KISS – Beth
Kiss (more often styled as KISS) is an American hard rock band formed in New York City in January 1973. Well known for its members’ black and white face paint and flamboyant stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid to late 1970s with their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics. Counting the 1978 solo albums, Kiss has been awarded 28 gold albums to date, the most of any American rock band. The band has sold more than 40 million albums in the United States, of which 24 million have been certified by the RIAA and their worldwide sales exceeds 100 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time. The original 1973–80 lineup consisted of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals) and Peter Criss (drums and vocals).
With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personas of comic book-style characters: Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), Spaceman or Space Ace (Frehley) and Catman (Criss). Stanley became the “Starchild” because of his tendency to be referred to as the “starry-eyed lover” and “hopeless romantic”. The “Demon” makeup reflected Simmons’ cynicism and dark sense of humor, as well as his affection for comic books. Frehley’s “Spaceman” makeup was a reflection of his fondness for science fiction and his supposedly being from another planet. Criss’ “Catman” makeup was in accordance with the belief that he had nine lives because of his rough childhood in Brooklyn. Due to creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band’s commercial fortunes had waned considerably by that point.
Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup in 1996. The resulting Kiss Alive/Worldwide/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left Kiss again, but the band continues with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members. Kiss has been named in many “Top” lists. They include Number 10 on VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock’, 9th on ‘The Greatest Metal Bands’ list by MTV, number one on Hit Paraders’s “Top 100 Live Bands”, 56th on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time”, and 26th on Gibson’s “50 Greatest American Rock Bands”. On April 10, 2014, Kiss was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, nearly 15 years after becoming eligible.
Kiss (Kiss album)
Kiss is the debut album by American band Kiss. When it was released on February 18, 1974, Kiss had been a band for a little over a year. Much of the material on the album was written by Gene Simmons and/or Paul Stanley, as members of their pre-Kiss band, Wicked Lester. Simmons estimated that the entire process of recording and mixing took three weeks, while co-producer Richie Wise has stated it took just thirteen days.
The album was recorded at Bell Sound Studios in New York City, which was owned by the company that owned Buddah Records. Neil Bogart, founder of Casablanca Records, was an executive at Buddah prior to forming Casablanca.
Casablanca Records held a party at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles to celebrate the West Coast release of Kiss (February 18) and to introduce the record company to the press and other record industry executives. In keeping with the Casablanca theme, the party included palm trees and a Humphrey Bogart lookalike. Kiss performed their usual loud and bombastic stage show, which turned Warner Bros. Records (Casablanca’s record distributor) against the group.
Soon after the show, Warner Bros. Records contacted Neil Bogart and threatened to end their deal with Casablanca if Kiss did not remove their makeup. With manager Bill Aucoin’s backing, Kiss refused. Shortly after the release of Kiss, Warner Bros. released Casablanca from their contract.
Kiss sold approximately 75,000 copies after its initial release, without the presence of a hit single. It was certified Gold on June 8, 1977, having shipped 500,000 copies. The album was re-released in 1997 (along with most of Kiss’ earlier albums) in a remastered version.
Of all the songs in the album, “Strutter”, “Nothin’ to Lose”, “Deuce”, “Cold Gin”, “Black Diamond”, and “100,000 Years” remain as permanent staples in the band’s shows throughout the years. Following the departure of Peter Criss, “Black Diamond” has been performed by his replacements Eric Carr and Eric Singer.
The album’s cover showed the group positioned against a black background in a pose visually reminiscent of The Beatles’ With the Beatles album (Criss stated that this was the visual effect the band was looking for). Three of the four band members applied their own makeup for the album cover photo, as they usually did; but Criss’ makeup was applied by a professional, whose work came out looking quite a bit different from the look Criss had established, and to which he would return immediately afterward. Ace Frehley, wanting to impress the other members of Kiss, dyed his hair with silver spray paint. Not only did it not come out for several weeks, but Frehley suffered an allergic reaction to the silver in it (as can be seen in his later makeup around the eyes).
According to Criss, photographer Joel Brodsky thought Kiss were literally clowns, and wanted to place balloons behind the group for the shoot. Brodsky, however, has denied this, chalking it up to imagination.
With the exception of “Kissin’ Time”, all of the material for Kiss was written before the band entered the studio. Some of the songs were written during Wicked Lester’s brief existence, while “Firehouse” was written by Paul Stanley while he was attending Music and Art High School in NYC.
“Strutter”, which opens the album with a drum fill, is an uptempo rock song that was written before Frehley joined Kiss. Stanley wrote the lyrics, and the music was based on a song Simmons had written years before, “Stanley the Parrot”. Simmons and former Wicked Lester member Brooke Ostrander recorded a 45 rpm version of “Stanley the Parrot” in a New Jersey apartment. “Strutter” remains one of the few Kiss songs where Stanley and Simmons share songwriting credits, and was a standard number at Kiss concerts throughout the 1970’s. It was released in August 1974 as the third and final single from the album.
“Nothin’ to Lose”
“Nothin’ to Lose”, the band’s first single, is a song written by Simmons and sung by him, Criss and Stanley. The song chronicles the singer coercing his girlfriend into trying anal sex, and her subsequent enjoyment of it. The B-side was “Love Theme From KISS”, the album’s instrumental.
The North Carolina glam metal band FireHouse takes its name from the song “Firehouse”. The song is well known for Simmons fire breathing during live concerts.
This song was the first composed for Kiss by Frehley. Insecure in his own singing ability, Frehley turned over the vocals for the album to Simmons. “Cold Gin” was a concert staple throughout the 1970’s. On Kiss’ Alive/Worldwide Tour, Frehley assisted on lead vocals.
The song refers to the stimulating effect that cold gin supposedly has on the male sex drive. The song credits cold gin as the only thing that keeps the couple together in a troubled relationship.
There was a Kiss tribute band from Los Angeles named after this classic song featuring Kiss member Tommy Thayer as Frehley, Jaime St. James as Criss, Chris McLernon as Simmons, and Anthony White as Stanley.
“Cold Gin” was covered by the alternative metal group Disturbed at a one time tribute show to Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. It was known to be the guitarist’s favorite song. The live performance was performed with members of Drowning Pool and Anthrax live on stage, featuring David Draiman on vocals. Vinnie Paul was on drums.
Pantera and Skid Row performed the song together live while the bands were on tour together in 1992. The performance was taped and included on Pantera’s 2000 home video, 3 Vulgar Videos from Hell. Death Angel covered the song on their 1988 album Frolic Through the Park.
Frehley noted: “I wrote ‘Cold Gin’ in a New York subway, in my head, both lyrics and music. I had a spiral notebook with me. I never took a guitar lesson, nobody believes that. I didn’t realize it was gonna become a Kiss classic”.
The song was released live on Kiss’ popular and successful live album Alive!. When Alive! was re-released as part of the Kiss Alive! 1975–2000 box set, the song was mistakenly credited to Stanley instead of Ace Frehley in the 72-page booklet that accompanied the album.
Weezer vocalist and guitarist Rivers Cuomo has said that this was the first song he ever learned to play on guitar.
“Cold Gin” was named 7th best drinking song of all time.
“Let Me Know”
“Let Me Know”, previously titled “Sunday Driver”, was the song Stanley played when he was first introduced to Simmons, and it was later recorded by Wicked Lester. Simmons and Stanley shared lead vocal duties on the song, which was given a bridge and instrumental coda when recorded for Kiss. In later Kiss concerts this coda was moved to the end of “She” and before that, “Watchin’ You”.
“Kissin’ Time” was not included on the original album; in fact it was not recorded until two months after the album’s February release. By April, the album was clearly not the commercial success the band and Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart were hoping for. Bogart, who knew that a catchy single could save the album, ordered Kiss back into the studio to record “Kissin’ Time”, which was a Top 20 hit for Bobby Rydell in 1959. It was released as a single on May 10, but never reached any higher than #79. It did, however, boost sales of the album even though it was not added to the album until it was reissued in July 1974 (against the wishes of the band).
Although Simmons, “Deuce”‘s songwriter, admits that he does not know what the lyrics mean, the song nevertheless has been a staple at the band’s concerts, opening their shows from 1973–1976 and again for their 1996 reunion.
 “Love Theme From KISS”
This instrumental came from a song titled “Acrobat” from the band’s 1973 club shows; it can be found on their 2001 Box Set. The song is shortened for the album. It is the only Kiss song to have songwriting credit go to all four original members.
“Love Theme From KISS” appears in a 2010 movie Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola.
“100,000 Years” begins with a bass solo by Simmons. The live version includes a long drum solo continuing on from the short one found on the album as heard on Alive! The demo version can be heard on the 2001 release of the Box Set. The drum solo is inside the song, and Stanley says “Do you feel all right?” This was done on live performances. Also, there is a lost verse towards the end of the song but it never made the final cut.
“Black Diamond” begins with Stanley singing the first verse accompanied by an acoustic guitar. After he yells out “Hit It!”, the full band kicks in and Criss assumes lead vocal duties, repeating the first verse. After that they have the chorus (Ooh, Black Diamond). The song then slows down for Frehley to do his guitar solo, after which the song gradually slows down and fades out. After Criss’ departure from the band the vocal duties have continued to be by subsequent drummers Eric Carr and Eric Singer.
|1.||“Strutter”||Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons||Stanley||3:12|
|2.||“Nothin’ to Lose”||Simmons||Simmons, Peter Criss||3:26|
|4.||“Cold Gin”||Ace Frehley||Simmons||4:22|
|5.||“Let Me Know”||Stanley||Simmons, Stanley||2:59|
|6.||“Kissin’ Time”||Kal Mann, Bernie Lowe||Simmons, Stanley, Criss||3:53|
|8.||“Love Theme from KISS”||Frehley, Stanley, Simmons, Criss||Instrumental||2:24|
|9.||“100,000 Years”||Stanley, Simmons||Stanley||3:23|
|10.||“Black Diamond”||Stanley||Criss, intro by Stanley||5:13|
- Paul Stanley – vocals, rhythm guitar
- Gene Simmons – vocals, bass guitar
- Ace Frehley – lead guitar
- Peter Criss – drums, percussion, vocals
- Bruce Foster – piano on “Nothin’ to Lose”
- Warren Dewey – fire engine on “Firehouse”
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