Detroit Rock City

Composed by Bob Ezrin / Paul Stanley

Song Review by

When Kiss teamed up with Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin, they produced one the group's finest albums, Destroyer. This classic album represented a quantum leap in both songwriting and production style for Kiss, changes that are both fully represented on the album's epic opening cut, "Detroit Rock City." The lyrics differed from the group's usual "party-hearty" fare by putting an emphasis on tragic drama. Paul Stanley took his inspiration for the song's doomy scenario from a real-life incident where one of Kiss' fans died in a car accident while on the way to one of the group's concerts: "Twelve o'clock, I gotta rock/There's a truck ahead, light starin' at my eyes/Whoa, my God, no time to turn/I gotta laugh 'cause I know I'm gonna die/Why?" Despite this gloomy subject, the song still manages to evoke a strong anthemic pull on its chorus: "Get up, everybody's gonna move their feet/Get down, everybody's gonna leave their seat/You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City!" The music adds plenty of energy to enhance its fate-driven narrative, balancing verse melodies that bounce high and low in a syncopated style with an authoritative chorus that plays out in a chant-like style. Kiss' recording of "Detroit Rock City" gives the song a complex arrangement that pushes it into the cinematic realm: Peter Criss anchors the song with a jazzy, fast-paced shuffle beat while Ace Frehley and Stanley lay down monolithic power chords that are fleshed out by a fluid, melodic bass line from Gene Simmons. There are also a few solo breaks where Frehley and Stanley get to show off their twin-guitar harmonies, the best being the Spanish-flavored guitar break at the song's midpoint. Ezrin adds the final dramatic touches by adding a radio report intro, sprinkling car sound effects throughout, and doubling the song's power chords on the piano. This complex arrangement made "Detroit Rock City" a powerhouse epic that could stand up to the most intricate rock tunes of the day. It failed to chart when released as a single (the hit went to the B-side, "Beth"), but "Detroit Rock City" became an enduring part of the Kiss live show and remains a favorite with the group's fans. It has also been covered more than once, the most unique rendition being a horn-laden ska version by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Hotter Than Hell 1974 Blueline / Laser Media 2:40
Destroyer 1976 Universal
Alive II 1977 Mercury 3:58
No Image 1977 Fan
Double Platinum 1978 Universal Music 3:35
Killers 1982 Hip-O / Universal 3:55
No Image 1985 Universal International
Smashes, Thrashes & Hits 1988 Digital / Universal Distribution 3:47
Alive III 1993 Universal
Greatest Hits [1998] 1996 Polygram 3:38
Greatest Kiss 1997 Def Jam / Island / Mercury 3:38
No Image 1997 Sumo Records 4:28
Detroit Rock City 1999
Original Soundtrack
Mercury / Island/mercury 3:35
No Image 1999 Heartbreakers 4:58
The Box Set 2001 Mercury / Universal 3:55
The Very Best of Kiss 2002 Island / Mercury 3:39
Kiss Symphony: Alive IV 2003 Kiss Records / Sanctuary 4:49
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss 2003 Universal 3:35
Kiss Symphony: The DVD 2003 Sanctuary
Rock Heroes 2003
Various Artists
Thrive Records
Gold: 1974-1982 - Sound+Vision 2004 Universal 5:18
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater - Virginia Beach, VA, 07/25/04 2004 Instant Live (Ryko) 12:59
Rockin' the Corps [DVD] 2005
Various Artists
Image Entertainment
Rockin' the Corps 2005
Various Artists
Image Entertainment 5:07
Love Gun: Live at River Plate Stadium, Argentina 2005 Mega Ent. & Records
Rock the Nation: Live 2005 Image Entertainment
Instant Live: Alltel Pavillion at Walnut Creek - Raleigh, NC, 07/27/04 2005 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:15
KISSology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol. 1: 1974-1977 2006 VH1 Classic Records
Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 2006 Island / Universal 5:30
KISSology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol. 2: 1978-1991 2007 Eagle Vision
Heavy Metal Box [Rhino] 2007
Various Artists
Rhino 3:57
KISSology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol. 3: 1992-2000 2007 Eagle Vision
The Best of Kiss: Green Series 2008 Strategic Marketing / Universal International 5:18
The Complete Collection 2008 Mercury / Island / Universal 5:17
Playlist Your Way 2008 Island 5:17
KISSology 2008 Sony BMG 3:56
Noisemakers of 70's Rock 2008
Various Artists
Universal 5:16
IKONS 2008 Digital / Mercury 5:18
Alive: The Millennium Concert 2008 Mercury / Universal
Kissology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vols. 1-3 2009 Def Star
Legends of Rock 2009 Strategic Marketing / Universal 5:18
Sonic Boom 2009 Roadrunner Records 3:57
Icon 2 2010 Island / Mercury 5:19
The Dilemma [Original Soundtrack] 2011
Original Soundtrack
Atlantic / Chop Shop 3:37
Greatest Ever! Driving Rock 2012
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
The Casablanca Singles: 1974-1982 2012 Mercury 2:57
5 Classic Albums 2013 Island / Mercury 5:17
The Ritz on Fire 2013 Rock Classics 5:03
Kiss 40 Years: Decades of Decibels 2014 Mercury Records / Universal 4:43
No Image 2016 Eagle Rock 5:14
Kiss Rocks Vegas 2016 Eagle Rock 5:16
Crazy Nights: Legendary Radio Broadcasts 2016 Laser Media
Kissworld: The Best of Kiss 2017 UMOD 5:18
101 70s Rock Anthems
Various Artists
Spectrum Music
No Image
Various Artists
Eva 3:35
No Image Phantom
No Image Polydor
No Image
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 3:39
Instant Live: Chronicle Pavilion - Concord, CA, 06/20/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 9:10
Instant Live: Cricket Pavilion - Phoenix, AZ, 06/18/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 8:34
Instant Live: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion - Houston, TX, 06/12/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 9:03
Instant Live: DTE Energy Music Theatre - Clarkston, MI, 06/30/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 12:03
Instant Live: Darien Lake Pac - Darien Center, NY, 07/14/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:08
Instant Live: Float-Rite Amphitheatre - Somerset, WI, 06/26/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 9:05
Instant Live: Germain Amphitheatre - Columbus, OH, 07/10/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 12:20
Instant Live: Hershey Park Pavilion - Hershey, PA, 07/18/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 10:35
Instant Live: Journal Pavilion - Albuquerque, NM, 06/16/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 8:44
Instant Live: Marcus Amphitheater - Milwaukee, WI, 07/07/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:55
Instant Live: Riverbend Music Center - Cincinnati, OH, 07/11/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:16
Instant Live: Smirnoff Music Centre - Dallas, TX, 06/11/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 8:42
Instant Live: Sound Advice Amphitheatre - West Palm Beach, FL, 07/30/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:59
Instant Live: Starwood Amphitheatre - Nashville, TN, 07/02/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 9:02
Instant Live: Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, NY, 07/21/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:40
Instant Live: Trump Taj Mahal - Atlantic City, NJ, 07/17/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:50
Instant Live: Tweeter City - Mansfield, MA, 07/16/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 12:19
Instant Live: Tweeter Waterfront - Camden, NJ,  07/13/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:45
Instant Live: Umb Bank Pavilion - Maryland Heights, MO, 06/28/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:09
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Amphiteater - Selma, TX, 06/10/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 8:56
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater - Bonner Springs, KS, 06/27/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 9:03
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater - Irvine, CA, 06/19/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 8:55
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Charlotte, NC, 07/28/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 12:49
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Music Center - Nobelsville, IN, 07/03/04 Instant Live (Ryko) 11:46
Instant Live: Verizon Wireless Music Center-Birmingham - Pelham, AL, 08/03/04 Instant Live (Ryko)
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