50 years of Kiss-tory are remembered as the iconic band is ready to make its farewell bow.

Dreaming of becoming the largest band in the world, four young New Yorkers took their guitars, amps, and drums to a loft on 23rd Street in Manhattan fifty years ago.

Kiss, the band founded by those four, will break up this weekend around ten blocks north of that loft, even though two new members are already a part of the group. Kiss, a band that has revolutionized expectations for live concert experiences and grown to become one of the largest bands in the world, if not THE biggest, will be performing at Madison Square Garden.

Using information from band members’ memoirs, remarks they provided to other media, and Associated Press interviews, here is a look back at some of the most significant moments in Kiss’ history:

1973 saw Gene Simmons—a horror movie and comic book enthusiast—leave his band Wicked Lester and start looking for other musicians to put together a true spectacle, one in which the show and the visuals were just as important as the music. Paul Stanley, the cab driver, had once dropped off passengers at Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley and vowed he would one day be on that same stage. They track down Ace Frehley, who showed up for tryouts with a guitar, one red shoe, and one orange sneaker. They also discover drummer Peter Criss, who had posted an ad in a music publication seeking for a band.

Simmons the demon, Stanley the starchild, Frehley the spaceman, and Criss the catman are the theatrical personas that each member takes on. After playing small club shows to develop their act, the band gets a support position on the Blue Öyster Cult bill on New Year’s Eve. That night, Simmons inadvertently ignites his hair while inhaling flames. (Over the years, it would occur so frequently that they would post a roadie nearby with a sopping wet towel.)

Kiss releases their self-titled first album and “Hotter Than Hell,” their follow-up, in 1974.


1975 saw the release of the band’s third album, “Dressed To Kill,” which featured the upbeat tune “Rock And Roll All Nite.” However, the band doesn’t have their first big  included the song live.

1976 saw the release of “Destroyer,” often regarded by fans as Kiss’s finest studio album. It included the symphonic ballad “Beth,” which would unintentionally end up being one of the band’s biggest successes. The ballad “Beth” was supposed to be the B-side of the hard-rocking single “Detroit Rock City,” but when radio DJs started playing it instead, the song became popular.

1977 saw the band release “Love Gun” and “Alive II,” their second live album. Kiss is the most popular band in America according to the Gallup Poll. The band performs for the first time in Madison Square Garden.

1978: The four members simultaneously issue individual albums, each of which sells over a million copies—a move never before seen in the music business. However, only Frehley’s produced a hit song, “New York Groove.” “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park,” a two-hour TV film featuring the band, premieres on NBC. Beyond the typical T-shirts and posters, Kiss fills the world with band-themed products, such as trading cards, lunchboxes, vitamins, transistor radios, and pinball machines. Kiss Kaskets and Kiss Kondoms are examples of later offers.

Kiss releases “Dynasty” in 1979, with the disco-tinged song “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” By this time, in addition to the customary fire-breathing and blood-spitting, their live act included Simmons seemingly flying into the air and landing on speakers above the stage.

1980: They debut the catchy song “Unmasked,” and subsequently bring in drummer Eric Carr to take Criss’ position.

1981: Twenty years before the “Harry Potter” craze, the band publishes “Music From The Elder,” a concept CD. However, few fans find the album appealing due to its medieval theme and departure from their usual musical approach.

1982: Kiss releases “Creatures Of The Night,” a dazzling, drum-heavy masterwork that is still one of its heaviest albums to date, in response to criticism of “The Elder.” Vinnie Vincent takes Frehley’s position on lead guitar.

1983: Deciding it’s time to give up their signature makeup, Kiss makes their true appearance public on an MTV special that coincides with the release of the album “Lick It They don’t wear makeup up until a 1996 reunion tour all the initial group.

1984–1990: As MTV adopts their new image, Kiss releases the albums “Animalize,” “Asylum,” “Crazy Nights,” and “Hot In The Shade.” In 1984, guitarist Mark St. John takes over for Vincent, but he quickly becomes incapacitated due to a severe nerve problem in his hands. Bruce Kulick takes his position.

1991: Heart cancer claims Carr’s life.

1992: After touring with Paul Stanley’s solo band in 1989, Eric Singer, a highly regarded drummer for Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Badlands, and Lita Ford, is hired. During the tour, the band records “Alive III” and publishes “Revenge.”

1995: While recording an MTV “Unplugged” episode, Frehley and Criss join Stanley, Simmons, Kulick, and Singer, hinting at an impending reunion.

1996–1997: The grunge-inspired album “Carnival Of Souls,” which had already leaked and was being heavily bootlegged, is officially published. For what would turn out to be the highest-grossing tour of the year, the original Kiss members get back together.

1998 saw the release of “Psycho Circus” by the reunion Kiss.

Kiss announces their first farewell tour in 2000–2003. Stanley and Simmons have second thoughts not long after it concludes. Longtime band assistant Tommy Thayer takes Frehley’s position in 2002. In 2003, the band records “Alive IV” including a symphony orchestra. Singer returns, solidifying a roster that hasn’t changed since.

2009–2012: Kiss publishes their last two studio albums, “Monster” and “Sonic Boom.” They start a fall series of fan-only “Kiss Kruises” to tropical locations.

2014: Kiss does not perform during the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Kiss launches their “End Of The Road” tour in 2019, marking 19 years since the band’s initial “farewell” tour. Dec. 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden, a five-minute subway journey from the venue, are the dates of its final two performances.


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