There are three groups of artists with this name:
1) KISS, American rock band
2) Kiss, Korean pop trio → 키스 or K.I.S.S.
3) Kiss, Taiwanese girl group
1) KISS is an American hard rock band that formed in New York City, USA in 1973. The group has performed and recorded continuously since their formation. KISS has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and has been awarded 45 gold albums to date, and has certified sales of 19 million records in the U.S. Their latest album is 2012's 'Monster'.
Easily identified by their trademark face paint (registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office) and stage costumes, KISS quickly rose to prominence on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire-breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars and pyrotechnics. Inspired by energetic shock rock artists such as Alice Cooper and cult works of American horror and science fiction, they had their biggest commercial success in the 70s, influencing many later arena rock and heavy metal artists. They continue to play to a massive fan-base known as the 'Kiss Army'.
The original lineup of Gene Simmons (bass and vocals), Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar and vocals), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals) and Peter Criss (drums and vocals) became the most successful and identifiable in the band's history, and released a series of gold and platinum albums throughout the 1970s. Due to substance abuse problems and creative differences, both Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had also waned considerably by that point.
In 1983, KISS abandoned their makeup and enjoyed a commercial resurgence throughout the mid-to-late 1980s. They began to fall out of favor once again by the early 1990s, however. Buoyed by a wave of KISS nostalgia in the mid-1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup (with makeup) in 1996. The resulting "KISS Alive Worldwide" tour was the top-grossing act of 1996.
Criss and Frehley have since left KISS, and have been replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform, while Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members.
Early years and struggles (1972-75)
KISS traces its roots to Wicked Lester, a New York-based rock and roll band led by co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel on August 25, 1949) and Stanley (born Stanley Harvey Eisen in Queens, New York City on January 20, 1952) fired the other members of Wicked Lester in 1972 after Epic Records rejected an album recorded by the group.
In late 1972, Simmons spotted an ad in Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss, a drummer "willing to do anything." Criss (born Peter Criscuola on December 20, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York City) auditioned for and joined Wicked Lester, now a trio. In January 1973 the group added lead guitarist Paul "Ace" Frehley (born April 27, 1951 in the Bronx, New York City) after being extremely impressed with his audition. That month, the Wicked Lester name was dropped and the band became KISS.
Stanley is credited with coming up with the name and the logo, while Frehley came up with the idea of making the "SS" look like lightning bolts, because he said that it "looked cool." The letters happened to look similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS, or Waffen-SS, a symbol that is now illegal to display in Germany. Therefore, in Germany, all of the band's album covers and merchandise used a modified version of the logo, in which the "SS" looks like a backwards "ZZ."
The first KISS performance was on January 30, 1973, for an audience of three at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly afterward) in Queens. In June of that year, the band recorded a five-song demo tape with producer Eddie Kramer. After a handful of showcase concerts in the summer of 1973, former TV director Bill Aucoin offered to become the band’s manager in mid-October. KISS agreed, with the condition that Aucoin get them signed to a recording contract within two weeks. On November 1, 1973, KISS became the first act signed to former teen pop singer and Buddha Records executive Neil Bogart's new label, Emerald City Records (which was shortly afterward renamed Casablanca Records).
The band entered Bell Sound Studios in New York City on October 10, 1973 to begin recording their first album. On December 31 the band had their official industry premier at the Academy of Music in New York City, opening for Blue Öyster Cult. It was at this concert that Simmons accidentally set his hair (which was coated in hairspray) ablaze while performing his inaugural fire-breathing stunt.
KISS's first major tour started on February 5, 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The band’s self-titled debut album, KISS, was released on February 18. Casablanca and KISS promoted the album heavily throughout the spring and summer of 1974. On February 19, the band performed "Nothin' to Lose," "Firehouse" and "Black Diamond" for what would become their first national television appearance, on ABC's Dick Clark's In Concert (aired March 29).
On April 29, the band performed "Firehouse" on The Mike Douglas Show. This broadcast included Simmons's first televised interview, a conversation with Douglas in which Simmons declared himself "evil incarnate," eliciting titters from an uncomfortable and largely confused studio audience. The presence of the costumed, made-up Simmons on Douglas's mid-afternoon, conservative talk show caused a palpable sense of tension in both the host and the audience, which Simmons seemed to enjoy as he intentionally exacerbated it by frequent exhibitions of tongue-flashing. This tension was then punctured by a spontaneous humorous exchange between Simmons and another of the show's guests, comedienne Totie Fields, which caused Simmons to break character and laugh.
The band flew to Los Angeles in August to begin recording their second album, Hotter Than Hell, which was released in on October 22, 1974. The only single, "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," failed to chart and the album stalled at #100.
With Hotter Than Hell quickly dropping off the charts, KISS was pulled from their tour to quickly record a new album. Casablanca Records head Neil Bogart stepped in to produce the next album, trading in the murky, distorted sound of Hotter Than Hell for a cleaner and slightly poppier sound. Dressed To Kill, released on March 19, 1975, fared slightly better commercially than Hotter Than Hell. It also contained what would later become the band's trademark song, "Rock and Roll All Nite."
Although KISS albums had not proven to be big sellers, the band was quickly gaining a reputation as a top-flight live act. KISS concerts featured things such as Simmons spitting "blood" (primarily yogurt and food coloring) or "breathing fire" (spitting flammable liquid at a torch); Frehley soloing as his guitar burst into flames (light and smoke bombs placed inside the guitar); Criss's elevating drum riser that emitted sparks; Stanley's Townshend-style guitar smashing; and pyrotechnics throughout the show.
By late 1975, Casablanca was nearly bankrupt and KISS was in danger of losing their record contract. Both parties desperately needed a commercial breakthrough if they were to survive. That breakthrough came in an unlikely form - a double live album.
KISS attempted to express the excitement felt at their live shows (which their studio albums had so far failed to do), with their next album. Released on September 10, 1975, Alive!, would go on to achieve quadruple platinum status, and spawned KISS's first top 40 single, a live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite." It was the first version of "Rock and Roll All Nite" with a guitar solo, and this recording has come to represent the definitive version of the song; supplanting the studio original.
The success of Alive! not only brought KISS the breakthrough they had been seeking, but arguably saved Casablanca. Following this success, KISS partnered with producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper. The result was Destroyer (released March 15, 1976), KISS's most musically ambitious studio album to date. While the album sold well initially, it quickly dropped down the charts. Only when the power ballad "Beth" was released as a single did the album's fortunes rebound. "Beth" was a #7 hit for the band, and its success revived album and ticket sales for KISS.
Destroyer, with its rather intricate production, was a departure from the rawer sound of the first three studio albums. Despite this, the album is now considered by many fans to be the band's finest, and many of the songs from Destroyer remain KISS concert staples to this day.
In October 1976, KISS made an appearance on the The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, lip-synching "Detroit Rock City," "Beth" and "King of the Night Time World." For many teenagers, this was their first exposure to KISS's dramatic appearance. The show was co-produced by KISS manager Bill Aucoin. In addition to the three songs, KISS was the subject of a brief comedic "interview" conducted by Paul Lynde himself. This included Lynde noting, when hearing the member's names, "Oh, I love a good religious group."
A 1977 Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. In Japan, KISS broke attendance records previously held by the Beatles. KISS merchandise became a huge source of income for the group. Some of the products released were two comic books released by Marvel, pinball machines, Mego dolls, "KISS Your Face Makeup" kits, Halloween masks, board games and many other pieces of memorabilia. Membership in the KISS Army, the band's fan club, was in the six figures. As the dominant music format of the time, vinyl album releases by the band were considered collectors' items, as they frequently contained collectable merchandise ranging from photo booklets (for the live releases), full length posters and stickers to removable tattoos.
Two more highly successful studio albums were released in less than a year: November 11, 1976's Rock and Roll Over and June 30, 1977's Love Gun.
The band had recorded their first live album after their first three studio albums; and they had now released three studio albums since Alive!. So, right on schedule, they released the sequel to Alive! on November 29, 1977, titled Alive II.
Alive II was a double album, as the first live album had been. But this album had three live sides with a fourth side of newly recorded studio material. Kramer continued as producer for Alive II, this time co-credited along with the band.
On the newly recorded songs, Frehley was replaced by Bob Kulick (who auditioned for KISS but lost out to Frehley) on four of the five tracks. Frehley played only on the song he wrote and sang, "Rocket Ride". However, Kulick was instructed by Simmons and Stanley to try to sound as much like Frehley as he could.
The first of what is now many KISS greatest hits albums, titled Double Platinum, was issued on April 2, 1978. This double album included many remixed versions of their hits, non-hits, and "Strutter '78," a newly recorded version of the popular song, using a drum machine to cash in on the Disco sound, from the band's first album.
Going solo (1978)
Flushed with the success of Love Gun and its subsequent tour, KISS and creative manager Bill Aucoin sought to take the band to the next level of popularity. To that end, an ambitious, two-pronged strategy was devised for 1978.
The first part involved the simultaneous release of four solo albums from the members of KISS. While each album was very much a solo effort, they were all released and marketed as KISS albums (with similar cover art and poster inserts). It was the first time in history that all current members of a rock and roll band had released solo albums at the same time.
For the band members, it was a chance to showcase their individual musical styles and tastes outside of KISS, and in some cases to collaborate with contemporary artists (Simmons's album featured appearances by the likes of Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, disco diva Donna Summer, and then-girlfriend Cher). Stanley's and Frehley's stuck pretty closely to the successful hard rock style that KISS had utilized. Criss's album featured an R&B style and was loaded with ballads, while Simmons's was the most eclectic of the four. It featured hard rock, ballads, Beatles-influenced pop and ended with a straight cover of "When You Wish Upon a Star" (from Walt Disney's "Pinocchio").
The KISS solo albums were released on September 18, 1978. The marketing blitz behind the albums was unprecedented - Casablanca announced it was shipping five million total copies of the albums (guaranteeing instant platinum status), and they spent US$2.5 million marketing them. Despite all four solo albums making it into the Top 50 of the Billboard album chart, the massive preorder for these albums was soon followed by a just as enormous attempt to ship them back to the record company, followed by the subsequent discounting of these albums once sales had (very quickly) peaked. All four albums combined sold about as many copies as Love Gun alone had. The albums were also the first KISS albums to be seen in the "bargain bins" of many record stores, and it was the first clear harbinger of KISS's waning popularity. Of the four, Frehley's album was the most successful (although not by a huge margin) and spawned the only radio top 20 hit (Russ Ballard's composition "New York Groove").
The second part of KISS's and Aucoin's plan called for the band to appear in a movie that would cement their image as larger than life superheroes. Filming for the movie, entitled KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, commenced in the spring of 1978. The film was proposed to the band as a cross between A Hard Day's Night and Star Wars, though the final results fell far short of these expectations. The script underwent numerous rewrites, and the band (particularly Criss and Frehley) grew increasingly frustrated with the process. Criss refused to take part in post-production, and so his entire voice track was completely over-dubbed by another actor.
The picture was reportedly filmed completely out of proper frame by the cinematographer, resulting in much of what was supposed to be on screen missing from the final product. Also, the film employed stunt doubles for KISS who were physically dissimilar to the band members themselves, which is obvious in several scenes. In some instances, Frehley was replaced by an African American stunt double in Spaceman makeup and costume, as Stanley pointed out in VH1's "KISS: Beyond the Make-Up."
The movie, produced by Hanna-Barbera, aired on NBC on October 28, 1978. Despite scathing reviews, it was one of the highest-rated TV movies of the year, and saw theatrical release outside the U.S. in 1979 under the title Attack of the Phantoms. While later interviews with band members would have them talk about their movie making experience with a mix of humorous embarrassment and regret as to the finished product, their unhappiness with the final product was well-known to those around them. They felt that the movie ended up portraying them more as clowns than superheroes. The artistic failure of the movie led to the a rift between the band and Aucoin, who they blamed for it.
Late makeup years (1979-83)
The band's first album of new material in two years, Dynasty (May 23, 1979), continued their platinum streak. The album contained what would become the biggest single in the history of the band, the worldwide smash "I Was Made For Lovin' You." The song, which combined elements of the KISS sound with disco, was a top ten hit throughout the world (although stateside, it only managed number 11) and stands as the most covered KISS song ever.
In Australia, the song became what is believed to be Kiss' only No 1 hit anywhere, paving the way for a follow up Top 10 hit, "Sure Know Something" and a sellout tour the following year.
This album, as well as the follow-up, Unmasked, were recorded using ghost drummer Anton Fig (later of the Late Night with David Letterman/Late Show with David Letterman band) at the request of producer Vini Poncia, who felt that Criss's drumming skills were not adequate. The only contribution made by the increasingly discontented Criss to Dynasty was "Dirty Livin'", which he co-wrote and sang.
The tour for Dynasty in 1979 saw once-sold-out arenas being replaced with half- to three-fourths-filled venues, and even a two night homecoming in July 1979 at New York's Madison Square Garden did not see the usual full houses, leaving the New York Daily News to wonder aloud if this was to be "The Last Monster Mash." Although the audiences who did show up were for the most part as enthusiastic as ever, reviews of these shows were mixed, as visible tensions within the band began taking their toll on the quality of the music.
As further evidence of bad blood within the band, fans point to an October 31, 1979 interview of the band on Tom Snyder's late night The Tomorrow Show, where a visibly irritated Simmons and Stanley, as well as a bored Criss, all but walk out on a bombastic Frehley, whose infectious but over-the-top laughter overshadow the content and conversation that takes place between harried interviewer Snyder and the rest of the band. This offbeat interview, where KISS looked completely uncomfortable together, would prove to be the last appearance the original line-up of KISS would make on television for almost twenty years.
However, these disagreements were hardly noticed by KISS's new fan base. The crowds were very much younger than previous audiences had been, with many pre-adolescent children in KISS makeup with their mothers and fathers (who were sometimes wearing the makeup themselves!) in tow at most concerts. KISS themselves did little to dissuade this new fan base, donning colorful costumes that reinforced a cartoonish image for these younger fans.
At this point, the problems and disagreements within the band took their toll. Criss, not happy with the change in the group's fan base and wrestling with his own feelings about the band's current direction (not to mention his increasing substance abuse issues), left the band shortly after the May 20, 1980 release of Unmasked. Criss appeared in the music video for the song "Shandi", but did not contribute in any way to the recording of the album.
Despite a slick, contemporary pop sound, Unmasked had the dubious distinction of being the first KISS album since Dressed to Kill to fail to go platinum. The tour to support Unmasked never reached the U.S., save for a one-off show at New York's now defunct Palladium Theatre to showcase new drummer Eric Carr (born Paul Caravello on June 12, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York City; died November 24, 1991). The band's 1980 tour of Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, was one of the biggest in their history, as they played to sold-out crowds and enjoyed enormous popularity amongst the fans there.
For their next album, the band once again approached Bob Ezrin, with whom KISS had found success on Destroyer. Early press reports indicated that the new album would be a return to the hard rock style that had originally brought the band success. What was released instead was 1981's (Music from) The Elder, a concept album featuring medieval horns, strings, harps, synthesizers and Gregorian Chant-style vocalizing.
The album was presented as a soundtrack to a film that was never made, making it difficult (if not impossible) to follow the storyline. To make matters worse, having received negative feedback from their record company's preview of the album, KISS altered the record's track sequence in most countries to emphasize potential singles "The Oath" and "A World Without Heroes," which all but guaranteed the inability of liste...