Theater-rockers KISS took the rock world by storm in the 1970s with their cartoon-like stage personas, their head-banging rock 'n' roll and a ballsy marketing machine that drew in teenagers by the masses.
New Yorkers Gene Simmons (b. Chaim Whitz) and Paul Stanley (b. Paul Eisen) formed KISS out the ashes of the band Wicked Lester. They recruited drummer Peter Criss (b. Peter Crisscoula) from an ad in Rolling Stone, and likewise found guitarist Ace Frehley (b. Paul Frehley) through an ad in the Village Voice. With a healthy dose of grease paint the foursome was transformed into the Demon Lizard (Simmons), the Star Lover (Stanley), the Space Man (Frehley) and the Cat Man (Criss).
After their third live show, TV producer Bill Aucoin signed on as the band's manager and helped them land a contract with Neil Bogart's fledgling Casablanca label. They released three albums in quick succession -- KISS (1994), Hotter Than Hell (1994) and Dressed to Kill (1975) -- and began a laborious tour schedule, supposedly funded by Aucoin's credit card.
It wasn't until 1975's double live album, Alive, that the group broke through to mainstream audiences. The album, which peaked at No. 9 in the charts, contained the Top 20 hit, "Rock and Roll All Nite." The song became a party anthem for a generation of teenagers socialized in the '70s and earned KISS a place in the pantheon of rock stardom.
Their 1976 follow-up, Destroyer, was their first album to reach platinum status, due largely in part to Criss' power ballad, "Beth," which reached No. 7 on the singles chart. Ironically this sensitive love song, written for Criss' wife, proved to be the group's most successful single ever.
KISS mania was at its peak between 1976 and 1979 when the band scored a string of platinum albums, including 1976's Rock and Roll Over, 1977's Love Gun, 1977's Alive II and 1979's Dynasty. During this time, the KISS marketing machine was operating at full power churning out KISS pinball machines, KISS makeup, KISS board games, KISS Marvel comic books and a made-for-TV movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Membership in the band's fan club, the KISS Army, was in the hundreds of thousands. And, as if their prolific output of KISS albums was not enough (averaging 2-3 per year), in 1978 the band decided to release four self-titled, solo albums simultaneously!
But by the end of the decade the group's popularity was beginning to fade.Criss left in 1980 for a solo career and was replaced by Eric Carr (who died of cancer in 1991). 1981's The Elder marked a change in musical direction for the band. The album was the band's attempt at a rock opera and was recorded with an orchestra and full choir. Not surprisingly, it was a commercial failure; the first KISS album to sell under 500,000 copies. Frehley was the next to leave, replaced by guitarist Vinnie Vincent.
After the lackluster Creatures of the Night also failed to hit the gold mark, the band sensed it was time for drastic action. They decided to take off their trademark makeup for the release of their next album, 1983's Lick It Up. The gimmick worked, and the album went platinum.
Back on their feet again, KISS released a series of successful albums throughout the next decade with a rotating lineup of guitarists. As their '70s cult status grew, so did their album sales, and by the early '90s they had racked up career record sales in excess of 70 million.
As a sign of their success, two KISS tribute albums surfaced in the '90s. The first, 1993's Hard to Believe, featured a bevy of alt-rockers, including Nirvana singing a cover of "Do You Love Me?" 1994's KISS My Ass contained more mainstream fare, with artists like Garth Brooks, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Lenny Kravitz paying homage to the now fortysomething foursome.
In 1996 the original KISS members -- Simmons, Frehley, Stanley and Criss -- reunited for an "MTV Unplugged" concert. The group then hit the road (in full makeup) with their successful "Alive Worldwide" tour, the biggest grossing tour of '96-'97, according to Pollstar. In 1997 the group entered the studio to record their first studio album together in nearly two decades.
The result, Psycho-Circus, hit the shelves in September 1998. The album was accompanied by a KISS marketing juggernaut not scene since the late '70s; including the world's first-ever 3-D rock tour, a New Line Cinema feature film, action figure toys, a contest to win a $75,000 KISS sports car , an interactive video, an Internet Service Provider ($19.95 per month for unlimited Internet use) and a KISS platinum Visa card (with a low APR introductory rate).
Above article was written by Christina Cramer for Rolling Stone Magazine
A few corrections and additions to the above Biography from Rolling Stone Magazine from the webstaff for PeterCriss.net;
"Beth" was originally titled "Beck" and was written before Peter joined KISS, for the band "Chelsea" (1970/71)
"Beth" was written by Peter Criss and Stan Penridge.
"Beck" was renamed "Beth" by Mr. Bob Ezrin the Legendary producer of "DESTROYER" and a number of other great albums
"The album DESTROYER was Produced by Bob Ezrin and was recorded at Record Plant Studios, NYC, NY, between January - February 1976 and was Engineered and Mixed by Jay Messina and Corky Stasiak.
"DESTROYER" was not the bands first album to go platinum. "Alive" was and it went on to multi-platinum status and to this day is still considered one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever.
"Release dates for KISS's 1st album (KISS) and Hotter Than Hell are 1974 not 1994.
"Bill Aucoin in fact did "funded" the band in the begining of their career, using his American Express card.