KISS is Still Alive After Four Decades of Rock and Roll

KISS became a household name throughout the decade of the seventies. Rock music could never be the same. When the new fab four emerged onto the music scene, they made and unforgettable impression. Four men from New York dressed in leather outfits, high heeled boots, and identity concealing makeup would captivate the world and change the entertainment industry forever. Whether you love them or hate them, everybody knows KISS. The outfits, the makeup, and overall appearance of the band has made them one of the most recognizable bands in the world. Back in the early 1970’s, their stage theatrics amazed and confused (in some cases) concert-goers around the world. With roots in New York City, and all four members residing in the vicinity, they put together a local following initially, and after a few years of album releases and constant touring, proceeded to go national and by the mid seventies eventually rise to international recognition. During the 1970’s, KISS would tour endlessly, appear on TV shows, and promote their new sound and look any way they could. That’s where things got interesting. KISS merchandise began to appear not only at the rock concerts, but at your local toy store, record store, gift shop, etc. KISS, with the help of Aucoin management, began producing and promoting everything KISS. There were dolls, notebooks, posters, keychains, transistor radios, board games, and much more. Although KISS wasn’t the first band to produce themed merchandise, they were the first to do it successfully and at a level never seen before. Many of these products would eventually be re-classified as KISS collectibles a few decades later. These KISS products would eventually help them to earn the “hottest band in the world” badge. Their arsenal of albums, eyecatching appearance, KISS themed merchandise, and fiery stageshow would put this band in a class all by itself. This level of fame unfortunately caused turmoil among band members, substance abuse entered the picture as well, and the band began to self destruct. Peter Criss, the band’s drummer was the first to part ways with the group. He was immediately replaced and the band played on.

As the 1980’s arrived, many changes were taking place within the band including the departure of Ace Frehley the spaceman, a fan favorite and original guitarist. His replacement lasted just a few years and then was replaced as well. Overall KISS had a total of four lead guitar players during the 1980’s. The biggest change however was the removal of the makeup and the beginning of a new era for KISS with a toned-down stage show and performances in street clothes (more or less). The band would release a total of ten albums throughout the decade and would sell more concert tickets than even they expected. The band’s new appearance and evolving rock sound kept fans coming back for more.

The 1990’s were eventful in terms of KISS. Their drummer, Eric Carr passed away from cancer in 1991. Eric became a fan favorite performing with KISS longer than their original drummer Peter Criss. KISS eventually moved forward with a new drummer and a new album, but there was more to come in the 90’s and it came in the form of something totally unexpected… the KISS convention. Fans around the world were beginning to gather to commemorate KISS in their makeup days. Tribute bands, KISS memorabilia and collectibles, as well as plenty of die hard fans would pack various venues to celebrate the KISS they remember from the 1970’s. These KISS conventions were never sanctioned by KISS but were truly a sight to see. Were the original band members watching? We’ll never know but we can imagine they were. The next event worth mentioning took place in 1995 when all four original members took the stage for an unplugged show, an MTV production. An idea that some fans rumored was brought on by the successful conventions and the growing number of KISS collectibles. This show would eventually trigger a reunion tour complete with makeup and stageshow as only KISS could do it. The fans went wild for KISS. They sold out shows around the globe and made guest appearances anywhere they could. The kings of promotion were back in the limelight just like days of old. The merchandising reincarnated into something fans had never seen before. Dolls and keychains gave way to lava lamps, bottled wine, video games, and even a KISS casket. KISS was big business again and with the fame and fortune came the same old problems again.

By 2000 it appeared Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were both beginning to tire of the KISS experience both with rumored problems. Original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley showed no sign of slowing down. Touring continued and the band eventually settled down with drummer Eric Singer, who had already been performing with the band after replacing Eric Carr, and guitar tech Tommy Thayer. Although the touring has not been nearly as intense in recent years, as of 2009 the band is still performing, still wearing makeup, and still selling concert tickets and of course, KISS collectibles.