Producer Vini Poncia is best known amongst Kiss diehards as the man who guided (or more precisely, misguided) the band toward a more mainstream pop/rock sound during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Born on April 29, 1942 and hailing from the East Coast, Poncia was a member of the ‘60s pop group Tradewinds, who later changed their name to the Innocence. But despite having previously penned hit songs for the likes of the Ronettes, the Crystals, and other artists aligned with Phil Spector, the group split up after only a lone, self-titled release in 1967. By the dawn of the ‘70s, Poncia began working alongside Ringo Starr on a string the ex-Beatles' solo releases – 1970's Beaucoups of Blues, 1973's Ringo, 1974's Goodnight Vienna, 1976's Ringo's Rotogravure, 1977's Ringo the 4th, and 1978's Bad Boy. Poncia primarily played a variety of instruments on Starr's recordings, but also earned various songwriting credits, and even served as assistant producer for Goodnight Vienna. During the same time, Poncia produced recordings for soft rock vocalist Melissa Manchester, but it was his work with Starr that brought him to the attention of Kiss drummer Peter Criss. In 1978, all four Kiss members were readying solo albums, and Poncia was asked to produce Criss' release. Although Kiss was known primarily at the time for heavy metal anthems, Criss' resulting self-titled album was full of sappy ballads, soft rockers, and disco tracks –- resulting in his solo set being the worst selling of the bunch.
With Criss' interest in remaining a member of Kiss waning, the other bandmembers figured if they hired Poncia to handle production duties for their next album, perhaps it would rekindle their drummer's desire to remain onboard. Although the 1979 Kiss album, Dynasty, spawned one of the group's biggest hits – the disco ditty "I Was Made for Loving You," the album marked the beginning of an unfocused period for the band, which would result in a rapid decline of the band's popularity stateside. Criss left the group anyway shortly after the dawn of the 80's, but Kiss opted to work with Poncia once more. 1980's Unmasked was another lackluster set, which saw the group soften their previous hard rockin' sound even further, and turned out to be Poncia's last production credit with the masked quartet. Poncia worked once more with Criss on his second post-Kiss solo album, 1982's Let Me Rock You, which sunk from sight upon release (and wasn't even issued in the U.S. officially until 1999). Poncia produced others sporadically during the ‘80s, including obscure mainstream rockers Adrenalin, before Kiss invited Poncia to co-pen several songs for their 1989 release, Hot in the Shade. Subsequently, it appears as though Poncia has retired from music altogether. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi