Classic Rock Bottom

Eric Carr



Paul Charles Caravello (July 12, 1950 – November 24, 1991), known as Eric Carr, was an American musician, best known as drummer for the rock band Kiss. Caravello was selected as the new Kiss drummer after Peter Criss left in 1980. He remained a band member until he became ill with heart cancer and died in 1991.

Early music career

Caravello played with a string of bands mostly performing covers of well-known songs before joining Kiss. The first band, "The Cellarmen", was formed in 1965 by him and a couple of friends. They started playing local clubs in Brooklyn and Queens. Only a handful of recordings were made, released on the "Jody" label, a small Brooklyn recording studio. Caravello then joined a band called "Things That Go Bump In The Night" and later "Smack", the latter of which consisted mostly of members from "The Cellarmen", who disbanded in 1968.[1]

"Salt & Pepper" was Caravello's next cover band, playing music from multiple genres. He would go on with this band for nine years. It enjoyed some success, performing as opening act for established names such as Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone. Changing name to "Creation" in 1973, the band was now performing disco music. Tragedy struck when a fire broke out during a discothèque gig in Port Chester, New York, killing dozens of people including the band's keyboardist and lead singer. Caravello escaped and was credited with saving another person. It was determined that the fire had been started by a thief in an adjacent building hoping to cover his tracks. The band continued for some time, sometimes using the name "Bionic Boogie".[1]

In December 1979, Caravello successfully auditioned for a rock 'n' roll cover band called "Flasher". At this point he had become skeptical about his musical future after so many years trying to make it without a break, and considered settling down with a non-musical career.[1] Flasher played the club circuit in New York City and Long Island. The band continued on despite the resignation of its keyboardist Paul Turino, but bookings diminished. Caravello handed in his resignation in May 1980. Shortly afterwards, he had a chance meeting with Turino in a club in Queens. Turino told Caravello about Peter Criss's departure from Kiss and urged Caravello to audition to become Kiss's drummer.

Audition for Kiss and stage persona

Following two albums that alienated many fans with their departure in style (1979's Dynasty and 1980's Unmasked), and a falling-out with Peter Criss over his substance abuse problems and unreliability[3][page needed], Kiss held open auditions for a new drummer. Criss had not recorded an entire studio album with Kiss since 1977's Love Gun.

[edit] Audition

Caravello was working for his father as an oven repair man for Jamaica Stove in Brooklyn[4] while playing drums in "Flasher" when Kiss dismissed Criss. Caravello, who had played in cover bands throughout the 1970s, was told by former Flasher keyboardist Paul Turino that he should audition for Kiss. Along with the application, Caravello submitted a cassette tape of Kiss's current single "Shandi" but with his vocals over the music instead of Paul Stanley's. "It sounded great!" he enthused years later in a fanzine interview.[5] The application was put into a bright orange folder to make it stand out visually.[1]

While sitting outside the actual room used for the audition, Caravello watched the three members of Kiss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley, walk by to enter the room. He was one of the few people outside of the band's circle of friends, family, and music business partners, to see Kiss without make-up. "Paul, I knew right away", he told a fanzine in 1990 while interviewed on Kiss' tour bus. "The others I wasn't sure about."[5]

Caravello was the last drummer to audition for the band and actually asked Stanley, Simmons and Frehley to autograph the list of Kiss songs he was to play with the band, in case he never saw them again. "But I knew I had it", he told a fanzine in 1990.[5] According to Caravello, his audition was videotaped.[5] He was also immediately comfortable, feeling the songs he had to play "...were a snap." He knew the arrangements better than the band did, from learning the recorded versions off Kiss' albums. "They had been on tour, and changed little things around," he said.[6] He wasn't impressed with Kiss's performance at the audition. "They were awful!" he emphasized, "I had to remind them, "'No, I sing this harmony, you sing that one', stuff like that. It was great! Right away we were working together. I know it impressed them."[5]

A significant advantage for Caravello may have been his relative anonymity, as it was important for the band to maintain the mystique surrounding the members. Said Paul Stanley, "It was really important to us that we got somebody who was unknown... We didn't want somebody who last week was in Rod Stewarts's band or in Rainbow." In fact, the press release announcing the induction of Caravello into Kiss deducted two years from his actual age in order to confuse those seeking information about his true identity.

Character and stage persona

After Caravello passed the audition, the time constricted band had some trouble coming up with a character persona and a stage name for him. Caravello originally considered going by the name "Rusty Blade", until he decided on Eric Carr, knowing that Criss' name was two syllables followed by a single syllable, the inverse of the other three band members' names. He decided to make his stage name sound the same rhythmically as Peter Criss' when people said all four names together. Carr was shortened from his birth name Caravello, and he chose Eric from a list of first names his girlfriend at the time had given him. Paul Caravello remained his legal name.

For his Kiss persona, Carr initially tried "The Hawk"; this concept was apparently very difficult to realize - a suitable make-up design was never created, and the "Hawk" costume was a "bright ORANGE-YELLOW!".[8] With the band on deadline (only two weeks before Carr's stage debut), Carr came up with the make-up design for the persona of "The Fox"; Simmons liked it and thus the character was born. The original design was modified within days of Carr's initial photo sessions and for a single concert—his first as a member of Kiss.[9] Carr was introduced to the public on an episode of Kids Are People Too! filmed in late July, 1980 and aired in September 1980, and his first public performance was with the band in New York City's "The Palladium" venue on July 25, 1980. His parents, warned to not tell anyone their son was now in Kiss (to maintain the mystique that no one knew what the new guy looked like), attended the concert — and were recognized by a friend who actually worked with Paul Caravello at the repair shop. "'What are you doing here?'", Carr's father, Albert Caravello related in the Tale Of The Fox DVD,[4] "'You like Kiss?' I said, "Yeah!'"

His persona remained consistent for three years until the band's well-publicized removal of their stage makeup in September 1983, live on MTV network. "I thought the band was ending, and they weren't telling me", he told a fanzine editor in June, 1990.[5] Kiss slowly turned their career descent into a rebound, and the band thrived. Carr earned a reputation amongst fans for being unusually friendly and approachable. He answered more mail than other band members, and often added messages to his autographs. Despite being a replacement member, his popularity soared among fans based on this personal decency and well-honed percussion skills.

Music career with Kiss

Carr's first album with Kiss was 1981's Music from "The Elder", which marked a departure for the band towards a mystical art-rock direction. One of Carr's contributions to the album, "Under the Rose", featured a Gregorian chant-style chorus. Later, he would also have co-writer credits on "All Hell's Breakin' Loose", "Under the Gun", and "No, No, No", amongst others. Carr said he found writing lyrics harder than writing music.

Besides drumming, Carr also played guitar, bass guitar, and piano and sang background vocals. Occasionally he sang lead vocals, such as "Black Diamond" and "Young and Wasted" live with Kiss.[8] His first lead vocal in the studio was when the classic Kiss track "Beth" (originally sung by Peter Criss) was re-recorded for the 1988 compilation album Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. Carr recorded his version of the song in the same room in the Record Plant where the song was originally recorded,[10] using the same backing track as Criss. Carr would later claim that he regretted having to overdub what he felt was the definitive performance by Criss, but that he was so desperate to finally sing on an album that (against his better judgment) he agreed to do it.[citation needed]

In 1989 he recorded a demo with Kiss's lead guitarist Bruce Kulick. Carr wrote the music, played bass and drums, while Kulick played guitar. As Carr was not a proficient lyricist, he presented the demo to Simmons with the words to Marvin Gaye's 1965 classic "Ain't That Peculiar". Simmons wrote new lyrics, which Carr recorded for the subsequent Hot in the Shade release. Song was released as "Little Caesar". He performed the song a few times, but it wasn't performed beyond the first month of the tour. Carr's last live performance with Kiss was November 9, 1990 in New York City, at Madison Square Garden.

Carr's last recording with Kiss was for the song "God Gave Rock 'N Roll To You II", which featured him on backing vocals. The last time Carr worked with Kiss was in July 1991 when Kiss filmed the video for "God Gave Rock 'N Roll To You" with Carr playing drums. Carr's last public appearance with the band was at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1991.

Influences and style

Eric was a powerful hard-hitting drummer and one of the first drummers to adopt the classic 80's snare drum sound : an highly reverberated and low-tuned sound.

In his 1980 resume sent to Kiss, Eric stated that his drumming style ranged from heavy metal and hard rock to pop and new wave claiming that "I can adapt to most situations easily." Furthermore he listed drummers John Bonham, Keith Moon, and Lenny White as influences.[1]

In addition, Eric was an avid fan of The Beatles and the band's drummer Ringo Starr. In an interview he recalled, "I was caught up in the whole Beatlemania thing. I guess I was attracted to the drums because of the feeling of the rhythm and how it moved you, just sitting in your seat. I loved the way Ringo moved. I identified with him at the time ..."[1] Photographs of Eric during his high school years show him wearing his hair like Starr did. To get his naturally curly locks to lay down like The Beatles' hair, he would soak it in "Dippy-Do" cream, and wear a stocking over his head while sleeping each night. His parents never said a thing to him as he'd retire each night. "I was a good kid, and they weren't gonna pick on me for a small thing like that. They're real good, hardworking Italian parents. I owe them everything".[5]

Eric's interest in double bass drumming came from his admiration of Ginger Baker and John Bonham, once telling 16 Magazine, "I just loved the way John Bonham played drums".[citation needed] Eric also had a love of all types of music; songwriter Adam Mitchell once described Carr as knowing a lot about folk, R&B and other non-rock styles.[citation needed] In a 1983 interview, Eric told USA Channel interviewer Al Bandero that he listened to "a lot" of Neil Young, and liked many different types of music.[11]

Gene Simmons, Kiss bassist, has stated that Carr's harder drumming style pushed Kiss into becoming a heavier band than it had been when jazz-inspired Peter Criss was the band's drummer.[12]

[edit] Death

In March 1991, just one month into recording, Carr began feeling ill, coughing up blood and feeling heaviness in the chest. Medical tests revealed what at first appeared to be manageable problems with his health.[13] Before long, however, he was diagnosed with an unexpectedly serious and extremely rare type of cancer - heart cancer. In April 1991, Carr underwent a series of surgeries to remove tumors in his right atrium and lungs in an effort to restore heart function and prevent the cancer's growth.

Carr recovered enough to fly to Los Angeles in July 1991 to be with the band to play drums for their music video "God Gave Rock n' Roll To You".[4] His health had deteriorated to the point where he was unable to play drums for the recording session, and Eric Singer (who had played previously in Paul Stanley's solo band) was brought in. After filming the video, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Bruce Kulick told him to go home and get well. With aggressive treatments, the cancer went into remission and Carr's health began to improve.

Carr's last public appearance with Kiss was at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1991. Not long afterwards he suffered from an aneurysm and was rushed to a hospital. He survived this episode, but it was only a matter of days before he suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by cancer cells transported in his bloodstream to the head, and never regained consciousness. On November 24, 1991, Eric Carr died, at 41 years old—the same day Freddie Mercury passed away. In keeping with Carr's accessibility to his fans, his family decided to open his funeral service to the public, while reserving the interment as a private event.[14] The funeral procession to the cemetery was very long, with New York State troopers making sure fans did not enter the cemetery for the interment.[citation needed]

Carr is interred in Cedar Hill Cemetery in the Town of Newburgh, New York.[15]

[edit] Rockology and Rockheads

Former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick, along with Carr's family, released Carr's first and only solo album in 1999 titled Rockology, which featured many demos that Kulick and Carr worked on together (along with songwriter and friend Adam Mitchell). The CD features several songs with Carr on lead vocals as well as on bass guitar, along with Kulick on guitars and Mitchell assisting Carr with many of the background vocals. This album includes "Somebody's Waiting" and "Tiara", a song that he originally wrote for his planned children's cartoon show called Rockheads, a rock band parody featuring four characters (Slider, Clive, Scruffy and Punky) with different characteristics and personalities.[16]

[edit] Tributes

As a tribute, the group's 1992 release Revenge featured what is said to be the only drum solo Carr ever recorded with the band,[8] entitled "Carr Jam 1981", a jam session recorded for the Music From "The Elder" sessions (former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley's original guitar part was overdubbed by Bruce Kulick). Much of the soloing was seasoned during Kiss' 1980 Unmasked Tour of Europe and Australia, and put down during The Elder sessions, since that album was recorded following that tour. Sadly enough, Carr had for years been trying to get his hands on a copy of the solo for his personal collection, but his request was always rebuffed by Bob Ezrin with the excuse that he did not know where the masters for the session were. Once Carr passed away, however, the solo surfaced as "Carr Jam 1981".[citation needed]

The Revenge album was dedicated to Carr. He was also homaged on the Kiss My Ass video, as well as Kissology 2. However, the band declined a tribute concert that was requested by a circle of fans the year after his passing. Simmons stated, "We didn't want to do a tribute concert. We are dedicating the album to his name, but no concerts in his name. It's not our style." [17]

A further tribute was produced in 1992, called Eric Carr: The Memorial Tribute. It was first broadcast live on 88.1 FM / WCWP, where Carr had been interviewed 3 years earlier while doing press for the Hot in the Shade album.[citation needed] Running for approximately 3 hours, the tribute featured a re-broadcast of the interview, interspersed with biographical information and details of Carr's extracurricular projects, along with all the officially-released songs Carr had written or co-written. Though broadcast just once, Eric Carr: The Memorial Tribute was released several years later (seemingly in an unofficial capacity) as a 2-tape box set, designed to resemble the Kiss solo albums. It featured a newly-commissioned painting of Carr in his fox makeup, patterned after the rarely-seen original by Eraldo Carugati (the artist who did the paintings for the original four Kiss solo album covers, plus one of Carr that was never officially released).[citation needed]

Fifteen years to the day of Carr's Kiss debut, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock Walk Hall of Fame at Guitar Center in Hollywood, CA.[18] Carr's parents, Albert and Connie Caravello, accepted a plaque in Carr's honor. Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley was inducted in the "Rock Walk" during the same ceremony. Frehley's handprint was not added to the Kiss display. Carr's acknowledgment was a bronze plaque with his name, autograph and a separate icon of the Fox makeup he wore. Both were added to the Kiss display.[19] Also, on numerous solo tours since Carr's death, Ace Frehley would play "Breakout" (with lyrics written by Carr and Frehley and later re-recorded as "Carr Jam '81" on Kiss' Revenge album) and dedicate it to Carr, whom Frehley hopes is "checking out the show up there". Frehley also dedicated his 2009 solo album Anomaly to Carr.

In July 2005, Carr was voted in tenth place for the world's best drummer by Planet Radio Rock.[20] No other member of Kiss was given the distinction of making the top 10 in the categories of vocalist, bassist or guitarist. Carr was only the second American drummer to make the list, with all others being either British or Canadian.

There is a hidden 'easter egg' in the 2007 Kissology II DVD collection (on disc three at the end of the production credits) showing a family videotape made of Eric, on his hospital bed, speaking into the camera thanking his fans for their cards, letters, and concern about his health. Dressed in white, Carr then exits the bed, and begins walking away only to return and moon the camera in rock n' roll style.[21]

[edit] Discography

[edit] With Kiss

[edit] Solo

  • The Rockheads (1999, Rock Hard Records) - EP with all four songs co-written by Carr. He also played drums on all tracks, sang lead vocal and backing vocals
  • Rockology (April 2000)

[edit] Other albums

  • Lightning: "Lightning" (1979, Casablanca Records) - As Paul Caravello, played drums and performed backing vocals on all tracks[22]
  • Bryan Adams: Cuts Like a Knife (1983, A&M Records) - Co-wrote "Don't Leave Me Lonely"
  • Wendy O. Williams: W.O.W. (1984, JEM/Passport Records) - Drums on "Legends Never Die" and co-wrote "Ain't None of Your Business"
  • Frehley's Comet (1987, Atlanic / Megaforce Records), Ace Frehley: Frehley's Comet, Greatest Hits Live - Co-wrote "Breakout"
  • Garbo Talks (1998, MTM Music) - Drums on "Game of Love" [23]
  • Prophecy: A Tribute to Eric Carr (2000, Lunar Moth Records) - Radio ID and performed "Your Turn to Cry"
  • Faith Circus: "Faith Circus" (2008, Kivel Records) - Co-wrote "Can You Feel It"

[edit] Unreleased recordings

Carr's family announced in 2006 that they would release material written and recorded by Carr between 1980–1991, including the following songs:[24]

  • "Elephant Man" he lived life
  • "Dial L for Love"
  • "Midnight Stranger"
  • "Tiara" (demo)
  • "The Troubles Inside You"

Though stated by Carr's family that the recordings would be released in 2006, they remain unreleased as of 2011.


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