When people start a band there is a lot of work to do. Rehearsals around the clock. Living hand to mouth. Hoping for a record deal. Then even if you get a contract from a label there are never guarantees you will sell any albums.
This is my essay on my favorite American metal band. They have an incredible history. I could not cover it all. I gave it a go any how…
Back in 1970 when KISS first got together Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were searching for a drummer and guitarist. Bands are usually not complete at the start. Through a Village Voice ad they found Peter Criss. By sheer luck at auditions in walked Ace Frehley!
Once together you have to stay that way all the way through at least 3 records if you get signed. KISS managed the feat with their releases. Their breakthrough was Alive! A concert record that gained traction with their growing fan base.
Despite their 1970s popularity they had to face a lot of critics who hated them. They were satanic, nazis, gay, and out to corrupt your kids.
KISS wanted to put a band onstage they wanted to see. Bands in that time were anything but flash, volume, and pyro. Heavy Metal Beatles was the aim.
Line-Ups with and without the Make-Up
Top L–R: KISS in early days, with make-up, rock hall of fame induction, Alive! cover, R: Revenge album line-up with Bruce Kulick (brunette), Eric Singer (blonde). Bottom L: On Top Of The World, R: KISS Logo.
KISS Movies On TV and Theaters
In the 1970s the band made an ill fated TV movie of the week called “KISS Meets The Phantom” taking place at an amusement park. A low budget affair with the band’s membership beginning to fracture. It got high ratings because of their devoted fans.
Then in the 1990’s KISS made a theatrical feature as Executive Producers called “Detroit Rock City” about the devotion of their fans. It follows teenage boys out to see KISS no matter the cost!
KISS Outsells Elvis In Singles; Merchandises as much as The Beatles
Always criticized for their lack of musical ability the band eventually had millions of fans, calling radio stations to request songs getting to be known as the KISS Army.
The late Neil Bogart created Casablanca Records signing KISS, Donna Summer, and Village People.
This relationship brought their manager Bill Aucoin into the picture. He told the group their image is perfect to sell merch. In the 1970’s no other rock act had this kind of luck.
T-shirts, Mugs, Keychains, Posters, Toys (Dolls), Trading Cards, and glossy autographed pictures were available. Radios, Record Players, and even make-up kits came a little bit later.
Kids dressed up at concerts and Halloween as their heroes. Marvel put out a KISS comic books with the band members giving their blood to the ink!
KISS learned the publicity game to sheer excess! Gene Simmons over 4 decades became an actor, manager, producer, entrepeneur and business man.
The KISS Army won against all odds like the band themselves, critics be damned. Rolling Stone did a KISS cover eventually. This band had rock n rolled long enough now to acclaim.
It’s The Music Not The Make-Up!
In the 1980s flashy bands started to wane in popularity. KISS decided to remove their make-up on MTV. “Lick It Up” with short lived member Vinnie Vincent was a platinum bestseller. Now they were on MTV with videos.
Proving the band was about music. If you just had an image you were finished. They had good time rock music.
Below: Newly reborn with L-R: Eric Carr on drums, Gene, Paul, and Vinnie Vincent on guitar. More heavy metal than the 70s the title track music video seen here was in heavy rotation on MTV.
Now 40 years later KISS have had line-up changes including their longest tenured drummer, the late Eric Carr. Today, their final line-up are founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley with Tommy Thayer on guitar and Eric Singer on drums. End Of The Road is running now. They announced their final concert will take place where the band began in New York City.
Ending On The Road Paved With Gold and Platinum Records
As they started so they end. With over 75 million albums sold; 30 Gold Records, the most of any American band, and tens of millions of fans with KISS collections and real tattoos, myself included, they are an American Rock Institution.
Influencing every rock band in their flashy wake including AC/DC, Rush, and Van Halen they will never be seen again.
Before time forces them away they will take their final bows as it should be!
I have been a member of the KISS Army for decades. Seeing over 10 concerts and meeting members of the group while working at Tower Records. The band’s history is just amazing. They have done it all. Age forces all things to an end, even KISS.
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