I remember the first time I heard about the band KISS. It was the summer after my mother had died and my dad was dating a woman with a teenage girl around my age. Melissa came over to my house with two albums and talking about this killer band she'd seen recently at Rickwood Field. The band was KISS. It took a little while but before long I was a die hard fan. My favorite member changed for a while until I finally fell hard for the one they called the Starchild: Paul Stanley. I must admit Gene (the Demon) Simmons intimidated me a bit at first!
Being a KISS fan in the 70's wasn't always easy. You had others telling you "KISS Sucks", the story about how Gene's tongue got so long and the rumors that one of them was gay--Paul got this one the most, probably due to his onstage persona. However, there were also the stories about female groupies involving all four members--mostly through the fan grapevine. Some rock magazines hinted at these escapades (and those involving drugs/alcohol) , but then we didn't hear much, and what we did hear was often sanitized, especialy in magazines like Tiger Beat and 16 (that era's version of BOP)--who kept things PG. The craziest and most disturbing rumor had to do with the group's name. I'm not sure how it started, but someone started spreading that KISS stood for Knight's in Satan's Service. The band didn't confirm or deny--at least at first (any press is good press right?) but after a time this story grew tiresome. The band did keep a sense of humor about it. Paul Stanley once joked in an interview that it stood for "Knights In Your Sisters Slip".
I've remained a fan throughout the '70's up until today. My favorite member is Paul Stanley, for a number of reasons, but that's probably best left for another day, another Hub.
I know that's the title of a David Bowie song, but it seemed to fit for this next part.
As the decade of the '70's began to draw to a close, things were changing for the band. For one thing, the 1978 TV Movie, "KISS Meets the Phantom of The Park" , introduced the band to a new, much younger audience than they had before. The filming of this movie broke the album/tour/album/tour/cycle the band had been in since the release of their self-titled debut in 1973. The first major change was the depature of the first original member, Peter Criss in 1980. Criss' departure had a variety of explanations from fatigue from the years on the road, to his divorce from his first wife Lydia to his new marriage to model Debra Svesnk. Peter was replaced by an unknown from New York, Paul Caravello, who changed his name to Eric Carr. Eric would be a member of the band until his untimely death on November 24, 1991. He was replaced by Eric Singer.
Two years after Peter's departure, Ace would follow suit, with just as many reasons given as were for Peter. This would begin the 'revolving door' of guitar players. Vinnie Vincent was the first replacement, donning the makeup desgin of the Egyptian Warrior or Ankh. After leaving KISS he would start the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Minus Vinnie this band would morph into Slaughter. Vinnie would go on to a solo career, only to fade on and off the fan's radar screens. He was followed by Mark St. John, who had to leave after an arthritic condition made it difficult to impossible for him to play. The line up finally solidified with the addition of Bruce Kulick. Kulick would remain in the band until the 1996 reunion of the original line up. There were shifts in the lineup after 2001 until today with Eric Singer reclaiming his drum chair (albeit in the catman makeup) and Tommy Thayer (ex-Black N Blue) donning the Spaceman's boots.
Years later the departure of two originals was blamed on drugs and alcohol. But times were changing. The band made its biggest change when they decided to drop their signature make up and go "naked" (well, from the neck up anyway!).
Many of the fans were changing with the band while some were moving on. I could be counted as one of those who chose to change with the band. I went through some fairly large changes during this time as well. I graduated from High School, moved to a different part of the state and started junior college. The biggest change for me was when I was told I could stop wearing the back brace I'd worn since I was a young child. Through all the changes, KISS' music was there for me.
Some of my Favorite KISS Links
The originals today.
To the surprise (and possibly chargrin of the critics) the band is still around, thirty-five years from its inception in that cold, drafty loft at 10 E 23rd. They still have their critics, some within the fan base. The two remaining founding members have their own outside projects while still keeping KISS going, at least as a touring entity. Gene has his A&E reality (or should that be "reality"?) show "Gene Simmons Family Jewels", and I don't care what is or isn't set up, it's still a fun show to watch--he also released a solo album in 2004--titled "Asshole"--I don't know how apt that is.Gene did not tour in support of his album. Gene has so many irons in the fire, it would take too long to mention them all here. He's been happily 'unmarried' to Shannon Tweed for 24 years and they have two kids, Nick and Sophie.
Paul has branched out into painting and soon may take on metal sculpture, if recent interviews are to be believed. Paul also released a solo album in 2006 titled "Live To Win". Unlike Gene (probably because of all those irons I mentioned earlier), Paul embarked on a short, but well received solo tour that made its way to the land down under. Paul remarried roughly four years after his divorce from his first wife, Pamela Bowen. They have a son named Evan. Paul and Erin have been married almost three years as of this writing and have one son named Colin and are expecting their second child (a girl) after the first of the year.
Ace is said to be working on a solo album, release date undetermined at this time. I'm happy to report that at last word, Ace had cleaned up his act significantly was was winning the daily battle for sobriety.
Peter lives on the Jersey shore with is third wife Gigi and is reportedly working on a rock and roll solo album. This would follow up 2007 's "One For All".