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The Time Ace Frehley Was Nearly Electrocuted Onstage at Kiss Concert

George De Sota, Getty Images
George De Sota, Getty Images

Kiss were one of the top arena draws of the ’70s, staging some of the most impressive concert spectacles of that era with their over-the-top theatrical performances. But the power of their live production almost cost guitarist Ace Frehley his life at a gig on Dec. 12, 1976, at the Civic Center in Lakeland, Fla., when an unforeseen technical glitch caused him to nearly be electrocuted onstage.

The near-fatal production snafu occurred early in the group’s set, after “Detroit Rock City.” Kiss performed that song atop their set before descending to the stage for the next song. As Frehley came down from the top of the set, he grabbed onto a metal rail to steady himself — inadvertently completing an electrical circuit with his guitar. He was seized by the electrical current and unable to move, but finally broke free and fell several feet to the stage below. “If I hadn’t been able to let go, I would have died,” Frehley told the Lakeland Ledger shortly thereafter. “My life passed in front of my eyes.”

Shaken, but not seriously hurt, the Spaceman took a 10-minute break in the dressing room before returning to the stage to a standing ovation, finishing the night’s set. “I knew it for an instant and then I blacked out. I woke up behind the amplifiers,” the guitarist told the Morton Report. “I said, ‘I can’t play.’ Then the fans started chanting my name and I finished the show. But I had no feeling in my hands. I don’t know how I even did it. I guess it was all adrenaline.”

The song inspired his song “Shock Me,” which wound up being the first track he ever sang on a Kiss album. “I got electrocuted in Florida and I survived,” Frehley recalled to Rolling Stone. “The guys said, ‘Why don’t you write a song about getting electrocuted?’ And I came up with ‘Shock Me.'”

See the Yearbook Photos of Ace Frehley and Other Rock Stars

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