I love writing about Kiss. I love it too much, probably. I've written about this band semiconstantly for the past 20 years, sometimes for reasons that weren't justified and sporadically with motives that weren't justified and intermittently with logic that wasn't justified. But Kiss go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow, so today I'm Timothy Olyphant.
The New York rock-and-roll group Kiss was formed in 1972, when two workaholic Jews (guitarist Stanley Eisen and bassist Chaim Witz) aligned forces with two boozehound Christians (drummer Peter George John Criscuola1 and guitarist Paul Frehley). Their adopted stage names are household, unless you are very young, crazy old, or not interested in loud music: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley (the last adopting "Ace" because the band didn't need another Paul). The group was spawned upon the dissolution of Simmons and Stanley's previous band, Wicked Lester, a folk-rock five-piece Simmons likes to compare to the United Nations (due to their mixture of ethnicities and nonuniform physical appearance). Wicked Lester scored a record deal with Epic, but most of the music was never officially released.
From the standpoint of how instantly recognizable they are to people who barely care, Kiss are among the most famous rock bands in the history of the idiom. This is a function of appearing in public, for the first nine years of the band's existence, only as theatrical characters allegedly representing their inner natures, once categorized by critic Chuck Eddy as "a cat, a bat lizard, something with one black star on one eye and something with one silver star on each eye." Soon after its inception, the band knocked out three albums in 24 months, all on the ill-fated, drug-enriched label Casablanca. None of the records sold particularly well; combined sales were fewer than 300,000 units. Kiss responded to this failure by counterintuitively rerecording many of these unsuccessful songs in concert and releasing a double live album, titled Alive! It charted for 110 weeks. Kiss fans classify Kiss as the best live arena act of all time, almost to the point of utter obviousness; those who hate Kiss will usually concede they were (once) a competitive live act, but only if you were in middle school.