Synopsis of Pop Music
“You wanted the best and you got it…”
… and that’s exactly what KISS has delivered to their fans around the world for nearly thirty years. This hard-rocking quartet rose to international fame in the 1970’s by creating a pop-infused style of hard rock and presenting it with a colorful stage show wherein each member of the group was a superhero, complete with costume and makeup. Their larger-than-life presence made them idols to pop music fans of all ages, creating a fan legacy that remains as strong as ever today.
The band affectionately referred to by its fans as ‘the hottest band in the world’ began when Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided to create heavy metal’s answer to the Beatles the early 1970’s. They discovered guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss through auditions and decided to form a band that would take the world by storm. They immediately set to work, writing killer tunes that married catchy pop hooks to heavy metal thunder and developing a stage show that combined the power of hard rock with the thrills of a carnival. Each donned makeup and black leather to become a character: Stanley was the Star Child, Criss was the Cat Man, Frehley was the Spaceman, and Simmons was the Demon.
In 1974, KISS released their self-titled debut album. This raucous blend of pop songwriting and sizzling guitar riffs overflowed with future air-guitar classics like “Deuce” and “100,000 Years.” KISS toured the U.S. non-stop, honing their skills as they developed tricks like Gene’s habits of spitting blood and fire at the audience. In between concerts, they sharpened their sound on albums like Hotter Than Hell and Dressed To Kill. In 1975, KISS got their well-deserved breakthrough when they merged their live shows and the recording career to create the classic double-live album KISS Alive. It became a huge success and produced a #12 hit single in “Rock And Roll All Nite,” a rousing party anthem with a sing-along chorus.
KISS decided to break new ground for their next album and enlisted Alice Cooper’s producer, Bob Ezrin, to help them create an album called Destroyer. This classic included a full slate of massive rockers like “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout It Out Loud,” plus the group’s first-ever ballad, “Beth.” This sweet song contained no electric guitars, just Peter Criss’ forlorn voice against an orchestral ballad. It became a Top-10 hit and sent Destroyer’s sales through the roof. KISS began to tour internationally and built an worldwide fanbase that numbers in the millions today. Today, these fans are known as the KISS Army.
The KISS stage show became even more elaborate as the band used their new wealth to design bigger and better spectacles for their live act. Soon enough, KISS concerts included Gene flying out over the audience with a special wire rig, Ace playing a special guitar that shot rockets and smoke, and Peter manning a set of drums that would rise up several feet in the air. On record, KISS kept knocking out slick but hard-rocking albums like Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun. They also celebrated their ongoing success as a live band with Alive II, a double album with three sides of live tunes and one side of new songs. The new songs included “Rocket Ride,” a scorching Ace showcase that is a favorite of many a hardcore KISS fan.
By 1978, KISS was the most popular rock and roll group in the world. They were also the most-merchandized group in the world. If you visited any department or toy store in the late 1970’s, you would see all kinds of KISS-related merchandise: dolls, makeup kits, posters, etc. There was even a comic book for which the members of KISS each donated a vial of their own blood to be used in the red ink so that Marvel Comics could advertise it as 'printed in real KISS blood!' The group also starred in a surreal television fantasy movie called KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park and each member cut a solo album. Ace’s album was a surprisingly big success and spawned a hit single in the stomping rocker “New York Groove.”
KISS returned as a group in 1979 to record Dynasty. It had a stronger pop edge than previous KISS albums and spawned a hit single in “I Was Made For Loving You,” a song that mixed the traditional KISS power-chords with a trendy disco beat. The next year, Peter Criss decided to leave KISS to pursue a solo career. He made his final appearance on Unmasked and was replaced by Eric Carr. In 1981, KISS reteamed with producer Bob Ezrin for the most unusual album of their career. Music From The Elder was an artsy concept album based on a fantasy film idea dreamt up by Gene. It featured a choir and an orchestra on several tracks, including “A World Without Heroes,” a ballad that Gene penned with Lou Reed.
In 1982, KISS returned to straightforward rock and roll with Creatures of the Night. It was their heaviest album to date, filled to the brim with stomping rockers like “War Machine” and the title track. It was also the last album to feature Ace Frehley, who soon left to front his own band, Frehley’s Comet. Guitarist Vinnie Vincent joined up in time for the Creatures world tour. When it was time for a new album, KISS decided it was time to put away the makeup for good. They made their first non-makeup appearance on MTV to promote their new album, Lick It Up. This slab of riff-happy metal became a hit, and the video for “Lick It Up,” which featured a bevy of cavewomen swooning over the group, became an MTV favorite.
KISS did even better in 1984 with the platinum-selling album Animalize, which featured the shout-along favorite “Heaven’s On Fire.” KISS added new guitarist Bruce Kulick the next year for Asylum, a collection of catchy metal tunes. This album featured one of MTV’s most-requested videos of 1985, “Tears Are Falling.” Among its highlights were an exploding mini-volcano and Paul Stanley swinging around Tarzan-style on a vine. Asylum also saw KISS playing up the pop element of their sound once again, a trend that would continue on Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. The latter album featured a hit single in “Forever,” a sweet power-ballad that was co-written by adult-contemporary superstar Michael Bolton.
KISS fans around the world were shaken up when Eric Carr, KISS’ drummer for ten years, died of cancer. The band continued on with new drummer Eric Singer and devoted their next album, Revenge, to Eric Carr’s memory. This hard-rocking affair showed a new maturity and heaviness in their sound on songs like “Unholy,” and it quickly became a hit. The band followed it up with a successful world tour that was documented on Alive III. In 1994, they were honored with a tribute album cheekily titled KISS My A**, featuring musicians as diverse as Stevie Wonder and Dinosaur Jr. KISS also began organizing their own KISS fan conventions, leading to a reunion with Criss and Frehley for an acoustic concert.
The acoustic reunion was a smash success for KISS, and the original group teamed up once more up for an MTV Unplugged concert. In the wake of the concert's popularity, the group decided to reunite on a long-term basis for a comeback tour, returning to the makeup and pyrotechnics that made them famous. KISS also recorded an album called Psycho Circus, proving their reunion did not have to coast on nostalgia to succeed. The KISS reunion tour became ‘the’ must-see show everywhere it played and led to two further tours that satisfied fans all over the world with its blood-spewing, fire-breathing antics.
As the new millennium began, the members of KISS announced that they were hanging up their platform boots for good. KISS fans everywhere were stunned by this news, but they can take comfort in the fact that their heroes have become an important part of pop culture. Their hard-rocking anthems remain as popular as ever today, and their sense of rock theatrics has influenced everyone from Garth Brooks (who flies out over his audience in a Gene Simmons-style rig) to Nine Inch Nails. In short, KISS and their music represent every rock fan’s wildest dreams come true. Their unique ability to ‘rock and roll all night and party every day’ will continue to inspire rockers all over the world for many years to come.
Artist Release History02/18/74 - Kiss
10/22/74 - Hotter Than Hell
03/19/75 - Dressed To Kill
09/10/75 - Alive
03/15/76 - Destroyer
11/11/76 - Rock And Roll Over
06/30/77 - Love Gun
10/29/77 - Alive II
04/02/78 - Double Platinum
09/18/78 - Peter Criss
09/18/78 - Ace Frehley
09/18/78 - Gene Simmons
09/18/78 - Paul Stanley
05/23/79 - Dynasty
05/20/80 - Unmasked
11/21/81 - Music From The Elder
10/13/82 - Creatures Of The Night
09/18/83 - Lick It Up
09/13/84 - Animalize
09/16/85 - Asylum
09/14/87 - Crazy Nights
11/17/88 - Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits
10/17/89 - Hot In The Shade
05/19/92 - Revenge
05/18/92 - Alive III
06/13/94 - Kiss My A**
03/12/96 - MTV Unplugged
06/25/96 - You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best
04/08/97 - Greatest Kiss
10/28/97 - Carnival Of Souls
09/22/98 - Psycho Circus
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsAlive (Casablanca)
Greatest Kiss (Mercury)
Band MembersPaul Stanley lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Ace Frehley lead guitar, vocals
Gene Simmons bass, vocals
Peter Criss drums, vocals
Vinnie Vincent (1982-84) guitar
Mark St. John (1984) guitar
Bruce Kulick (1984-96) guitar
Eric Carr (1980-91) drums
Eric Singer (1991-96) drums