Little Known Facts About The Early Days Of KISS
KISS is one of the most iconic rock bands of all time. One look at that black and white makeup and you know you’re in for a good time. KISS has been rocking on stages all across the world for decades now.
KISS wasn’t always the band we know them as today. They’ve seen many different band members come and go and they’ve gone through different stages of development to become legendary rockers. Keep reading to learn all about the band, from their R-Rated early days to their unmasking.
How Long Is That Tongue?
Gene Simmons’ long tongue is as much a part of KISS as the music and the face paint and the spectacle. So, how long is that long tongue? You can find differing estimations all over the internet. Some people have guessed that it’s 7 inches long. Some have guessed less. Seven inches feels a bit too long to be correct to us, but who knows?
Maybe this is one mystery that isn’t meant to be solved.
Frehley Can Only Hit The High Notes Lying Down
All of the four original members of KISS have sung vocals at some point in the band’s history. Some of them are better singers than others. Frehley has historically had trouble with the high notes. The only way he can reach them is if he’s laying down on his back. Standing up just doesn’t work for him. The guitar is more his forte.
KISS record producers had to create an elaborate microphone set-up for Frehley to sing into on the ground of the studio.
KISS Turned Down The Beatles
KISS was offered the chance to be the Future Villain Band in the 1978 film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, based on The Beatles’ album. KISS thought that it would ruin their image and make them look like the bad guys, so they passed.
Aerosmith eventually took on the role and joined a star-studded cast that included Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, and Earth, Wind, & Fire.
Gene Simmons Wanted To Be A Rabbi
It’s hard to imagine The Demon as a bearded Jewish religious leader, but before he became a member of KISS, and even before he was known as Gene Simmons, Simmons was known as Chaim Witz. He was raised in Israel as the only son of a Holocaust survivor. He and his family ended up moving to America when he was eight years old. When he was nine years old, he decided that he wanted to be a Rabbi when he got older.
So what changed his mind? According to him, it was hearing The Beatles.
There Was Almost A KISS Wrestling Team
Even if you didn’t know this fact about KISS, it should come as no surprise to you. Even though they’re hard rockers, they kind of have a wrestling team aesthetic. In 1999, KISS managed to successfully partner with World Championship Wrestling to create a group called “The Warriors of Kiss.”
The members of the band wouldn’t actually be wrestling, but there would be professional wrestlers on the team who represented each of them. In Simmons’ words, it was going to be “big girls, with big boobs, wearing KISS makeup, wrestling.”
And Then There Were Three
KISS has only played as a trio two times. Both times it happened when they were between band members. The first occurred in 1992 when Frehley was just deciding to leave the band.
The second time happened in 2007 when Stanley had to be hospitalized right before a show. That was the only time Stanley ever missed a KISS performance. This man was dedicated to his art and he always wanted to be on stage.
Paul Stanley’s Character Change
While most of the original lineup has held true to their original characters, Stanley once tried to switch it up. In mid-1973, Stanley tried to switch things up and take on a character called The Bandit. He did his makeup to look like a black mask was framing his eyes, but unfortunately, he looked more like a raccoon.
He tried to tweak the design to look more like a diamond but it didn’t land with fans and he quickly switched back to being The Starchild.
Their First “Unmasking”
KISS made waves in 1983 when they performed for the first time ever without their makeup and costumes on. Many people don’t know that they were photographed “unmasked” nearly a decade before by a tricky photographer.
Charlie Auringer wanted to get the money shots of the band without makeup so he told KISS that their manager said it was okay. In reality, the manager and the band were completely against it. Thankfully, Auringer agreed not to publish the photos.
Gene Simmons Can Breathe Fire
The bassist may have begun using fire and pyrotechnics as an on-stage stunt, but over the years Simmons has gotten pretty good at it. So good, in fact, that he’s listed as one of the world’s most accomplished fire breathers.
Simmons’ personal record is breathing a 15-foot flame. The world record in 26.5 feet, but still, Simmons’ personal best is pretty good. He was inspired to try fire breathing after seeing a famous magician use fire as a trick.
There Have Been Ten Band Members In Total
Like most bands that have been around since the ’70s, the lineup has changed a bit over time. Of the original members, only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have always been in the band. The other two original members, Frehley and Criss, returned to the band briefly for the 1996 reunion but left again after.
Eric Carr and Eric Singer have both replaced Peter Criss on drums. Frehley has had four replacements with Bruce Kulick and Tommy Thayer being the two that last the longest.
Eric Carr Died On The Same Day As Freddie Mercury
While the original four members of KISS get the most love from the fanbase, replacement drummer Eric Carr gets a lot of credit too. Carr replaced drummer Criss from 1980-1991. Even his character The Fox was more popular than Catman for some time.
Sadly, Carr’s time with KISS was cut short when he died from heart cancer on November 24, 1991. His death was largely overshadowed though because Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died the same day.
Don’t Mention The 1978 TV Movie
For years after the 1978 made-for-TV movie Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park was released, anyone in KISS’s inner circle was banned from even mentioning the film. The musical-fantasy comedy was released at the height of KISS’s fame, but still was panned by critics and fans alike.
The members of the band claim the semi-comedic script made them look “buffoonish.” Frehley said he couldn’t stop laughing the entire movie while Simmons said it’s only bearable “if you’re on drugs.”
Some Outrageous Merchandise
Gene Simmons is known for being the mastermind behind the brand’s intense marketing, but some people thought he lost his mind in the early 2000s with some products. It was in 2001 that the world got the KISS cookie jar, the KISS Mr. Potato Head, and even KISS-approved air guitar strings.
None of these were as ridiculous as the KISS Kasket. Simmons marketed it with the saying “I love livin’, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good.”
Eddie Van Halen Was Almost In KISS
Eddie and Alex Van Halen both collaborated with KISS before they were ever famous for their own work. It was actually Eddie Van Halen who wrote the guitar solo for “Christine Sixteen” and Frehley re-recorded it later on.
In 1982, after Eddie Van Halen was famous, he wanted to join KISS, but the band members thought his fame would overshadow the other individual members of the band. They decided to go in a different direction.
A KISS Comic Book Possibly Made Of Blood
A band that took on comic-like characters were practically begging to be featured in their own comic book, and that’s exactly what happened. In 1977, Marvel Comics decided to publish a special edition KISS comic book that included comics and band photos.
Of course, KISS couldn’t let it just be a normal book. The cover of the comic alleged that the red ink was printed using real blood from the band members.
Why They Have A Different Logo In Germany
It was guitarist Ace Frehley who came up with the original design for the KISS logo, that including making the “SS” look like lightning bolts. The design seemed harmless until they went to tour in Germany and found out that the SS looks a little too similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS uniforms.
The SS symbol is outlawed in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and Israel. All albums and merchandise released in those countries feature the SS looking like two backward Zs.
The Beatles Turned Down KISS
Gene Simmons desperately wanted a Beatle to sing on his solo album, and he asked each one of them individually, but they all turned him down. Legend has it that all four flat-out denied Simmons, but apparently, they all couldn’t make it due to “scheduling conflicts.”
Simmons wasn’t going to give up that easily, though. He settled for the next best thing. He decided to use the cast members from Beatlemania on his solo album.
Bryan Adams Wrote Some KISS Songs
We all know Bryan Adams as an accomplished singer and performer, but before he sang his own songs on the world’s stage, he was working as a songwriter for a music label. Adams and his musical partner Jim Vallance ended up being sought out by KISS’s producer to work on tracks for the Creatures of the Night record.
It was actually Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance who wrote the music and lyrics for “War Machine” and Rock and Roll Hell.”
Paul Stanley Has Smashed Over 200 Guitars
If you’re going to rock as hard as KISS, you had better put on a show. Pyrotechnics are nice, and fire breathing is cool, but sometimes a simple guitar smash will do the trick.Well, apparently Paul Stanley got a little carried away during the USA/Europe tour, and managed to smash over 200 guitars over the 57 shows.
During that same tour, KISS played in front of 42,000 fans in Anaheim, which was their largest crowd ever at that point.
KISS And Michael Jackson
For years, KISS and Michael Jackson were on top of the music world in their respective genres. They became so close that when Jackson died, KISS was added to the playbill for the Michael Forever tribute concert.
Within a day though, KISS was dropped from the setlist. Allegedly, it was MJ fans who were outraged by comments Simmons had made including one that said: “There’s no question in my mind he molested those kids.”
Katey Segal Sung Backup For Gene Simmons
Katey Segal, better known later as Peggy Bundy on Married…With Children, would pick up any gig she could get when she was struggling to break into the business. In 1978, that included working as a backup singer for Gene Simmons’ solo album.
Segal even joined a group called “The Band With No Name” and they were signed by Casablanca Records which was the same label that recorded KISS at the time.
The Names Of Their Characters
Of course, each band member has a legal name, but they also each have a character name. Paul Stanley became The Starchild, Gene Simmons became The Demon, Ace Frehley because The Spaceman, and Peter Criss became The Catman.
Simmons said that they decided to choose masculine, comic-book type names to counteract accusations that they were a “glitter band.” They needed some masculine names to balance out all of that makeup and hair. Is Starchild a masculine name, though?
KISS Isn’t An Acronym
Over the years there has been one longstanding rumor that says the name KISS is really an acronym for “Knights/Kids In Satan’s Service.” This claim was allegedly created by anti-rock preachers in the 1970s who were trying to convince parents to censor their children’s music.
This single rumor has spiraled into multiple theories of the band name being subliminal messaging, but Simmons has always denied it and stuck to the story.
The Other Band Name Options
Two years before KISS was formed, it was just Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley performing around New York City under the name Wicked Lester. After they added Criss and Frehley to the new lineup, they started spitballing new names.
Frehley liked “Albatross,” Criss suggested “Crimson Harpoon,” and Simmons’ favorite choice was just the F word. Eventually, Criss mentioned his old band was called “Lips” which inspired the new name, KISS.
They Think Of Themselves As Kid-Friendly
By the late 1970s, KISS realized they could make much more money if they stayed just PG enough to attract younger listeners. Since then, they have tried to keep swear words out of major songs and release kid-friendly merchandise. They even appeared on an episode of What’s New Scooby Doo?
That doesn’t mean they were always rated PG. In the band’s early days, they were known for their hard-partying lifestyles that included women, drugs, and of course, rock’n’roll.
Stanley Wrote Simmons’ Signature Song
‘God Of Thunder” from the Destroyer LP had always been Gene Simmons’ signature song. It’s the song that plays at the point of a KISS concert where Simmons plays his bass solo, spits blood, and will do some outrageous pyrotechnics.
While it may be synonymous with Simmons, it was actually written to be Stanley’s signature song. KISS’s producer didn’t think it fit Stanley’s Starchild image so he made him give the song to Simmons.
The KISS Hello Kitty Partnership
Even though the band is fiercely protective of their image, they decided the best way to enter into the Japanese market was to partner with another huge brand. In 2012, they created a co-branded line of merchandise that included t-shirts, mugs, and posters that had the cartoon cat wearing KISS makeup.
One of the more infamous products from the branding was Hello Kitty! KISS toilet paper that even Mike Tyson has reportedly owned.
An Alice Cooper Look
KISS tried out a bunch of different makeup looks before they settled on the black and white look they’re known for today. At first, they tried to emulate the New York Dolls, but Peter Criss thought that they ‘looked like four old drag queens’ when they tried to pull off their signature look.
Luckily, Alice Cooper came to town and inspired the group to take on a look that was totally unique and out of the box.
KISS Got Involved In Football
In 1975, at the height of their early career, one college football team was struck with KISS fever. The coach, Jim Neff, began playing KISS albums for the team while they were on the bus or in the locker room. It must have worked because the football team won seven games in a row, including their conference championship.
Coach Neff wrote to KISS to tell them this and KISS was so blown away they offered to play a free show on the campus.
The Album Covers Didn’t Truly Represent The Band
If an unknowing fan wanted to know who performed on a KISS album, the last place they should look is the album art. From the late ’70s to the ’90s, the album art was more of a vague “guide” to who actually made the music.
For example, in 1979’s Dynasty, the original four are featured on the album cover but Peter Criss only played drums on one track. Meanwhile, Frehley appears on the cover of both Killers and Creatures of the Night but didn’t record a single track for either.
Vinnie Vincent Wrote A Song For Happy Days
Vinnie Vincent had a short tenure as the guitarist for KISS but he made his mark. Before Vincent joined the band, he paid the bills as a songwriter on television. His most popular songs were written for Joanie Loves Chachi and Happy Days.
While Vincent was definitely talented, he didn’t mesh well with the band. He was a part of KISS’s famous “unmasking” in 1983, but left the band not long after for being too demanding.
Peter Criss Felt Disrespected
It seemed that all was well in the rock world after the original KISS foursome reunited in the 1990s. That is, until 2004 came and the band didn’t renew drummer Criss’s contract. According to Criss, none of the band members called him or his attorney to discuss continued touring.
Criss wasn’t happy about this and said “as a founding member” he found it to be “disrespectful.” He even speculated that Simmons and Stanley thought he was too old for the job.
One Of Their Original Stage Pieces Is From Frankenstein
KISS quickly became just as known for their stage performances as they were for their music, so the band was always making sure to create more elaborate and impressive stage sets. For the early Destroyer tour dates, that meant using the original lightning machine from the laboratory in the 1931 horror film Frankenstein.
It was essentially just a giant Tesla coil that KISS renamed “The God Of Thunder Machine.” Unfortunately, because it was so old, it was unreliable and abandoned halfway through the tour.
Gene’s Unique Marketing Tactics
Gene Simmons is easily the most recognizable of the group, and used his recognizable face to make a few extra bucks. A marketing campaign was set up for his reality show, Family Jewels, where Gene’s face was plastered on… urinal cakes.
The urinal cakes were also apparently voice-activated and would talk to his fans as they relieved themselves. Not so surprisingly, a number of fans ended up stealing the cakes out of the urinals as a souvenir.
The Fan-Made KISS Army
KISS has a very passionate fanbase that have followed them since the 70’s. Bill Starkey was one of the most prominent fans, and after attending his first KISS concert, decided to start the KISS army. The goal was to celebrate the band’s music, and not just their crazy antics on stage, and get them played on the radio.
Eventually, he grew the army to the point where he was even able to meet the band, but in 1976, just a few years after starting the army, KISS’s management team would take over the group and Starkey received no compensation for his efforts.
Simmons Doesn’t Drink
Considering the fire-breathing and tongue-wagging Simmons does during a show, you would think he’d get a little parched and would have a drink or two. Well, it turns out that despite his wild lifestyle, Simmons doesn’t drink alcohol or do drugs. He says he stays away from those vices for his mother, who survived life in a WWII concentration camp.
Gene doesn’t hold back about those who drink, and called out his bandmates Criss and Frehley for their drinking, calling them ‘losers.’
You Have To Be Dressed Right To Interview Simmons
Gene isn’t expecting you to dress in your Sunday best when speaking to him, but there are some pretty obvious things you should NOT be wearing. When Simmons was set to speak with a journalist in South America, Gene requested he take off his shirt.
The journalist was actually wearing an Iron Maiden shirt, so it’s pretty understandable that he wasn’t as willing to do the interview while the journalist was wearing it.
Simmons And Jiminy Cricket
We all have our heroes when we’re growing up, but Gene revealed that he idolized Jiminy Cricket as a 12-year-old. When Gene heard Jiminy Cricket say ‘Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you,’ he completely bought in.
This was a turning point in Simmons life. It instilled a belief in himself that he could be great, and he paid homage to Jiminy when he covered “When You Wish Upon A Star” on his debut solo album.
Bring Some Earplugs To Their Concerts
While it’s no surprise that a KISS concert can get loud, you might want to bring a pair of earplugs the next time you see them in person. During a performance in 2009, the band played at 136 dB’s, which was 46 dB’s or 32 times louder than the festival limit of 90 dB.
For comparison’s sake, a thunder clap or a chainsaw is about 120 dBs, while an aircraft carrier deck is about 140 dBs. At 150 dB’s your eardrum will rupture.
Gene Has Been With A Lot Of Women
It’s not uncommon to hear about rock stars sleeping with any number of partners, including multiple in one night. Before marrying his now-wife Shannon, who was a Playboy model, Gene had been rumored to have slept with over 4,800 women.
Before Shannon agreed to marry Gene, she demanded that he burn his collection of polaroids that proved just how wild his days in KISS were.Apparently, the bonfire at their house went on for days.