Theatrics and basic hard rock were Kiss’ signature
Kiss was founded by Gene Simmons (bass and vocals) and Paul Stanley (guitar and vocals), who played together in a band in 1970. They took on board Peter Crisscoula (drums and vocals) and Ace Frehley (guitar). After a few shows in New York, Kiss met independent television director, Bill Aucoin and the rest as they say is history.
Theatrics and basic hard rock have been Kiss’ main calling card. The quartet formed in the heyday of glitter and rock theatre, set out to define, at first, evil cartoon-character personas, highlighted by Gene Simmons’ bass-playing, fire-breathing, (stage) Blood-spewing ghoul.
Until 1983, when the group removed its distinctive comic-book makeup, the four members’ faces supposedly had never been photographed. The critics hissed at the anonymous heavy metal thud rock on the band’s first three albums and howled at its mock threatening image. Nevertheless, Kiss hit it off with its fans, dubbed the Kiss army from the outset. After some hard financial times, the troupe took off with “Alive”, released in 1976, which contained the Top 20 hit “Rock and Roll All Nite”. Kiss’ sound and image shifted toward not necessarily softer but to a more commercial one, beginning with Criss’ ballad ‘Beth.’As the group racked up more and more platinum records, six between 1976 and 1979, it became less intimidating. In the fall of 1978, a feature-length animated cartoon appeared on television titled, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, and subsequently, another comic was brought forth the same year. Kiss’ popularity was on the wane, an indication of which was that four simultaneously released solo LPs, fared poorly. It had but strangely many hit singles, including the disco-metal oddity ‘I was made for loving you’. The group then changed its image, abandoning the comic-book characters for a New-Romantic influenced look. ‘Music from the elder’, featuring songs co-written by Lou Reed, was the group’s first compilation not to go gold. It reverted to its ghoul makeup and primitive hard-rock music when last heard of.
By the early 1990s, Kiss had sold over 70 million albums, proof enough that in rock and roll anyone can become a legend if they stick aroundlong enough.A. GEORGE ANTONY