Now in its fifth decade, KISS still captures the imagination of fans worldwide, much like when the band burst on the New York rock scene in the early Seventies. While many may freely associate the makeup, costumes, live performances featuring crazy props and effects, and even boundary-pushing merch like lunchboxes with the band, it’s important to remember the group’s musical contribution, good enough to land them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
KISS has recorded a virtual treasure trove of albums, and while the core sound of the band is hard-driving with chunky guitars, chugging basslines, and big drums, the band’s four decades of studio output reflect a diverse palate of influences, from rockers Aerosmith, Bob Seger, and Cheap Trick to the Beatles, show tunes, and even Cher. The results can best be described as hard rock, heavy metal, and glam rock. And when KISS was at their best, they owned these genres like no other.
20 studio albums. 11 live albums. 13 compilations. 8 box sets. More than 100 million albums sold worldwide, including 30 gold albums. More than 25 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles list. This band is no fly-by-night gimmick. You don’t get this kind of staying power without having the songs, and KISS have them in spades.
For those looking to understand the KISS phenomenon, there’s only one place to start, and that’s with 1975’s party anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Released as a single in studio and live formats, the concert recording became the group’s first top 40 hit and is recognized by many as the band’s signature tune.
The band’s first top 10 hit came the following year, with the A-side ballad “Beth” paired with another of the band’s anthems, “Detroit Rock City.” KISS even had success with adding a little disco seasoning to its work, with the pulsing rhythm of “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” peaking at number 11 in the spring of 1979.
While you’re building that perfect KISS playlist, don’t leave out the makeup-free years from the early 80s to the mid-90s. Some of the band’s best material comes from a string of platinum albums from that period, including the signature rockers “Lick It Up” (1983) and “Crazy Crazy Nights” (1987). Ironically, their first top 10 hit since 1979’s “Beth” was 1990’s “Forever,” penned in tandem with that era’s master balladeer, Michael Bolton.
As with many of the legends of rock, many KISS fans would argue that the band is best understood and enjoyed as a live act. The Alive series (I, II, and III released in 1975, 1977, and 1993) all achieved gold status (with II achieving double-platinum sales), while the band even performed a memorable session for MTV’s seminal live series, Unplugged, in 1996.
Don’t let the makeup, props, and crazy merch distract you from the simple fact that KISS has earned its place in the pantheon of rock gods with a collection of incredible studio albums, live recordings, and smash hit singles that still sound groundbreaking and relevant today.
Creative Allies is proud to partner with Epic Rights and its client, KISS, on one of our greatest contests to date, KISSify Animals. Go to the contest page to join in the fun with a design of your own or to vote for your favorites—the results will become a part of the KISS legend for all time!