Classic Rock and Kiss

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For those around in the 70s, when rock and roll was really taking flight, it is most likely you remember the band KISS. Formed in 1972, this band is most memorable for its members who wore flamboyant outfits and painted their faces. The anonymity of the group intrigued followers along with their elaborate stage performances that included breathing fire, spitting blood, guitars that smoked and more. While these tactics may seem over-the-top today, it earned KISS over 24 gold albums and sales that exceeded 80 million.

The idea of face makeup stemmed from the band’s desire to mimic comic book figures. There was the Demon, Gene Simmons; Starchild, Paul Stanley, Spaceman, Ace Frehley, and Catman, Peter Criss. Each person picked a character that best represented their personality. It wasn’t until 1983 that the band members from KISS performed without makeup.



KISS beginnings came from Gene Simmons, whose real name was Chaim Witz, and Paul Stanley, also whose real name was different than his stage name (Stanley Harvey Eisen). The two started a band called Wicked Lester. After recording one album, they abandoned the group in 1972 and formed their new group. Peter Criss, drummer, joined the duo and the three focused on a harder style of rock than from the Wicked Lester days. In early 1973, lead guitarist Ace Frehley joined the group and it was formally then called KISS. The idea came from Criss, whose former band was called Lips. Frehley designed the logo, making the “SS” appear like lightening bolts. Because the letters resembled the Nazi SS, a symbol illegal to display in Germany, the group changed the albums cover and merchandise in Germany to a modified logo that appears like backwards Z’s. 

In March of 1973 the band recorded a five-song demo tape. On November 1, 1973, KISS became the first act signed to Buddah Records, later renamed Casablanca Records. KISS first started touring February 1974 in Canada. Initially KISS sold only 75,000 copies of their album. In 1974 they recorded their second album, Hotter Than Hell. This album didn’t do well either. In 1975 a third album, Dressed To Kill was released with the groups trademark song “Rock and Roll All Nite.” The band continued to struggle until September of 1975 with the release of Alive!, which earned KISS a first top 40 single, a live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite.” 

It wasn’t until the ballad “Beth” was released as a single did album sales rebound for KISS. The song “Beth” was a #7 hit for the band. After this, the band released two highly successful studio albums in less than a year, Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun. Between 1976 and 1978, KISS earned $17.7 million from record royalties and music publishing. KISS was soon named the most popular band in American in 1977. 

Between sales from music and KISS merchandise, the band was bringing in millions of dollars. The group didn’t peak until 1978 when Alive II the band’s fourth platinum album, achieved its highest average. 

Drummer Peter Criss did his final tour with the group in 1979. The band found replacement drummer Paul Caravellow, later named Eric Carr and gave him “Fox” makeup. 

In 1983, 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 glam metal new album, Lick It Up. 

Lick It Up became KISS’ first gold record in three years.  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. 

Though the original band members haven’t played together in a while, the band is still quite notorious for all ages of listeners and an important part of rock and roll history.

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