Kiss is one of the biggest glam bands in history and certainly has had the biggest marketing and merchandising influence in the history of the shock rock, hard rock and heavy metal genres. The band’s bombastic image, face paint, fantastic outfits and legendary shows have given rise to a juggernaut, although hype, media presence and promotion have usually outpaced the band’s actual sales at the cash register. Over the years, the band’s original line-up of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss created an off and on-stage persona based on distinctive customs and make-up that catapulted the band to the top of the rock heap. In parallel to the band’s smart marketing, the members have turned the group into a giant merchandising compound selling everything from toothbrushes to coffins.
The roots of Kiss go back to the band Wicked Lester featuring the Israeli-born Simmons and Paul Stanley in New York City. The two lacked success and abandoned their style in 1972 looking for a new outfit. The duo had worked on different material, recorded music, done backing vocals and other commercial studio work thus far. The group recruited local drummer Peter Criss and began experimenting with their image. The group recruited Ace Frehley in 1973 and continued writing and experimenting on its image. Their rivals, New York Dolls, would influence the final image. Peter Criss had received drum lessons from Jerry Nolan of the New York Dolls. Paul Stanley would suggest the new monicker, while Frehley would draw the trademarked ‘SS’ which soon became integral to the band’s logo. This group recorded a demo tape with produce Bill Kramer and obtained management through one Bill Aucoin. Kiss would sign to Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records (then called Emerald City) in 1973 and would enter the studio two weeks after being picked up. Kiss has never looked back going gold with its debut and selling out shows since. The band would soon become headliners, but never before opening for the likes of Blue Oyster Cult, Argent and Aerosmith. At this point, the band’s popularity was concentrated in Canada and Detroit, Michigan. The shows would go on to make Kiss what it is today. Spitting flames and blood, rising drum sets and pyrotechnics were the norm. The band’s looks and image simply augmented the above. Suitably, the band’s real first mega-seller was the seminal Alive! LP released in 1975. Kiss’ success was unsurpassed in the late ‘70s. The band’s success was not an accident. With intense help from the record company and management Kiss was no less than a shrewd marketing machine designed to achieve market status. The four members’ 1978 solo records were marketed as Kiss albums and featured similar design concepts. The group also shot a TV movie called Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park. The members were less than pleased with the final result, although the film did well on US network television. Frehley was stricken with alcoholism during this period.
The band’s next move was the Dynasty album in 1979. For the first time in the band’s history an original member was replaced – in this case, Anton Fig would take over for the increasingly addicted and ill Criss – and the music signalled the band’s acknowledgement of the disco sound. The single I Was Made For Loving You might have lost the band many older fans, but went on to chart and be played everywhere. With newer fans being less attached, Anton Fig behind the kits and a more poppy sound the group’s 1980 album, Unmasked, failed to do well and the intra-band tension soared. Unmasked’s cover was devised as a comic strip centring around many people’s obsession with the group’s real looks. The group’s new drummer was Eric Carr. Oddly enough, Music From The Elder did not accompany a reported film. The alleged movie was either stillborn or simply a marketing device, the album failed to return the band to its former glory. Frehley was next to depart.
Creatures Of The Night was a heavy album and squarely aimed at the Kiss hardcore. The LP did not feature Frehley despite the group photograph. Rumours claimed that Frehley photo was meant to reassure fans, reassure the record company or address a potential lawsuit by the guitarist. Either way, the band and Aucoin would also part ways. The album featured new guitarist Vinnie Vincent who would officially appear on 1983’s Lick It Up.
Lick It Up was not only a new and heavier album for the band with a new line-up, but also was the first time the group would appear without its trademarked customs and make-up in public. Kiss would officially shed its image on MTV in 1983. The album would do well internationally, but Vincent would be shown the door following a dispute over money and Vincent’s demands for more income. Mark St. John would be inducted into Kiss, but would last less than a year after falling ill with arthritis and clashing with the main members. His replacement would be Bruce Kulick who would join the group mid-tour, although Mark would rejoin the band for a couple of shows in the USA before definitively being let go. After White Tiger, St. John would be in a band with Peter Criss called The Keep. The line-up of Simmons, Stanley, Carr and Kulick would last nearly a decade. In the late ‘80s, Gene would manage the career of Liza Minelli. The band would release music and tour until the death of Eric Carr in the autumn of 1991 due to malignant tumours. Drummer Eric Singer would be recruited by Stanley who had used the man on his solo shows recently. Oddly enough, the Revenge album featured music by Vinnie Vincent. An appearance on the MTV Unplugged series leads to the reformation of the original line-up with make-up in 1996. To mark the return of the original line-up the label would issue a sampler called You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best. Carnival Of Souls was issued with a two-year delay after wide bootlegging forced the hand of an intransigent record company. St. john overdosed on medicine on April 5th, 2007 and died. The group recorded and released Psycho Circus in 1998 by which time many of the old tensions had resurfaced. The film Detroit Rock City was released in cinemas in 1999, yet fared poorly.
The group would create more publicity in 2000 by announcing its disbandment and a farewell tour. The never-ending tour would proceed without Peter Criss as of 2001. The drummer would depart amidst a dispute over money and would be replaced by the returning Eric Singer – in Criss’ custom. Former Black ‘n’ Blue guitarist and Kiss roadie Thayer would replace Frehley in 2003. The group was courted by Spitfire Records, but would sign to Sanctuary Music. Thayer had contributed to the band’s last studio record. Criss had returned, but not for long. He would soon be let go again. The Kiss farewell shows and merchandising continues, while Simmons and Stanley engage in solo activities and resurrect the band annually. In the summer of 2007 Kiss performed as a three-piece in California when singer and guitarist Paul Stanley’s heart began beating at twice the normal rate. Stanley was forced to pull out of the show following receiving medical advice that performing would be dangerous and the band appeared without him.
Kiss was performing in Australia followed by Europe in 2008. Kiss 35 tour featured the band dressing in its Destroyer era customs. In the meantime, season 3 of Gene Simmons’ reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels were being aired on March 11th in parallel to the unfolding of the revelation of a Gene Simmons sex video. The new Kiss line-up had rerecorded 15 older Kiss songs for a new sampler called Jigoku-Retsuden in 2008. A limited-edition version of the CD would also include a Kissology Special DVD from Japan, 1977. Songs included on the CD were, among others, Deuce, Christine Sixteen and Forever. Kiss was hitting Venezuela for the first time this April 17 at La Riconda Hippodrome in Caracas. The band was also hitting Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. Ace Frehley signed a European licensing deal with Season Of Mist (Mayhem, Deströyer 666, etc.) for the release of his 2009 solo album, Anomaly, on that continent. The US territory was being handled independently. After being voted as the top requested city on Kiss’ website and seemingly not appearing on the band’s itinerary the band announced Oshawa, Canada as a tour stop on October 7th of 2009. The band was claiming the city would see a few surprises at its show. Kiss kicked off the Alive 35 North American tour on September 25th of 2009 in Detroit where the group played its 1975 album Alive! from start to finish. The band’s first album in over a decade, Sonic Boom, was out in the autumn. Americans could get it at Wal-mart. Bassist and singer Gene Simmons, in the meanwhile, had a role in the upcoming film, The Christmas Movie, alongside Cybill Shepherd. Kiss performed its new single, Modern Day Delilah, on October 6th on Late Show With David Letterman. Subsequently, the album entered the Billboard charts at position number 2, the band’s best ever. Singer was back on drums. Kiss next announced Sonic Boom Over Europe: From The Beginning To The Boom tour of Europe for the summer of 2010.
Former drummer Peter Criss revealed that he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. He was now cancer-free. The Eric Carr Story was a new book in 2010 by author author Greg Prato. It contained 256 pages about the former Kiss drummer.
Kiss’ proposed April tour of Japan was cancelled in early March of 2011 (supposedly prior to the Japanese disaster). The band was working on a new album. Former guitarist Vinnie Vincent was arrested on May 22nd on charges of aggravated assault on his wife. Vincent was arrested by the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department in Tennessee and held on a $10,000 bond. He was subsequently released and allowed to stay on his property, but not inside the main house! Kiss was initially scheduled to pay tribute to Michael Jackson in an October 8th concert with headliner Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis, Smokey Robinson, Cee Lo Green and Jls in Wales. The band was soon cancelled after complaints from fans regarding statements from Kiss regarding Michael Jackson in the past. Simmons had observed that young boys would frequent Jackson’s room, while women were not seen doing the same. At the same time, Kiss picked Monster as the title of its next album, which was due in early 2012. A Kiss Kruise launched from Miami on October 13th with 2,500 fans onboard. The band performed both acoustic and electric sets. Paul Stanley subsequently underwent surgery for "recurring vocal cord issues." The surgery was reported to be a success.
Over thirty years after the release of Kiss’ The Elder album U.K.-based musician and producer Seb Hunter is planning a "post-apocalyptic road movie" based on "(Music From) The Elder", with production starting in 2012.
Kiss and Mötley Crüe were co-headlining a North American summer tour from July to September, 2012. ‘80s Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent has been ordered to divert his royalty payments to Kiss bassist Gene Simmons to cover lawyer fees Simmons incurred while defending himself in a legal dispute with the former guitarist. Vincent (Vincent Cusano) had also written subsequent material for Kiss. Kiss played a small show on July 4th, 2012 at London, England's Forum. The concert was a benefit for the British Help For Heroes organization, which raised money for its wounded, sick and injured soldiers. Kiss’s twentieth studio album, Monster, was scheduled for release in October through Universal Music Enterprises. On August 21st, Universal Music Enterprise would release Kiss’ 1976 album as Destroyer: Resurrected, newly remixed from the original master tapes by the album's original producer, Bob Ezrin. Kiss’ Monster landed at position #3 in the US charts. Kiss then hired Alan G. Parker to direct a band film called You Wanted The Best… You Got The Best - The Official Kiss Movie. Original members Ace Frehley (guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) reunited for the first time in 13 years on stage on October 23rd, 2013 for a jam at the 30th-anniversary party for VH1 Classic That Metal Show co-host Eddie Trunk. The event took place at the Hard Rock Café in New York City. Kiss was announced as 2014 inductees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The original line-up with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss would not perform at its Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in April. Stanley would subsequently call Ace And Criss anti-semitic. The band announced it would not play at the event in Brooklyn. The four members instead attended as a group and gave speeches to the assembled. The band was sued by legal representatives for the late Eric Carr for uncollected royalties. The family of Carr promptly renounced this action. Carr died in 1991. The family subsequently denied the action and attributed the suit to unauthorized legal parties. Kiss and Def Leppard would tour the USA that summer. Original Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley would release Space Invader through Entertainment One Music on June 24th and SPV in Europe on July 7th of 2014. Upon release of his autobiography Face The Music: A Life Exposed Kiss singer and guitarist Paul Stanley conducted publicity including insisting the band would and could continue without bassist Gene Simmons. Kiss played with American Idol finalist Caleb Johnson on the 13th season of the US network show. Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley told the July 2014 issue of Guitar World magazine, among other things that, “But I still got the chops. I definitely blow [current Kiss guitarist] Tommy Thayer off the stage." Thayer would later respond. Kiss’ next compilation, called Kiss 40, sold 7,200 copies in the United States Of America in its first week of release to debut at position 30 on The Billboard 200 chart. 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of Kiss. KISS would have a nine-show Las Vegas “residency” in the autumn of 2014 at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino beginning November 5. It was called Kiss Rocks Vegas. In the meantime, in an interview with The Tampa Tribune, bassist Gene Simmons categorically ruled out the reformation of the original line-up. Kiss performed at the 88th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which took place on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2015 and aired on the American NBC channel. Kiss would perform its Alive! album on The Kiss Kruise V for October f 2015. The band collaborated with a Japanese pop group called Momorio Clover Z for a song called Yume No Ukiyo Ni Saitemina. According to media reports Los Angeles Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a search warrant at the house of Gene Simmons in September 2015, but no one in the Simmons family was being investigated. Apparently, a crime may have been committed on the premises by someone else. Paul Stanley participated in a Soul Station concert at The Roxy in West Hollywood, USA on September 11th of 2015. Soul Station was a ten-piece project featuring musicians covering soul music. Kiss singer Paul Stanley called Dee Snider of Twisted Sister a "wannabe" after the latter frontman called to the current Kiss line-up an "insult" for being imitators. Snider responded with a challenge to Stanley to see who can rock harder. The band would perform an acoustic show at the Badlands in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday, February 11th, 2016. Morrison Hotel Gallery in Los Angeles, California was exhibiting a Kiss photograph collection called The Legacy Of Kiss. Singer and guitarist Paul Stanley underwent surgery to reattach a torn bicep tendon. The band’s announced Freedom To Rock Tour and its July 2016 date would not be affected. Recorded during its 40th anniversary world tour, Kiss and Eagle Rock Entertainment issued Kiss Rocks Vegas in August 2016 in multiple CD and DVD formats. In a 2017 interview former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley asserted he believes there is a fifty-percent chance he will rejoin the glam rockers. At the same time, the original drummer Peter Criss announced Australia and USA Kiss convention appearances in May that were touted to be his final live performances. Gene Simmons kept himself in the news next by applying to trademark the ‘devil’s horn’ hand gesture. The former manager and widow of Ronnie James Dio, who had recently been touring a hologram image of her dead husband through a company she had equity in, called the application “laughable." Dio used the signal extensively. Simmons subsequently attributed the gesture to Spiderman.
KISS - DESTROYER - PHONOGRAM
The fourth Kiss studio album Destroyer, which came out in 1976, was very influential - and not only its music. The cover artwork by Ken Kelly with the four band members standing on a rock inspired both the cover of Manowar’s Fighting The World and Destroyed by the Sloppy Seconds. The latter is actually a parody of the Kiss cover, while the Manowar cover was also done by Ken Kelly, who later went on to draw several more Manowar cover paintings.
The opener Detroit Rock City starts with a radio playing Rock n’ Roll All Nite and is a band classic, partly because of its famous guitar solo. King Of The Night Time World is a nice rock n’ roll song. God Of Thunder starts with the voices of producer Bob Ezrin’s kids and is sung by Gene Simmons. Being one of the band’s rare darker compositions, it is the album’s second all-time favourite. Great Expectations begins with a sugary-sweet intro and is one of the weaker songs of the album. Flaming Youth is a simple feel-good tune, but Sweet Pain is unspectacular. Shout It Out Loud has a catchy lead and is also well known among Kiss fans. The ballad Beth, sung by Peter Criss, was a hit single. Do You Love Me closes the album. The song is again simple and mainly based on its chorus, but that is what early Kiss was like. There are louder and faster hard rock albums, but at its time, Destroyer was cool and some of the tracks are considered classics today. - Andreas Herzog
KISS - REVENGE - POLYGRAM
The 1992 album Revenge was the first with drummer Eric Singer and is still one of the heaviest recordings the band has ever made. The opener Unholy sung by Gene Simmons, is a low-tuned hard rock song and was released as a single. Take It Off is more reminiscent of Skid Row than Kiss. Tough Love has a riff that sounds like Aerosmith, and Spit has a touch of crossover and rap-like vocals by Gene Simmons before turning into an up-tempo rock song. Its chorus “I need a whole lotta woman” is stolen from either AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie or Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, though. God Gave Rock n’ Roll To You II, the album’s second single, is a real anthem and was also featured in the movie Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. Domino again features Gene Simmons at vocals and is a classic Kiss song, a bit in the style of Heaven’s On Fire. Heart Of Chrome has a break-laden main riff, but the song itself is not very convincing. Thou Shalt Not could almost be southern rock by Molly Hatchet or Blackfoot, while Every Time I Look At You is a real ballad in the tradition of songs like Beth. Paralyzed is a badly written, sleazy tune. I Just Wanna has a very traditional chorus, and its structure is in the vein of early 70s Kiss. Carr Jam 1981 is an instrumental leftover from recording sessions with drummer Eric Carr, who died in 1991. All in all, Revenge is the one Kiss album that does not really sound like Kiss. But that is not always a good thing. - Andreas Herzog
KISS - KISSOLOGY VOL.2 1978-1991 (4DVD) - VH1 CLASSICS
Few bands or artists can produce this much material and have it accepted and praised by the public and their fans. Being one of the most commercialized entities in the world Kiss is doing what is now a must and releasing DVDs of their music and long history. This three, plus one bonus, set covers the period of the band’s history at their most successful and their many ups and downs, gimmicks and mistakes trying to remains so. The highlight of the first DVD is an extended excerpt of an interview done with the late Tom Snyder on his The Tomorrow Show on Halloween 1979. The clip provides good insight into each member notably Ace Frehley, who is downright giggly and loud, and Gene Simmons, who is serious and too business-like for a man of his reputation, though the outfits and make-up make it difficult for any of the quartet to seem anything but rock stars gone overboard. Also included on the first DVD is a restored version of the odd and definitely '70’s-ish Attack Of The Phantoms movie and a 15-minute profile, with an ironic and fitting title, called Land Of Hype And Glory. The second DVD features the 1980 to 1982 period through a video clip for Shandi, an interview with the fired Peter Criss, who even when out of the band cannot show his 'unmasked' face, various TV excerpts and concert footage of a concert in Sydney, Australia. The third DVD covers the Vinnie Vincent era, an often criticized sometimes appreciated part of Kiss history, with concert footage from Rio De Janeiro, the rather anti-climatic 1983 unmasking presentation on MTV, and further concert footage from Lisbon, Philadelphia and Detroit, with some of the footage and clips featuring Bruce Kulick in action. The DVD ends with the passing of Eric Carr from cancer and the last video clip, God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You II, with him on drums in his last performance with Kiss. Perhaps the most revelatory part of this DVD set is the liner notes included in the accompanying booklet. They range from the predictable declarations of how the band needed to continue and be there in the face of disappointments, all for the fans of course, to the funny, where the band requested swimming pools at every Australian show, and to the touching, where Gene and Paul seem to have genuinely appreciated Eric Carr as a person and a fellow member. The fourth and bonus DVD features 11 songs from the 1988 Crazy Nights tour at New York’s The Ritz. - Anna Tergel
KISS -KISSOLOGY III (5DVD) - VH1 CLASSICS
This is the third and final (?) in the Kissology series focuses on the '90’s story of Kiss. The era after the loss of Eric Carr to illness is marked by commercial ventures going into overdrive via a reunion, 're-masking', unveiling of the conventions and probably the most commercial of them all, the unplugged series of concerts on MTV and in various and other venues and settings. The first DVD features a Detroit show to support the Revenge release, which also happened to be one of the venues used for the Alive III release. A MTV 'behind the scenes' segment follows as an intro for one of the aforementioned unplugged shows featuring original Kiss members, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, performing together with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley for the first time in over a decade and a half. The second DVD features more of the continuing reunion line-up with shows in Detroit, Los Angeles and East Rutherford, New Jersey encompassing dates from 1996 to the 'The Las Kiss' show in 2000. The fourth DVD is an added surprise for the hardcore Kiss fan since it includes a 1973 black and white show dubbed as the band’s first filmed performance. The bonus materials don’t end there as there is a fifth DVD to be found here. It includes a 10-song set recoded in 1996 in Irvine, California.
As usual, watch for the DVD Easter eggs which provide additional backstage and other rare and surprising footage and also enjoy the included booklet where all band members express their feelings and regrets on the reunion and share other less interesting tidbits. - Anna Tergel