Space Ace: My Favorites

Let's turn our attention to Our Man from Jendell, the Spaceman himself, Mr. Ace Frehley. One of only a handful of known extra-terrestrials active on Planet Earth today. And my favorite example of that curious specimen: the Rock Star Guitar God.

This isn't an overview of his Kiss work nor a biography, although aspects of both will undoubtedly come up. It's just a list of my 20 favorite Ace songs. Given the relative obscurity of some of these tunes, I've included links to each song for reference but only one of the official music videos ("New York Groove.") They're there if you want them, or feel free to skip them.

In 1978, each member of Kiss released a solo album on the same day. Ace's is not only the best but also among my personal top 5 hard rock/ metal albums of the 20th century.

(The others, you ask? Def Leppard's Pyromania, Fifth Angel's Fifth Angel, Iron Maiden's Brave New World, and Black Sabbath's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. And an honorable mention for Saxon's Crusader. Amen.)

Ace wanted out of the band (as did Peter) and he clearly had a great time recording it. Its success must have been exceptionally gratifying. It's a bit like All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. In the same way George had all of these great tunes that he could never get on a Beatles record because of John and Paul, Ace had a similar backlog for similar reasons.

Ace formally left Kiss in 1982 and formed Frehley's Comet (a name I always thought was great.) They released two studio albums and a couple of live efforts.

There's a sense of diminishing return in Ace's solo career. I loved the crap out of Trouble Walkin' when it came out: 


But while it (and the Frehley's Comet records) have some moments of brilliance, they are mostly unremarkable. Which isn't to take away from them - and I think Trouble Walkin' is better than Crazy Nights or Hot in the Shade, by way of comparison - it's just acknowledging how high the bar was set with the 1978 one. Saleswise, Ace's '78 album rules the roost, and the others range from minor hits to duds, unfortunately.

Recorded after the Space Ace finally got clean after decades of flying high, 2009's Anomaly breaks the pattern somewhat. 

No one would confuse it with Ace Frehley (1978) but it's a solid record and the ratio of great-tunes-to-meh is a happy surprise. Fun cover.
And the CD packaging folds into a pyramid, to boot.
It's interesting to consider what might have happened had Ace left the band when he wanted to in the late 70s. The tunes that ended up on Kiss records (Talk To Me, Two Sides of the Coin, Torpedo Girl, 2000 Man, Save Your Love, Hard Times, Dark Light, Escape from the Island) would likely have been on his follow-up to the '78 album. That would have made a pretty formidable one-two punch. How would the 80s have been different, both for Ace and for Kiss? Certainly better than the one-two of Ace Frehley followed by Frehley's Comet, and, without Ace's tunes on either record, immensely better than the one-two Kiss would have had with Dynasty and Unmasked

I'd love to peek into an alternate reality where the above is what happened instead of what happened in ours. 

But let us however-reluctantly stick to this universe for now.
Here are my favorite solo-Ace tunes, least to most. (Honorable mention for "Fractured Too," which I do very much enjoy, but I already have all the other "Fractured"s on here, so it's well-represented.)

20. 2 Young 2 Die (from Trouble Walkin') Ace was always pretty generous with letting friends and guests share the spotlight and stage. This makes Frehley's Comet, Second Sighting and Trouble Walkin' a bit uneven, though, as Richie Scarlet (who sings this one) and Tod Howarth, who gets a lot of space on the Frehley's Comet records, have very different styles than Ace.

This is a fun little track, though, and Peter Criss sings back-up. (Allegedly. It's tough to pick him out.) All in all, a little bit of non-Ace stuff goes a long way. This is the only non-Ace tune on Trouble Walkin', whereas Howarth sings like four or five songs on Second Sighting alone.

19. Separate (from Second Sighting) This isn't an especially fantastic track, and the video linked-to is of poor quality. But what can I say? It's a list of favorites, not suggestions for an Academy of St. Martin in the Fields retrospective.

18. Juvenile Delinquent (from Second Sighting) And same goes for this one. I cut a lot of lawns to this cassette! This tune cracks me up. I felt at the time that this was good, empowering advice.

17.5. "Into the Night" (from Frehley's Comet) (EDIT: I forgot about this one, but thanks to longtime pal and DSO reader Michael Haeflinger, I now remember. I apologize to the Celestial Court of Rock and Roll for my negligence.)

17. Fox on the Run (from Anomaly) Unlike "2000 Man" or the one coming up a little further in the countdown, I was very familiar with the original of this tune before hearing this version. But Ace brings his characteristic flair to things - nothing very surprising, but fun and perfectly acceptable. 

16. Change the World (from Anomaly) This didn't make my original list. But I found myself singing it to myself a lot, the past few days, so I've convinced myself it belongs here. It's a nice little tune. The melody is kind of the same thing as the riff for "Separate." But who cares.

15. The Acorn is Spinning (from Second Sighting) Fun instrumental track with a story, narrated by Ace in his otherworldly Bronx accent. Around the time this came out, the band Hurricane (who kind of came and went but that was another lawn-cutting cassette indelibly burned on my brain) had a song called "Baby Snakes" which followed the same sort of pattern. The two songs are not very alike musically, just the whole story-laid-over-guitar-heavy-instrumental approach, I mean.

14. Foxy and Free (from Anomaly) Not sure if Ace was going for a fox theme with Anomaly, or it's just a coincidence that this and "Fox on the Run" are on the same record. Probably just a coincidence. Kiss does that kind of stuff often. I always chuckle when I scan the track listings on an album and see "Night," (as on Crazy Nights) "Rock," (everywhere) or a fire theme (as on Animalize) jump out at me. (That last one most especially. "We have all these fire-themed tunes, what should we name the album? ANIMALIZE.") 

Anyway, this is a great riff. Ace always brings it with the opening tracks on his records.

13. Fractured III (from Trouble Walkin') While Second Sighting's "Fractured Too" is atmospheric but somewhat tough to whistle, this version adds a takeaway melody, so I like it a little better.

12. Rock Soldiers (from Frehley's Comet) The AV Club had a bit of fun at Ace's expense (not unreasonably) for being so proud of the lyrics to this one that he reproduced them in full for his memoir. But why shouldn't he be? They're ridiculous, but they're kinda perfectly ridiculous, if you know what I mean. He lets the devil know at the end in no uncertain terms that if he wants to play his satanic card game now "he's gonna play without an Ace in his deck." Hell has never been the same.

11. Space Bear (from Anomaly) I'll probably bring up my buddy Kevin in every one of these blogs; he's sort of inseparable from my Kiss appreciation. He got me this CD when it came out and swung by the bar I was running at the time. After I closed up, I locked the doors, and put it on the stereo while we drank beers and shot some pool. When we got to this song, Kevin let out a perfectly-timed "Spaaaace Beeeaarrr!" in a good approximation of Ace's cadence, and I still recall it and laugh everytime I hear it. I recommend this approach.

A swaggering instrumental. Nobody's reinventing the wheel here, but it's fun to roll and gets you where you need to go even if you didn't know you wanted to get there. This is not just me being cute. This really is like a massage for a muscle you didn't realize was so tense. There is a critical lack of things like "Space Bear" in the musical ether these days. (UPDATE: The Japanese-import version has some fun sound fx and Ace's re-creation of his manic appearance on Tom Snyder, above. "I'm the owner of the only Ssshpace Bear in captivity!")

10. Genghis Khan (from Anomaly) It's amusing to imagine a newly sober Ace reading about Genghis Khan, perhaps even pondering the Battle of Ain Jalut and why we're not all speaking Chinese today, and writing this song. But it's likely a reference to how the other guys in Kiss thought he was Mongolian when they first met him. No lyrics to speak of really except "So long, Genghis Khan, now you're gone." I'd be curious to know what (if any) the inspiration for this track is.

9. Dolls (from Frehley's Comet) Okay, so I was only 13 or so when I got into this song, and I sincerely believed it was about Ace having a doll collection. I used to wonder what dolls - G.I. Joes? Kiss dolls? Star Wars figures? Raggedy Anns? - and was charmed by the idea of this huge rock star singing to the world about how he loved his dolls and didn't care who knew it. Of course, the dolls are metaphors for pills or for chicks, or both. But I still like to think of Ace waking up, surrounded by mechanical dolls that clean up the room "so sweet-ly, neat-ly" while he takes a shower.

8. Trouble Walkin’ (from Trouble Walkin') Pretty self-explanatory. I am trouble walkin' / every mother's nightmare, riff, solo, rinse wash repeat. Whoah-oh-oh-whoah-whoah-oh-oh! OH! But fun. 10th and 11th grade would've been exponentially lamer if I hadn't had this to listen to.

Gene Colan's take on the Spaceman from Howard the Duck #14.
7. Sister (from Anomaly) This is a great rock tune. It seems from the title and the first verse to be about a girl with whom Ace's buddies think he's carrying on but then he sings Look Out! and the rest of it is more a I can't change / I can't re-arrange sort of message. Which is a bit out of step with the tone of the rest of the record, lyrically. I'm not sure what to make of it all, but the riff/ rocking is très cool.

6. Do Ya (from Trouble Walkin') This version was my first exposure to the song and consequently the original never sounds right to me. That's unfair, of course, but so it goes. Do ya do ya want the ACE? he asks us at the end. A question for the ages.

5. Fractured Quantum (from Anomaly) Just a sweet slice of guitar instrumental. Ace doesn't quite get the credit he deserves for the variety of moods and sensitivity he can bring to the table. (Of course, he also wrote "Rocket Ride," so, you know. We all make our beds.)

4. Shot Full of Rock (from Trouble Walkin') I always misheard the line "Taste the hard rock candy / guaranteed to melt in your mouth." I thought he was singing "Take the hard rock challenge," like the Pepsi Challenge or something, and was always confused by the follow-up line. I like my version slightly better, but nevertheless, this is the kind of rock-ass rocker no one really makes anymore. (I originally meant to write "kick-ass rocker" but "rock-ass" seems even closer to the point, so I'm leaving it.) One of my favorite outros in the hard rock canon, right up there with King Crimson's "Lament" or Oasis's "Rock and Roll Star."

3. Outer Space (from Anomaly) Here's another one that's charting higher than I expected. It made my original list and then a few more listens catapulted it all the way to the #3 spot. 

I think it's a dig at Wendy Moore, who wrote a tell-all book about her time shooting up with the Space Ace on the Psycho Circus tour, but it doesn't have to be. It could just be about an alien who came to Earth, got sick of the place, and returned to orbit to blow it all up from space.

"This place is gonna be fried."
2. Insane (from Second Sighting) The music video is pretty shameless. Slutty nurses and bad behavior, and Ace looks a mess. Everyone's sure having a great time, though. I pilfered the line "I live five days to your one" for the Boat Chips tune "Slow Cooker:" "I cook two-and-a-half to your one." Sorry about that, Ace.

At any rate, it's too bad this never was a huge hit, because as riffs/ shout-along rockers go, it's one of my go-tos. And you know it's tru-oo-ue, YEAH! So LISTEN!

The top spot in our countdown is a bit of a cheat, as I'm nominating the entire solo album from 1978. If these were Kiss tunes- which I guess technically they're considered to be, though not by me - they'd push all but "Torpedo Girl" and a handful of others out of the way.

1.9 Wiped Out Ace was notorious about getting wasted and driving his car too fast. And usually crashing it. It may seem wildly irresponsible to write a badass riff-monster-slog celebrating the behavior instead of trying to atone for it (which he does on "Rock Soldiers") but this album is not about apologies or explanations. If you ever want to approximate what it feels like to be rich, 'luded/coked to the gills, and drinking tequila at 90 miles per hour with Playboy models and biker chicks on all sides without any of the consequences (or STDs) this is the one to crank.

1.8 I’m in Need of Love So turn me on. Pretty to the point. I'll always have a soft spot for this one. I once got to an ex-girlfriend's house much later than I'd said I'd be there - and more than half in the bag, I must confess - and thought it'd be a good idea to serenade her with this one from her front porch. It actually worked; she thought it was funny and totally neutralized her anger. Thanks, Ace! (I passed out moments later; the anger had returned by the time I woke up.)

1.7 Rip It Out Great album opener. Ace's "I hope you suffer" line is perhaps ungracious, but hey, we've all been there.

1.6 New York Groove

It's not an Ace original, but it was Ace's one bona-fide solo hit and is probably popularly associated with him more than it is with Russ Ballard (who wrote it) or Hello (who first performed it.)

Much speculation on why 3rd and 43 is name-checked in the song. Was it where Ace met his dealer? Picked up hookers? Enjoyed a sandwich? Who knows.

Here's the Street View from Google - looks tame to me.
But Ace was a product of pre-Guiliani NYC; I'm sure it looked (and felt) much different then.

1.5 What’s On Your Mind? I mentioned when doing the album-by-album overview that "Talk To Me" was one of 2 Ace songs that should be in every teen movie ever made. This is the other one. Specifically, for a montage. Another fantastic outro on this one.

1.4 Snowblind As with "Wiped Out," not a particularly remorseful tune about getting obliviated, but so what? Along with "Mirror in the Bathroom" by the English Beat, the entire Be Here Now album by Oasis, and "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac, probably my favorite cautionary tale (even if it's not very cautionary) of wild cocaine livin'. The riff will never leave your head, and Anton Fig's drums never sounded better. This is rock and roll, folks, and it doesn't get much better.

1.3 Fractured Mirror Whenever I hear this, I picture it at the end of a Kiss biopic, with Ed Norton (maybe Edward James Olmos) playing Ace Frehley. It's the height of their fame, power, and debauchery, and Ace is breaking down in the dressing room. Everything is in shambles, and as he tries to get it together for the encore, with the crowd thundering through the walls, he espies his fractured reflection - make-up smeared, hair caked with cocaine, fists bloodied - in the shards of mirror on the floor. This coincides with right when the guitar synth kicks in, around the 2:30 minute mark.

A bit on-the-nose, (no pun intended) but that'd be cool. If I could go back in time and convince Oliver Stone to make Kiss instead of The Doors, it'd almost be worth losing that masterpiece to see what he'd have made with the idea while at the height of his powers.

Gene and Paul, of course, will never allow a Kiss biopic to be made that they don't control and certainly not one that filters the experience through the lens of the Spaceman.

1.2 Speeding Back to My Baby As long as I live, I will consider "Speeding back to my baby / and I don't mean maybe" the greatest couplet ever written. (Right up there with Vonnegut's "When the tupelo / goes poop-a-lo / I'll come back to youp-a-lo" from Timequake) If Shakespeare had lived in a world of combustible engines, he'd have penned the same line. Fantastic production, soloing, riff, rhythm, you name it. As far as rock tunes celebrating vehicular velocity are concerned, this is right up there with "Highway Star" and "I Can't Drive 55."

And finally (drumroll, please)

1.1 Ozone Gene and Paul were (understandably, for the most part) disapproving of Ace's and Peter's hard-partying ways, and as the band realized more and more income from prepubescent fans buying their merch, Gene in particular tried to keep a tight lid on the public's knowledge of just how out of control the partying had gotten by 1978. Ace, however, didn't really give a shit. And if anyone needed proof of that, here it is. He might as well be screaming this right in Gene's face.

It might seem a little adolescent or misguided. But hey, so was Rimbaud, and he's taught the world over. As confessional odes to lewd behavior go, this is my favorite.

If this song was only an unapologetic middle finger extended to Gene, it'd be amusing but shrugworthy. (Or even a bit pathetic, like Guns 'n' Roses's "Get in the Ring," a song I nonetheless enjoy.) But it's hard to imagine how this could be more awesome. It's the opposite of subtle, and it's irresistible. One's head nods and one's fist rises in the traditional metal gesture (with pinkies extended) involuntarily when cranked. 

Proven to heal minor cuts and abrasions! Guaranteed to please! Will power your car when you run out of petrol.

Crank with abandon, and often.


This should read "Awk!" not "Ack." It seems like too much bother to fix. So, "Ack!"


  1. I think you covered it all. Thumbs up.

  2. "New York Groove" wasn't an Ace original?!? Nor was "Do Ya"?!?!? Aw, man . . . that kinda breaks my heart a little bit, right there. Still, they're both great songs.

    Like you, I already know "Fox on the Run." I haven't heard Ace's version, but I can practically hear it in my head without actually listening to it, and it seems like it was custom-designed for Ace Frehley to sing.

    I don't know the vast majority of these songs. I think I'll save 'em for my big Kiss-listen-through of early 2014.

  3. "Frehley's Comet":

    (1) "Rock Soldiers": Great autobiographical rock song. A fantastic chorus. Why isn't this song better-known?

    (2) "Breakout": Good song, but I'm not much of a fan of Tod Howarth's vocals. I'd by far prefer to have Ace singing; he's not as accomplished, technically, but his attitude would have been far preferable. Actual singing ability is not all it's cracked up to be in rock music; sometimes, personality counts for more, and Howarth has none.

    (3) "Into the Night": This is a fantastic song. Ace was doing just as great a job of moving into the '80s as Kiss itself was doing.

    (4) "Something Moved": Thank God this isn't a Gene Simmons song. Howarth is better here than on his first track, but I'm still not a fan.

    (5) "We Got Your Rock": I don't like this one all that much. The chorus sort of bothers me.

    (6) "Love Me Right": If Howarth had sung this, it would have been a disaster. With Frehley singing, it works.

    (7) "Calling to You": Not a fan.

    (8) "Dolls": Not a fan at all. Sorry!

    (9) "Stranger in a Strange Land": Ace is doing his best Gene Simmons impersonation, and he's pretty good at it. I think I know what this song is about, and I have a sudden craving for flounder.

    (10) "Fractured Too": Oh, how I hate sequels that replace "2" with "too." But I do love "Fractured."

    Overall -- Vastly more assured than Peter Criss's solo work. It's a shame Ace and Peter didn't hook up and work together; there might have been a great band in that somewhere. This is a solid album, and a great pun for a band name.

  4. "Second Sighting":

    (1) "Insane": Not in the membrane. Pretty good song. And I don't doubt that Ace really has lived five days to my one, if not more.

    (2) "Time Ain't Runnin' Out": A Howarth composition, sung by Howarth. You'd think I'd dislike it, but I don't; it seems to fit him.

    (3) "Dancin' with Danger": Good riff, but most of the rest of the song leaves me nonplussed.

    (4) "It's Over Now": Unlike the previous Howarth song, this one does not work for me at all. Feels like it ought to be at the end of a movie that is a ripoff of "The Karate Kid."

    (5) "Loser in a Fight": This one does not work for me at all.

    (6) "Juvenile Delinquent": One of the most Kiss-like of Ace's solo songs, to my ears.

    (7) "Fallen Angel": I applaud Ace's efforts to make Frehley's Comet be a multi-personality band, but Howarth's contributions weaken the overall impact of the band, in my opinion. This song is decent, but that's the best I'd say for it.

    (8) "Separate": I mean, seriously, compare that previous song to this one. Separate the men from the boys, indeed...

    (9) "New Kind of Lover": Hell to the no.

    (10) "The Acorn Is Spinning": Wikipedia lists this as an instrumental, which is factually incorrect. Good song, if a little on the oddball side.

    Overall -- not as good as the band's first album, mainly due to the subpar Howarth songs. But there is some good stuff here.

  5. "Trouble Walkin' ":

    (1) "Shot Full of Rock": The chorus isn't up to the rest of the song, but this is a good rocker.

    (2) "Do Ya": Ace seems to have a real genius for interpreting other people's songs. I flat-out love this one.

    (3) "Five Card Stud": Good, but nothing that makes me want to flip over a table or anything.

    (4) "Hide Your Heart": Does it seem odd that both Ace and Kiss released versions of this song in the same month? Not unprecedented in the annals of pop music, granted. I love the song no matter who's doing it. I'd take Paul's version if I had to choose, but Ace's is just fine, too.

    (5) "Lost in Limbo": This one doesn't do much for me.

    (6) "Trouble Walkin' ": I want to like this song more than I actually do. It's not bad, but it leaves me a bit cold.

    (7) "2 Young 2 Die": Oh, no! Ace has been infected by Prince's Disease, which results in the inability to spell numbers with letters instead of numerals! Richie Scarlet's vocals are better-suited to this type of material than Howarth's ever was. And here's another song that would have made a good theme song for the Will Smith "Bad Boys."

    (8) "Back to School": Solid, but unremarkable, for me.

    (9) "Remember Me": Good, bluesy stuff; bizarrely topical for a former member of Kiss, but hey, that's alright by me. Especially if the song is good, which this one is.

    (10) "Fractured III": I'd be happy to listen to an entire album of Frehley instrumentals.

    Overall -- A bit inconsistent, but it's got some unquestionably good stuff on it.

    1. Definitely re: a whole album of Frehley instrumentals, or a movie scored to his music by a mash-up maestro.

      As a kid I could never figure out the Tod Howarth thing. Whose band is this? Who is this guy? But something must have worked as I can probably recite "TIme Ain't Running Out" from memory. And still reference it way more than anyone probably should, especially when asked if I have time for something.

      I can't really figure out the Hide Your Heart dual-release thing either.

    2. That sort of thing must be related to a songwriter licensing his song to some sort of company that sells it irrespective of any other considerations beyond meeting a minimum price or something. Evidently there were two other artists (Bonnie Tyler being one) who also had versions out around the same time.

      I haven't heard the Bonnie Tyler version. I bet it's pretty good.