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 lineup 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 lineup has sold more than 40 million copies 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 band 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 lineup 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. Because of creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the lineup by 1982. The band’s commercial fortunes had also waned considerably by that point. Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the ensemble announced a reunion of the original band (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 Criss and Frehley have since exited Kiss again and have been replaced by Eric vocalist and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform with makeup, at a time of Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members.