Book Review: On Power

Unfortunately, On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power by KISSman Gene Simmons doesn’t pack a very powerful punch. As a massive fan of the band, I’m just not sure who this book benefits.

On Power is a how-to book, but there isn’t much beyond “work hard, show up early” kind of advice. It is labelled as a “music/genres & styles/rock” book but there isn’t a great deal of musical discussion. For a KISS know-it-all like me, there wasn’t much new information or stories. Yet, if I imagine a newbie to the demonic Dr. Love, I don’t know what would capture their attention.

The book is most compelling when Simmons relates stories of his hard scrabble upbringing in Israel and then as an immigrant to America. Simmons and his schtick may have critics, but there is no denying that his story is fascinating. He may speak in headline grabbing soundbites but no one can say he didn’t work his ass off. Simmons is someone who would have been a success in any field. This is a guy who managed to save thousands of dollars from a high school paper route. At one point, during his young adulthood, when many people are still bouncing checks, he had amassed about twenty grand that could be used to support his fledgling band. He is an impressive person and, in many ways, an admirable role model.

But most KISS fans know that. There isn’t really anything new here. But if I am not a fan but an entrepreneur, let’s say a plumber looking to build my brand, is Simmons’ advice to be memorable really going to help me? There isn’t enough depth and innovation here.

I’ll give you two examples of things that could have made On Power stand out.

More personal stories and connections could have helped. For example, Simmons praises Oprah Winfrey’s determination and business acumen in building her empire. There is an entire section about Winfrey in a round up of contemporary role models that people should emulate. But he doesn’t mention the time that he stuck out his tongue and told Oprah that his problem with women was that he was breast fed too long when KISS appeared on her show in her early days.

More stories of true innovation and maneuvering could also have helped. There is a legend from the mid nineties about how Simmons created a fictional bidding war for a reunited KISS tour that fueled an actual bidding war. He left day timers and calendars around Hollywood that said “Company X is offering this much money” and “Company Y raised their offer to that much.” They were all fake notes, but real booking agencies believed it and thought, “Shit, I’ve gotta get involved in this!” That kind of true inside stories, from the field, is what is lacking in On Power.

All in all, Gene Simmons of KISS does have a lot to teach us. But On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power doesn’t quite do the man, or his experiences, justice.

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