History - 1978 to 1979
The "Love Gun" tour only hit the key markets in the U.S. and Canada. Kiss' second live effort, "Alive II" (reportedly recorded between August & September of 1977 / released October 14, 1977) would have a far more extensive and slightly revised tour behind it, planned for 1978.
*Note - As I mentioned in the last chapter, it is my belief that most of the bed tracks for Alive II were actually recorded during the Budokan shows, in Japan, between April 1-4, 1977. I base this on the performance quality, song tempos and overall sound of the Budokan shows. Compare what you hear on Alive II (reportedly recorded between August 26 & 28, 1977) with the audio and video recordings of the Houston shows (September 1 & 2, 1977) ... just days apart from each other. They're night and day. There is no band, past or present, on the face of this or any other planet that performs live songs, so differently, just a matter of days apart. Not to mention that it is a well know fact that Eddie Kramer DID record the Budokan shows, with a mobile recording unit and intended them for release on a Japan-only, live album, which never ended up seeing the light of day. Why throw those tracks away and never use them ? Also, if they weren't used for the Alive II bedtracks, then why have they never surfaced as a bootleg ??? See what I mean ?
Anyway ... it seemed asthough the "Love Gun" tour had been a warm-up, for what became the pinacle of Kiss' live performances, to that point. The "Alive II" tour (November 14, 1977 to April 2, 1978) was an all out rock and roll show; the likes of which had never been seen before. It not only came to symbolize Kiss and their live shows, but it truly set the bar for all other bands, for many, many years into the future. For the "Alive II" tour, Ace's fleet of Les Pauls didn't change too much. There was a couple of asthetic changes to the guitars he used during the "Love Gun" tour, but nothing new or different. Hitting the road with Ace was his 3 pickup Cherry-burst Custom, the 3 pickup Black Custom but with the pick guard now removed and a 2 pickup Tobacco-burst Les Paul Standard, with the "piece of plastic" insert, being used as his smoker. This guitar started the tour without a pick guard but finished the tour with one. When Kiss hit Japan in early April of 1978, Greco Guitars tried to get Ace to use their products, yet again. This time it was a Greco AK-1400 Flying 'V' that he used for at least one song. But, to the best of my knowledge, I`ve only ever seen it in one picture.
As Kiss' popularity grew in the late '70's, so did the marketing opportunites and in May of 1978, the band set up shop at the Magic Mountain amusement park, in Southern California, to film the made-for-TV movie, "Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park", as it was originally called. This was expected to be, as Paul Stanley described it, Kiss' version of "A Hard Day's Night meets Star Wars". Up to that point, the Kiss Comic books had sold millions ... the Kiss Action Figures had sold millions ... so why not a movie ?!?! It was probably a good idea at the time, but it was, in fact, the beginning of the end for the original line-up. The live concert portion of the movie was filmed in the parking lot of Magic Mountain, on May 19, 1978 and nothing much changed for Ace's gear, using the same guitars he was touring with; his 3 pickup Cherry-burst Custom, the 3 pickup Black Custom with no pick guard and the modified 3 pickup Tobacco-burst Standard he was using for his smoker. There was another Les Paul Standard that Ace was seen holding during the opening credits of the movie, when he and Peter are sitting in the 'Tilt-A-Whirl' car, but I have never seen anything that shows him using that guitar in concert.
Following the movie shoot, the members of Kiss went their seperate ways and each began working on their 'solo albums'. For most fans, Ace's record did not dissappoint. It demostrated some great song writing and even better guitar playing. Ace's record, "Ace Frehley" (recorded May-July 1978 / released September 18, 1978) would also be the only one of the four to produce a hit single, 'New York Groove'. To record this album, Ace is reported to have used his original 1959 Les Paul on every track. I've detailed this history of this guitar in the chapter titled ... "The Frehley Burst".
Sometime between the release of "Ace Frehley" and Kiss' next studio effort; Ace, Gene and Paul began working more closely with one of their long-time guitar techs, Steve Carr. Steve would custom-build Ace's first 'Flasher' guitar; converting a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior, to be used each night during the live performance of 'New York Groove'. Additionally, one of Ace's new, 3 pickup, Black Customs was converted into his 'Smoker' and yet another 3 pickup, Black Custom into his first pyro-technic, rocket-launching, 'Shooter' guitar. According to Steve, the first 'Shooter' was originally intended to shoot a laser, from the headstock and not the 'fire-balls' it ended up with. However, because of the limitations of laser technology, at the time, that special effect was never fully developed for Kiss' shows.
1979 saw Kiss jump head-first, into the disco scene that was happening, at the time. The band's first studio album in two years, "Dynasty" (recorded January-March 1979 / released May 23, 1979), was a blend of disco grooved songs and two, new, Ace Frehley penned songs which were, in my opinion, Ace's very obvious attempt to have Kiss remain a rock and roll band and not get sucked into the trappings of the 'pop/disco' world. The massive tour for "Dynasty" (June 15, 1979 to December 16, 1979) was the longest Kiss had undertaken to that point. Everything was new. Guitars, drums, costumes, lights and staging. Even some of the very first wireless units in history, were utilized. The list went on and on.
Ace's principal guitars for the tour, were now his 3 pickup, Black Customs with his 3 pickup Cherry Custom assuming a much lesser role, each night. This tour also saw Ace's solo spot change from 'Shock Me' to one of his new inclusions on the album, '2,000 Man', which was written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
At this point in his career, when the other members of the band were trying every guitar they could get their hands on and could have any make, model and/or type of gear they wanted, Ace stuck to the Les Paul and it was this loyalty that would eventually solidify Gibson's drive to build the Ace Frehley Signature Model Les Paul, in the mid 1990s.