Last updated: 11/27/2013 07:37:12 AM
Following the demise of Wicked Lester, Kiss were formed in 1972 by Paul Stanley (b. Stanley Eisen, 20 January 1950, Queens, New York, USA; rhythm guitar, vocals) and Gene Simmons (b. Chaim Witz, 25 August 1949, Haifa, Israel; bass, vocals), who went on to recruit Peter Criss (b. Peter Crisscoula, 27 December 1947, Brooklyn, New York, USA; drums, vocals) and Ace Frehley (b. Paul Frehley, 22 April 1951, Bronx, New York, USA; lead guitar, vocals). At their second show at the Hotel Diplomat, Manhattan, in 1973, Flipside producer Bill Aucoin offered the band a management contract, and within two weeks they were signed to Neil Bogart's recently established Casablanca Records. In just over a year, Kiss had released their first three albums with a modicum of success.
In the summer of 1975 their fortunes changed with the release of Alive! , which spawned their first US hit single, with the reissued live version of 'Rock And Roll All Nite' climbing to number 12 in November. The appeal of Kiss has always been based on their live shows: the garish greasepaint make-up, outrageous costumes and pyrotechnic stage effects, along with their hard-rocking anthems, combined to create what was billed as 'The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Show On Earth'. Their live reputation engendered a dramatic upsurge in record sales, and Alive became their first certified platinum album in the USA. Destroyer proved just as successful, and also gave them their first US Top 10 single, earning Peter Criss a major songwriting award for the uncharacteristic ballad, 'Beth'.
Subsequent releases, Rock And Roll Over , Love Gun and Alive II , each certified platinum, confirmed the arrival of Kiss as major recording artists. By 1977 Kiss had topped the prestigious Gallup poll as the most popular act in the USA. They had become a marketing dream: Kiss merchandise included make-up kits, masks, board games, and pinball machines. Marvel Comics produced two super-hero cartoon books, and a full-length science-fiction film, Kiss Meet The Phantom Of The Park, was even produced. The ranks of their fan club, the Kiss Army, had swollen to a six-figure number.
In September 1978 all four group members released solo albums on the same day, a feat never before envisaged, let alone matched. At the time, this represented the biggest shipment of albums from one 'unit' to record stores in the history of recorded music. The albums enjoyed varying degrees of success; Ace Frehley's record came out on top and included the US Top 20 hit single, 'New York Groove'. Gene Simmons, whose album featured an impressive line-up of guests including Cher , Donna Summer , Bob Seger and Janis Ian , had a hit single in the UK with 'Radioactive', which reached number 41 in 1978. After the release of Dynasty in 1979, which featured the worldwide hit single, 'I Was Made For Lovin' You', cracks appeared in the ranks.
Peter Criss left to be replaced by session player Anton Fig, who had previously appeared on Frehley's solo album. Fig played drums on the 1980 release Unmasked until a permanent replacement was found in the form of New Yorker Eric Carr (b. 12 July 1950, d. 24 November 1991), who made his first appearance during the world tour of 1980. A fuller introduction came on Music From The Elder , an album that represented a radical departure from traditional Kiss music and included several ballads, an orchestra and a choir. It was a brave attempt to break new ground but failed to capture the imagination of the record-buying public. Frehley, increasingly disenchanted with the musical direction of the band, finally left in December 1982. The two albums prior to his departure had featured outside musicians.
Bruce Kulick, who had contributed to the studio side of Alive II and played on Stanley's solo album, supplied the lead work to the four previously unreleased tracks on the Killers compilation of 1982, and Vincent Cusano (later to become Vinnie Vincent ) was responsible for lead guitar on the 1982 release, Creatures Of The Night . By 1983 the popularity of the band was waning and drastic measures were called for. The legendary make-up that had concealed their true identities for almost 10 years was removed on MTV in the USA. Vinnie Vincent made his first official appearance on Lick It Up , an album that provided Kiss with their first Top 10 hit in the UK. The resurgence of the band continued with Animalize .
Vincent had been replaced by Mark St. John (b. Mark Norton), a seasoned session player and guitar tutor. His association with the band was short-lived, however, as he was struck down by Reiters Syndrome. Bruce Kulick was enlisted as a temporary replacement on the 1984 European Tour, and subsequently became a permanent member when it became apparent that St. John would not be able to continue as a band member. Further commercial success was achieved with Asylum and Crazy Nights , the latter featuring their biggestUK hit single, 'Crazy Crazy Nights', which peaked at number 4 in October 1987 and was soon followed by another Top 40 hit single, 'Reason To Live'.
Hot In The Shade succeeded their third compilation album, Smashes, Thrashes And Hits , and included another US hit single, 'Forever', which reached number 8 in February 1990. Work on a new Kiss album with producer Bob Ezrin was delayed following Eric Carr's illness due to complications from cancer. He died on 24 November 1991, in New York, at the age of 41. Despite this setback, Kiss contributed a hit cover version of Argent 's classic 'God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You II' (UK number 4, January 1992) to the soundtrack of the film Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, and brought in replacement drummer Eric Singer (ex- Black Sabbath ; Badlands ). The album Revenge also provided them with their highest charting US album (number 4), and their first Top 10 release since Dynasty reached number 9 in 1979.
The Kiss My Ass tribute album was released in 1994, with contributions from Lenny Kravitz , Stevie Wonder , Garth Brooks , Lemonheads , Faith No More , Dinosaur Jr, Rage Against The Machine and others. The interest in Kiss My Ass led to a historic reunion for MTV Unplugged . A stable unit with Bruce Kulick (guitar) and Eric Singer (drums), together with Simmons and Stanley, appeared to be on the cards, but Frehley and Criss returned for a reunion tour. So successful was the tour that Kulick and Singer were naturally somewhat annoyed and both quit. Their irritation was further exacerbated by the fact that a new studio album, Carnival Of Souls , featured both of them. In 1997 Vincent sued the band, alleging that they owed him royalties.
A year later Psycho Circus marked the return of the original line-up to the studio, and became the group's highest charting US album when it debuted at number 3 in October. With a history spanning three decades, Kiss' impact on the consciousness of a generation of music fans, particularly in the USA, remains enormous.
Thanks to #KnowsalmosteverythingaboutKISS for submitting the biography.