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Members include EricCarr(born July 12, 1950 in Brooklyn, NY, died November 24, 1991 in New York, NY; joined the band, 1980), drums, vocals; PeterCriss (born Peter Crisscoula, December 20, 1947 in Brooklyn, NY; left the band, 1980), drums, vocals; AceFrehley (born Paul Frehley, April 27, 1951 in Bronx, NY; left the band 1982), guitar, vocals;BruceKulick (joined the band, 1985), guitar; GeneSimmons (born Chaim Klein, August 25, 1949 in Haifa, Israel), bass, vocals; EricSinger(joined the band, 1982), drums; PaulStanley(born Paul Stanley Eisen, January 20, 1952 in Queens, NY), guitar, vocals; VinnieVincent (born Vincent Cusano; joined the band, 1982, left the band, 1984), guitar. Addresses: Record company-Mercury Records, 825 8th Avenue, 27th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
For over 25 years, Kiss have been thrilling and entertaining audiences all over the world. Concert crowds have been comprised mostly of rabidly adoring fans, who are known as the Kiss Army. This popular success was no simple feat for a band that has been universally derided, dismissed or ignored by rock critics and music journalists.
The band got its start when bassist and vocalist Gene Simmons started jamming with another musical acquaintance of his, guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley. The two of them met when they were working on other musical projects. Simmons and Stanley decided to complete the line up with the addition of another guitarist and a drummer. They scoured the advertisements in various music and entertainment presses, looking for musicians who might be interested in hooking up with them and sharing in Simmons's and Stanley's visions for music, theatrics, and success. They found drummer Peter Criss through an advertisement he had placed in Rolling Stone magazine. They contacted their soon-to-be lead guitarist Ace Frehley through an advertisement he placed in Village Voice.
They played a number of gigs throughout 1973 and were signed by Casablanca Records in early 1974. In February of that year, they released their self titled debut album, Kiss. The LP would eventually go on to sell enough copies in America to earn the band their first gold record for album sales. Toward the end of the year, Kiss released their second album, Hotter Than Hell,which also went gold.
Two more albums were released during the following year. Dressed to Kill came out in the spring of 1975 and at the close of the year, Kiss released their first live concert album, Alive! Both albums were certified gold the year of their initial release. The album Alive! even managed to reach the top ten of the American album charts.
Around this time, the Kiss Army-the band's official fan club-was formed. The popularity of the band was increasing rapidly as legions of young fans sought to worship at the crass heavy metal altar of their heroes. According to Brock Helander in The Rock Who's Who, the wild and crazy success of Kiss was due, in no small part, to the fact that they "combined elements of glitter rock and heavy metal, garish costuming, and make up, [which when combined with] an extensive media campaign by their record company and near constant touring [which was laden with] spectacular on stage special effects...[served to] nonetheless endear [Kiss] to legions of prepubescent fans with gimmicks such as blood spitting, fire breathing, explosions, dry ice fogs and rocket firing guitars in performance. Kiss was "universally attacked by critics" according to Helander because of their tendency to pander to the lowest common denominator of their audience, when they emphasizing the theatrics and spectacle of the show over the music which was "barely competent over-loud guitar based music." The theatrics at a Kiss concert drove Kiss Army members wild and the fans started to emulate the distinctive individual appearance of their heroes. Criss was the cat, Frehley was the space creature. Simmons was the demon, and Stanley the star child.
The hard work and dedication Kiss poured into their near constant touring began to pay high dividends in 1976. Their next album, Destroyer, became their first platinum selling album. In December of that same year, Kiss finally had their first top ten hit single in America when the ballad "Beth" shot to the top of the pop singles charts. Before the year ended, Kiss released another platinum selling album, Rock and Roll All Over. In 1977 the platinum selling albums Love Gun and Alive II were released, the latter yet another live concert release.
During the following year, Kiss released a two-record set of their greatest hits entitled Double Platinum, an album which essentially lived up to its name. At the height of their popularity, in October of 1978, the four members of Kiss simultaneously released their individual self titled debut solo albums. All four of them managed to make it into the top fifty of the American album charts.
Further solidifying their tremendous popularity in America, the band was featured in an animated cartoon called "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park." They were also marketed and merchandised on practically everything imaginable. In 1979, Kiss released their next studio album, Dynasty, which was their first album of new material in over two years. Just like its predecessors were, Dynasty was certified platinum.
At the dawn of the 1980s, all was not well within the Kiss camp. Citing musical differences, Criss left the band to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Eric Carr. The band went on to release Kiss Unmasked, which was their first album that did not reach the top thirty of the American album charts. The next year saw the release of the concept album entitled Music From the Elder, an album that failed to match the success of the previous Kiss albums. 1982 saw the release of Creatures of the Night. Also that year, witnessed the addition of Vinnie Vincent to the Kiss lineup as he replaced Frehley, who had quit the band after he was involved in a serious automobile accident.
A new stage in the history of Kiss occurred in 1983, when the band decided to forgo their makeup and over the top and outlandish stage costuming they had been using for the previous decade. Kiss also signed to Mercury Records that year and released their maiden Mercury album Lick It Up. The first post-makeup Kiss album was certified gold.
The following year, Vincent was fired and was replaced by Mark St. John. Later in 1984, Kiss released Animalize, which not only made it into the top 20 on the American album charts but was certified platinum as well. Asylum came out in 1985 and Bruce Kulick replaced St. John on guitar. Another American top 20 album, Crazy Nights, surfaced in 1987. The next year, Kiss released another greatest hits compilation called Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits. This was followed by Hot in the Shade, in late 1989.
The single "Forever" was released in 1990, the first Kiss top ten single in America in nearly 15 years. In late 1991, Carr died of cancer and was replaced by Eric Singer on drums. Kiss then went on the create their first top ten American album since 1979 with the release of the 1992's Revenge. A third live album, Alive III, was released in 1993.
Over the next few years, the band toured the globe before the original lineup reunited in New York City to record and tape a segment for MTV Unplugged. The resulting album was released as MTV Unplugged, in the spring of 1996. Around this time, the reunited original band announced plans to tour again in full makeup and costumes. The resulting tour was a tremendous success. Kiss then released Psycho Circus, the original band's first album of new material since Kiss Unmaskedin 1980.
Commenting on their phenomenal success and longevity in the music industry, Simmons told People's Mike Flaherty in 1994 that "we've been reviled, hated by anyone who writes about music. But for 20 years we've been stubborn and committed to our vision, even though it meant going totally against fashion. Perhaps that's why we've lasted."
by Mary Alice Adams
Group formed in New York City, 1973; signed to Casablanca and released Kiss, 1974; released Hotter Than Hell, 1974; released Dressed to Kill, 1975; released Alive!, 1975; released Rock and Roll All Over, 1976; released Love Gun, 1977; released Alive II, 1977; released Double Platinum, 1978; released Dynasty, 1979; released Kiss Unmasked, 1980; released Music From the Elder, 1981; released Creatures of the Night, 1982; signed to Mercury and released Lick It Up, 1983; released Animalize, 1984; released Asylum, 1985; Crazy Nights, 1987; released Smashed, Thrashes, and Hits, 1988; released Hot in the Shade, 1989; released Revenge, 1992; released Alive III, 1993; released MTV Unplugged, 1996; released Psycho Circus, 1998.
Gold certification for Kiss, 1974; gold certification for Hotter Than Hell, 1975; gold certification for Dressed to Kill, 1975; gold certification for Alive!, 1975; gold certification for Lick It Up, 1983; platinum certification for Destroyer, 1976; platinum certification for Rock and Roll All Over, 1976; platinum certification for Love Gun, 1977; platinum certification for Alive II, 1977; platinum certification for Double Platinum, 1978; platinum certification for Animalize, 1984.
- Selected discography
- Kiss , Casablanca, 1974.
- Hotter Than Hell , Casablanca, 1974.
- Dressed to Kill , Casablanca, 1975.
- Alive! , Casablanca, 1975.
- Rock and Roll All Over , Casablanca, 1976.
- Love Gun , Casablanca, 1977.
- Alive II , Casablanca, 1977.
- Double Platinum , Casablanca, 1978.
- Dynasty , Casablanca, 1979.
- Kiss Unmasked , Casablanca, 1980
- Music From the Elder , Casablanca, 1981.
- Creatures of the Night , Casablanca, 1982
- Lick It Up , Mercury, 1983.
- Animalize , Mercury, 1984
- Asylum , Mercury, 1985.
- Crazy Nights , Mercury, 1987.
- Smashed, Thrashes, and Hits , Mercury, 1988.
- Hot in the Shade , Mercury, 1989.
- Revenge , Mercury, 1992.
- Alive III , Mercury, 1993
- MTV Unplugged , Mercury, 1996.
- Psycho Circus , Mercury, 1998.
October 7, 2003: The Kiss album, Kiss Symphony: The Single Disc, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_5/rock.jsp, October 9, 2003.
June 15, 2004: Kiss's compilation album, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_5/index.jsp, June 20, 2004.
June 2004: Kiss joined Clear Channel Broadcasting's Instant Live program, which arranges the sale of live concert recordings immediately following a performance. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, June 28, 2004.
- Helander, Brock, ed. Rock Who's Who , second edition, Schirmer, 1996.
- Rees, Dayfdd, and Crampton, Luke, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars , DK, 1996.
- People , June 27, 1994.
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