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KISS

Rooted in the campy theatrics of Alice Cooper and the sleazy hard rock of glam rockers the New York Dolls, Kiss became a favorite of American teenagers in the '70s. Most kids were infatuated with the look of Kiss, not their music. Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and makeup, the band fashioned a captivating stage show featuring dry ice, smoke bombs, elaborate lighting, blood spitting, and fire breathing that captured the imaginations of thousands of kids. But Kiss' music shouldn't be dismissed -- it was a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock driven by ...read more

Rooted in the campy theatrics of Alice Cooper and the sleazy hard rock of glam rockers the New York Dolls, Kiss became a favorite of American teenagers in the '70s. Most kids were infatuated with the look of Kiss, not their music. Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and makeup, the band fashioned a captivating stage show featuring dry ice, smoke bombs, elaborate lighting, blood spitting, and fire breathing that captured the imaginations of thousands of kids. But Kiss' music shouldn't be dismissed -- it was a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock driven by sleek hooks and ballads powered by loud guitars, cloying melodies, and sweeping strings. It was a sound that laid the groundwork for both arena rock and the pop-metal that dominated rock in the late '80s. Kiss was the brainchild of Gene Simmons (bass, vocals) and Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), former members of the New York-based hard rock band Wicked Lester; the duo brought in drummer Peter Criss through his ad in Rolling Stone and guitarist Ace Frehley responded to an advertisement in The Village Voice. Even at their first Manhattan concert in 1973, the group's approach was quite theatrical; Flipside producer Bill Aucoin offered the band a management deal after the show. Two weeks later, the band was signed to Neil Bogart's fledgling record label, Casablanca. Kiss released their self-titled debut in February of 1974; it peaked at number 87 on the U.S. charts. By April of 1975, the group had released three albums and had toured America constantly, building up a sizable fan base. Culled from those numerous concerts, Alive! (released in the fall of 1975) made the band rock & roll superstars; it climbed into the Top Ten and its accompanying single, "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite," made it to number 12. Their follow-up, Destroyer, was released in March of 1976 and became the group's first platinum album; it also featured their first Top Ten single, Peter Criss' power ballad "Beth." A 1977 Gallup poll named Kiss the most popular band in America. Kiss mania was in full swing and thousands of pieces of merchandise hit the marketplace. The group had two comic books released by Marvel, pinball machines, makeup and masks, board games, and a live-action TV movie, Kiss Meet the Phantom of the Park. The group was never seen in public without wearing their makeup and their popularity was growing by leaps and bounds; the membership of the Kiss Army, the band's fan club, was now in the six figures. Even such enormous popularity had its limits, and the band reached them in 1978, when all four members released solo albums on the same day in October. Simmons' record was the most successful, reaching number 22 on the charts, yet all of them made it into the Top 50. Dynasty, released in 1979, continued their streak of platinum albums, yet it was their last recorded with the original lineup -- Criss left in 1980. Kiss Unmasked, released in the summer of 1980, was recorded with session drummer Anton Fig; Criss' permanent replacement, Eric Carr, joined the band in time for their 1980 world tour. Kiss Unmasked was their first record since Destroyer to fail to go platinum, and 1981's Music from the Elder, their first album recorded with Carr, didn't even go gold -- it couldn't even climb past number 75 on the charts. Ace Frehley left the band after its release; he was replaced by Vinnie Vincent in 1982. Vincent's first album with the group, 1982's Creatures of the Night, fared better than Music from the Elder, yet it couldn't make it past number 45 on the charts. Sensing it was time for a change, Kiss dispensed with their makeup for 1983's Lick It Up. The publicity worked, as the album became their first platinum record in four years. Animalize, released the following year, was just as successful, and the group had recaptured their niche. Vincent left after Animalize and was replaced by Mark St. John; St. John was soon taken ill with Reiter's Syndrome and left the band. Bruce Kulick became Kiss' new lead guitarist in 1984. For the rest of the decade, Kiss turned out a series of best-selling albums, culminating in the early 1990 hit ballad "Forever," which was their biggest single since "Beth." Kiss was scheduled to record a new album with their old producer, Bob Ezrin, in 1990 when Eric Carr became severely ill with cancer; he died in November of 1991 at the age of 41. Kiss replaced him with Eric Singer and recorded Revenge (1992), their first album since 1989; it was a Top Ten hit and went gold. Kiss followed it with the release of Alive III the following year; it performed respectably, but was not up to the standards of their two previous live records. In 1996, the original lineup of Kiss -- featuring Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Criss -- reunited to perform an international tour, complete with their notorious makeup and special effects. The tour was one of the most successful of 1996, and in 1998 the reunited group issued Psycho Circus. While the ensuing tour in support of Psycho Circus was a success, sales of Kiss' reunion album weren't as stellar as anticipated. Reminiscent of the band's late-'70s unfocused period, few tracks on Psycho Circus featured all four members playing together (most tracks were supplemented with session musicians), as the band seemed more interested in flooding the marketplace with merchandise yet again instead of making the music their top priority. With rumors running rampant that the Psycho Circus Tour would be their last, the quartet announced in the spring of 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. farewell tour in the summer, which became one of the year's top concert draws. But on the eve of a Japanese and Australian tour in early 2001, Peter Criss suddenly left the band once again, supposedly discontent with his salary. Taking his place was previous Kiss drummer Eric Singer, who in a controversial move among some longtime fans, donned Criss' cat-man makeup (since Simmons and Stanley own both Frehley and Criss' makeup designs, there was no threat of a lawsuit) as the farewell tour continued. With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by late 2001, a mammoth career-encompassing box set was set for later in the year, while the summer saw perhaps the most over-the-top piece of Kiss merchandise yet -- the "Kiss Kasket." The group was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with a bang as Gene Simmons turned in an entertaining and controversial interview on NPR where he criticized the organization and berated host Terry Gross with sexual comments and condescending answers. He was promoting his autobiography at the time, which also caused dissent in the Kiss camp because of the inflammatory remarks made towards Ace Frehley. Frehley was quite angry at the situation, leading to his no-showing of an American Bandstand anniversary show. His place was taken by a wig-wearing Tommy Thayer, but no one was fooled and the band looked especially awful while pretending to play their instruments during the pre-recorded track. The appearance was an embarrassment for the group and for their fans, but Simmons was quick to dismiss the performance as another in a long series of money-oriented decisions. The band kept touring the globe with no new album in stores, but in 2008 they returned to the studio, re-recorded their hits, and released Jigoku. Retsuden aka KISSology or Kiss Klassics. The release was exclusive to Japan until a year later when it became a bonus disc for the band's first studio album in 11 years, Sonic Boom. Produced by Paul Stanley and Greg Collins, the album was exclusively distributed in North America by the Wal-Mart chain of stores. « hide

Similar Bands: Alice Cooper, Lita Ford, Frehley's Comet, Van Halen, Ace Frehley

LPs
Monster
10/09/2012

2.8
136 Votes
Sonic Boom
2009

3.2
207 Votes
Psycho Circus
1999

2.7
173 Votes
Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions
1997

2.4
110 Votes
Revenge
1992

3.5
168 Votes
Hot in the Shade
1989

2.6
118 Votes
Crazy Nights
1987

2.6
133 Votes
Asylum
1985

2.5
125 Votes
Animalize
1984

2.5
147 Votes
Lick It Up
1983

3.2
157 Votes
Creatures of the Night
1982

3.8
200 Votes
Music from "The Elder"
1981

2.2
173 Votes
Unmasked
1980

2.7
140 Votes
Dynasty
1979

3
217 Votes
Love Gun
1977

3.7
273 Votes
Rock and Roll Over
1976

3.6
232 Votes
Destroyer
1976

3.7
455 Votes
Dressed to Kill
1975

3.6
237 Votes
Hotter Than Hell
1974

3.5
240 Votes
KISS
1974

3.9
331 Votes
Live Albums
Kiss Symphony: Alive IV
2003

3.3
63 Votes
You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!!
1996

2.7
26 Votes
KISS Unplugged
1996

3.6
52 Votes
Alive III
1993

3.2
79 Votes
Alive II
1977

3.9
109 Votes
Alive!
1975

4.2
210 Votes
Compilations
Jigoku-Retsuden
2008

3.1
19 Votes
Kiss Alive! 1975–2000
2006

3.8
27 Votes
The Millennium Collection - Volume 3
2006

Gold
2005

3.7
35 Votes
The Millennium Collection - Volume 2
2004

3.9
7 Votes
The Millennium Collection
2003

4.7
3 Votes
The Very Best of Kiss
2002

3.4
64 Votes
The Box Set
2001

3.9
20 Votes
Greatest KISS
1997

3.7
66 Votes
Smashes, Thrashes And Hits
1988

3.2
46 Votes
Chikara
1988

3.5
3 Votes
Killers
1982

2.7
49 Votes
Double Platinum
1978

3.7
59 Votes

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