As a 12-year-old in 1983, things were a lot different for budding music nerd. I didn’t have all the information on bands at the click of a mouse as we do today. If you wanted to know something about a band you only got it in monthly doses via rock & roll magazines (remember those?) like Hit Parader, Creem, and my personal favorite Metal Edge. So it was a surprise when I found out that Ace was no longer in Kiss and his replacement was Vinnie Vincent.
Vincent Cusano aka Vinnie Vincent was a relatively unknown prior to replacing the one and only Ace “Spaceman” Frehley in Kiss in 1982. The Connecticut guitarist made a living in two previous bands Treasure and Warrior but really earned his keep by working at a session’s musician playing on albums for Laura Nyro and Dan Hartman. Vincent also put down tracks for the television show “Happy Days.”
It wasn’t until Kiss bassist and resident douchebag Gene Simmons, who befriended Vincent, asked the flamboyant guitarist to come in and write some songs and play lead guitar on the bands ‘Creatures of the Night’ album. This was a wakeup call or an extra push out the door for Frehley who had been at odds with Simmons and guitarist co-founder Paul Stanley.
When the Spaceman walked out the door Vincent was rushed in and given the alter ego of the Egyptian Warrior, complete with ankh makeup.
Although ‘Creatures of the Night’ has Frehley on the cover and in the videos, it was pretty much Vincent’s guitar all over that album, an album which is still one of their best. Kiss, who was a struggling band at the time, hit the road with Vincent now a full time member, but the Kiss diehards weren’t having it. Kiss was sinking faster than the Titanic.
Pulling out all the stops the band tried to save their career by taking off the makeup and show the world who they were. Vincent had an even bigger role in the band once they hit the studio to record what would become ‘Lick It Up.’ Behind cheesy bimbo-laden videos, ‘Lick It Up’ went gold, something the band hadn’t done in a few years. Still Vincent was having a tough time being accepted on tour, not only by the fans, but by Simmons and Stanley, who gave the guitarist the axe after a European tour over money, but of course, when Simmons and Stanley realized they didn’t have a guitarist for the American leg of the tour, they brought Vincent back in. Either way, Vincent never made another record with Kiss after that.
Within a couple years Vincent teased out his hair, dressed like a girl and had a custom Jackson flying V built and formed his own band Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion – featuring Mark Slaughter (vocals) Dana Strum (bass) and Bobby Rock (drums), who went on to form the band Slaughter. VVI released their self-titled debut in 1986 and the follow up ‘All Systems Go’ two years later. The band was more pop and glam in their sound, but it was just an excuse for Vincent to show off his guitar shredding talents. Nonetheless, it didn’t work out, the band broke up after two albums, hey at least he is consistent.
In the early 90’s Vincent reunited with Kiss at their conventions for their rabid, often delusional fans, and even helped Kiss write some songs on their ‘Revenge’ album in 1992. And like any good story, Vincent issued a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Kiss in 1997, stating he did not receive royalties he was supposed to receive.
While Kiss has continued on and former members have went on to have decent solo careers or work with other bands, Vincent is nowhere to be found. He has been virtually unheard of for more than 20 years. He did have a few run ins with the law in a small farm town in Tennessee, where he was living behind a giant fence with a padlocked gate, but no one can find this guy.
It makes me wonder what he is doing to make a living. Is he working at the local hardware store and no one knows who Vincent Cusano is? Is he even still playing guitar? Is he writing under a non de plume as a songwriter now? Or, and this is the Oliver Stone in me, is Vincent being paid off by Kiss to keep his mouth closed? I mean, come on, even original Kiss members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss have written “tell all books,” why not Vincent? Or maybe, just maybe he doesn’t care anymore. Then why should we?