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Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Kix, "Midnite Dynamite"

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I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

Kix, "Midnite Dynamite" cover

Kix, "Midnite Dynamite" cover

KIX - "Midnite Dynamite"

Atlantic Records, 1985

Some guys (or in this case, some bands) have all the luck, and for the bulk of their career, Kix simply couldn't catch a break. The Maryland natives cultivated a devoted fanbase in their home area and a strong cult following up and down the East Coast. Despite a series of strong album releases and a reputation as one of the best live bands in the business, it never translated into long-term mainstream success. This writer can attest to their live prowess, having seen them at least a half dozen times back in the late '80s/early '90s. Kix never put on a bad show. Showering their audience in glitter, confetti, and balloons, a Kix gig was like going to the circus...or a New Year's Eve party with a really kick-ass soundtrack!

Kix's third album, Midnite Dynamite, captured the self-proclaimed "Dirty Boys of the Underground" at their peak and is still required hair-metal listening.

Kix band photo

Kix band photo

A Brief History of Kix

Kix was formed in the late 1970s by bassist/songwriter Donnie Purnell and the guitar team of Ronnie "10/10" Younkins and Brian "Damage" Forsythe. Originally known as "Shooze" and briefly as "Generator" before deciding on "Kix," the band added West Virginia native Steve Whiteman as lead vocalist and soon became one of Maryland's top drawing cover bands. Kix inked a deal with Atlantic Records and released their self titled debut album in 1981. Kix was an enjoyably catchy, if under-produced, power pop/rock effort with strong similarities to classic Cheap Trick. featuring such live set mainstays as "Poison," "The Itch" and the show-stopper "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." On 1983's sophomore release, Cool Kids, the band added a slicker, new-wave edge to their sound in an attempt to court commercial radio airplay. Despite such strong tracks as the heavy-duty "Restless Blood" and the acoustic ballad "For Shame," Cool Kids fared even worse than the debut (only managing to reach a position of #177 on Billboard), prompting the band to toughen up their sound for album #3, Midnite Dynamite, released in 1985.

"Midnite Dynamite"

The Tracks

Produced by Beau Hill, who had recently worked on Ratt's multi-platinum Out of the Cellar, Midnite Dynamite was obviously intended as Kix's 'shot for the top' album. The band came to the table with their best batch of songs yet, and Hill's slick-yet-punchy production job gave them a most welcome metallic "crunch" that was missing from the earlier pair of discs. Midnite Dynamite remains the best sounding album of Kix's career. The title track which kicks off the record builds around a muscular guitar riff that immediately lets you know that the band weren't fooling around, they were here to cause severe damage to your hearing! Other highlights include the gritty "Layin' Rubber," the uber-catchy "Scarlet Fever," the hard hitting ballad "Walkin' Away" and the bass-heavy "Cold Shower." The track "Bang Bang (Balls of Fire)" was co-written by a then-unknown Kip Winger, who would go on to major success with his own band just a few years later. When Midnite Dynamite was released in August of 1985, it certainly seemed that Kix were packing enough firepower to take their place in the hard-rock elite alongside Ratt, Dokken, and the rest of the so-called "Hair Bands" that were on the rise at the time.

"Cold Shower"

What Happened?

Unfortunately for Kix, Midnite Dynamite never caught fire the way it should have. Though it did achieve their highest chart position yet—#60 on Billboard—MTV only gave minimal airplay to their video for "Cold Shower" and by all accounts, Atlantic Records provided almost no promotional push for the album. Despite relentless touring on their own throughout the U.S. club scene, Kix were never picked for an opening slot with a bigger band that might have increased their profile. Once again, things had come up snake-eyes for the "God d*mn Kix band."

Blow My Fuse (1988) / Hot Wire (1991) / Show Business (1995)

Blow My Fuse (1988) / Hot Wire (1991) / Show Business (1995)

Happily, success finally smiled on Kix three years later when they hit platinum on their fourth album. 1988's Blow My Fuse was released at the height of the Hair Metal explosion and the band took full advantage of their increased visibility. Fueled by the hit power ballad "Don't Close Your Eyes" (which hit #11 on Billboard's singles chart) and the hard rockin' single "Cold Blood," Blow My Fuse is an excellent collection of songs that's almost on par with Midnite Dynamite, though in this writer's opinion it's hampered slightly by the muffled production job. Either way, it was nice to see these guys enjoying some time in the spotlight after so many years of slugging it out. On 1989's Blow My Fuse: The Videos VHS compilation, Steve Whiteman sums up the band's Blow My Fuse experience by telling viewers, "You've made this a very good year for us... and it's about goddamn TIME!"

Naturally, the ride didn't last forever. By the time Kix released their fifth album, 1991's excellent Hot Wire, the world was in Nirvana mode and record sales were sluggish. Undaunted, Kix closed out their contract with Atlantic Records by releasing 1993's Live album and then signed with retro-rock specialty label CMC International Records for the underrated 1995 swan-song Show Business before going their separate ways.

Kix's Comeback!

After the breakup of Kix, Steve Whiteman formed a new band called Funny Money, which carried on Kix's hard-rock sound. Funny Money independently released four studio albums and a live disc, the most recent being 2006's Stick It! Kix drummer Jimmy "Chocolate" Chalfant joined Whiteman's combo in the early '00s, while guitarist Brian "Damage" Forsythe released several solo projects and eventually joined cult AC/DC clones Rhino Bucket. Due to massive fan demand, the "classic" lineup of Kix got back together in 2003 (minus bassist/songwriter Donnie Purnell) for a series of reunion concerts and they've become a regular fixture on the retro-rock tour circuit, with Funny Money bassist Mark Schenker taking over Purnell's slot.

A new Kix concert CD/DVD combo package entitled Live In Baltimore appeared in September 2012 through the Italian-based melodic rock label Frontiers Records (a label that is also home to such '80s rock faves as Stryper, Great White, Trixter, Journey, and Triumph, to name just a few), and they followed it up with Rock Your Face Off - the first Kix studio album since 1995's Show Business - via Loud & Proud Records in August 2014. It looks like the Dirty Boys of the Underground are here to stay!

© 2012 Keith Abt

Comments

Ansel Pereira on November 18, 2017:

Great post with a detailed perspective about Kix. Back in the hair band/hair metal days there never was a compilation complete without Kix's 'Don't Close Your Eyes' This post took me down memory lane. Thank you.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on August 28, 2015:

Updated

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 30, 2015:

Cool man! I really enjoyed their new album released last year as well. Kix still kicks!

kethdredd on July 30, 2015:

Kix! One of my favorite bands! I'm from around the same area that the "Dirty Boys of the Underground" came from so these guys and Childs Play were the hometown heroes.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 24, 2014:

Updated with some info on Kix's new studio album, coming in August 2014!

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on August 08, 2012:

UPDATED with info on Kix's forthcoming all-new live CD/DVD and new studio album!!

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on August 05, 2012:

You may have a point there... name recognition has a lot to do with it... if you don't have a catchy band name you get passed over.

udontnomi from intense introspection on August 05, 2012:

The music business is tough. There are a lot of licks that go unnoticed, or are soon forgotten. Do you think they were trying too hard? You need a good name . . . or at least a decent one. Putting an "x" on the end of the word is hokey, like grafix.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 30, 2012:

They could put out special edition cereal boxes with the band's logo and photo on the front. "Kid tested, ROCKER APPROVED!"

Rachael C. from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :) on July 30, 2012:

Oh, that would have been awesome!!! Kix for kix, the all-american band for the all-american cereal! lol.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 30, 2012:

Probably, haha, Then again, I'm surprised they never approached the cereal company about a cross-promotional deal!!

Rachael C. from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :) on July 30, 2012:

I'm guessing if you wanted to torture any one member of Kix, you would strap them to a chair and force-feed them that cereal. After nearly 30 + years of that, they must be sick of it. xD

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 27, 2012:

Haha, when I used to go see'em live back in the day, people would bring boxes of the cereal and throw them around in the crowd. :)

GH Price from North Florida on July 27, 2012:

I never could get into Kix, because their name reminded me too much of breakfast cereal. ;)

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 27, 2012:

Thanks, all. Freedom, I'm glad to hear that Kix is still kickin' butt, it's been years since I've seen'em but they definitely put on one of the most energetic shows out there.

Toys, I hope the name of the Kix song you're trying to remember comes to you eventually!!

Rachael C. from That little rambunctious spot in the back of your mind :) on July 27, 2012:

I, too, remember Kix. There was a song of theirs that I particularly loved, but can't remember the name of right now. Hmmmm...the mystery...Thanks for a great overview, though. I love that your reviews have the history of the band. I'm a weirdie who likes knowing about who she's listening to :) .

FreedomMetal from Somewhere In Time on July 27, 2012:

Another great hub!!! I've actually seen Kix several times recently. The first time (and first time I ever saw them live) was when they filled in for Whitesnake on the Judas Priest British Steel anniversary tour. The second time was in May at the M3 Festival, where they were the headlining act on Friday night. Since the M3 Festival is held at Merriweather Post Pavilion (the venue has a long history!), the first night of the Friday/Saturday Festival is call the "Kix Off" (get it?). So, at least once a year they get to headline an amphitheater. They still put on a killer set!!!!!

Tony Caro on July 27, 2012:

I remember Kix. They would get good reviews in the newsstand magazines at the time.