You Wanted the Best , YOU GOT THE BEST! The Hottest Band in the World — KISS!

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Circa 1973 — Kiss band members applied their own makeup for this photo shoot, which produced the shot used on the cover of their debut self-titled album in 1974. — Image by © Joel Brodsky

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I still remember when I was first introduced to KISS. It was 1978, my buddy Joey Bello was a little more ‘progressive’ than I was, and he was all about ‘em– had the album covers tacked to his bedroom wall, could lip-synch all the songs, and wanted to be Paul Stanley somethin’ bad. So, Joey and I would hang out and he was pushin’ hard for me to be a KISS convert too, except I just wasn’t really feelin’ it.  Oh, I tried. I agreed to be Gene Simmons to his Paul Stanley, and I genuinely liked a couple songs– but I just didn’t get that into it, man.  The KISS stage lasted a couple months (if that) for me–  I thought, is this all there is? Makeup, blood, and tongue?  Yeah, they were groundbreakers and all, but something seemed to be missing.  I remember feeling inside like it was a classic case of ‘style over substance’– even if I couldn’t quite articulate it at the time.

The band became merchandising geniuses overnight, plastering their likeness and logo on anything they thought would sell– another turn-off.  I have to admit, the KISS logo with the lightning bolt “SS” looked pretty rad (still does), and I’m pretty sure a lot of kids liked the street cred of people thinking they were a KISS fan, and how it looked on a t-shirt, more than how it sounded to their ears.

KISS definitely hooked a lot of kids with the infamous, over-the-top urban legends that preteen boys ate up with a spoon.  My personal favorites–

  • Gene Simmons had a cow’s tongue surgically implanted.
  • They crushed puppies while wearing their ankle-snapping, spiked boots to psych themselves up before live shows.
  • They were supposedly Devil worshippersKnights In Satan’s Service.

Classic.  It seemed like every kid in the late 70s was running around with their tongue out, flashing devil horns, wearing a KISS t-shirt and carrying a KISS lunchbox.  It kinda makes it hard to take them seriously in terms of musical integrity, but who cares?  KISS knew exactly what they were doing– they were about being loud, rowdy, pumping your fist and having fun.  If anyone’s laughing, it’s them.  Trust me– Gene Simmons sleeps like a baby at night, and why shouldn’t he? It was business, my friend.  And in all fairness, it was also art– whether you liked KISS or not.

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Circa 1970s — Kids applied their own KISS makeup and shredded their sister’s gynastics class gear to dress-up and put on private shows in basements & family rooms across America and the world.*via

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I’m tellin’ ya, the drummer always gets screwed– like have to be the freakin’ cat boy with a cute button nose and whiskers painted on his face…

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Circa 1980– Fans at a KISS concert.

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Circa 1976, Hollywood, CA — Kiss: Ace Frehley (guitar), Peter Criss (drums), Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Gene Simmons (bass, vocals). — Image by © Neal Preston

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1970s Kiss army in training– that’s what I call attitude! via

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Eric Carr was a little too into it.  Guys, be honest– does my butt look hot in this outfit?  Creepin’ me out.

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Circa 1970s– KISS, clearly before the days of ‘man-scaping’… surprisizing, cuz Paul stanley was such a chick.

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I’d love to know what Gene Simmons spent just on boots over the years– serious pieces of work.

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Gene Simmons, who didn’t do drugs, drink or smoke (except fire) was the only real badass in the band.

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Circa 1970s– The early days of KISS, still figuring out the whole makeup & garb thing.

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Circa 1976 — KISS performing live. — Image by © Neal Preston

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Circa 1980– Kiss performing live.  Amazing the difference a few years and a few million records can have in your stage gear.  Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss. — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith

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KISS 1970s rock band kids

Nobody wanted to be Gene Simmons.  Probably because the preteen girls didn’t dig it.   via.

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Circa 1970s– Kiss back when the still had a little more of the Glam Rock thang, and a little less of the blood thang.

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1970s Kiss kids tribute.  Seems like a lot of home interiors were brown & orange & dark back then.  via

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KISS KREEPY KIMONO KRAZINESS

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KISS in suits, and even saddle shoes (far left), awesome!  Remember all the homemade Rock posters back then?

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Circa 1980– Fans at a KISS concert.

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1978 KISS concert MSG Madison Square Garden

Circa 1978– KISS concert at Madison Square Garden, NY.  Between the stage show and the tokin’-up crowd there was plenty of “smoke” for the lasers to illuminate with awesomeness.   via

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Why does this pic of Ace Frehley on the phone crack me up?  You think she really likes KISS, or just the t-shirt?

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Circa 1979– KISS promo

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Gene Simmons KISS 1970s kid makeup

Will the real Gene Simmons please stand up?  Kid pic via.

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Circa 1974– KISS promo

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1970s family fun– Dad, check out this killer new band, KISS!  Yes, son.  OY!   Put your tongue back in your mouth before you give your mother a heart attack.  via

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Circa 1980 — Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley of KISS — Image by © Lynn Goldsmith

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Don’t forget to flush and was your hands, son.  And Paul Stanley– put on a shirt, man!  You look like you’ve been dipped in oil and rolled in pubic hair, bro.  please.  For the love of God, that’s just wrong.

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Circa 1976, Los Angeles, CA — Rock Band Kiss in front of the Hollywood Wax Museum — Image by © Tony Korody

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1970s KISS Army chicks.  Yeah, kinda creepy– this could be a deal breaker, ladies.  via

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Circa 1973– KISS in all their Glam Rock awesomeness.

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18 thoughts on “You Wanted the Best , YOU GOT THE BEST! The Hottest Band in the World — KISS!

  1. “Gene Simmons, who didn’t do drugs, drink or smoke (except fire) was the only real badass in the band.”

    What?! Are you nuts? Dude – ACE is the straw that stirred the KISS drink. Not even a contest. Gene is a putz. Without Ace it’s all an empty KISS lunchbox. Ace makes it a rawk-n-roll Happy Meal.

    • DEEJ,

      As a guitarist myself, I’m an Ace Frehley fan. His contributions to KISS and rock guitar were huge and undeniable.

      I don’t however classify someone as a badass for drinking, drugging, and freaking out. Any idiot can do that. Gene Simmons was the most lucid and intelligent one in the bunch– and could have kicked Ace’s ass on his worst day and Ace’s best, that’s all I’m saying.

      JP

  2. Pingback: ULTIMATE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ON WHEELS | THE 1970’s VAN CUSTOMIZATION CRAZE « The Selvedge Yard

  3. just seen kiss in concert in nashville…with original members gone, can’t tell any difference in sound or stage show…they are unreal…kiss alive 35!!

  4. Great Post!
    So our friend hooks us up with a Korean housekeeper that doesn’t speak english. The first day she comes over to clean our house i get a call at work from Korean lady’s friend that speaks english. Apparently the Korean doesn’t want to clean our house anymore, is very upset, and has left for the day and will not come back to our home. Why i ask, embarrassed that our home is too messy. After much hesitation the interpreter spits out that the Korean found some magazines under the bed… and didn’t feel comfortable working for us any longer. I feel my face getting red as i think about what the Housekeeper might have seen. As soon as i get home i check under the bed and there is Gene Simmons in full Kiss makeup and costume with a huge bloody tongue on the cover of Guitar Magazine. The poor old Korean lady thought we were Devil worshippers! True story.

  5. In regards to the top photo. According to Gene Simmons in his book ” Kiss and Make-up” the band had professional makeup artists at the photo shoot for their first album cover. That’s why they look so different since that was the first (and perhaps only) time they didn’t do their own makeup.

  6. brings me back to 4th grade, detroit, jan 76 and seeing them @ cobo arena with a couple friends and one of their dads, he bought us the tix. painted faces and all… those were different times… thx for the flashback.

  7. SIMMONS is the member who made kiss the money they made,while stanley made sure they had the music to stay on top 40 years.ace and peter were idiots to ever leave the band!

  8. Wow man, thanks for this post!
    I was completely into Kiss in the 70’s as a 8 to 16 year old, but living in Holland I was’nt able to see them performing live.
    When they came back together and did the worldtour mid 90’s I saw them three times, I was as happy as a kid. Man what a rush!!

    Last week Kiss performend in Holland again, but I was’nt there. Just because Kiss is nothing more to me now than half a cover band. It looks stupid to see two guys acting as if the’re Ace and Peter. It aint right! But no one seems to care…

    The pics you’ve posted are awsome man! I use to have the poster of Kiss where they are on top of a building in New York in the 70’s, awsome pic to!

    Cheers, Sik

  9. sold my F in childhood to KISS..It was the best day dream ever,,.thanxx KISS for the Illusion..My childhood ROCKED!!!!

  10. huuuuge kiss fan in the 70’s. i was an early pre-Alive era fan who deserted them after Dynasty, like so many others. i was thrilled with the reunion and saw them twice during that tour. although i’m a fan i must say the truth. Gene and Paul are soulless businessmen not rockers, it’s all about the money and only the money with them. Ace came up with the logo and gave them their classic era sound, he was the engine of the group. their only link to any real musical cred. Ace was a true rocker and musician no matter his flaws. Peter, well…..Peter is Peter but it’s not the same without him. Gene and Paul missed a golden opportunity in 1996 to do right by their millions of fans and ultimately do right for their long-term future as a group. restore Ace and Peter to full membership and be a real continuation of the classic-era Kiss, instead of the make-up covered ATM machine it actually was, with Peter and Ace as payroll employees. imagine what it must have been like to reunite and be working for them! now we have two imposters in catman and spaceman regalia. i’m not interested anymore, it has all the class of an Elvis impersonator in a Biloxi casino.

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