Kiss (also typeset as KISS) is an American rock band formed in New York City in December 1972. Easily identified by its members' trademark face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid and late-1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, and pyrotechnics. Kiss has been awarded 24 gold albums to date. The band has sold over 19 million records in the United States and their worldwide sales exceed 80 million albums.
The original lineup of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals), and Peter Criss (drums, percussion and vocals) is the most successful and identifiable. With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personae of comic book-style characters: The Demon (Simmons), Starchild (Stanley), Spaceman (Frehley), and Catman (Criss). The band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs. The "Demon" makeup reflected Simmons' cynicism and dark elements, as well as his love for comic books. Paul Stanley became the "Starchild" due to his tendency to be referred to as the "starry-eyed lover" and "hopeless romantic." Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" makeup was a reflection of him wanting to go for a ride in a space ship and supposedly being from another planet. Peter Criss' "Catman" makeup was in accordance with the belief that Criss had nine lives due to his rough childhood in Brooklyn. Due to creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had also waned considerably by that point.
In 1983, Kiss abandoned its makeup and enjoyed a commercial resurgence throughout the rest of the decade. Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup (with makeup) in 1996. The resulting Kiss Alive/Worldwide/Lost Cities/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left Kiss again and have been replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform with makeup, while Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members.
Early years and struggles (1971-1975)
Kiss traces its roots to Wicked Lester, a New York City-based rock and roll band led by co-founders Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel on August 25, 1949) and Paul Stanley (born Stanley Harvey Eisen in Queens, New York City on January 20, 1952). Wicked Lester, with their eclectic mixture of musical styles, never achieved any success. They recorded one album, which was shelved by Epic Records, and played a handful of live shows. Simmons and Stanley, feeling that a new musical direction was needed, abandoned Wicked Lester in 1972 and began forming a new group.
In late 1972, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley came across an ad in Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss, a veteran drummer from the New York club scene, who was previously in bands called "Lips" and "Chelsea". Criss (born George Peter John Criscuola on December 20, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York City) auditioned for and joined the new version of Wicked Lester. The trio focused on a much harder style of rock than Wicked Lester played. Inspired by the theatrics of Alice Cooper, Slade and the New York Dolls, they also began experimenting with their image by wearing makeup and various outfits. In November 1972, the trio played a showcase for Epic Records A&R director Don Ellis, in an effort to secure a record deal. Although the performance went well, Ellis hated the group's image and music. On top of that, as he was leaving, he was vomited on by Criss's brother.
In December 1972, the group added lead guitarist Ace Frehley (born as Paul Frehley on April 27, 1951 in the Bronx, New York City). According to the book Kiss & Tell by Ace Frehley's former best-friends, Gordon G.G. Gebert and Bob McAdams (who accompanied Ace Frehley to the audition) the eccentric Frehley impressed the group with his first audition, although he showed up wearing two different sneakers (one red and one orange) and began warming up on his guitar while another guitarist was being auditioned by the band. A few weeks after Frehley joined, the Wicked Lester name was dropped and the band became Kiss.
Stanley came up with the name; as he, Simmons, and Criss were driving around New York City. Criss mentioned that he was in a band called Lips, so Stanley said what about Kiss (Reminisced by Simmons on the Kiss video Exposed). Frehley created the now-iconic logo (making the "SS" look like lightning bolts) when he went to write the new band name over Wicked Lester on a poster outside the club where they were going to play. The runic letters happened to look similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS, a symbol that is now illegal to display in Germany. Therefore to avoid controversy, after 1979 most of the band's album covers and merchandise in Germany have used a modified version of the logo, in which the "SS" looks like a backwards "ZZ." However, Simmons and Stanley are both Jewish and Simmons' mother is a Holocaust survivor. The band's name has been rumored to have many hidden meanings, among them an acronym for Knights In Satan's Service or Keep It Simple Stupid. None of these rumors have any basis in fact, and the band has consistently denied them.
The first Kiss performance was on January 30, 1973, for an audience of three at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly afterward) in Queens. In March 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 1973, offered to become the band's manager in mid-October. Kiss agreed, with the condition that Aucoin get them signed to a recording contract within two weeks. On November 1, 1973, Kiss became the first act signed to former teen pop singer and Buddah Records executive Neil Bogart's new label, Emerald City Records (which was shortly afterward renamed Casablanca Records).
The band entered Bell Sound Studios in New York City on October 10, 1973 to begin recording their first album. On December 31 the band had their official industry premier at the Academy of Music in New York City, opening for Blue Öyster Cult. It was at this concert that Simmons accidentally set his hair (which was coated in hairspray) ablaze for the first of many times while performing his inaugural firebreathing stunt.
Kiss's first tour started on February 5, 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The band's self-titled debut album, Kiss, was released on February 18. Casablanca and Kiss promoted the album heavily throughout the spring and summer of 1974. On February 19, the band performed "Nothin' to Lose," "Firehouse," and "Black Diamond" for what would become their first national television appearance, on ABC's Dick Clark's In Concert (aired March 29). On April 29, the band performed "Firehouse" on The Mike Douglas Show. This broadcast included Simmons' first televised interview, a conversation with Douglas in which Simmons declared himself "evil incarnate," eliciting titters from an uncomfortable and largely confused studio audience. Fellow guest Totie Fields remarked that it would be humorous if, beneath all the make-up, Simmons was "just a nice Jewish boy." Simmons deftly parried this remark with neither a confirmation nor denial, by saying simply, "You should only know." To which she responded, "I do. You can't hide the hook," a sly reference to Simmons's nose.
Despite the publicity and constant touring, Kiss initially sold just 75,000 copies. Meanwhile, the group and Casablanca Records were losing money quickly. The band flew to Los Angeles in August 1974 to begin recording their second album, Hotter Than Hell, which was released in on October 22, 1974. The only single, "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," failed to chart and the album stalled at No. 100.
With Hotter Than Hell quickly dropping off the charts, Kiss was pulled from their tour to quickly record a new album. Casablanca head Neil 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, 1975, fared slightly better commercially than Hotter Than Hell. It also contained what would later become the band's trademark song, "Rock and Roll All Nite".
Although Kiss albums had not proved to be big sellers, the band was quickly gaining a reputation as a top-flight live act. Kiss concerts featured things such as Simmons spitting "blood" (primarily yogurt and food coloring) or "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' elevating drum riser that emitted sparks; Stanley's Townshend-style guitar smashing; and pyrotechnics throughout the show.
By late 1975, Casablanca was nearly bankrupt and Kiss was in danger of losing their record contract. Both parties desperately needed a commercial breakthrough if they were to survive. That breakthrough came in an unlikely form - a double live album.
Rise to prominence (1975–1978)
Kiss wanted to express the excitement felt at their concerts (which their studio albums had so far failed to do), with their first live album. Released on September 10, 1975, Alive! achieved Gold status and spawned Kiss's first top 40 single, a live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite." It was the first version of "Rock and Roll All Nite" with a guitar solo, and this recording has come to represent the definitive version of the song; supplanting the studio original. In recent years the band admitted that additional audience noise had been added to the album, not to deceive fans, but to add more "excitement and realism" to the show.
The success of Alive! not only brought Kiss the breakthrough they had been seeking, but arguably saved Casablanca, which was close to bankruptcy. Following this success, Kiss partnered with producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper. The result was Destroyer (released March 15, 1976), Kiss's most musically ambitious studio album to date. Destroyer, with its rather intricate production (utilizing an orchestra, choir, and numerous tape effects), was a departure from the raw sound of the first three studio albums. While the album sold well initially and became the group's second gold album, it quickly dropped down the charts. Only when the ballad "Beth" was released as a single did the album's sales rebound. "Beth" was a #7 hit for the band, and its success revived both the album (which achieved platinum status by the end of 1976) and ticket sales for Kiss.
In October 1976, Kiss appeared on the The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, lip-synching "Detroit Rock City", "Beth", and "King of the Night Time World". For many teenagers, this was their first exposure to Kiss's dramatic appearance. The show was co-produced by Bill Aucoin. In addition to the three performances, Kiss was the subject of a brief comedic "interview" conducted by Paul Lynde himself. 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, 1976) and Love Gun (June 30, 1977). A second live album, Alive II, was released on October 14, 1977. All three albums were certified platinum upon or soon after their release. Between 1976 and 1978, Kiss earned $17.7 million from record royalties and music publishing. A 1977 Gallup poll named Kiss the most popular band in America. In Japan, Kiss performed five sold-out shows at Budokan Hall, breaking the previous record of four held by The Beatles.
The first of what is now many Kiss greatest hits albums, Double Platinum, was issued on April 2, 1978. This double album included many remixed versions of their hits, as well as "Strutter '78," a re-recorded version of one of the group's signature songs. At Neil Bogart's request, the song was played in a style similar to the then-popular disco music.
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 one of which contained ink mixed with actual blood donated by the group), a pinball machine, Kiss dolls, "Kiss Your Face Makeup" kits, Halloween masks, board games, and many other pieces of memorabilia. Membership in the Kiss Army, the band's fan club, was in the six figures. Between 1977 and 1979, worldwide merchandise sales (in-store and on tour) reached an estimated $100 million.
Going solo (1978)
Kiss were at their commercial peak by 1978—Alive II was the band's fourth platinum album in just under two years, and the ensuing tour had the highest average attendance (13,550) in the group's history. In addition, Kiss's gross income for 1977 was US$10.2 million. The group, along with creative manager Bill Aucoin, sought to take the band to the next level of popularity. To that end, an ambitious, two-pronged strategy was devised for 1978.
The first part involved the simultaneous release of four solo albums from the members of Kiss. Although Kiss has claimed that the solo albums were intended to ease rising tensions within the band, their 1976 record contract did in fact call for four solo records, with each of them counting as half an album toward the group's five-record commitment. While each album was very much a solo effort (none of the group appeared on another's album), they were all released and marketed as Kiss albums (with similar cover art and poster inserts). It was the first time that all current members of a rock band had released solo albums on the same day.
For the band members, it was a chance to showcase their individual musical styles and tastes outside of Kiss, and in some cases to collaborate with contemporary artists. Stanley's and Frehley's albums stuck pretty closely to the successful hard rock style that Kiss had utilized, while Criss's album featured an R&B style and was loaded with ballads. Simmons's was the most eclectic of the four. It featured hard rock, ballads, Beatles-influenced pop, and ended with a straight cover of "When You Wish upon a Star" (from the movie Pinocchio). Simmons's many collaborators included the likes of Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, the Doobie Brothers' Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, disco diva Donna Summer, Janis Ian, Helen Reddy, Bob Seger, and then-girlfriend Cher.
The Kiss solo albums were released on September 18, 1978. The marketing blitz behind the albums was unprecedented. Casablanca announced it was shipping five million total copies of the albums (guaranteeing instant platinum status), and they spent $2.5 million marketing them. All four solo albums made it into the Top 50 of the Billboard album chart. However, the massive preorder for these albums was soon followed by an equally enormous attempt to ship them back to the record company, followed by the subsequent discounting of these albums once sales had (very quickly) peaked. The albums were also the first Kiss albums to be seen in the "bargain bins." All four solo albums combined sold about as many copies as Love Gun alone. Of the four, Frehley's album was the most successful (although not by a huge margin) and spawned the only radio top 20 hit.
The second part of Kiss's and Aucoin's plan called for the band to appear in a movie that would cement their image as larger than life superheroes. Filming for the movie commenced in the spring of 1978. Although the project was proposed to the band as a cross between A Hard Day's Night and Star Wars, the final results fell far short of those expectations. The script underwent numerous rewrites, and the band (particularly Criss and Frehley) grew increasingly frustrated with the film making process. It has been reported that Criss refused to take part in post-production, and hence a vocal actor had to be hired to re-dub all his lines. (Criss denies those reports, and claims he was present for the entire post-production process.)
The final product, entitled Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park debuted on NBC on October 28, 1978 (just before Halloween.) Despite scathing reviews, it was one of the highest-rated TV movies of the year. It was released theatrically, after many changes, outside the U.S. in 1979 under the title Attack of the Phantoms. While later interviews with band members would have them talk about their movie making experience with a mix of humorous embarrassment and regret as to the finished product, they were unhappy with the final product. They felt that the movie ended up portraying them more as clowns than superheroes. The artistic failure of the movie led to a rift between the band and Aucoin. It has been only sporadically available on home video: currently, a version of the film is available on a compilation DVD entitled Kissology Volume Two: 1978-1991.
Late makeup years and decline (1979–1983)
The band's first album of new material in two years, Dynasty (May 22, 1979), continued their platinum streak. The disco-flavored "I Was Made For Lovin' You" became the band's biggest hit single to date. Session drummer Anton Fig did almost all the percussion on the album, at the request of producer Vini Poncia, who felt that Criss's drumming skills were not adequate. Criss did play the drums on the song "Dirty Livin'," on which he also sang the lead.
Billed as "The Return of Kiss," the Dynasty Tour was expected by Kiss and their management to build on the success of previous tours. Plans were drawn up for a Kiss-themed traveling amusement park, called Kiss World, but were abandoned due to the immense costs involved. However, "The Return of Kiss" saw a marked decline in attendance.
The crowds on this tour were much younger than previous audiences had been, with many pre-adolescent children in Kiss makeup with their mothers and fathers (who were sometimes wearing the makeup themselves) in tow at most concerts. Kiss themselves did little to dissuade this new fan base, donning colorful costumes that reinforced a cartoonish image for these younger fans.
The fans were unaware of the dissension within the band. One very public indication of the heightened friction within the group was an infamous October 31, 1979 interview on Tom Snyder's late-night The Tomorrow Show. During the episode, a visibly irritated Simmons and Stanley try to contain the bombastic (and inebriated) Frehley, whose non-stop laughter and joking overshadowed the content and conversation that takes place between Snyder and the rest of the band. Criss made repeated references to his large gun collection, to the chagrin of Simmons.
By the end of the Dynasty tour in December 1979, tensions between Criss and the rest of the band were at an all-time high. His drumming skills had noticeably eroded, and he even intentionally slowed down or stopped playing altogether during some concerts. The final show of the tour (December 16, 1979) was the last time Criss performed with the group, although he remained an official member for nearly six more months.
Fig also played all the drums on the next album Unmasked, although he was uncredited and Criss appeared on the cover art. Showcasing a slick, contemporary pop sound, Unmasked (May 20, 1980) had the dubious distinction of being the first Kiss album since Dressed to Kill to fail to achieve platinum sales. Soon after the album's release, Criss' departure was officially announced.
The band auditioned dozens of replacements for Criss in June 1980, settling on a little-known drummer-guitarist-singer from Brooklyn named Paul Caravello (July 12, 1950), who was given the stage name Eric Carr. He was Kiss's first-ever replacement member. In his "Fox" makeup, he debuted with the group on July 25, 1980 at the Palladium Theatre in New York City. This was Kiss's only U.S. show in support of the album. The band's 1980 tour of Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, was one of the biggest in their history, as they played to sold-out crowds and received overwhelmingly positive press coverage.
For their next album, the band worked with producer Bob Ezrin, with whom Kiss had found success on Destroyer. Early press reports indicated that the new album would be a return to the hard rock style that had originally brought the band success. What was released instead was 1981's Music from "The Elder", a concept album featuring medieval horns, strings, harps, and synthesizers.
The album was presented as a soundtrack to a film that was never made, making it difficult (if not impossible) to follow the storyline. To make matters worse, having received negative feedback following their record company's preview of the album, Kiss altered the record's track sequence in most countries to emphasize potential singles "The Oath" and "A World Without Heroes," which all but guaranteed the inability of listeners to understand the already muddled storyline. Once released, fan reaction to The Elder was harsh; it failed to achieve gold status and peaked at #75 on the Billboard Album Chart.
The band made only two appearances in suport of the new album, both in January 1982. One was a performance on the ABC late-night variety program Fridays, while the second was a lip-synched performance that was broadcast via satellite during Italy's Sanremo Festival. Kiss also performed "I", and "A World Without Heroes" on Solid Gold.
Absent from the second performance was Ace Frehley, who had become increasingly frustrated with Kiss's new musical direction. Upset with the band's decision to record a concept album (Music from "The Elder"), he did not actively participate in the album's creation, only providing lead vocals to one track, "Dark Light". He recorded his guitar parts at his home studio in Wilton, Connecticut and mailed them to Ezrin. Another source of frustration for Frehley was that with the departure of Peter Criss, and with Carr not being an equal partner in the band, he was often outvoted 2-to-1 on group decisions. In June 1982, Frehley's departure from the band was negotiated, although he did not officially leave until December, and remained a business partner with Simmons and Stanley until 1985.
Simmons stated in his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up that Eddie Van Halen wanted to fill Frehley's spot. Simmons convinced Eddie to remain with Van Halen. (Eddie was anxious to break up Van Halen due to rising tensions with lead singer David Lee Roth, who left the band soon thereafter.)
Soon after, Kiss made major changes to their business dealings – chief among them was severing ties with their manager of nine years, Bill Aucoin, and cutting back on their unwieldy organizational tree. Although Frehley had already decided to leave the band, he was pictured on the covers of 1982's Killers and Creatures of the Night, although he did not participate in the recording of either album.
Creatures of the Night (October 13, 1982) was Kiss's heaviest album to date, and although it fared better than Music from "The Elder", it peaked at #45 on the charts and was not certified gold until 1994. In Frehley's absence, Kiss utilized a number of guitarists for the recording of the album, including Vinnie Vincent (born Vincent John Cusano on August 6, 1952).
Frehley's last appearance with the band (until the original foursome reunited in 1996) was on the video for the single "I Love It Loud," which was cowritten by Vincent. Frehley also appeared on the cover of the original Creatures Of The Nightalbum artwork. (When the album was re-mixed and re-released in 1985 with a non-makeup cover and a slightly different song order, to reflect the band's roster change and abandonment of their make-up and costuming, Vincent was again absent from the album cover as then-current lead guitarist, Bruce Kulick, appeared there instead. The liner notes accompanying the re-mixed LP, however, have credited both Ace Frehley and Vinnie Vincent with lead guitar performances on the Creatures of the Night album.)
Vincent officially replaced Frehley as lead guitarist in December 1982, as the band embarked on its 10th Anniversary Tour.
Vincent originally wanted to use his birth name in the band but this was vetoed by Gene Simmons on the grounds that it sounded "too ethnic" being that Vinnie is Italian. Vincent then suggested the name "Mick Fury" but this was also disallowed. Simmons later suggested the name change to Vinnie Vincent. Vincent started actively pushing to join Kiss as a full member. Despite misgivings Simmons and Paul Stanley harbored about his personality, Vincent was taken into the band and Stanley designed an "Ankh Warrior" persona and make-up for Vincent.
From 1982-1983, the new lineup of Kiss became Simmons (the Demon), Stanley (the Starchild), Eric Carr (the Fox), and Vincent (the Ankh Warrior). This incarnation of Kiss was to be the last incarnation of the original make-up era. At the end of the Creatures Of The Night tour, the band removed their make-up.
Vincent does appear on the cover of Lick It Up and he was credited as the lead guitarist. Except for "Fits Like A Glove" and "Dance All Over Your Face", written solely by Simmons, Vincent was co-writer in 8 of the 10 songs on the album. It is rumored that Vincent recorded every lead for the album's songs in their entirety and that Simmons went on to choose the parts of those leads that he liked best to fit the songs shortening Vincent's creative abilities. Apparently, Simmons wanted more of a melodic sound and feel which Kiss fans had always heard and were accustomed to in Frehley's guitar solos. Additionally, Vincent would get "cut off" during his guitar solos live because both Stanley and Simmons felt that Vincent's leads went on too long.
Vincent's personality did not mesh well with either Stanley or Simmons and he was dismissed from Kiss at the end of the Creatures tour. He was re-hired before recording started for Lick It Up because Simmons and Stanley could not find a new lead guitarist on such short notice. Personality issues arose once again and Vincent was fired following the Lick It Up tour and was replaced by Mark St. John (birth name Mark Norton). Vincent's work on Creatures of the Night continued to not be officially recognized until the album was remastered in 1997.
Vincent was later utilized by Kiss as a songwriter on the 1992 album Revenge, contributing to the songs "Unholy", "Heart Of Chrome" and "I Just Wanna". Before long however, Vincent, Simmons and Stanley fell out with each other for a third time permanently severing their musical ties.
Persistent rumors have circulated for years amongst Kiss fan circles regarding the true reason for Vincent's dismissals from Kiss with at least one band member refusing to comment except to say that legally it wasn't up for discussion. Simmons stated in an interview several years later that Vincent's firing was for "unethical behavior" but he did not elaborate by going into any great detail.
"I named Vincent Cusano, "Vinnie Vincent." That's the only gift he's allowed. It's interesting that Vinnie hasn't changed his name back to Vinnie Cusano. Vinnie, for the record, was fired for unethical behavior, not because of lack of talent. The guy is very talented. He was unethical. He was fired." -Gene Simmons
Unmasking and rebound (1983–1995)
Sensing it was time for a change, Kiss made the decision to abandon their trademark makeup and costumes. They officially appeared in public without makeup for the first time on a September 18, 1983 appearance on MTV, which coincided with the release of the band's new album, Lick It Up. The tour showing off the new album and the unmasked band members started off at Lisbon, Portugal, on the 11th of October, 1983, at Pavilhão Dramático de Cascais, their first concert ever without makeup.
Lick It Up became Kiss's first gold record in three years, but the tour was even more sparsely attended than the one for Creatures of the Night. Due to quickly rising tensions between Vincent and the rest of Kiss (particularly Simmons and Stanley), Vincent was fired at the conclusion of the tour in March 1984 - he was never even made an official member of Kiss to begin with, as a contract making his employment official was never signed. His replacement was Mark St. John (born Mark Norton on February 7, 1956 in Hollywood, California), a session player and guitar tutor.
With St. John on board, Kiss released Animalize on September 13, 1984. Animalize followed the success of Lick It Up, and with the video for Heaven's on Fire being played often on MTV, Animalize was the band's best-selling record in America, during the decade. With the success of the album and subsequent tour, Kiss had recaptured some of their earlier glory (though not to the level of their '70s heyday). St. John, however, was soon taken ill with Reactive arthritis during tour rehearsals, and only performed at a handful of shows. He was fired from Kiss in December 1984 and replaced by Bruce Kulick (born December 12, 1953 in Brooklyn), making him Kiss's fourth lead guitarist in three years. One of the first concerts Bruce played was in Detroit, Michigan's Cobo Hall. It was filmed for the MTV special Animalize Live. This was later released as the band's first home video (Animalize Live: Uncensored).
The lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Carr, and Kulick turned out to be the most stable since the original, and for the rest of the 1980s Kiss released a series of platinum albums—1985's Asylum, 1987's Crazy Nights and the 1988 greatest hits compilation Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. Crazy Nights, in particular, was one of Kiss's most successful albums overseas. The single "Crazy, Crazy Nights" reached #4 on the singles chart in Britain, the highest showing to date for a Kiss song.
Kiss ended the '80s with the 1989 release Hot in the Shade. Although the album failed to achieve platinum status, it spawned the early 1990 hit ballad "Forever," co-written by Michael Bolton. Peaking at #8, it was the group's highest-charting single since "Beth" and was the band's second Top 10 single.
During these non-makeup years, Kiss struggled with their identity and fan base. Simmons, arguably the dominating force in Kiss during the '70s, became less involved with the group in the '80s as he pursued outside interests; most notably, a film career. After the band's unmasking, he struggled with the loss of the Demon persona. During this time, Stanley became the driving force in Kiss, as well as their most prominent member.
The band decided to once again enlist Bob Ezrin to produce their first album of the 1990s. Before recording could begin in earnest, however, tragedy struck. In March 1991, it was discovered that Eric Carr had a tumor on his heart. It was successfully removed in an April surgery, but more tumors were soon discovered in his lungs. Carr received chemotherapy and was pronounced cancer-free in July. In September, he was hospitalized after suffering the first of two cerebral hemorrhages. He died on November 24, 1991 at the age of 41 (the same day as Freddie Mercury).
Though devastated, Kiss continued, bringing in former Black Sabbath, Brian May, Gary Moore, Lita Ford, and Alice Cooper drummer Eric Singer (born Eric Mensinger on May 12, 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio). Singer has a connection with the group, having played in Paul Stanley's backing band during his 1989 club tour.
Kiss released Revenge on May 19, 1992. It featured a leaner, harder-edged sound, as indicated by the first single, "Unholy". In a surprise move, Kiss enlisted the aid of Vinnie Vincent for songwriting duties. The album debuted in the Top 10 and went gold. Kiss embarked on a brief club tour of the U.S. in the spring of 1992, before beginning an American arena tour in September 1992. Kiss followed with the release of Alive III (May 14, 1993), which was recorded during the Revenge tour. Four days later, Kiss was inducted into the RockWalk of Fame in Hollywood.
During this period, Kiss nostalgia started to pick up steam. June 1994 saw the release of Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, a compilation album featuring popular artists of the era putting their own spin on Kiss songs. The result was an eclectic mix, featuring Lenny Kravitz's funky version of "Deuce" (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica), a ska punk version of "Detroit Rock City" by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Garth Brooks' straightforward take on "Hard Luck Woman," with Kiss as his backup band. In 1995, the group released Kisstory, a 440-page, nine-pound, detailed chronicle of the group's history to that point. That same year, the band embarked on a unique and well-received Worldwide Kiss Convention Tour. The conventions were all-day events, featuring displays of vintage Kiss stage outfits, instruments, and memorabilia, performances by Kiss cover bands, and dealers selling Kiss merchandise from every stage of the band's career. Kiss appeared live at the conventions, conducted question and answer sessions, signed autographs and performed a two-hour acoustic set composed mostly of spontaneous fan requests. On the first U.S. date (June 17, 1995) Peter Criss appeared onstage with Kiss to sing "Hard Luck Woman" and "Nothin' to Lose." It was the first time Criss had performed publicly with the band in nearly 16 years.
On August 9, 1995, Kiss joined the long line of musicians to perform on MTV Unplugged. The band contacted Criss and Frehley and invited them to participate in the event. Both joined Kiss on stage for several songs at the end of the set–"Beth," "2000 Man," "Nothin' to Lose," and "Rock and Roll All Nite." The Unplugged appearance set off months of speculation that a possible reunion of the original Kiss lineup was in the works. In the weeks following the Unplugged concert, however, the band (with Kulick and Singer), returned to the studio for the first time in three years to record a followup to Revenge. Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions was completed in February 1996, but its release was delayed for almost two years. Bootleg copies of the album circulated widely among fans.
While Kiss continued to exist publicly as Simmons, Stanley, Kulick, and Singer, arrangements for a reunion of the original lineup were in the works. These efforts culminated with a public event as dramatic as any the band had staged since their 1983 unmasking on MTV.
With that statement on February 28, 1996, Tupac Shakur introduced the original Kiss lineup (in full makeup and Love Gun-era stage outfits), to a rousing ovation at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards. On April 16, the band held a press conference aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, where they announced their plans for a full-fledged reunion tour, with the help of new manager Doc McGhee. The conference, emceed by Conan O'Brien, was simulcast to 58 countries. On April 20, nearly 40,000 tickets for the tour's first show sold out in 47 minutes.
The first public concert featuring the newly reunited Kiss was an hour-long warm up show on June 15 for the annual KROQ Weenie Roast in Irvine, California, during which the band nearly ignited the stage of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. On June 28, the Kiss Alive/Worldwide Tour began at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan in front of a sold-out crowd of 39,867 fans. The tour lasted for 192 shows over eleven months and earned $43.6 million, making Kiss the top-drawing concert act of 1996. The average attendance of 13,737 is the highest in the group's history.
In September 1998, the reunited group issued Psycho Circus. Despite its appearance as the first album with the original lineup since 1980's Unmasked (even though Criss didn't play on the album), the contributions of Frehley and Criss were minimal. While the images of Frehley and Criss are featured prominently on the album, most of the lead guitar work was later revealed to have been performed by future band member Tommy Thayer and former member Bruce Kulick. Most drum duties were handled by session musician Kevin Valentine. Despite the controversy, the album achieved a #3 chart debut, the highest ever position for a Kiss album. The title track received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The Psycho Circus Tour opened at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Halloween night 1998, and was simulcast on FM radio across the U.S. It proved to be another success, and was historic for being the first to ever incorporate 3-D visuals into a stage show.
On August 11, 1999, Kiss was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the "Recording Industry" category. August 13 saw the nationwide premiere of a Kiss-themed motion picture, titled Detroit Rock City. The movie takes place in 1978, and focuses on four teenagers (featuring Edward Furlong) willing to do anything to score tickets for a sold-out Kiss show in Detroit.
The next month, the group worked in collaboration with World Championship Wrestling to produce a Kiss-themed wrestler known as The Kiss Demon whose face was painted to resemble Simmons. The group performed "God of Thunder" live on WCW Monday Nitro to debut the character. The band got $500,000 for the one-night, one-song performance. The character was short-lived, as all ties to Kiss were cut by WCW when its head, Eric Bischoff was relieved of his duties in September of that year.
Kiss announced in early 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. Farewell Tour in the summer, which was to be the band's last; the tour kicked off on March 12, 2000. The group quickly added dates to the tour, which ran through April 2001. 2001 also saw the release of a computer game, Kiss: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child.
On the eve of the Japanese and Australian leg of the Farewell tour on January 31, 2001, Criss suddenly left the band once again, reportedly unhappy with his salary. Taking his place was previous Kiss drummer Eric Singer who, in a controversial move among longtime fans, assumed Criss' Cat Man persona as the Farewell Tour continued. Simmons and Stanley own Criss' makeup designs (as well as Frehley's), so there was no way for Criss to prevent this.
With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by early 2001, a career-encompassing collection entitled The Box Set (94 tracks on five CDs) was released in November of that year, while the summer saw perhaps the most outrageous item of Kiss merchandise yet – the Kiss Kasket. In introducing the Kiss Kasket, Simmons quipped, "I love livin', but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good."
On December 4, 2001, Kiss was one of the honorees at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences("The Recording Academy") Heroes Award ceremony, at the NARAS New York Chapter. NARAS has 12 chapters throughout the United States, hence 12 ceremonies throughout the year, with the honorees each being honored by the chapter closest to their residence. By receiving this honor, which NARAS has renamed the "Recording Academy Honors," Kiss effectively received NARAS' second-highest career honor, right behind the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
Kiss was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with some controversy as Simmons took part in a controversial interview on National Public Radio, where he criticized NPR and berated host Terry Gross with sexual comments and condescending answers. In February 2002, Kiss (with Singer on drums and Frehley on lead guitar) performed during the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. This was Frehley's last performance with Kiss to date.
On March 6, 2002, Kiss performed a private concert at a resort in Trelawny, Jamaica. Frehley, who was no longer under contract, did not play with the group. He was replaced by Tommy Thayer, who donned Frehley's Spaceman makeup and costume for his first live appearance with Kiss. That month, the band (with Thayer) taped an appearance on the American sitcom That '70s Show. The episode, "That '70s Kiss Show," aired in August 2002. Thayer again performed with the group in April 2002, when Kiss performed "Detroit Rock City" (with pre-recorded music and live vocals) for an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary show, which aired on May 3.
In February 2003, Kiss traveled to Australia and recorded Kiss Symphony: Alive IV with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Etihad Stadium (formerly known as Telstra Dome) in Melbourne. Thayer once again replaced Frehley, while Peter Criss returned to the group. This album was the first released on Sanctuary Records, which has since been sold to Universal Music Group - owners of the rest of Kiss's catalog.
Despite claims made prior to the Farewell Tour that it would be the group's last, Kiss announced a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith in 2003. Frehley announced that his departure from the band was permanent, stating that he believed the Farewell Tour would be Kiss's last, and that he did not want to open for Aerosmith, a band who in the past had opened for Kiss. He was permanently replaced by Thayer, as Kiss moved into a post-reunion phase that saw the band easing into a new line-up, permanently featuring Thayer as "Space Ace" and Singer as "the Catman". On this tour, still featuring Peter Criss, the group introduced the "Platinum" tickets package, with the most expensive packages costing USD $1,000. This package included a seat in the first five rows, a meet-and-greet with Kiss after their performance, and a photograph with the band. The tour earned more than $64 million in 2003, which ranked #7 for the year.
Simmons and Stanley did not renew Criss's contract when it expired in March 2004. Criss, on his website, stated that "No one, again no one has called me, or my attorney about an extension for future touring. As a founding member I find this to be disrespectful to me, and to the fans that have made us one of the biggest bands in the world." Criss stated in a radio interview in 2004 with Eddie Trunk that Simmons and Stanley were going to start a new Kiss, and thought he was getting too old to play for two hours (even though Criss is only 4 years older than Simmons). Criss was permanently replaced by Singer at this point. Exactly why Simmons and Stanley kept Criss in the band this long is somewhat mysterious in light of their comments on the DVD set Kissology Volume Three: 1992–2000, where they claim that they didn't want to stop playing as Kiss but wanted to stop playing with the people that made it difficult to be Kiss, ie Frehley and Criss. Taking Criss back into the fold after the Farewell Tour could be seen as a sign that promoters did not want to hire a version of Kiss that did not feature at least 3 of the 4 original members, something that Stanley and Simmons would certainly never admit if true.
During the summer of 2004, Kiss headlined the Rock the Nation 2004 World Tour, with Poison as the opening act. The tour ended in August with a sold-out show in Mexico City. Selected dates on the tour were filmed for the Rock the Nation Live! concert DVD, released on December 13, 2005. Stanley, who had been experiencing increasing difficulty with his hip, had his mobility limited during the tour. He has already had two hip surgeries performed, with more likely in the future.
After the conclusion of the Rock the Nation Tour, Kiss performed only sporadically for a number of years. The group played two shows in 2005, and another six in 2006. Four of the 2006 shows were July concerts in Japan, including two dates (July 22 and 23) as a headlining act at the 2006 Udo Music Festival. Kiss performed four July 2007 concerts, three of which were dubbed the Hit 'N Run Tour. Prior to the final show on July 27, Stanley was hospitalized with an extremely rapid heartbeat. In his absence, Kiss performed in concert as a trio for the first time ever. This was the first Kiss concert Stanley had missed during his then 34-year tenure with the group.
Kiss (along with Queen, Def Leppard, and Judas Priest) were honored at the first annual "VH1 Rock Honors" event, held May 25, 2006 in Las Vegas. On April 9, 2006, the Associated Press announced the event by saying "the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame looks to be getting some competition." A tribute band, consisting of Rob Zombie (vocals), Slash (guitar), Scott Ian (bass), and Supernova bandmates Tommy Lee (drums) and Gilby Clarke (guitar), performed "God of Thunder" with Ace Frehley.
In June 2006, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley attended the opening of the Kiss Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On October 15, 2006, Simmons, Stanley, and Criss were inaugural inductees into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, along with performers such as Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Louis Armstrong, The Ramones and Tony Bennett.
Stanley released his second solo album, Live to Win, on October 24 2006, and undertook a brief solo tour in support. On October 31 the same year, the group released Kissology Volume One: 1974–1977, the first of ten possible DVD sets featuring complete concert footage, interviews, and never-before-seen clips. As of January 2007, the set is certified quintuple platinum in the United States. A second volume was released on August 14, 2007. It was certified 6X Platinum by the R.I.A.A. on October 24. What seemed to be the final entry, Kissology Volume Three: 1992–2000, was released on December 18, 2007. Stanley insisted that there are more volumes forthcoming in an interview with Norwegian broadcasting in the summer of 2008, but no details have been given.
In April 2007, tragedy struck Kiss again. Their former guitarist, Mark St. John, died from an apparent cerebral hemorrhage at age 51. After being fired from Kiss in 1984, St. John formed the short-lived glam metal group White Tiger. In 1990 he briefly collaborated with Peter Criss in a band called The Keep, which only performed once and released no recordings. St. John largely dropped out of public view in later years, but did make occasional appearances at Kiss fan conventions.
Though Kiss has been eligible for enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (whose rules state that an act is eligible 25 years after its first release) since 1999/2000, they have not been nominated. While this snub displeases some fans, Stanley and Simmons maintain that it is meaningless to them. Nevertheless, a group of about 200 Kiss fans held a protest rally in front of the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5, 2006. It was the first known organized demonstration seeking the induction of a band into the Hall.
In 2007, a new comic book series featuring the band was released by the Kiss Comics Group in association with Platinum Studios. Entitled "Kiss 4K: Legends Never Die," the first issue came out in a regular size and a giant 1.5' x 2.5' size, dubbed the Destroyer edition. The third installment of the series is due to come out the first week of August. Also, Kiss was scheduled to play in Whistler in mid September. The concert plans were cancelled late August due to a passport problem. Kiss have been confirmed to headline the opening night of 2008's Download Festival at Donington, England.
2008 saw the band picking up the pace, doing their first proper tour of Europe for nearly a decade. On January 30, 2008, guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley confirmed that Kiss would launch the Kiss Alive/35 World Tour, playing arena and stadium shows in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. On March 16, 2008, Kiss closed the Formula 1 ING Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit - Melbourne, Australia as well as performing in Brisbane and Sydney as part of this tour. Kiss played at the Rock2Wgtn two-day festival held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 22 and 23rd 2008; a festival which also featured Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Poison, Alice Cooper, Lordi, Sonic Altar and Symphony of Screams with special effects provided by WETA Workshop of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame.
Throughout the summer of 2008, Kiss headlined festivals as well as their own shows and played to a record audience of about 400 000 people. As part of this tour Kiss headlined the Download Festival in Donington, England, on June 13. Three days later they headlined the Arrow Rock Festival in Nijmegen, Netherlands. On June 28, Kiss headlined the Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium. It was the last show in the European leg of the 'Alive 35' tour. Monday, Aug. 4th, Kiss played at Rockin' The Rally at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as part of the tour. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds proclaimed August 4, 2008, to be "Kiss Rock and Roll Day" in South Dakota. In September 2008, both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley confirmed rumours that the Kiss Alive/35 Tour would continue with a big tour of North America in 2009.
Late 2008 saw the band take another unexpected turn. Over ten years after their last studio album, and following years of denials about ever wanting to do a new album, Stanley and Simmons changed their minds. In November 2008, Paul Stanley stated to rock photographer Ross Halfin that a new Kiss album is in the works. Stanley himself would be the producer, and the album would have a "real 70's Kiss sound" to it. Later that month, Simmons and Stanley both publicly confirmed the information about a new Kiss album.
"We've also been recording our first New Studio Album in 11 years!!!. Produced by Paul Stanley. And, having Paul simply decide things, works better. Democracy is highly overrated. Paul is kickin' ass. The material sounds great and Tommy and Eric are in great form.
We have 4 tunes recorded. If you're a fan of our stuff from about 1977, you'll feel right at home. All of us have taken up the songwriting call to arms in the same spirit we once did -- without a care in the world and without outside writers. Nothing to prove to anyone. Just doing what comes naturally. Ignoring fashions, trends and with a personal vow from all of us: no rapping. There are plenty of people out there doing this and they don't need four palefaced guys pretending they're from the hood. Besides, I'm not sure how to correctly pronounce 'wassup.'
Tommy is finishing his solo tune. Sounds great, I can tell you. And Eric is going to sing on the album.
See you all there...Or maybe later!"
Paul Stanley announced a release date of October 6, 2009 for the new album at a July 15 show in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.