1989 was indeed the year for hidden hearts. In that year, there were four artists alone who released versions of the Desmond Child/Paul Stanley penned epic, ‘Hide Your Heart’ – yet which one is the best ?
Hide Your Heart – although co penned by Stanley – is total Desmond Child, which means it sounds a lot like Bon Jovi – which is why Paul wanted in. In the second part of the 80s, he badly wanted KISS to be as big as Joisey’s finest.
Ironically, “Hide Your Heart” was originally rejected for Kiss’ 1987 album Crazy Nights, with Stanley offering the song to other artists, with Bonnie Tyler recording it first for her album Hide Your Heart. Kiss’ version of “Hide Your Heart” is the third of four versions released in 1989. The first version was by Molly Hatchet on their album Lightning Strikes Twice, released on September 6. The second version was by Ace Frehley, featuring on his fourth studio album, Trouble Walkin’, which was released only four days before Kiss’ Hot in the Shade. The last version of the song was by Robin Beck, released on November 9 on her album Trouble Or Nothin’.
The most two well-known versions of the songs are of course Kiss’ version, which appeared on their god awful album from 1989, ‘Hot In The Shade’, and Bonnie Tyler’s version, which was her biggest hit since ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ – can’t have too many songs with heart in the title one might say. Tyler’s version was released on 9 May 1988, and was produced by Desmond Child. Recorded in Woodstock, I think Joe Lynn also provided back-up vocals on her album. Bonnie’s version is good, but it’s not the best. You wanted the best ? As much as someone like Michael Brandvold would have you believe, Kiss’ version is not the best version of the tune nor a KI$$ classic. It was however, probably the best song off the Hot In The Shade album, and objectively, was the best thing Kiss had done since Animalize, although some pundits would also argue that Kiss had released nothing of significance after they took the grease paint off. ‘Hide Your Heart’ was a sign of better things to come for the unmasked marauders, with the Revenge album soon to follow, clearly Kiss’ strongest and most consistent album throughout the entire 1980s shootin’ match. Blinkered Kiss drones will no doubt disagree, but albums such as Animalize, the horrendous Asylum and Hot In The Shade were patchy at best. As has been written elsewhere on this blog, rock trailblazers in the 70s they may have been, Kiss were a featureless hard rock band in the 80s who followed the trends set by Bon Jovi. Desmond again. Kiss were out of ideas, and with Hot In The Shade, were digging deep into the cliché bag. Gene produced such enduring song writing masterpieces as ‘The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away’, ‘Cadillac Dreams’, ‘Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Boomerang’. Bob Dylan eat your heart out.
In the live environment, things didn’t improve. Not only did you get the highly hackneyed Farter Pussycat opening the show, when the house lights dimmed, the large sphincter, I mean Sphinx on stage, opened its mouth and hundreds of laser beams shot out, while our four rock warriors stood posing number 9 in the silhouette…………and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan – Stonehenge. I guess Stanley figured that Maiden had had success with Egyptian mythology, so he reckoned this may be the path to take. Yet Paul forgot that Maiden were top shelf song writers, and lyricists, in a class all their own. Powerslave is based on Egyptian history. Kiss put sunglasses on the sphinx. Nuff said.
Hide Your Heart IS total Bon Jovi. How can it not be when it was penned by Desmond Child and follows his same successfully proven formulae of ‘big chorus rock anthem’. If Desmond had of co-written this one with Jon and Richie – as opposed to Stanley – hypothetically, Hide Your Heart may just have climbed all the way to number 1. It is in the same league as Bad Medicine, You Give Love, Livin On A Prayer etc etc. I love those first two Desmond Child & Rouge albums by the way, Runners In The Night from 1979 in particular. I used to own both on vinyl and played them to death. Runners In The Night is a great hard rock record, clean hard rock with a stack of melody and originality, massive femme chorus’ AND three smoking hot brunettes. What was not to like ? So Kiss’ version is better than Bonnie’s, and Paul probably thought he was headed for the pointy end of the hit parade with Jon and Richie – yet there were another couple of versions of ‘Hide Your Heart’ that surpass KISS’
Southern Rockers Molly Hatchet included a version of Hide Your Heart on their 1989 album, Lightning Strikes Twice, that stays pretty true to the original- yet is anything but southern rock, although the solo shreds. Incidentally, this was the first Molly Hatchet to be released without founding member Dave Hlubek, who recently passed away. Godspeed Dave.
Kiss’ former and most famous axeman – Ace Frehley included a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on his Trouble Walkin’ LP. Ace is not the world’s best vocalist – and his version of the song is not as polished as his former band mates, and that’s what gives it more appeal.
For a start – you can tell its Ace playing – it sounds like his Les Paul. Eddie Kramer’s production is not as lush as Desmond Child or as overproduced as Ron Nevison, thank God, and that gives his version more coarseness. Possibly, Ace was sozzled and not up to writing a decent hit – as the first two singles off this album were covers, Hide Your Heart, and ‘Do Ya’ an ELO cover. Just saying. As this was released at the same time as Kiss’ it caused Kiss konfusion in many circles – yet maybe Ace thought he too was gonna have a big hit with it. One can only wonder how both Ace and Kiss came to release versions of the same song on separate albums only days apart. Clearly there was no communication happening. Even the Beatles and Stones used to communicate with each other to make sure they didn’t drop new albums at the same time. It mattered little. Ace would soon return to the clubs for a few more years before the 1996 KI$$ reunion.
Before I get to my preferred version of this tune, let’s put the magnifying glass over the third song writer of the tune – one Holly Knight. Holly Knight was a native of the Big Apple, and was in a band called Spider in the early 80s (with Anton Fig on drums – there is always a KISS connection). Spider were managed by Bill Aucoin (more connections), and were on Dreamland Records, the record company of Aussie Mike Chapman, who encouraged her to move to LA and hone her skills as a songwriter. And that she did. She penned hits for Tina Turner, “Better Be Good to Me” and ‘The Best’ as well as Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” . Amongst a slew of other songs she wrote, she also wrote a tune for Barnesy, “Between Two Fires” and the Divinyls ‘Pleasure and Pain’ which Mr Rockbrat probably already knew.
Which leads me to the version of the song which I consider to be the best – and that is Robin Beck’s version. Like Knight, Robin Beck was also from the Big Apple, and had been in the scene since the late 70s. She topped the singles chart in the United Kingdom in 1988, and Germany in 1989, with her single “First Time”, which had come to the public’s attention via its use in a Coca-Cola commercial. It has a big chorus, and is a big power ballad with a strong hook. Beck spent several years as a backing singer, supporting Melissa Manchester, Chaka Khan, and (Aussie) Leo Sayer. Beck also contributed backing vocals to Cher’s “If I could Turn Back Time. Beck’s album from 1989, Trouble Or Nothin’ was, not surprisingly, produced by Desmond Child – so it was even less surprising that he snuck a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on there. Roll the dice again, surely one version has to fly right ? If not Bonnie, or Kiss, then maybe Beck ? Child was no schmuck. Ca-ching. Incidentally – one of Child’s other tunes Beck recorded for this album was “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” which Child wrote, and was recorded by Bonnie Tyler for her 1986 album ‘Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire’. The song was re-written as “You Give Love a Bad Name” for Bon Jovi after he was dissatisfied with “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)”‘s chart success. Double ca-ching. Tommy and Gina, Tito, Johnny, Rosa – it all starts to get a little muddled after a while- yet not if you are picking up the song writing cheque. Plagiarism is not plagiarism if you are re lifting your own song right.
Beck’s version of Hide Your Heart has considerable guitar muscle, but is not overly produced – and is lifted above the other versions due to her strong and gutsy vocal. She really belts this out. There is a lot of solid material on Trouble Or Nothin, and it’s worthy of your attention. She has a sturdy classic rock voice, and continues to release new music to this day. Its a shame her version of ‘Hide Your heart’ stiffed in the charts – no doubt cos there were so many other versions doing the rounds – notably by KISS who did get some chart action with their version. Couple of fun facts to finish with. Beck’s ninth album, ‘Love Is Coming’, will be released on October 13, 2017, and her husband is James Christian of House of Lords. For those with longer memories, Christian was in a Connecticut prog rock band in the 70s called Jasper Wrath who were contenders for a while there. Check out http://www.robinbeckrocks.com
So there you have it: In order
5. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of, I mean, ‘Hide Your Heart’ –
4. KISS – Hide Your Heart
3. Molly Hatchet – Hide Your Heart
2. Ace Frehley – Hide Your Heart
1. Robin Beck – Hide Your Heart