of him in the middle, then it has “KISS” in the top left (as we look at it) and “Paul Stanley” in the top right. Just like all of these other albums.
To me, this seems to imply that KISS is the artist and the name of the album is “Paul Stanley.” But we know that’s not true, as it’s Paul’s solo album with no other members of KISS present. So maybe it’s not “Paul Stanley” by KISS. Maybe it’s “KISS” by Paul Stanley.
What I mean is, maybe the album isn’t supposed to be called Paul Stanley. Maybe it’s meant to be called KISS. As in, KISS by Paul Stanley, KISS by Gene Simmons, KISS by Ace Frehley and KISS by Peter Criss. I mean, all four albums represent a specific part of the classic KISS sound – the pop sensibilities of Paul, the eclecticism of Gene, the rock n’ roll of Ace and the soft AOR of Peter – so it sort of makes sense. Each album represents a single element of the whole that is KISS, hence “KISS by Paul Stanley,” “KISS by Gene Simmons” and so on. Does this make any sense? Also, and this is unrelated, this pot I’m smoking is good stuff.
Anyway, enough. Let’s talk about the reason we’re here today, the opening track on KISS by Paul Stanley, Tonight You Belong to Me.
Opening with a lush soundscape of both six and twelve string acoustics, it is almost a full 30 seconds before Paul comes in on vocals. When he does, his voice is far removed from the rock and roll preacher we have come to know, singing in a light, airy falsetto totally unlike his usual bombastic style. This might have been the first time we heard Paul’s falsetto, a technique he would use more and more in the years that followed.
After this exquisite, almost fragile-sounding into, the peace is shattered by a crunchy riff from Paul and some pounding drums courtesy of Richie Fontana, formerly of Piper and Billy Squier’s band (and potential candidate for the KISS drumstool in 1980.) A cool feature of this section of this song is the inclusion of an EBow, then a brand-new invention that Paul immediately saw the potential of.
At 1:45, Paul comes back in for the first verse of the heavy section of the song. That’s notable in itself when you think about it. We’re nearly two minutes into the song and it’s only just now getting properly started. Compare this to the hit-the-ground-running approach of Rip It Out on Ace’s album and you get a good illustration of the two men’s writing styles. Ace is a meat and potatoes guy, getting straight into the action; Paul allows the drama and tension to build before getting to the good stuff. No one approach is more valid or “better” than the other, it’s just interesting.
Anyway, his breathy falsetto now gone, Paulie sings the lyrics full-voice and he never sounded better. His voice had matured considerably by 1978, and his confidence as a vocalist was at an all-time high. Paul’s vocals are on point throughout the entire album, to be fair and, for my money it’s one of the best top-to-bottom vocal performances of the 70s. Right between the sometimes shaky vocals of the early days and the over the top histrionics of the 80s, Paul’s vocals are a genuine treat.
After a few verses and choruses (and a cool semi-instrumental bridge) it’s about time for a guitar solo. Bob Kulick is credited on lead guitar throughout the record though given that the solo is very much in line with the very open and legato style of previous Paul solos, I can’t help but wonder if Bob sat this one out and let Paulie take the solo. Either way it fits the song well and though it is nothing earth-shatteringly awesome, it’s still a cool little solo. Post-instrumental break, it’s choruses till the end in the by-now standard style. The song opts for a hard stop rather than a fade, giving the song a very satisfactory, self-contained feel.
A quick last word about the song structure before we move on. The song goes has a quiet intro, a quiet first verse and a quiet chorus, a loud intro, a loud second verse, a pre chorus, a chorus a semi-instrumental bridge, a third verse, a chorus, a guitar solo, a build-up section, back to the chorus and a hard ending. And yet there are still people who accuse KISS of being clueless three chord rockers. How people can have such strong negative opinions about things they know nothing about is beyond me. But I digress.
An obvious choice for the single, Tonight You Belong to Me was overlooked in favour of the ballad Hold Me Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart,) and it wasn’t played live on the Return of KISS tour in 1979 (Move On was played instead.) It took till 1989 and Paul’s solo tour for the song to be given the live treatment. Paul’s solo band at the time included Bob Kulick on guitar and future KISS stickman Eric Singer on the drums. KISS themselves played the song a couple of times on the Konvention tour in 1995 and then in 2006 Paul brought it back on his solo Live to Win tour. Interestingly for KISS trivia hounds, this means that for 28 years, Eric Singer was the only drummer to ever play the song live. Its most recent appearance was in 2015 when Paul played it (after a fashion) as part of a private acoustic solo set on KISS Kruise V.
Tonight You Belong to Me is a pretty much perfect start to Paul’s solo album and is one of the handful of songs on the solo records that would’ve sounded right at home on a non-solo KISS LP. Sonically it would’ve fit best on 1979’s Dynasty, but ironically it would’ve also been a poor choice for that record. Not because it’s a bad song or anything like that, but because parts of it sound very similar to Sure Know Something. It’s not a 1:1 copy or anything like that, and I’m sure Paul didn’t deliberately set out to crib his own song from himself but listening to the two back to back, there are certainly similarities between them. It gives us some insight as to where Paul’s head was at songwriting-wise in 1978/79 and also shows how Paul was actively softening KISS’ sound as, although they are similar, Sure Know Something is considerably less rockin’ than Tonight Your Belong to Me.
It might be an unpopular opinion, but Paul’s is by far my favourite of the four solo records (most fans prefer Ace’s) and it’s tracks like this that make it that way. From the acoustic intro to the hard rocking middle, through the guitar solo and on to the ending, the song is a little self-contained masterpiece. Complex enough to contain multiple different sections and experimental sounds (dig that crazy EBow) yet accessible enough to open an album, it’s a testament to Paul Stanley’s powers as a pop songwriter. It’s not quite complex or experimental enough to be called Paul’s version of Good Vibrations or Bohemian Rhapsody, but it’s closer than anyone ever expected a cab driver from Queens to get.
Enjoyed this review? Please consider buying me a coffee! It really does help.