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
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 worshippers– Knights 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.
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