Born in Portland in 1960, KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer honed his craft from the age of 13, as the hallowed age of hard rock was taking hold.
"It was just the planets aligning. A lot of the all-time greatest hard rock records were coming out in the early ‘70s"
“These records were just beginning to happen about that time,” he says of his selections. “It was just all of the planets aligning. A lot of the all-time greatest hard rock records were coming out in the early ‘70s. I just loved music and the whole package of these records.”
We’d usually have 10 albums, but, of course, this being the KISS guitarist, he’s chosen a considerably more rock ’n’ roll 11. From Creedence to ‘Sabbath, with some surprises in between, browse the gallery to see the records that shaped Tommy’s tastes.
KISS are currently on tour in Europe, before heading around the world later this year, You can catch them at Download on 14 June. For all their dates head to kissonline.com.
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory (1970)
“This was the first album that I ever purchased. Back then I used to buy a lot of singles and Looking Out Of My Back Door was a single that I loved, so I decided to buy the album that it was on.
"I loved their songs and I loved the way John Fogerty sang"
"I loved their songs and I loved the way John Fogerty sang.I was probably about 10 or 11 years when I bought that, I’m guessing.
"There was a store called Fifth Avenue Records in Portland and I used to go down there and buy singles because they had the top 40 singles in order from 1-40 on the wall and you’d go in there and look at the covers and pick the singles you wanted to buy.”
Chicago - V (1972)
“I’ve been into Chicago for most of my life. There’s just something about the hybrid of rock ’n’ roll and jazz and RnB and the way they’d use the horns, but still have a rock ’n’ roll feel.
"I used to put that on and listen to it from top to bottom as a kid"
"They had a great guitarist in the great Terry Kath and Chicago V had Saturday In The Park and a lot of their great songs. There’s a song called Dialogue Part One and Two on that record that I love as well. I used to put that on and listen to it from top to bottom as a kid.
“Interestingly enough one of my best friends today is Danny Seraphine, the original founding drummer of Chicago. We get together and we jam and play music together often, just for fun. He’s very talented and a fantastic person.”
Don McLean - American Pie (1971)
“This was one of my earliest records as well. American Pie was a huge song, probably around the world, but I know in the US it was a huge single.
"He’s one of the great singer-songwriters and I loved the story-telling he did"
“I loved that tune and I used to listen to it over and over, so American Pie the album became one of my earliest albums that I bought.
“He’s one of the great singer-songwriters and I loved the story-telling he did in that song about the death of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. It’s a fun song to sing, it’s about 12 minutes long and I just loved it!”
Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)
“One of my first heavy albums was Paranoid. For anybody who loves hard rock and heavy metal, that’s a must-have.
"I remember listening to Black Sabbath in the car with my mom and her comment was that she really liked it"
"Some of the younger rock ’n’ rollers might not understand, but at the time Black Sabbath was about the heaviest band out there. Paranoid became a single and it was great to have a song like that that you could hear on the radio and enjoy.
“My dad was conservative, but my mum was a little more liberal, politically. And even though she was classically trained violinist, I remember listening to Black Sabbath in the car with her and her comment was that she really liked it and she thought that ‘what they do, they do it well!’
"Her attitude helped me a lot as a kid as far as gaining confidence in what I was doing. I remember that fondly.”
Deep Purple - Machine Head (1972)
“Around the same time I was loving Black Sabbath, I was also getting into Deep Purple and Machine Head, song-by-song, is probably one of the best, ass-kicking hard rock records that you could buy.
"Richie Blackmore’s guitar playing is phenomenal and he doesn’t get the acclaim that he should'
“Richie Blackmore’s guitar playing is phenomenal and I think that sometimes he doesn’t get the acclaim that he should outside of the hard rock world. He’s one of the best that have ever been.
"The Rock ’N’ Roll Hall Of Fame thing, for instance, Deep Purple are a band that should have been in there from the very beginning.”
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
“I’m a huge Elton John fan. All of his records are amazing, but Goodbye Yellow Brick Road really stands out to me.
"The artists I appreciate are the ones that are theatrical and have that larger than life feel"
“Growing up, his guitar player Davey Johnstone was one of the biggest guitar influences for me. He’s not as well known, but he played some of the best rock ’n’ roll guitar parts and solos that have been recorded. Look at Funeral For A Friend, Love Lies Bleeding…
“Then Elton John – he not only made great records, but he a performer and he put on a great show. He was flamboyant and he was a rock star. The artists I appreciate are the ones that are theatrical and put on a show and have that larger than life feel.”
Montrose - Montrose (1973)
“I first heard the debut Montrose album in 1973 at a huge party we were having at our house when my parents were out of town. I was actually DJ-ing the music and a friend said, ‘Hey, put this record on, I think you’ll like it.’
"I remember hearing the opening riff of Rock The Nation blast out of the speakers and I was smitten"
“I remember hearing the opening riff of Rock The Nation blast out of the speakers and I was smitten. It’s one of the best-sounding rock records ever. After 40 years, it still sounds ballsier than any record sounds today.
“Bad Motor Scooter, Rock Candy, Make It Last – song for song, from start to finish, I think it’s one of the quintessential hard rock albums of all time. Montrose’s guitar playing has influenced me more than any other guitar player hands down. Just ask Eric Singer…”
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
“Alice Cooper is one of my favourite artists by far. Billion Dollar Babies came out in ’73 and just the band alone and the pictures on the sleeve of these guys, they had a dangerous look.
"He was the one that all of the parents were afraid of. And, of course, the kids loved it!"
“More hair than you’ve ever seen at that point and their snake skin and leather clothes… just their image alone was amazing.
“That album, with Elected and Billion Dollar Babies and Sick Things… It was amazing and they had great album covers and great artwork and that made a big, big impression on me.
“Alice Cooper was very controversial, too. He was the one that all of the parents were afraid of. And, of course, the kids loved it!”
KISS - KISS (1974)
“This record is close to home! I remember sitting in a record shop called Everybody’s Records in Portland, where I grew up. I saw the album cover and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’
"If you’d have told me, ‘Tommy, you’re going to be the lead guitarist in that band…’ I wouldn’t have ever believed you"
“I immediately knew it was a band I was going to love, so my parents got the first KISS album for me for Christmas in 1974 - it was on my Christmas list and they got it for me!
“I remember putting the first song on, Strutter, and I was thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty good…’ And by the time I’d got to the end of album and heard Black Diamond, I was bowled over.
“That was the complete package for me: these guys were the ultimate rock ’n’ roll personas and they had the music. My love affair with KISS started then and continues to this day. If you’d have told me, listening to that first album, ‘Tommy, you’re going to be the lead guitarist in that band…’ I wouldn’t have ever believed you. I still can’t believe it to be honest!”
Aerosmith - Toys In The Attic (1975)
“Steven Tyler’s always been one of my favourite singers and performers. We all know he’s an amazing writer.
"They’re one of the greatest American rock ’n’ roll bands of all time"
"They’re one of the greatest American rock ’n’ roll bands of all time and when Toys In The Attic came out, it was mind-boggling: Toys In The Attic, Adam’s Apple, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way… Come on! That’s ridiculous.
“That album was powerful. I remember putting Toys In The Attic, the [eponymous] first track on, and I was stunned at how good it was. I was trying to learn the songs, but back then I was a guitar player for only a year or two, so I struggled, but that’s part of the process. As time went on, I got better at it!”
Pat Travers - Makin' Magic (1977)
“One guitar player that really shook me when I first heard him play was Pat Travers. I remember hearing Hooked On Music on the radio and just being blown away by his whole guitar approach.
"We played Rock N’ Roll Susie and Heat In The Street with Pat last year, so it really came full circle."
“His songs, his arrangement and the way he played, it was rock ’n’ roll and it was hard rock, but it had a bluesy edge in a Johnny Winter kind of way. His records hadn’t come out in the US, but I ran out immediately and found an import of Makin’ Magic.
“Last November on the KISS Kruise, Pat Travers was one of the special guests and he invited myself and Eric Singer to come up and we played a couple of songs with Pat, which was so cool. We played Rock N’ Roll Susie and Heat In The Street. That was a thrill, so it really came full circle.”