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The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues.We continue matching up the Queens combatants with a face-off between the No. 3 seed, Neil Diamond, and KISS loudmouth Gene Simmons.
The true pop demographics of New York are probably closer to the national averages than one might suspect, and they almost certainly were during Neil Diamond’s late-’70s ascension to multi-platinum popdom. In other words, even in New York from 1977-1980, he was easily more popular than The Ramones. Brooklyn-born and Brill Building-raised, that makes him a New York City musician of the first magnitude, even if he’d long since decamped to Los Angeles and traded his Brill-era brilliance for a far shlockier and arguably even deeper brilliance. The American Popular Song goes on and on… read a curlicued inset on his first album after heading west. Maybe so, but it sure can start to smell funny in that California sun.
The bass-plunking, blood-spewing, fire-breathing, capitalism-practicing industry known as Gene Simmons began life in Israel as Chaim Weitz but eventually relocated to Jackson Heights, where he formed a band named Wicked Lester before finally settling on the KISS name and concept. The band’s music was primarily upbeat and celebratory (or perhaps predatory, depending on your point of view), but KISS’ visual presentation—primarily that of Simmons, “the Demon”—contained an undercurrent of darkness that was latched onto by multitudes of young fans who would go on to form bands with more sinister motifs, even if none of them would go as far as Simmons and release a comic book inked in their own blood.