For almost 30 years rock fans all over the world know what to expect when they hear this battle cry:
THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD: KISS!!!
Today more than ever. The live-album of the same name, being released in support of their triumphant 1996 reunion tour shows this clearly. Responsible for this achievement are Mr. Stanley Eisen and Mr. Gene Klein, who layed the foundations in 1972 to one of the most remarkable careers in the history of rock.
They played together in the band Wicked Lester in New York City, where they recorded a never-released album, featuring such gems as 'Love Her All I Can' and 'She'.
Unsatisfied with the musical direction, they changed their names to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and made a new start with new companions: guitarist Paul Daniel 'Space Ace' Frehley and singing drummer Peter Criscoula, better known as Peter Criss.
Like a Heavy Metal version of the Beatles, Kiss wanted to have four singers in the band. Nevertheless the singing is still split mainly between rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley and bass guitarist Gene Simmons who also writes the majority of the material.
The name KISS eventually probed to be more acceptable than the previously suggested names as ALBATROSS and FUCK.
The first gigs in outrageous make-up, blasting out furious music, quickly brings them in contact with former Hendrix-producer Eddie Kramer, who produces their very first demo.
This tape draws the attention of Neil Bogart, president of the new-founded record company, Casablanca Records. With the help of Bill Aucoin, their new manager, Casablanca Records ends up being Kiss' record company for the next decade.
KISS records album after album, tours the US and Canada intensly and in no time, builds a small but dedicated following. Meanwhile the media starts to take note of these 'four costumed maniacs'.
What sets Kiss apart are their spectacular live shows. Gene Simmons spits blood and fire, Ace Frehley burns his guitar with flaming solos, Peter's drum kit shoots sparks and rockets and Paul Stanley communicates with the audience like a lover in a hot night.
By 1975 the time is right for a souvenir to commemorate shows. KISS ALIVE!, a double - live album in a spectacular cover, including a huge booklet, says it all and strikes like a bomb. In the U.S.A. alone the album sells four million copies and still stands as the most successful double - live album of all times.
'Rock And Roll All Nite' becomes a super hit and is still known as the rock'n'roll national anthem.
The KISS fever spreads around the world now - following are the first tours outside of the U.S.A. and the global release of the album DESTROYER (1976). Many fans (and the band) still call this album the best ever KISS-album. No wonder, listening to songs like 'Detroit Rock City', 'God Of Thunder', 'Beth' and 'Shout It Out Loud'.
The stage-show is growing from year to year and the LOVE GUN-Tour in 1977 becomes a Mega-Event. This leads to another live album: ALIVE II. Even more so than its predecessor, ALIVE II cements their status as Number One in the music business.
The first fusion of a rock band with Marvel Comics brings two KISS-comic books, printed in real KISS-blood (blood of all four members is poured into red ink).
The second Japanese tour 1978 breaks all Japanese concert numbers (even those of the Beatles!)!
As if that's not enough, KISS star in the TV-movie KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK.
The exhausting shooting drives them into their much needed break from each other. Each of the musicians works on a solo album with the help of a large number of special guests. The four solo albums are released on the same day and go platinum within 24 hours.
1979 is still known as the year where everything goes over the top for the band. KISS becomes a house-hold-name. 'I Was Made For Lovin You' from the album DYNASTY maintains the Number One position on many charts around the world for months and the black-and-white stage-show mutates into a bright colorful Shock-Rock-Theatre. Gene Simmons flies to the ceiling during 'God Of Thunder' and Ace Frehley shoots rockets from his guitar.
KISS toys flood the world, especially in the U.S.A. and KISS establishes itself as a world wide known POP (!) - band.
Big money and the enormous pressure on the shoulders of the four musicians start to take its toll and the first to drop out is Peter Criss. Playing on only one song of DYNASTY, his increasing drug-related problems damage his creativity and health.
Peter Criss leaves the band in 1980 and is replaced by Eric Caravello (shortened to Eric Carr), who is made up like a fox and almost instantly drums himself into the hearts of the fans.
In the early Eighties Peter releases two solo albums; flopping both musically and commercially.
KISS are in danger of the same fate; the new line-up's first album (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER is still known as the most disappointing release of their entire career.
In a quick response Casablanca Europe pounds out a second BEST OF KISS-album. KISS KILLERS wins lost fans back. It features four new tracks with Bob Kulick on lead guitar, who already helped out in the past.
Aces growing alcohol-problem becomes apparent in 1982 with CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, their heaviest album to date.
Aces face is shown on the cover and he is still in the band, but a look into the songwriting credits reveals that a Vincent Cusano has contributed to most of the tracks, whereas neither Aces voice nor his songwriting talents can be traced on this album.
Die-hard KISS fans also notice that the lead guitar doesn't sound like Ace at all.
Eventually, Ace is officially replaced by Vincent Cusano, who joins the band in late 1982 under the name Vinnie Vincent. He paints his face with an Egyptian cross-shaped symbol.
1983 follows the biggest change in the band's history. Their trademark make-up, which will never be taken off according to Gene and Paul, is donned.
The cover of LICK IT UP presents their unmasked faces for the first time.
This allowes Gene Simmons to move into acting, his new passion. He stars in some ill-fated motion pictures (with arguably only 'Runaway' with Tom Selleck worth mentioning).
Gene also starts his own Record Company 'Simmons Records'.
His increasing external activities cause his creative input into the band to diminish. Without his focus, KISS-music makes little waves during the Eighties (with the exception of few hits like 'Lick It Up', Heaven's On Fire' and Crazy Crazy Nights').
1987 Ace is back and he told you so! He releases several splendid albums during the next few years.
In the Eighties another axe man proves to be the right man for the job in KISS. Bruce Kulick joins the band on the ANIMALIZE Tour in 1984 as a contemporary replacement for Mark St John who followed Vinnie Vincent. But Mark's health problems with his hands, which ultimately are the cause for his departure, don't get better after the 1984 tour. Bruce is asked to stay in the band permanently. Being promoted by his older brother Bob, Bruce eventualy becomes Kiss' steady guitarist for the next 12 years, which makes him - next to Gene and Paul, the longest band member in Kiss. Bruce improves his playing from year to year and with the '92 comeback-album REVENGE he, as well as the entire band, reaches his musical climax.
Sadly it shows once again that personal loss and grief are often required to push musicians to their creative best. The death of Eric Carr on November 24, 1991, caused by cancer, leaves deep scars on the band as well as on the fans.
Sad but true: Eric Carr, referred to as the real KISS-drummer by many, isn't heard on any KISS ALIVE-album. On KISS ALIVE III, as well as on REVENGE, replacement drummer Eric Singer leaves his machine-gun-like thunderous marks.
Peter released a 5-Track-CD (1993) and a full CD named Cat No. 1 (1994). The covers shows him half in make-up again.
1993 KISS celebrates their 20th anniversary with the subsequent release of the 'Book to end all books' (Gene Simmons) KISSTORY, signed by all four members.
Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are as busy as in the glorious seventies. They take control of the shipping and handling of KISSTORY, the production of the KISS MY ASS tribute album, as well as the OFFICIAL KISS CONVENTION TOURS in Australia and the U.S.A.. All this leads to the legendary MTV UNPLUGGED in the fall of 1995. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss join Kiss on stage for four songs. This historic event results in the infamous KISS MTV UNPLUGGED CD, vinyl, cassette and video, and ends up selling millions of copies and bringing back thousands of seemingly lost fans.
BUT...this also shows that the majority of the fans only appreciate and accept the original line-up. Now Gene and Paul have to face the gigantic public demand for a reunion tour.
April 16th, 1996 is the day: On board of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. INTREPID (rather suitable for a STAR TREK CONVENTION, isn't it?) Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss announce first details for their REUNION TOUR in full make-up in front of hundreds of journalists.
The media respond very well and KISS reaches new heights in popularity.
Along with the tour the before-mentioned live compilation is released; featuring heavily overdubbed versions of the classics 'Room Service', 'Two Timer', Let Me Know' and 'Take Me', accompanied by four songs of each ALIVE! and ALIVE II and an interview with Jay (The Tonight Show) Leno.
The future of Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer has overnight become uncertain and meanwhile the release of the new studio album CARNIVAL OF SOULS postponed for an undefined period of time.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS is finally released in 1997 but hardly hardly received promotion. It is a "Grunge" album and does not really fit the Kiss image, which makes it an odd release, very much like THE ELDER.
Meanwhile millionens of KISS-Fans worldwide are in heaven and check out the biggest Rock-Theater of all times.
The second leg of the Reunion Tour follows, the so-called "Lost Cities"-Tour and the Reunion tour becomes the biggest tour of the year. They enter the studio in original line-up to do a new album, PSYCHO CIRCUS, which is released in October 1998.
The CD has a 3-D-Cover. None of the songs is about sex, but more about the band and the fans. Music-wise it is first class melodic Hard rock.
The Psycho Circus-Tour can't follow the success of the Reunion-Tour. The hype is gone and the new 3-D effects can't get the masses to the shows. Nonetheless the band plays about 60 shows worldwide in big arenas.
Tons of KISS Merchandise flood the market, KISS play in a Halloween-episode of the mystery-series MILLENNIUM, and Gene produces the movie DETROIT ROCK CITY. The home-videos THE SECOND COMING and PSYCHO CIRCUS (Single-Video) are released and sell very well. According to Ace he started working on a Soloalbum and Paul plays in "Phantom of the Opera" in Toronto.
Kiss announces their a so-called "Farewell-Tour" in 2000. Many US fans, who are under the impression that this is in fact their last tour, flock to the shows, making it a highly successfull tour, despite the absence of new songs or stage changes.In early 2001 Peter Criss has financial disagreements with Gene Simmons and is replaced by Eric Singer for the Japanese and Australian dates of the Farewell tour. Upon his return to the band, Ace Frehley leaves and is replaced by Tommy Thayer.
special thanks to Jacques van Gool