KISS

  • Formed in 1973 in New York City. The original lineup consisted of Paul Stanley (vocals, rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals, bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar, vocals), and Peter Criss (drums, vocals).
  • The origins of the band date to 1971. Simmons and Stanley performed in a rock band named Wicked Lester. They wanted to create a different band that was more focused on hard rock. They also wanted to perform with makeup and in costume. In late 1972, they found an ad placed in Rolling Stone by Criss, and they watched him play drums at a show. Impressed, they had him audition, and subsequently he joined the band. Finally, Frehley joined the band after his audition in early 1973.
  • Stanley came up with the KISS name. Frehley created the famous logo, making the “SS” look like lightening bolts.

  • KISS played their first concert on January 30, 1973 in Queens NY, in front of 3 people. They did not wear their makeup for this concert – the first concert with makeup was in March that year. By November, they signed a record deal.
  • Their first album, the self titled Kiss, was released in February 1974. Despite heavy promotion and touring, they initially did not sell many records. They tried again with another album, Hotter Than Hell, released in October 1974. The only single, Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll, did not chart. Losing money, they stopped their tour, and tried a third album, Dressed to Kill, released in March 1975. It managed to reach #32 on the Billboard Album chart. The single Rock and Roll All Nite, which would eventually become their signature song, did not chart.
  • Desperate for success, they decided to release an album that showed the energy and spectacle of their live shows. A typical show included blood spitting, fire breathing, guitars bursting into flames, guitar smashing and other pyrotechnics. Released in September 1975, Alive! finally was the breakthrough they wanted. The live version of Rock and Roll All Nite was released as a single – this is the version that everyone knows.
  • They continued their trend of releasing at least 2 albums per year. In 1976, they released Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over. Both were big hits, selling 2 million and 1 million copies each. Destroyer included their highest charting single, the ballad Beth, which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Other singles included Shout It Out Loud, Hard Luck Woman, and Calling Dr. Love. 
  • The late 70s were the peak of their popularity. In 1977, a Gallup poll named them the most popular band in America. They had comic books released by Marvel Comics. Another live album went platinum. KISS merchandise became a major source of income – everything from action figures to pinball machines to trading cards to the fan club, named Kiss Army. Between 1977 and 1979, revenue from merchandise was estimated at $100 million.
  • By 1979, despite continued strong record sales and successful tours, dissension within the band was growing. Criss left the band in 1980 and Frehley left in 1982. They reunited with the band for several years during reunion tours starting in 1996, but both were permanently gone by 2004.
  • The band uses an alternate logo in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and Israel, eliminating the lightening bolt effect. This is because the stylized “SS” in their normal logo resembles the insignia of the Nazi SS.
  • Each member had makeup designs that identified them. Stanley was the Starchild – his right eye had a black star around it, with white face and red lips. Simmons was the Deamon – he had black lips and black devil face around his eyes with white face. Frehley was the Space Man (Space Ace) – he had gray starbursts around his eyes, with white face and black lips. Criss was the Catman – green and black around his eyes, black whiskers, gray nose and red lips. These four designs are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with Simmons and Stanley as the owners.
  • In total, they released 20 studio albums, 8 live albums, and 60 singles. Their 2 most recent albums – Sonic Boom in 2009 and Monster in 2012 – have had modest sales, but still have peaked at #2 and #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart – clearly a loyal following of fans.
  • In 2014, KISS was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • KISS is a 70s rock & roll phenomenon that helped make the 70s the music legacy that it is. You have to see it to believe it – so here they are performing Rock and Roll All Nite in 1996 under the Brooklyn Bridge.

1 thought on “KISS”

  1. Biggest KISS fan ever! Seen they all over the country at least 30 times! Met em a few times. Watch their induction speech into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you get a chance. Guy from Rage Against the Machine. Summed up my Jr. High years. Thanks for the memories Mark!!

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