In the late 1960s, Gene Simmons1 got together with Paul Stanley2 in the band Wicked Lester. They played hard Jethro Tull kind of music - melodic, suggestive and with lots of flutes. After one album they felt this was not enough for them, and so they broke out of the band. They advertised for a guitarist, and the ad was read by cab driver Ace Frehley3. He arrived at the audition in his cab and wearing one blue and one red shoe. Paul and Gene decided to go for him. The band still needed a drummer, and they spotted an ad in Rolling Stone Magazine, which read 'drummer, willing to do anything for success'. Gene phoned Peter Criss4 and asked him if he was fat. When he replied 'No', Kiss was formed.
Kiss now dealt with the issue of image. They wanted something new and theatrical so they opted for make-up and extreme clothing. After a few trials they totally covered their faces with make-up. And so, on New Year's Eve 1972 - 1973 they played in New York and a record producer approached them after the show with a record deal. Half a year later the debut album Kiss was in the shops. Success was just around the corner. With their following albums Kiss took a grip on the rock world and soon they were overwhelmed with domestic fans, international fans, prizes, awards and so on. On the hard rock theatre scene, one could say that they ruled the 1970s.
By 1979 Peter Criss was so fed up with it all, and so broken down by cocaine abuse, that he decided to leave the band. Unmasked, released in 1980, was his last album to which he contributed no songs. After he left he tried to launch a solo career but he was unsuccessful. At the same time, Ace Frehley had to wrestle the alcohol demon. Due to his drunkenness he was injured in car crash after car crash and, in 1981, he was forced to leave the band. He went off and launched a somewhat more successful solo career than the one Criss had.
During the 1980s the Kiss star waned considerably, probably due to on-going line-up changes and image maintenance problems. In 1983 they dropped the make-up and the world could finally see what they actually looked like. There was no interest in the new band members, drummer Eric Carr and guitarist Vinnie Vincent; all focus was on Gene and Paul. The hard sound of Kiss was reduced to the 'poodle' sound of rock bands in the 1980s. Gene Simmons was involved in making films in Hollywood and couldn't put his soul into the music. He was also producing new bands, and had a hit in discovering and signing Van Halen in 1978 and punk dame Wendy O'Williams later on. Vinnie Vincent was sacked and replaced by Mark St John, who later developed rheumatism in his wrists and couldn't play guitar anymore. In 1991 Eric Carr died from a brain tumour.
In 1995, Kiss, with their last line-up, made an unplugged concert for MTV. Special guest stars were Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, marking the first time the original band had played together since 1980. Things were discussed. Paul and Gene saw a hell of an opportunity to make a heap of money, and both Ace and Peter had come to terms with their drug abuse and needed money to start their careers again. Kiss was reunited. A world tour set off covering America and Europe and a new album was recorded.
Today, rumours of fights among the lads are often heard, mostly blamed on Peter. What the fans do know is that it all would be better off put to rest. Kiss still make great stage shows, but musically and creatively, they are dead. Fans prefer to remember them as the band who came out with songs like 'Rock and Roll All Nite', 'Detroit Rock City', 'Love Gun', 'Firehouse' and so on. Fans didn't need or want the Psycho Circus, one of their later albums. But Kiss are still touring and still drawing old and new fans wherever they play.