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Known for its members’ face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mids with shocking live performances, which featured fire-breathing , blood-spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits, and pyrotechnics.
The band has gone through several line-up changes, with Stanley and Simmons the only consistent members. The original and best-known line-up consisted of Stanley vocals and rhythm guitar , Simmons vocals and bass , Frehley lead guitar and vocals , and Criss drums and vocals. With their make-up and costumes, the band members took on the personae of comic book-style characters: the Starchild Stanley , the Demon Simmons , the Spaceman or Space Ace Frehley , and the Catman Criss.
Due to creative differences, Criss departed the band in and Frehley in , though both would return later. In , Kiss began performing without make-up and costumes, marking the beginning of the band’s “unmasked” era that would last for over a decade. The band experienced a commercial resurgence during this era, with the Platinum-certified album Lick It Up successfully introducing them to a new generation of fans, and its music videos receiving regular airplay on MTV.
Eric Carr , who had replaced Criss in , died in of heart cancer and was replaced by Eric Singer. In response to a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the mids, the original line-up reunited in , which also saw the return of its make-up and stage costumes. Criss and Frehley subsequently left the band again, and have been replaced by Singer and Tommy Thayer , respectively.
The band has continued with its original stage make-up, with Singer and Thayer using the original Catman and Spaceman make-up, respectively. In September , Kiss announced that, after 45 years of recording and performing, it would embark on its final tour, the End of the Road World Tour , which started in January and is currently set to conclude in Kiss is regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of all time,   as well as one of the best-selling bands of all time , having sold more than million records worldwide,  including 21 million  RIAA -certified albums.
Kiss has 14 Platinum albums, three of which earned multi-Platinum. That band recorded one album, which was shelved by Epic Records , and played a handful of live shows. Simmons and Stanley, feeling a new musical direction was needed, abandoned Wicked Lester in and began forming a new group. After hearing Criss sing, they thought Criss should be in the new band they were forming. Criss then auditioned for, and later joined their new band.
The three focused on a much harder style of rock than that played by Wicked Lester. Frehley impressed the group with his first audition, and was asked back for a second audition.
A few weeks after Frehley joined, the classic lineup was solidified as the band to be named Kiss. Criss mentioned that he had been in a band called Lips, so Stanley said something to the effect of “What about Kiss? The art department asked him if he wanted it to be redrafted to be perfect and he said, “It got us this far, let’s leave well enough alone. Our number one rule has always been no rules. The letters happened to look similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS , a symbol that is outlawed in Germany by Section 86a of the German criminal code.
However, Simmons and Stanley, both Jewish, have denied any intentional likeness to Nazi symbolism in the logo. Since , most of the band’s album covers and merchandise in Germany have used a different logo, in which the letters “SS” look like the letters “ZZ” backwards. This logo is also used in Austria , Switzerland , Lithuania , Hungary and Israel to avoid controversy.
The band’s name has repeatedly been the subject of rumors pertaining to alleged hidden meanings. Simmons has denied all of these claims. The first Kiss performance took place on January 30, , for an audience of fewer than ten people at the Popcorn Club renamed Coventry shortly afterward in Queens.
Our first show ever was at Coventry. Coventry was a study in contrasts. The first time we played there was nobody there. The last time we played there, you could barely get in the door. On March 13 of that year, the band recorded a five-song demo tape with producer Eddie Kramer. Former TV director Bill Aucoin , who had seen the group at a handful of showcase concerts in the summer of , offered to become the band’s manager in mid-October.
Kiss agreed, with the condition that Aucoin signs the band to a record label within two weeks. On November 1, , Kiss became the first act signed to former teen pop singer and Buddah Records executive Neil Bogart ‘s new label, Casablanca Records. It was at this concert that, for the first of many times, Simmons accidentally set his hair which was coated in hairspray ablaze while performing his fire-breathing routine.
Casablanca and Kiss promoted the album heavily throughout the spring and summer of Being in Kiss in the very first year and touring around the United States, we felt like we were taking off. It was like somebody pushing you into the deep end of the pool whether you can swim or not. The early years of Kiss were far from glamorous. We rode in a station wagon hundreds of miles every day.
We would take turns driving and sleeping in the back. We ate burgers at roadside taverns. We stopped and peed on the side of long stretches of a highway when we couldn’t find a town anywhere near. Becoming a rock star was better than anything and beyond anything I ever imagined.
There were moments of doubt for me that we were gonna make it. This broadcast included Simmons’s first televised interview, a conversation with Mike Douglas in which Simmons declared himself “evil incarnate”, eliciting uncomfortable reactions from a confused studio audience.
Fellow Jewish-American guest Totie Fields said it would be humorous if beneath all the make-up Simmons was “just a nice Jewish boy “. Simmons responded, “You should only know”, to which Fields replied, “I do. You can’t hide the hook “, a reference to the stereotypical “Jewish” nose. Despite the publicity and constant touring, Kiss initially sold just 75, copies. Meanwhile, the group and Casablanca Records were losing money quickly.
The band while touring stopped in Los Angeles in August to begin recording its second album, Hotter Than Hell , which was released on October 22, With Hotter Than Hell quickly dropping off the charts, Kiss was pulled from its tour to quickly record a new album. Casablanca head Bogart stepped in to produce the next album, trading in the murky, distorted sound of Hotter Than Hell for a cleaner and slightly poppier sound.
Dressed to Kill , released on March 19, , fared slightly better commercially than Hotter Than Hell. It also contained what later became the band’s signature song, ” Rock and Roll All Nite “. Although Kiss albums had not proved to be big sellers, the band was quickly gaining a reputation for its live performances. Kiss concerts featured such spectacles as Simmons spitting “blood” an effect made primarily from eggs, yogurt, red food coloring, and maple syrup and “breathing fire” spitting flammable liquid at a torch , Frehley soloing as his guitar burst into flames light and smoke bombs placed inside the guitar , Criss’s elevating drum riser that emitted sparks, Stanley’s Townshend -style guitar smashing, and pyrotechnics throughout the show.
By mid, Casablanca was almost bankrupt, and Kiss was in danger of losing its record contract. Both parties desperately needed a commercial breakthrough if they were to survive. I saw a pattern emerging with us on the road. Every night, I’d ask somebody before the show, “How are we doing? All of a sudden it was becoming the norm. For me the first realization that things were on an upswing was when we played the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Before the show I went on stage, looked out through the curtain and saw this big crowd, and said to myself, “My God, this is really happening!
Kiss wanted to express the excitement felt at its concerts which its studio albums had so far failed to do with its first live album. It was the first version of the song with a guitar solo, and this recording has become the best-known version. It is also the basis of most covers, such as the cover by Poison in In recent years the band admitted that additional audience noise had been added to the album, as well as overdubs on select guitar and vocal spots, not to deceive fans, but to add more “excitement and realism” to the record.
The success of Alive! Following this success, Kiss partnered with producer Bob Ezrin , who had previously worked with Alice Cooper.
The result was Destroyer released March 15, , Kiss’s most musically ambitious studio album to date. Destroyer , with its rather intricate production using an orchestra, choir, and numerous tape effects , was a departure from the raw sound of the first three studio albums. Album art was designed by Ken Kelly , who had drawn Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian and also produced album covers for acts such as Rainbow and Manowar. Only when the ballad ” Beth “, the B-side of the single ” Detroit Rock City “, began to gain more airplay on FM radio did the album’s sales rebound.
The single was subsequently reissued with the A- and B-sides reversed. The show, co-produced by Bill Aucoin, helped introduce Kiss to an even wider audience. In addition to the three songs, Kiss was the subject of a brief comedic “interview” conducted by Paul Lynde.
This included Lynde noting, when hearing the member’s first names, “Oh, I love a good religious group. Two more highly successful studio albums were released in less than a year: Rock and Roll Over November 11, and Love Gun June 30, A second live album, Alive II , was released on October 14, All three albums were certified Platinum soon after their release.
In Japan, Kiss performed five sold-out shows at Tokyo’s Budokan Hall , breaking the previous record of four set by the Beatles. When we played in Japan in the late ’70s, nothing could prepare you for the hysteria because when people are telling you how big you are, you’re big compared to what?
Until you’re faced with mass hysteria it doesn’t really sink in. For you not having been in a certain country makes them that much more rabid for you to go. In May , Kiss made the first of its many comics appearances, in Howard the Duck issue 12, published by Marvel Comics. The first Kiss compilation album, Double Platinum , was issued on April 2, This double album included many remixed versions of the band’s hits, as well as “Strutter ’78”, a re-recorded version of a song from the group’s first album.
At Bogart’s request, this version of the song featured a disco influence. During this period, Kiss merchandise became a substantial source of income for the group. Some of the products released included a pair of comic books issued by Marvel the first contained ink mixed with actual blood donated by the group , a pinball machine, dolls, “Kiss Your Face Makeup” kits, Halloween masks, board games , lunch boxes, trading cards and many other pieces of memorabilia.
Membership in the Kiss Army , the band’s fan club, was in the six figures. Alive II was the band’s fourth Platinum album in just under two years, and the ensuing tour had the highest average attendance in the group’s history.