KISS is an American hard rock band formed in New York City in January 1973. Easily identified by its members' face paint and flamboyant stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid to late 1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics. KISS has been awarded 24 gold albums to date. The band has sold more than 40 million albums in the United States, of which 19 million have been certified by the RIAA, and their worldwide sales exceeds 100 million albums.
The 1973-'80 lineup of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals), and Peter Criss (drums, percussion and vocals) is the most successful and identifiable. With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personas of comic book-style characters: Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), Spaceman or Space Ace (Frehley), and Catman (Criss). The band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs. Paul Stanley became the "Starchild" because of his tendency to be referred to as the "starry-eyed lover" and "hopeless romantic." The "Demon" makeup reflected Simmons's cynicism and dark sense of humor, as well as his affection for comic books. Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" makeup was a reflection of his fondness for science fiction and supposedly being from another planet. Peter Criss's "Catman" makeup was in accordance with the belief that Criss had nine lives because of his rough childhood in Brooklyn.
The band’s self-titled debut album, “KISS,” was released on February 18, 1974. “Dressed to Kill,” released on March 19, 1975, contained what would later become the band's trademark song, "Rock and Roll All Nite.” Released on 10 September 1975, “Alive!” achieved Gold status and spawned KISS's first top 40 single, a live version of "Rock and Roll All Nite."
“Destroyer,” released March 15, 1976, featured the single "Beth" which was a #7 hit for the band, and its success revived both the album (which achieved platinum status by the end of 1976). Two more highly successful studio albums were released in less than a year—“Rock and Roll Over” (November 11, 1976) and “Love Gun” (June 30, 1977). A second live album, “Alive II,” was released on October 14, 1977. All three albums were certified platinum upon or soon after their release. Between 1976 and 1978, KISS earned $17.7 million from record royalties and music publishing. A 1977 Gallup poll named KISS the most popular band in America. The band's first album of new material in two years, “Dynasty” (May 22, 1979), continued their platinum streak. The disco-flavored "I Was Made for Lovin' You" became one of the band's biggest hit singles to date.
Because of creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had also waned considerably by that point.
In 1983, KISS abandoned its makeup and profited from a commercial resurgence throughout the rest of the decade. Buoyed by a wave of KISS nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup (with makeup) in 1996. The resulting KISS Alive/Worldwide/Lost Cities/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left KISS again and have been replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform with makeup, while Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members.
In September 23, 2009, KISS was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ten years after becoming eligible. In 2014 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.