Biography

Kiss

Members: Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer

Active: 1973-present

HISTORY

KISS traces its roots to Wicked Lester, a New York-based rock and roll band led by co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel on August 25, 1949) and Stanley (born Stanley Harvey Eisen in Queens, New York City on January 20, 1952) fired the other members of Wicked Lester in 1972 after Epic Records rejected an album recorded by the group.

In late 1972, Simmons spotted an ad in Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss, a drummer "willing to do anything." Criss (born Peter Criscuola on December 20, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York City) auditioned for and joined Wicked Lester, now a trio. In January 1973 the group added lead guitarist Paul "Ace" Frehley (born April 27, 1951 in the Bronx, New York City) after being extremely impressed with his audition. That month, the Wicked Lester name was dropped and the band became KISS.

Stanley is credited with coming up with the name and the logo, while Frehley came up with the idea of making the "SS" look like lightning bolts, because he said that it "looked cool." The letters happened to look similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS, a symbol that is now illegal to display in Germany. Therefore, in Germany, all of the band's album covers and merchandise used a modified version of the logo, in which the "SS" looks like a backwards "ZZ."

The first KISS performance was on January 30, 1973, for an audience of three at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly afterward) in Queens. In June of that year, the band recorded a five-song demo tape with producer Eddie Kramer, which eventually wound up in the hands of former teen pop singer and Buddah Records executive Neil Bogart.

After a handful of showcase concerts in the summer of 1973, former TV director Bill Aucoin offered to become the band?s manager. With the help of their new manager, KISS became the first act signed to Bogart's new label, Emerald City Records (which was shortly afterward renamed Casablanca Records).

The band entered Bell Sound Studios in New York City on October 10, 1973 to begin recording their first album. On December 31 the band had their official industry premier at the Academy of Music in New York City. It was at this concert that Simmons accidentally set his hair (which was coated in hairspray) ablaze while performing his inaugural firebreathing stunt.

KISS's first major tour started on February 5, 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, and the band's self-titled debut album, KISS, was released on February 18.

The album's cover showed the group positioned against a black background in a pose visually reminiscent of the Beatles' With the Beatles album. (Three of the four band members did their own makeup for the album cover photo, as they usually did; but Criss's makeup was done by a professional, whose work came out looking quite a bit different from the look which Criss had established beforehand, and to which he would return immediately afterward.) Peaking on the charts at #87, the album was a modest success and featured a group of songs that would become staples of the band's live act -- "Strutter," "Deuce," "Cold Gin," and "Black Diamond."

Casablanca and KISS promoted the album heavily throughout the spring and summer of 1974. On February 19, the band performed "Nothin' to Lose," "Firehouse" and "Black Diamond" for what would become their first national television appearance, on ABC's Dick Clark's In Concert (aired March 29). On April 29, the band performed "Firehouse" on The Mike Douglas Show.

This broadcast included Simmons's first televised interview, a conversation with Douglas in which Simmons declared himself "evil incarnate", eliciting titters from an uncomfortable and largely confused studio audience.

The presence of the costumed, made-up Simmons on Douglas's mid-afternoon middle-aged talk show caused a palpable sense of tension to both the host and the audience, which Simmons seemed to enjoy, as he intentionally exascerbated it by frequent exhibitions of tounge-flashing. This tension was then punctured by a spontaneous humorous exchange between Simmons and another of the show's guests, comedienne Totie Fields, which caused even Simmons to break character and laugh.

The band flew to Los Angeles in August to begin recording their second album, Hotter Than Hell, which was released in on October 22, 1974. The only single, "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," failed to chart and the album stalled at #100.

SUCCESS

In 1975, having achieved recognition, but no big hit single, Casablanca Records head Neil Bogart stepped in to produce their next album, trading in the live garage-band sound of Hotter Than Hell for the more crisply produced Dressed To Kill, released on March 19, 1975. The album included two important songs in the group's career; "C'Mon And Love Me," their first big radio hit, and "Rock And Roll All Nite".

While Dressed To Kill sold better than the previous two KISS studio releases, it was still the excessive live performances for which KISS was known. Popular performance gimmicks were: Simmons spitting "blood" (primarily yogurt and food coloring) or "breathing fire" (spitting flammable liquid at a torch); Frehley soloing as his guitar burst into flames (light and smoke bombs placed inside the guitar); Criss's elevating drum riser that emitted sparks; Stanley's Townshend-style guitar smashing; and pyrotechnics throughout the show.

KISS attempted to express the excitement felt at such a show with their next album, delivered on September 10, 1975, Alive!, primarily recorded in Detroit's Cobo Arena. The album would go on to achieve Quadruple Platinum status, and spawned KISS's first top 40 single, the live version of "Rock And Roll All Nite". This was the first version of "Rock and Roll All Nite" with a guitar solo, and this recording has come to represent the definitive version of the song, supplanting the studio original.

Following this success, KISS partnered with producer Bob Ezrin. The result was Destroyer (released March 15, 1976), KISS's most commercially successful studio album, including the hits "Beth", "Flaming Youth" and "Shout It Out Loud." The cover, painted by renowned artist Ken Kelly (who also was commissioned for the Love Gun album artwork), has also been used on countless T-shirts, posters and other paraphenelia.

Destroyer, with its rather intricate production, was initially considered by some fans to be a departure from the rawer sound of the first three studio albums. However, the album is now considered by most fans to be the band's finest, and many of the songs from Destroyer remain KISS concert staples to this day. "Beth", which reached no. 7 on the Billboard singles chart, was the band's highest-charting single in the U.S. The band actually released "Detroit Rock City" as the single, but radio stations chose instead to play "Beth", which was the B-side.

In October 1976, KISS made an appearance on the The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, lip-synching "Detroit Rock City," "Beth" and "King of the Night Time World". For many teenagers, this was their first exposure to KISS's dramatic appearance. The show was co-produced by KISS manager Bill Aucoin. In addition to the three songs, KISS was the subject of a brief comedic "interview" conducted by Paul Lynde himself.

A 1977 Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. In Japan, KISS broke attendance records previously held by the Beatles. KISS hysteria was in full effect. The group had two comic books released by Marvel, pinball machines, Mego dolls, "KISS Your Face Makeup" kits, Halloween masks, board games, and many other pieces of memorabilia. The group was never seen in public without wearing their makeup and their popularity was growing by leaps and bounds; the membership of the KISS Army, the band's fan club, was now in the six figures. In the days before CD's and MP3's, vinyl album releases by the band were considered collectors' events, as the albums contents frequently contained small gifts, ranging from photo booklets for the live releases, full length posters, stickers, and even removable tattoos.

Two more studio albums continued to fuel the KISS fire: November 11, 1976's Rock and Roll Over and June 30, 1977's smash hit Love Gun. These albums were, in terms of production, closer to the albums that preceded Destroyer than they were to Destroyer, as producer Eddie Kramer kept it straighforward and came out each time with an album that is simply a group of rock and roll songs, rather than the "opus" that Destroyer was.

The band had recorded their first live album after their first three studio albums; and they had now released three studio albums since Alive!. So, right on schedule, they released the sequel to Alive! in November 29, 1977, titled Alive II.

Alive II was a double album, as the first live album had been. But, this album had three live sides with a fourth side of newly-recorded studio material. Kramer continued as producer for Alive II, this time co-credited along with the band. And the upbeat vibe holds throughout, even on a weighty Destroyer song such as "God of Thunder".

On the the newly-recorded songs, Bob Kulick and not Frehley played lead guitar on four of the five tracks. Frehley played only on the song he wrote and sang, "Rocket Ride". However, Kulick was instructed by Simmons and Stanley to try to sound as much like Frehley as he could.

Kulick had tried out for the band before Simmons and Stanley met Frehley. But Frehley's infectious, rambling, undisciplined style impressed Simmons and Stanley even more than did the more polished playing of Kulick.

Still, Kulick remained friends with Simmons and Stanley. He would play lead guitar on Stanley's upcoming 1978 solo album and on a KISS "Killers" released in 1982, and would later be part of a band that Stanley put together for a solo club tour in 1989. Kulick's younger brother Bruce would eventually join KISS in 1984, and would spend more than a decade as the band's lead guitarist.

The first of what is now many KISS "greatest hits" compilations, titled Double Platinum, was issued on April 2, 1978. This double album included many remixed versions of their hits, non-hits, and also "Strutter '78", a newly recorded version of the classic track from their first album.

SOLO

KISS's popularity was at its peak, and so nearly were the tensions within the band, as Frehley and Criss felt that they were not getting the opportunities to express themselves. Partly as a means of relieving this conflict, all four members released solo albums simultaneously on September 18, 1978. It was the first time in history that all current members of a rock and roll band had released albums in this manner. The similar packaging and collaborative marketing schemes made it appear that the albums were true KISS albums, with all four band members contributing musically to each album, but this was not the case.

Although all four records showcased the band members' very different musical influences (ranging from Criss's cover of Bobby Lewis's hit "Tossin' and Turnin'" to Simmons's eerily deadpan remake of "When You Wish Upon a Star" from the Walt Disney 1940 cartoon "Pinocchio"), it was Frehley's album that was the most successful, spawning the only radio interest garnered from any of the records, Russ Ballard's composition "New York Groove", which became a top 20 radio chart hit. For the band members, it was a chance to flex their creative muscles, collaborate with contemporary artists (Simmons album featured appearances by the likes of Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, disco diva Donna Summer, and then-girlfriend Cher), and reevaluate the direction that KISS (and each other) was headed in.

Despite all four solo albums making it into the Top 50 of the Billboard album chart and shipping platinum, the massive preorder for these albums was soon followed by a just as enormous attempt to ship them back to the record company, followed by the subsequent discounting of these albums once sales had (very quickly) peaked. The solo albums were the first KISS albums to be seen in the "bargain bins" of many record stores of the time, and it was the first clear harbinger of KISS's waning popularity.

One month later, an NBC TV movie produced by Hanna-Barbera hit the airwaves, titled KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. The film was proposed to the band as a cross between A Hard Day's Night and Star Wars, though the final results fell far short of these expectations. Reviews were dreadful, even though the movie was one of the highest-rated TV movies of the year, and saw theatrical release outside the U.S. in 1979, under the title Attack of the Phantoms.

While later interviews with band members would have them talk about their movie making experience with a mix of humorous embarrassment and regret as to the finished product, their discontent during filming is well-known. Criss, particularly frustrated with the process, refused to take part in post-production, and so his entire voice track was completely over-dubbed by another actor.

The picture was reportedly filmed completely out of proper frame by the cinematographer, resulting in much of what was supposed to be on screen missing from the final product. Also, the film employed stunt doubles for the KISS members who were physically dissimilar to the band members themselves, which is obvious in several scenes.

LATE MAKEUP YEARS

The band's first album of new material in two years, Dynasty (May 23, 1979), continued their platinum streak. The album contained what would become the biggest single in the history of the band, the worldwide smash "I Was Made For Lovin' You." The song, which combined elements of the KISS sound with disco, was a top ten hit throughout the world (although stateside, it only managed number 11) and stands as the most covered KISS song ever.

This album, as well as the follow-up, Unmasked, were recorded using ghost drummer Anton Fig (later of the Late Night with David Letterman/Late Show with David Letterman band) at the request of producer Vini Poncia, who felt that Criss's drumming skills were not adequate. The only contribution made by the increasingly discontented Criss to Dynasty was "Dirty Livin'", which he co-wrote and sang.

The tour for Dynasty in 1979 saw once-sold-out arenas being replaced with half- to three-fourths-filled venues, and even a two night homecoming in July 1979 at New York's Madison Square Garden did not see the usual full houses, leaving the New York Daily News to wonder aloud if this was to be "The Last Monster Mash." Although the audiences who did show up were for the most part as enthusiastic as ever, reviews of these shows were mixed, as visible tensions within the band began taking their toll on the quality of the music.

As further evidence of bad blood within the band, fans point to an October 31, 1979 interview of the band (in full make-up and costume) on Tom Snyder's late night The Tomorrow Show, where a visibly irritated Simmons and Stanley, as well as a bored Criss, all but walk out on a bombastic Frehley, whose infectious but over-the-top laughter overshadow the content and conversation that takes place between harried interviewer Snyder and the rest of the band. This offbeat interview, where KISS looked completely uncomfortable together, would prove to be the last appearance the original line-up of KISS would make on television for almost twenty years.

However, these disagreements were hardly noticed by KISS's new fan base. The crowds were very much younger than previous audiences had been, with many pre-adolescent children in KISS makeup with their mothers and fathers (who were sometimes wearing the makeup themselves!) in tow at most concerts. KISS themselves did little to dissuade this new fan base, donning colorful costumes that reinforced a cartoonish image for these younger fans.

At this point, the problems and disagreements within the band took their toll. Criss, not happy with the change in the group's fan base and wrestling with his own feelings about the band's current direction (not to mention his increasing substance abuse issues), left the band shortly after the May 20, 1980 release of Unmasked. Criss appeared in the music video for the song "Shandi", but did not contribute in any way to the recording of the album.

Despite a slick, contemporary pop sound, Unmasked had the dubious distinction of being the first KISS album since Dressed to Kill to fail to go platinum. The tour to support Unmasked never reached the U.S., save for a one-off show at New York's now defunct Palladium Theatre to showcase new drummer Eric Carr (born Paul Caravello on June 12, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York City; died November 24, 1991). The band's 1980 tour of Australia, on the other hand, was one of the biggest in their history, as they played to sold-out crowds and enjoyed enormous popularity amongst the fans there.

For their next album, the band once again approached Bob Ezrin, with whom KISS had found success on Destroyer. Early press reports indicated that the new album would be a return to the hard rock style that had originally brought the band success. What was released instead was 1981's (Music from) The Elder, a concept album featuring medieval horns, strings, harps, synthesizers and Gregorian Chant-style vocalizing.

The album was presented as a soundtrack to a film that was never made, making it difficult (if not impossible) to follow the storyline. To make matters worse, having received negative feedback from their record company's preview of the album, KISS altered the record's track sequence in most countries to emphasize potential singles "The Oath" and "A World Without Heroes," which all but guaranteed the inability of listeners to understand the already muddled storyline. Although the band presented a mystical, progressive rock sound on the LP, their appearance took on an incongruous "new wave" look, with short and spiky hairdos, and simplified black-spandex costumes. Once released, fan reaction to The Elder was equally harsh; it failed to go gold (the only KISS album to date that has not achieved this status) and couldn't climb past number 75 on the Billboard Album Chart.

Frehley, upset with the band's decision to record a concept album, did not actively participate in the album's creation. He literally "mailed in" his only contributions, the songs "Escape From The Island" and "Dark Light."

KISS did not perform any of the music from this album in their concerts until their subsequent "Unplugged" reunion fifteen years later. However, the band appeared on the ABC late-night variety program Fridays in January of 1982 and performed three songs from the album: "The Oath", "A World Without Heroes", and "I".

Four leftover songs from a planned "heavier" album were combined with classic KISS material from the 1970s for the May 10, 1982 release Killers, a compilation album released outside the United States. Bob Kulick played on the four newer songs, again being instructed to replicate Ace's style as closely as possible.

The band soon made major changes to their business dealings, severing ties with their manager of nine years, Bill Aucoin, and cutting back on their unwieldy organizational tree.

By this time Frehley had already decided to leave the band, but Simmons and Stanley needed for their record company to believe that Frehley was still in KISS in order for the band to keep its contract. So to keep up appearances they included him in the original cover art of their next album, although Frehley did not play a note on it.

This album was 1982's Creatures of the Night, the heaviest album the band had released up to that point. In Frehley's absence, KISS utilized a number of guitarists for the recording of Creatures, including Steve Ferris, Bob Kulick and Vincent Cusano (who would soon be known as Vinnie Vincent).

The album featured tracks co-written by Adam Mitchell (who worked with KISS again in 1987), Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams (who had also co-written a song on Killers) and his writing partner Jim Vallance. In a situation similar to that of Criss on Unmasked, Frehley appears in the music video for the song "I Love It Loud," despite not having played on the track.

Creatures of the Night fared better than (Music From) The Elder, yet it couldn't make it past number 45 on the charts. The day after shooting the video for the song "I Love It Loud," Frehley officially left the band and was replaced permanently by Vinnie Vincent (born Vincent Cusano on August 6, 1952) in time for the band's "10th Anniversary" tour.

Vincent's hurriedly-developed identity was that of an Egyptian ankh, although he would not need this persona for very long. While the tour was a commercial disppointment in the US, the band did go on to play for the largest crowds of their career elsewhere, including up to 203,000 fans in Rio de Janiero, Brazil on June 18, 1983. The Rio show was the last concert KISS would perform in makeup until June 21, 1996.

UNMASKING

Sensing it was time for a change, KISS appeared in public without makeup for the first time with a September 18, 1983 appearance on MTV. The appearance coincided with the release of the band's new album, Lick It Up. The album cover featured all four members of the band without their trademark makeup photographed against a plain white background. However, in a possible signal to their fans that KISS would still be KISS, Simmons still allowed his trademark tongue to wag. Lick It Up became their first Gold record in four years, and the band successfully toured the US for the first time since 1979, albeit in smaller venues. However, Vincent was fired after Lick It Up's subsequent tour, and was replaced by Mark St. John (born Mark Norton on February 7, 1956 in Hollywood, California).

Animalize (1984) was just as successful, and the group had clearly recaptured their niche. "Heaven's on Fire" and "Thrills in the Night" became huge MTV hits, and the band continued to be a solid concert draw. St. John, however, was soon taken ill with Reiter's syndrome and left the band shortly into the 1984 Animalize tour. Bruce Kulick (born December 12, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York City) became KISS's new lead guitarist, and would remain with the group for the next 12 years.

For the rest of the 1980s, KISS turned out a series of best-selling albums: 1985's Asylum, 1987's Crazy Nights and the 1988 greatest hits compilation Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. "Crazy, Crazy Nights" from the Crazy Nights album hit #4 on the singles chart in England, where it is still KISS' highest charting single. Smashes, Thrashes & Hits contained a controversial re-recording of the lead vocal to "Beth." The song, long a trademark of original drummer Peter Criss, now featured lead vocals by his replacement, Eric Carr.

KISS ended the '80s with the 1989 release Hot in the Shade. Although the album failed to achieve platinum status, it spawned the early 1990 hit ballad "Forever," co-written by Michael Bolton. Peaking at #8, it was their biggest single since "I Was Made For Lovin' You" and would be the band's last Top 10 single.

During these non-makeup years, KISS struggled with their identity and fan base. In an attempt to distance themselves from their comic-book super-hero image of the 70's, KISS began to position themselves as more of an adult-oriented band, as is evidenced by their use of adult language and sexual promiscuity on concert videos such as KISS: Animalize Live Uncensored and the bawdy "home tour" in KISS - Exposed. KISS also found themselves struggling against the new guard of rock bands that sprouted up during the 1980s. M?tley Cr?e, Guns N' Roses, Bon Jovi, among others, outperformed KISS in terms of album and concert sales. For instance, Bon Jovi's 1986 Slippery When Wet and Guns N' Roses' 1987 Appetite For Destruction, have long since attained album sales over 10 million. KISS released Crazy Nights in 1987, attaining a comparatively modest one-time platinum ranking. They remained a headlining act, but often with not quite the popularity and success of the previously mentioned bands. Still, they were able to sell over 15 million album copies combined from 1983 starting with Lick it Up, until 1989 with Hot in the Shade.

KISS was scheduled to record a new album with their old producer, Bob Ezrin, in 1990 when Carr became severely ill with heart cancer. The drummer passed away on November 24, 1991 at the age of 41 (incidentally, on the same day as Freddie Mercury).

Though devastated, KISS continued, bringing in former Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Lita Ford, and Alice Cooper drummer Eric Singer (born Eric Mensinger on May 12, 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio). Singer had also been in the band that Stanley put together for a club tour which he did in 1989.

With Singer, KISS recorded the highly praised Revenge (May, 18, 1992), their first album since 1989. The album was a Top Ten hit and went gold. KISS "tuned up" for a major tour with many small club dates throughout the U.S., where they supported Revenge and were able to be seen in intimate settings for the first time since the early days of the band.

KISS followed Revenge with the release of Alive III in May 14, 1993. In June 1994, the band issued KISS My Ass, a compilation album featuring popular artists of the era putting their own spin on KISS classics. The result was an eclectic mix of sounds, ranging from Lenny Kravitz putting a funky stamp on "Deuce" (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica), a ska version of "Detroit Rock City" by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to Garth Brooks' take on "Hard Luck Woman", with KISS themselves as his backup band. The European version of the album includes a bonus track, Die ?rzte performing "Unholy" sung in German.

In 1995, the band embarked on a unique and well-received "Worldwide KISS Convention Tour." The conventions were all-day events, featuring displays of vintage KISS stage outfits, instruments and memorabilia, performances by KISS cover bands, and dealers selling KISS merchandise from every stage of the band's career up to that time. KISS themselves appeared live, conducted question and answer sessions, signed autographs and performed a two-hour acoustic set comprised mostly of spontaneous fan requests.

On the first U.S. date, June 17, 1995, former drummer Criss appeared onstage with KISS to sing on "Hard Luck Woman" and on "Nothin' to Lose."

On August 9, 1995, KISS joined the long line of musicians to perform on MTV Unplugged. The band contacted former members Criss and Frehley and invited them to participate in the event. Both joined KISS onstage for several songs at the end of the set; "Beth," "2000 Man," "Nothing to Lose," and "Rock and Roll All Nite."

The Unplugged appearance set off months of speculation that a possible reunion of the original KISS lineup was in the works. In the weeks following the Unplugged concert, however, the band (with Kulick and Singer), returned to the studio for the first time in three years to record Carnival of Souls. The album was completed, but its release was delayed for two years. Bootleg copies of the album circulated widely among fans.

While KISS continued to exist publicly as Simmons, Stanley, Kulick and Singer, arrangements for a reunion of the original lineup were in the works. These efforts culminated with a public event as dramatic as any the band had staged since their 1983 unmasking on MTV.

REUNION

"You know how the Grammys used to be, all straight-looking folks with suits. Everybody looking tired. No surprises. We tired of that. We need something different ..."

With that statement on February 28, 1996, the late Tupac Shakur introduced the original KISS -- clad in full makeup and stage outfits (Love Gun era) -- to a rousing ovation at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards. Two months later on April 16, the band held a press conference aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, where they announced their plans for a full-fledged reunion tour. The conference, emceed by Conan O'Brien, was simulcast to 58 countries.

The first public concert featuring the newly reunited KISS was an hour-long warm up show on June 21st for KROQ's 4th annual Weenie Roast in Irvine, CA. During the show the band nearly ignited the stage of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. On June 28, the "KISS Alive Worldwide" tour officially kicked off at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan in front of a sold-out crowd of 39,867 fans. Tickets for the show sold out in 45 minutes. The tour earned $43.6 million, making KISS the top-drawing concert act of 1996.
In September 1998 the reunited group issued Psycho Circus. Despite the appearance as the first album with the original lineup since 1977's Love Gun, once again the contributions of Frehley and Criss were minimal. While the images of Frehley and Criss are featured prominently on the album, most of the lead guitar work was later revealed to have been performed by future band member Tommy Thayer and former member Bruce Kulick. Most drum duties were handled by session musician Kevin Valentine.

The ensuing tour opened at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Halloween night 1998, and was simulcast on FM radio across the US. It proved to be another success, and the Psycho Circus album debuted in the top three of the Billboard album chart. The album's title track nabbed a Grammy nomination. The tour itself was historic for being the first to ever incorporate 3-D visuals into a stage show.

On January 31, 1999, KISS played at Super Bowl XXXIII at Pro Player Stadium in Miami during the pre-game festivities. The band performed "Rock and Roll All Nite" on a raised stage at the 50-yard line, while greasepaint-wearing cheerleaders danced on the field.

August 13, 1999 saw the nationwide premiere of a KISS-themed motion picture titled Detroit Rock City. The movie was set in 1978, focusing on four teenagers (featuring Edward Furlong) willing to do anything to score tickets for a sold-out KISS show in Detroit. The film's premiere was preceded two days earlier by KISS receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The quartet announced in the spring of 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. Farewell tour in the summer, which became one of the year's top concert draws. The same year also saw the release of a computer game, KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child.

But on the eve of a Japanese and Australian tour in early 2001, Criss suddenly left the band once again, reportedly unhappy with his salary. Taking his place was previous KISS drummer Singer, who, in a controversial move among longtime fans, donned Criss's Cat Man makeup as the "Farewell Tour" continued. (Simmons and Stanley own both Frehley's and Criss's makeup designs, so there was no way for Criss to prevent this.)

With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by late 2001, a career-encompassing Box Set (94 tracks over five discs) was released in November, while the summer saw perhaps the most over-the-top piece of KISS merchandise yet -- the "KISS Kasket."

The group was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with a bang as Simmons turned in an entertaining and controversial interview on National Public Radio where he criticized NPR and berated host Terry Gross with sexual comments and condescending answers. He was promoting his autobiography at the time, which also caused dissension in the KISS camp because of the inflammatory remarks made towards Frehley. Frehley was quite angry at the situation, leading to his no-show at an American Bandstand anniversary show.

NEW ERA

With KISS's Farewell Tour never having reached an official conclusion, the group launched a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith in 2003. The tour was a financial success (earning more than US$60 million in 2003). Criss had rejoined the band earlier in the year, but Frehley refused to continue playing with KISS.

His spot was taken by former Black N' Blue guitarist Tommy Thayer (born November 7, 1960 in Portland, Oregon), who had played on the Psycho Circus album, and who had previously assumed the Spaceman persona for the American Bandstand anniversary show.

Thayer, after his time with Black N' Blue, had been working as KISS's tour manager. When the orginal line-up reunion occurred, Thayer then re-taught Frehley many of the songs that Frehley had not played for years. After Frehley's final departure, Thayer became a permanent band member.

Shortly after the arrival of Thayer, the band went to Australia and recorded Alive IV with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Amongst the 21 tracks on this double album are 7 of the 9 songs from the band's Destroyer album, including a brooding, dark version of "God of Thunder", and a bombastic rendering of "Great Expectations" (performed live for the first time since its recording in 1976).

Simmons and Stanley did not renew Criss's contract when it expired in March 2004. Criss, on his website, claims he was told curtly by Stanley on the phone that "the band needs some new blood." Singer took his place once again.

KISS toured with Poison and Z02 in 2004 in what was billed as the "Rock the Nation 2004 World Tour." The tour ended in August with a show in Mexico City.

In June 2004, Simmons released Asshole, his first solo album since the four KISS member solo albums of 1978. Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick make appearances on the album, in the song "Sweet and Dirty Love". Also heard playing -- and speaking -- on the album is the late Frank Zappa, by virtue of recordings brought in by his son Dweezil Zappa, who himself plays and sings on the song "Black Tongue". The album also features a song written by Simmons with Bob Dylan, the ballad "Waiting for the Morning Light."

Simmons can be seen in the RDF Media reality series Rock School, currently airing on Channel 4 and VH1 under the name "Gene Simmons' Rock School", where he plays a real life version of the Jack Black character from the movie School of Rock, taking English private middle school children and creating a rock band in his own image. This has spawned a second series, this time at a state school in a working-class area. He is also the subject of A&E Network's popular Biography series, scheduled to be aired February 24, 2006.

Stanley has been involved in the theatre in Toronto, Canada, where he played the role of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Phantom of the Opera" back in 1999. He too has completed his first solo album since 1978, and is expected to release it in 2006 and to embark on a supporting tour.

In December, 2005, the band released Rock the Nation, a double-DVD documentary of the 2004 tour. Stanley's increasing hip troubles are noticeable in the video: he rarely jumps or runs, and spends most of the show simply standing at his microphone.

Though KISS is eligible for enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (whose rules state that an act is eligible 25 years after its first release), they have not been nominated. While this snub displeases some fans, Stanley and Simmons maintain that it is meaningless to them. Nevertheless, a group of the band's fans have announced a protest march on the Hall of Fame in Cleveland for August 5, 2006.

The long-standing feuds between members and the abrupt shifts in style and lineup have frustrated and tested the group's core of fans, who still seemingly remain loyal. Simmons, in his book Sex Money Kiss, states that KISS will continue to exist in one form or another in the future, even if that means without Stanley or himself.

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