Legendary guitarist Ace Frehley was set to release Origins, Vol. 2 back in March, but then COVID-19 hit, leaving fans of the former KISS guitarist waiting eagerly to hear the Spaceman’s latest collection of cover tunes. Well, the wait is over, as the album is finally coming out on September 18, and to celebrate, we thought we’d talk a look at five times Frehley was just the coolest. Because, make no mistake about it: Frehley is the coolest.
5. Delivering up some rock and roll room service
I can find no evidence of this existing, but my memory—which, admittedly, sucks—tells me that at some point in the ’90s or so, Frehley appeared on some TV show where he was, presumably, told to do something zany. My memory—which sucks, mind you—tells me that, by way of introducing himself to the viewers of whatever show this was, he stumbled in to a room and cackled out “Rock and roll room service!” It’s always hard to tell if Frehley is loaded or just jovial, which is part of his charm, and that was certainly part of the equation here. But there was something about this ludicrous guest spot that stuck with me all these years later, and every time I think of it, which is surprisingly often, I just think, man, Frehley is the coolest. (Also, if anyone has any further confirmation of this ever existing, please get in touch.)
4. The entirety of “Strange Ways”
Many point to Ace’s solo in “Strange Ways” (off of KISS’ second album, 1974’s excellent Hotter than Hell) as peak Frehley, but I’m going to take that one step further and say his guitar work through the whole song is incredible. The verse riff is to die for, Frehley getting slinky and sleazy, the chorus absolutely killer, the outrageous production really bringing out the trash in the rock here. Songs like this are almost painful to listen to, as they are a reminder of how great the classic KISS lineup could be when and if they really wanted to be (I’m sure only, like, half of KISS actually played on this song, but, who’s taking notes?) (I am, and it’s a spreadsheet, and it ain’t pretty.)
3. When he made “New York Groove” so cool no one knew or cared it was a cover
Granted, I was one year old when the KISS solo albums dropped in 1978, but it was a long, long time until I realized that the most well-known song of all four albums—Ace’s “New York Groove”—was actually a cover (it was originally recorded by Hello in 1975, and I can safely say to this day I’ve never heard a note that band played, including “New York Groove,” because I don’t need to, because Ace). Even then, when I found out, I just kinda disregarded that info (much like when I found out “King of the Nighttime World” was a cover—what the hell?), like many of us did, because Frehley really made the song—written by songwriter man-about-town Russ Ballard, who can also tell you a thing or two about Frehley’s Comet’s incredible “Into the Night” BUT don’t let me get derailed here—his own, absolutely turning it into one of the greatest showcases for the man’s laidback coolness, his accidental and clumsy endearing nature, his total NY-ness.
2. Giving zero shits on Tomorrow with Tom Snyder
Ace’s appearance on the Tomorrow with Tom Snyder show in 1979 is the stuff of legend, and the looks on Paul Stanley’s and Gene Simmons’ faces seal the deal. Here, as Ace nears the end of his time in KISS, he fully throws caution to the wind and appears on a TV show having the rip-roarin’ time of his life, with fellow outcast Peter Criss loving every minute of it. Frehley’s tipsy performance here is one of his best, trademark Spaceman cackle echoing for miles, across the years, a wild defiance, a declaration that he has zero shits left to give as his employers look on with a steely gaze.
1. When he announces his return in “Rock Soldiers”
Frehley’s Comet is one of the most underrated ’80s hard rock/metal bands there is (see our story about how great they are here); of their small output, one of their best songs is the classic “Rock Soldiers” from their self-titled 1987 debut. The song rocks, hard, but lyrically it’s next-level Ace, as our man talks us through an extremely literal journey through the troubled post-KISS era of his life. Like all Frehley lyrics, it’s charming in its absurdity, but when the music stops for a second and he sings “Ace is back and he told ya so,” man, forget about it: this rules, it’s Ace marking a triumphant return, and hearing Ace refer to himself in this manner never stops being completely hilarious and totally inspiring. This song sums up everything about Frehley that is just unbearably cool, and for that, it tops our list.