KISS (band)

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The original line-up of KISS; from left to right, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss.

KISS is a New York City-based heavy metal band that became famous in the mid/late 1970s. KISS was born out of the ashes of Wicked Lester. The band is known for its elaborate stage shows, loud music, and extravagant costumes. Until 1983 the band never appeared in public without their make-up (which disguised their real identities). The band first appeared without their make-up in 1983 on a MTV news special. They had to remove the makeup to be a viable band of the oblivious 1980s (platform shoes died with disco). KISS put it back on in 1996 for their Alive-Worldwide Reunion Tour.



Early years

The original members of KISS (and their made-up personas) are Paul Stanley (The Starchild), rhythm guitar/vocals; Gene Simmons (The Demon), bass/vocals; Ace Frehley (The Spaceman a.k.a. Space Ace), lead guitar/vocals; and Peter Criss (The Catman), drums/vocals. William 'Gui' Aucoin was the original manager 1973-1981. Doc McGhee is the current manager. Sean Delaney was the group's first road manager and creative director. Kiss was originally inspired by the New York Dolls, The Harlots of 42nd Street, and other New York City glam scene bands. They felt that the feminine look did not work for them.

1980 saw Peter Criss's departure for 3 'commercial flop' solo albums. Other drummers between 1980 and 1996 and 2001 and 2004:

1982 saw Ace Frehley officially leave the band to pursue a somewhat successful solo career. Other lead guitarists between 1982 and 1996 (when the original four members reunited):

The band's name was rumored to stand for "Knights In Satan's Service" or "Knights In Service of Satan" but this is an urban legend - propagated in the 1970s by Minnesota-based evangelists the Peters Brothers - which Gene Simmons has denied in his book. Simmons states that Paul Stanley suggested the name on the spur of the moment while they were stopped at a traffic light. Paul has also stated that the band name is not an acronym (the original name of the band was Wicked Lester, 1969-1972). Ace designed the infamous lightning bolt logo, and the rest is history. It has also been rumoured that the logo came from the German swastika, however, this too has been denied, by Ace.

The first ever KISS performance was in 1973, following months on end of practicing, to an audience of 10 at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly afterwards) in New York City.

KISS' first Canadian tour started on February 5, 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. This is always where Gene encountered his first groupie.... a girl with Purple and Green Hair, who is credited on his solo album.

Their next show, February 6, 1974 was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

The group released their first two albums in 1974, both produced by Kenny Kerner and Ritchie Wise, (KISS and Hotter Than Hell). The cover of their debut, KISS, showed the group in their makeup, mimicking the cover of the Beatles' With the Beatles album. At the time, no one really knew what to make of the group's look. Topping at #87 in the charts, the album did feature a few chestnuts in the group's career; "Strutter," "Deuce," "Cold Gin," and the closer "Black Diamond." The follow-up, Hotter Than Hell featured a Japanese influenced cover, an attempt to make people think the group were well-known worldwide. The album did less well than their debut, reaching just #100 on the Billboard album chart.


In 1975, having achieved recognition, but no big hit single, Casablanca Records head Neil Bogart stepped in to produce their next album. Trading in the rawer sound of KISS and Hotter Than Hell for a more clean, produced sound with Dressed To Kill. The album included two important songs in the group's career; "C'mon And Love Me," their first big radio hit, and "Rock And Roll All Nite," which became their first hit single. In 1975, they released the live album Alive!, largely recorded at Detroit's Cobo Arena. The album was a huge success. Following it, the group decided to expand their musical horizons and make a more venturesome album. The result was Destroyer, KISS' most commercially successful album, which included the hits "Beth", "Detroit Rock City," and "Shout It Out Loud."

Destroyer, was released in March of 1976 and became the group's first platinum album. It also featured their first Top Ten single, Peter Criss' power ballad "Beth."

A 1977 Gallup poll named Kiss the most popular band in America. Kiss mania was in full swing and thousands of pieces of merchandise hit the marketplace. The group had two comic books released by Marvel, pinball machines, makeup and masks, board games, and a live-action TV movie, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. The group was never seen in public without wearing their makeup and their popularity was growing by leaps and bounds; the membership of the Kiss Army, the band's fan club, was now in the six figures. Two more studio albums continued to fuel the Kiss fire (1976's Rock and Roll Over and 1977's smash hit Love Gun before Kiss released the sequel to Alive! in 1977, titled Alive II.

Going solo

Even such enormous popularity had its limits, and the band reached them in 1978, when all four members released solo albums on the same day in October. Simmons' record was the most successful, reaching number 22 on the charts, yet all of them made it into the Top 50. The first Kiss album in two years, Dynasty, released in 1979, continued their streak of platinum albums. Unmasked, released in the summer of 1980, was their last recorded with the original lineup, as Peter Criss left in 1980. Unmasked was their first record since Dressed to Kill to fail to go platinum.

Criss' permanent replacement, the dynamic Eric Carr, joined the band in time for their 1980 world tour. The band stunned audiences and disgusted most hardcore fans with the release of the symphonic concept album, 1981's Music From "The Elder", their first album recorded with Carr. It failed to go gold, and couldn't climb past number 75 on the charts.

Reaction to The Elder was harsh, and nearly killed Kiss' career. Much of the album contained horns and strings, and was based on a fictional film that never saw the light of day. The issue was not with the quality of the album, but for a band like Kiss, who was known for its pounding rhythms, sex-based lyrics, and blood-laden stage show, such a radical departure alienated their fan base. Following its failure, the band was committed to go back in the studio and make the heaviest album of their career.

After recording only four songs, plans for the new album were scrapped. The four leftover songs were combined with classic Kiss material from the 1970s for the 1982 release Kiss Killers. The band made good on their promise with 1982's excellent Creatures of the Night, the hardest album the band had released up to that point. Creatures of the Night fared better than Music From the Elder, yet it couldn't make it past number 45 on the charts. Unfortunately, Ace Frehley left the band after its release; he was replaced by Vinnie Vincent in 1982 in time for the Creatures of the Night tour.

Removing the makeup

Sensing it was time for a change, Kiss shocked the music world by removing their makeup live on MTV. The publicity worked, as the 1983 album Lick it Up became their first platinum record in four years. However, Vinnie Vincent was fired after Lick it Up and was replaced by Mark St. John. Animalize, released the following year, was just as successful, and the group had clearly recaptured their niche. "Heaven's on Fire" and "Thrills in the Night" became huge MTV hits, and the band continued to be a large concert draw. St. John, however, was soon taken ill with Reiter's syndrome and left the band shortly into the 1984 Animalize tour. Bruce Kulick became Kiss' new lead guitarist, and would remain with the group for the next 12 years.

For the rest of the 1980s, Kiss turned out a series of best-selling albums (1985's Asylum, 1987's Crazy Nights, and the critically acclaimed 1989 release Hot in the Shade), culminating in the early 1990 hit ballad "Forever," which was their biggest single since "Beth."

Kiss was scheduled to record a new album with their old producer, Bob Ezrin, in 1990 when Eric Carr became severely ill with cancer. The drummer died in November of 1991 at the age of 41. Devastated, Kiss continued and replaced him with former Black Sabbath drummer Eric Singer and recorded the highly praised Revenge (1992), their first album since 1989. The album, considered by many fans as the best latter-day Kiss album, was a Top Ten hit and went gold. Kiss followed it with the release of Alive III the following year. The album performed respectably, but not up to the standards of their two previous live records.

In 1995, the band returned to the studio for the first time in three years to record Carnival of Souls. However, the release of the album would be delayed for years thanks to MTV: The band joined the long line of rockers to perform on MTV Unplugged shortly after the recording of the album. Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons contacted former members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and invited them to participate in the event. Both Peter and Ace joined Kiss onstage for several songs at the end of the set. Reaction was so positive that, in 1996, the original lineup of Kiss -- featuring Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Criss -- reunited to perform an international tour, complete with their notorious makeup and special effects. The tour was one of the most successful of 1996.


In 1998 the reunited group issued Psycho Circus, the first album with the original lineup since 1980's Unmasked. While the ensuing tour in support of Psycho Circus was a success, sales of Kiss' reunion album weren't as stellar as anticipated. Reminiscent of the band's late-'70s unfocused period, the band seemed more interested in flooding the marketplace with merchandise yet again instead of making the music their top priority. With rumors running rampant that the Psycho Circus tour would be their last, the quartet announced in the spring of 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. Farewell tour in the summer, which became one of the year's top concert draws.

But on the eve of a Japanese and Australian tour in early 2001, Peter Criss suddenly left the band once again, supposedly discontent with his salary. Taking his place was previous Kiss drummer Eric Singer, who in a controversial move among longtime fans, donned Criss' cat-man makeup (since Simmons and Stanley own both Frehley and Criss' makeup designs, there was no threat of a lawsuit) as the farewell tour continued. With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by late 2001, a mammoth career-encompassing box set was set for later in the year, while the summer saw perhaps the most over-the-top piece of Kiss merchandise yet -- the "Kiss Kasket."

The group was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with a bang as Gene Simmons turned in an entertaining and controversial interview on NPR where he criticized the organization and berated host Terry Gross with sexual comments and condescending answers 1 ( He was promoting his autobiography at the time, which also caused dissent in the Kiss camp because of the inflammatory remarks made towards Ace Frehley. Frehley was quite angry at the situation, leading to his no-showing of an American Bandstand anniversary show.

Despite saying the Farewell Tour was their last, Kiss launched a double headlining tour with Aerosmith in 2003. Peter Criss rejoined the band earlier in the year, but unfortunately, Ace Frehley refused to continue on with Kiss. He (and his makeup) were replaced by former Black N Blue guitarist Tommy Thayer. Shortly after the arrival of Thayer, the band recorded Alive IV with a symphony orchestra while in Australia. The Aerosmith tour was a tremendous success, but Simmons and Stanley were unimpressed with Criss's uneven and chaotic drumming style (his skills had in fact deteriorated over time). Criss was fired in late 2003 and once again replaced by Eric Singer.

Kiss played to sold out houses throughout the US on the 2004 "Rock the Nation" tour, and shows no signs of slowing down.


Current members

Original members

Other members


See also

External links

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