One of biggest rock bands in America, KISS, which now comprises of Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), Gene Simmons (bass guitar, vocals), Tommy Thayer (lead guitar; joined the band in 2002 after the second departure of Ace Frehley) and Eric Singer (drums; permanently replaced Peter Criss in 2004), emerged as a favorite of American teenagers in the 1970s thanks to the million-selling albums “Alive” (1975, spawned the Top 12 single “Rock 'N' Roll All Nite”), “Destroyer” (1976, with the hit “Beth”), “Rock and Roll Over” (1976), “Love Gun” (1970) and “Alive II” (1977). Easily recognized by their trademark face paint and stage outfits, the group also collected a sizable fan base known as the Kiss Army, through a series of their sold-out and elaborate live performances, which featured dry ice, fire-breathing, smoking guitars, blood spitting and pyrotechnics. However, after Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band in the early 1980s, KISS' commercial success considerably declined. Therefore, in 1983, the group discarded their make up and enjoyed a commercial revitalization through the rest of the decade, most notably with the albums “Lick It Up” (1983), “Animalize” (1984), “Crazy Nights” (1987) and “Hot in the Shade” (1989, produced the hit “Forever”).
The original lineup of KISS reunited in 1996, complete with their makeup, and experienced a huge victory with a top-grossing tour in 1996. Criss and Frehley have since left KISS again and have been replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform, though recently their appearances have become more and more sporadic. KISS' new studio album, “Kiss Symphony: Alive IV,” was released in 2003. Three years later, they released the eighth collection album called “The Best of Kiss, Volume 3: The Millennium Collection.”
Childhood and Family:
In 1973, KISS was founded by Gene Simmons (bass, vocals; born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel, on August 25, 1949) and Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals; born Stanley Harvey Eisen in Queens, New York City, on January 20, 1952) in New York City. The two were former members of the New York based hard rock band Wicked Lester. Shortly thereafter, they added drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley to the original line-up.
The four guys performed together until 1980 when Criss left the group and was replaced by Eric Carr, who would stay with the group for the rest of his life. In 1982, Frehley quit and was replaced by Vinnie Vincent in 1982. Lead guitarist Mark St. John briefly joined KISS in 1984, filling in the empty place left by Vincent, who quit after recording 1984's “Animalize,” and was replaced by Bruce Kulick. Following the death of Eric Carr, Eric Singer became KISS drummer in 1991.
In 1996, the original lineup of Kiss rejoined for an international tour. However, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley again left the group in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Tommy Thayer has since replaced Frehley as the lead guitar, while Singer reunited with the group in 2004, permanently replacing Criss.
Co-founded by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, KISS performed their first concert in Manhattan in 1973 after the two brought in Peter Criss through an ad in Rolling Stone and Ace Frehley replied to an ad in The Village Voice. Thanks to their theatrical stage act, the group landed a management deal with producer Bill Aucoin after the show. Within two weeks, they were able to secure a record contract with Neil Bogart's newly-formed label, Casablanca.
On February 8, 1974, KISS released their self-titled debut, which reached No. 87 on the U.S. chart and was certified gold. It was followed by “Hotter Than Hell” in 1974 and “Dressed to Kill” in 1975, both of which went gold. The group built up an ample fan base throughout the U.S. by constantly conducting concerts. On September 10, 1975, KISS launched their first live album called “Alive,” which surprisingly became the group's first Top 10 album. The single “Rock 'N' Roll All Nite” peaked at No. 12 on the U.S. chart. The success subsequently made KISS rock & roll superstars.
KISS had another victory in their hands when “Destroyer” was released on March 15, 1976. The album reached No. 11, while its single, Peter Criss' power ballad “Beth,” climbed toward the Top Ten. “Destroyer” eventually made KISS a first time platinum-selling artists. It was followed with such successful albums as “Rock and Roll Over” (1976, #11 US), “Love Gun” (1970, #4 US) and “Alive II” (1977, #7 US). In 1977, KISS was named by Gallup the most popular group in America.
Benefiting from their popularity, KISS launched thousands of pieces of merchandise to the market, including comic books, pinball machines, makeup, masks, and board games. They also appeared in a live-action TV film in 1978 titled “Kiss Meet the Phantom of the Park.” KISS created a distinction by wearing makeup and costumes in every public performance. They took on the personae of comic book-style characters such as the Damon (Simmons), the Starchild (Stanley), the Spaceman (Frehley) and the Catman (Criss).
During the height of the group's success, each member decided to start a solo project in 1978. They released their albums on the same day in September of that year, but it was Simmons' record that proved to be the best of all. “Gene Simmons” reached No. 22 on the U.S. chart and went platinum. The following year, KISS rejoined for “Dynasty,” which was released on May 23, 1979. Following the departure of Criss in 1980, the group recorded “Unmasked” with the session drummer Anton Fig. Launched on May 20, 1980, the album went gold, marking the group's first record to fail to go platinum since “Destroyer.”
For their next album, “Music from The Elder” (1981), KISS hired Eric Carr as Criss' permanent replacement. Carr officially joined the group for their 1980 world tour. “Music from The Elder” faired worse than its predecessor. It failed to make Top 50 and did not go gold. Due to creative differences, Ace Frehley quit the group after the album's release. 1982's “Creatures of the Night” was recorded with their new lead guitarist Vinnie Vincent. The album went gold and reached No. 45 on the U.S. charts.
After a series of unsuccessful albums, KISS decided to make some modifications. They washed off their makeup for the 1983 album “Lick It Up” and the album received platinum certification. “Animalize” followed on September 13, 1984, and became their next platinum record. Shortly after, Vincent left the group after “Animalize” and was replaced by Mark St. John, who soon quit because of Reiter's Syndrome. Lead guitarist Bruce Kulick filled in the place left by St. John in 1984. By the end of the 1980s, KISS had released three more albums, including the platinum “Crazy Nights” (1987) and “Hot in the Shade” (1989), which spawned a hit with the ballad “Forever,” their biggest single in 13 years.
KISS took a short hiatus when Eric Carr became seriously ill with cancer that led to his eventual death in 1991. They recruited Eric Singer as their new drummer and recorded “Revenge,” released on May 19, 1992. The album was a Top Ten hit and went gold. “Alive III” followed on May 18, 1993. Although it debuted at No. 9, the album failed to achieve the same success as its predecessors.
After another break, KISS returned in 1996 with their original lineup that included Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Criss and their well-known makeup as well. They performed together for an international tour, which was considered one of the most successful performances of the year. Two years later, on September 22, they released a reunion album called “Psycho Circus.” The group conducted a highly successful tour in support of the album, but “Psycho Circus” itself failed to meet up to expectations.
Instead of making music their top priority, KISS appeared more interested in pouring the marketplace with merchandise. The failure of their album led to uncontrolled comments that the Psycho Circus Tour would be their last performance. The group responded by proclaiming in the spring of 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. farewell tour in the summer, which went on to be one of the year's top concert tours. However, Peter Criss shocked the public with his sudden departure in early 2001. Previous KISS drummer Eric Singer replaced him and wore Criss' makeup for the rest of farewell tour.
KISS released “The Box Set” on November 20, 2001, a career-encompassing collection album containing 94 tracks on five CDs. They also launched the Kiss Kasket in the summer, which proved to be the most over-the-top piece of Kiss merchandise to date. Through the rest of year, the band was out of publication, but in 2002 Simmons made headlines with his controversial interview on National Public Radio where he criticized NPR and scolded the host Terry Gross with intimate comments and patronizing answers. It was also in 2002 that Frehley permanently left KISS and made his last performance with the band in the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was replaced by Tommy Thayer.
2003 found KISS release “Kiss Symphony: Alive IV,” which they made in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne. Peter Criss returned to the group for the album. The year also found KISS co-headlining a tour with Aerosmith, which became one of ten most successful performances of the year. When Criss’ contract expired in March 2004, Simmons and Stanley did not renew it and Eric Singer replaced Criss for the second time.
In 2004, KISS headlined the Rock the Nation 2004 World Tour, which was opened by Poison. Since then, they have performed only periodically. The group performed two shows in 2005 and another six the following year. In July 2007, they played four shows. Before their final date on July 2007, Stanley was taken to the hospital because of heart disease. During his absence, KISS continued to perform as a trio.
In March 2008, KISS is set to perform in Australia. The group will also share the stage with such big names as Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Lordi at the Rock To Wellington festival in Wellington, New Zealand. The festival will be held at Westpac Stadium from March 22 to 23, 2008.