50 Iconic Photos of KISS: The Hottest Band in the World
KISS: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Legends
Mind-blowing pyrotechnics, dramatic on-stage personas and a hard rock edge rocketed KISS to superstardom in the late 70s and early 80s. With multiple platinum records and millions of albums sold, KISS has been a mainstay of the music scene for the last 50 years, carving out a place for themselves in pop culture history that few other bands can aspire to. From their start as a no-name band, playing small venues for nonexistent crowds, to their days of sensational superstardom and international fame, this is the story of KISS, the world's hottest band.
Known for their wild, edgy performances, crazy costumes and ever-present make-up, KISS started a rock and roll revolution that continues to this day. The over-the-top stage gimmicks and stunt performances that are a normal part of any concert today are actually the end result of KISS's electric, no-holds-barred, shock rock stage shows, a style they originated in the early 70s. The original lineup included the iconic stage personas of The Demon, The Starchild, The Spaceman and The Catman. Over the years, as band members came and went, the lineup changed to include two new characters, The Fox and The Wiz.
A legend is born: KISS makes their first appearance in full make-up and costume, Amityville, New York, March 1973
KISS was formed in 1973 by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, founders and front men for the band Wicked Lester. Discouraged by a string of unsuccessful shows and an album that went nowhere, Stanley and Simmons left Wicked Lester in 1972. Leaning towards a harder, edgier sound, they formed a new band, adding drummer and vocalist Peter Criss in 1972 and lead guitarist Ace Frehley in 1973. Although they played a few shows in early '73, their first appearance in their iconic KISS make-up and costumes wasn't until March 1973 in Amityville, New York.
KISS Original Lineup
By the 90s, KISS had slowed down the pace of their album releases, focusing more on touring and merchandising. In 1996, the original lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Frehley and Criss made a surprise reunion appearance at the Grammys. Later that year, they kicked off the Alive/Worldwide Tour, the first time they had toured together in years. KISS continued to release new music over the next decade, with a few more changes to the lineup. Still touring fifty years after they first took to the stage, KISS has proven that they are that rarest of birds - true rock star legends.
KISS based their iconic logo on Wicked Lester
The name "KISS" was Stanley's idea, who came up with it on a whim as a play off the name "Lips", Peter Criss's old band. Stanley designed the logo as well, basing it in part on the logo for Wicked Lester. As the story goes, he saw a poster for Wicked Lester outside a club one night and, a bit annoyed, went to draw his new band's name over it, matching the letters in "KISS" to the lightning bolt-shaped "s" on the poster. And just like that, the iconic KISS logo was born.
The famous logo was deeply controversial
The logo, one of the most recognizable in the world, caused controversy among U.S. audiences. It was hard to deny the strong similarity between the double lightning bolt "s" of the KISS logo and the nearly identical logo of the Schutzstaffel, an infamous Nazi paramilitary wing. Stanley and Simmons, both men of Jewish heritage, denied any connection to the notorious SS, and the logo remained unchanged for U.S. audiences. However, in a number of countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Israel, the logo has been slightly altered so the "s" looks like an inverted "z".
Early versions of KISS's make-up and costumes at their very first show, Queens, New York, 1973
The first show KISS ever played was in January 1973 at a club in Queens, in front of a handful of people. They got the gig because Simmons called the club owner and convinced him to take a chance on the new, unproven band. KISS played their first show in make-up and costumes. Their look was still in its early stages, but the band was a surprise hit. By the end of their three-night run, the house was packed, and when they returned to Coventry at the end of the year, they played to sold-out crowds.
Casablanca Records chief Neil Bogart and managers Bill Aucoin and Joyce Biawitz made KISS a household name
KISS played a few small shows over the next couple of months but were more focused on creating their first demo tape. At this time, the band had no manager, making it nearly impossible to get the attention of record executives. All that changed when KISS was approached by veteran television director Bill Aucoin, who believed he could meet the one condition the band placed on hiring him - get them a recording contract immediately. Aucoin and his co-manager, Joyce Biawitz, came through. In November 1973, KISS signed on with the newly minted Casablanca Records, the brainchild of Neil Bogart.
Casablanca Records threw a star-studded party to celebrate the official release of KISS, the first studio album
Under their new management, the band wasted no time recording their first album. Titled KISS, it was recorded over a period of two to three weeks in the fall of 1973, and featured their first single, Nothin' to Lose. Although KISS made their official industry debut in December of that year at the New York Academy of Music, their first album wasn't released until February. On February 18, 1974, Bogart and Casablanca Records held an official launch party for the release of KISS, kicking off the band's meteoric rise to fame.
Smoke machines fog up the stage at Forest Park, St. Louis, March 31, 1974
KISS embarked on their first tour under the banner of Casablanca Records in February 1974, starting out with a short stint as an opening act in Edmonton, Canada. After a quick return to Los Angeles for their album release party, they continued their tour through America, playing to increasingly packed crowds. It was a punishing schedule, with several stops to showcase the band on television and radio. While audiences loved their live shows, their first studio album wasn't gaining any traction with mainstream listeners. People just weren't buying KISS.
Frehley, Stanley and Simmons pose for a magazine spread, Los Angeles, May 31, 1974
Casablanca Records threw everything they had into promoting KISS. Bogart booked the band on talk shows to give interviews and put on live performances, hoping to draw in a wider audience. But the album wasn't selling too well, and the group's interviews didn't necessarily help. In April, Simmons infamously referred to himself as "the devil incarnate" on ABC, an image he went to great lengths to maintain in subsequent appearances. While the band was making waves, booking tour dates, and getting a lot of publicity, they still weren't seeing any real commercial success.
One of KISS'S earliest talk show appearances on Boogie, "Canada's Hippest TV Show", September 14, 1974
Aucoin and Bogart believed in KISS from the very beginning, but they recognized that their strategy wasn't working. Even though KISS had just released their first album six months before, they were already stagnating when it came to industry buzz and audience interest. Drastic measures were necessary. In August 1974, KISS started work on their second album, squeezing in recording sessions between tour performances and publicity appearances, both in America and Canada. Completed in a few short weeks, the band's second album, Hotter than Hell, was officially released in October 1974, while KISS was still on tour.
Acrobatic leaps and electric energy drive the fans wild at Atlanta, GA, November 23, 1974
By November 1974, KISS had already released two albums, KISS and the hastily recorded Hotter Than Hell, but neither was a commercial success. Although the band went back on tour immediately after releasing their second album, they only played a few more shows. Hotter Than Hell went nowhere on the charts and Bogart, faced with mounting debts, scrapped the rest of the tour abruptly. It was time for a new strategy. He sent the band back to the studio to record a third album, hopeful that it would being them the critical and financial success they so badly needed.
Bogart took control of their next album, Dressed to Kill, launched at a release party in Pennsylvania, March 19, 1975
By the time KISS went into the studio to record Dressed to Kill, Casablanca Records could no longer foot the bill for a seasoned producer, so Bogart decided to produce it himself. Apart from the pressing financial considerations, Bogart wanted creative control over the new album. He believed that pulling the band away from its unflinching hard rock sound into a more commercially viable direction would lead to greater success. Released on March 19, 1975, Dressed to Kill was a 10-track album featuring short, relatively brighter songs that Bogart calculated would appeal to the pop-loving sensibilities of 70s audiences.
Dressed to Kill stalled on the charts, showing low sales numbers in its initial release
To some degree, Bogart was right. Dressed to Kill rose to number 32 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and did do better in record sales, but not by much. Interestingly, Dressed to Kill featured what would arguably become KISS's most famous and recognizable track, Rock and Roll All Nite, but the single stalled low on the charts. Re-released a year later as a live version on the album Alive!, Rock and Roll All Nite soared to the top of the charts, cementing its place as the rock anthem we all know and love today.
Simmons, as the Demon, performs his fire breathing act onstage at the Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, April 15, 1975
KISS went back on tour the day they released Dressed to Kill, once again promoting the band heavily as they traveled the country. Although their record sales remained low and their songs failed to break into the top ten on the charts, their live shows were becoming legendary. From the very inception of KISS, Simmons and Stanley were committed to a hard rock edge, both in their sound and in their onstage personas. Fans came for the music, but also for the mind-blowing experience of being at a KISS show, replete with pyrotechnics and dangerously edgy stunts.
Simmons used a mixture of food coloring, corn syrup and eggs to make his signature blood, San Diego, June 7, 1975
Simmons was easily the edgiest of them all, pushing the envelope with daredevil stunts that drove the audiences wild and became mainstays of their shows. He routinely embellished his performances by fire-breathing and gleefully spitting out copious amounts of fake blood, allowing it to dribble in long, drooping strands off his chin. A persona trait created almost from their very first performances in 1973, Simmons' willingness to push the boundaries of what was acceptable, even in the somewhat anarchic environment of a hard rock concert, made him a fan favorite. KISS might not have been commercially successful, but they had a cult following.
Their albums weren't selling, but fans flocked to their mind-blowing, one-of-a-kind live performances
Simmons wasn't the only one to light up the stage. Each member developed signature onstage gimmicks, such as Frehley's "exploding guitar", which would emit a shower of flames and smoke as he approached the peak of a solo. Or the endless stream of controlled pyrotechnics and smoke bombs that were set to go off throughout the show. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. They were playing sold-out crowds every night, but they still weren't making any real money. Casablanca Records put everything it had into promoting KISS and was now on the verge of financial ruin. A big change was needed.
KISS's first live album, Alive! went gold, giving them the breakthrough they needed
The change that catapulted KISS to rock and roll super stardom had been in the works for a while. Aucoin and the band had always felt that their record sales were so low because it was impossible to match the sound and energy of their live shows in a studio performance. Bogart came up with the idea of releasing an album of KISS's live performances, and Aucoin quickly agreed. Dressed to Kill was about to be released, so Aucoin set up a tour to promote the album, with the idea of recording the shows along the way.
Alive! was recorded over four stops on the Dressed to Kill Tour, including at this show at Cobo Arena, Detroit, May 16, 1975
This was KISS's last shot and a hail Mary move for Casablanca Records. The label was so close to bankruptcy that they couldn't afford to pay for the Dressed to Kill tour. But Aucoin was so sure a live album would save the band that he paid for the tour himself, at a staggering cost of $300,000. His investment paid off. Alive! was recorded over four shows from May to July 1975, including the May 16th show at Cobo Arena in Detroit. Released just a couple of months later in September, it was an immediate success.
Opening night of the Alive! Tour, Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga, TN, September 10, 1975
On September 10, 1975, KISS walked onstage to a sold-out crowd in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was the first date of their Alive! tour and the official release date for their new album. While the album hit gold and led to the overnight success of old tracks like Rock and Roll All Nite, it was also the subject of some controversy. Rumors abounded that the album was heavily altered, which shattered its key selling point as a live recording. The band finally admitted that the rumors were true, but Alive! continued to do well in sales. The fans were loyal.
Alive! Tour Poster, Cadillac High School, Cadillac, MI, October 9, 1975
The Alive! Tour was the start of a new era for KISS. With over 80 shows, the tour lasted six months, from September 1975 to March 1976. Casablanca Records, on the brink of collapse just a few weeks before, was now firmly in the black, arguably as a direct result of KISS's sudden and surging success. Aucoin was now in the driver's seat, and already unsatisfied with Bogart's lackluster management skills, decided to leave Casablanca Records. Bogart panicked. He immediately cut KISS a check for 2 million dollars, a move that quite understandably led Aucoin to reverse his decision.
KISS in studio with the Brooklyn Boys' Choir, recording Great Expectations, January 13, 1976
Eager to capitalize on their sudden stardom, KISS started recording their fourth album, featuring their first new material since Dressed to Kill. Playing to form, they recorded the new album, Destroyer, while still on tour for Alive! Recording sessions started in September 1975, but the lion's share of the work was done in January 1976. A far more polished and directed album, Destroyer was the brainchild of veteran producer, Bob Ezrin, and was marked by elaborately arranged pieces and several seemingly incongruous musical collaborations. For instance, the Brooklyn Boys' Choir performed the back-up vocals for the track Great Expectations.
The Destroyer Tour was KISS's first international tour, Birmingham, England, May 14, 1976
Destroyer was released on March 15, 1976, during the last few days of the Alive! tour. Without missing a beat, KISS went right back out on tour to promote their new album, opening their epic international Destroyer tour on April 11, 1976, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Destroyer tour was their most elaborate yet, with set designs including pillars of flame and a lighted Tesla coil, along with the now standard pyrotechnics and blood-spitting performances. Ezrin's direction had brought a new level of depth and maturity to KISS's music, and the fans loved it.
Sold-out crowds came to see KISS's electric, smoke-filled, pyrotechnic performance at Gothenburg, Sweden, May 26, 1976
With the sales from Alive! and Destroyer, KISS had finally achieved commercial success and their fame was growing exponentially. They were making a name for themselves, not just in America and Canada where they frequently toured, but in Europe as well. Audience demand across the Atlantic was growing. In May 1976, KISS embarked on their first European tour, playing 17 shows across 8 countries over three weeks. With stops in England, West Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands, KISS was a smash hit, easily cementing their status as rock legends to their legions of European fans.
KISS with celebrity rock and roll photographer Fin Costello, Sweden, May 1976
The schedule was grueling, but KISS had officially made it. Fans loved their edgy sound, and the more intricately constructed, crisper songs from Destroyer only enhanced their Rock God status. Notorious for their over-the-top performances, including Stanley's violently smashing his guitar to splinters onstage and the increasingly explosive pyrotechnics, KISS had carved out a unique position for themselves. They had the world's attention. They graced the covers of magazines and were featured in spreads by celebrity photographers, including Fin Costello, who had, among other things, shot the cover art for Deep Purple's Burn album.
KISS start rehearsals for the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, October 19, 1976
In the fall of 1976, KISS was fresh off the success of their last two albums and had just wrapped up their Destroyer tour. After three years of intensely hard work and almost non-stop touring, it might have seemed time for a solid break. However, Aucoin, unwilling to let go of the band's building momentum, struck on a truly genius way to put KISS firmly into the mainstream, where the big money was. In October, Aucoin had KISS start rehearsals for the Paul Lynde Halloween special, an ABC special where KISS would be introduced to average American households.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was a ratings disaster, but audiences across the country were introduced to KISS
Once again, Aucoin had hit on a winning strategy. Famed for his roles on the small screen and the silver screen, Paul Lynde was a beloved American comedian. His Halloween Special, a one-off comedy showcase on ABC, was set to broadcast to millions. Unfortunately, when it aired, it was panned as an utter debacle. According to critics, it was wildly unfunny, the plot line was confusing, the script was poor, and the inclusion of KISS was just bizarre. Still, audiences loved Lynde's campy performance and for better or worse, KISS was now a household name. Aucoin's gamble paid off.
Frehley performs as The Spaceman, Lakeland, FL, December 12, 1976
One of the unexpected side effects of KISS's Halloween appearance was that it dissipated some of the ferocity associated with the band. Their good-natured performance and goofy interview with Lynde belied their image as demonic bad boys with no boundaries. Mainstream audiences were intrigued and Aucoin was ready to capitalize on their interest. In November 1976, just a couple of weeks after their much-hyped Halloween special, KISS released their fifth studio album, Rock and Roll Over. It peaked at No. 11 on the US Billboard 200, but Hard Luck Woman was the album's sole stand-out track.
Rock and Roll Over Tour, Madison Square Garden, February 18, 1977
True to form, KISS went back on tour right after the release of their new album, hitting the road with an opening show at the Savannah Civic Center on November 24, 1976. The tour lasted a little over four months and gave KISS one of the highlights of their career - headlining at Madison Sqaure Garden on February 18, 1977. As Stanley later recalled, it was a huge moment for the band, and the backstage atmosphere before the show was tense and electric. Where once KISS had been fringe outsiders with a large cult following, now they were international superstars.
KISS performed to massive crowds on their first tour of Japan, part of their Rock and Roll Over Tour
The Rock and Roll Over Tour also saw KISS perform in Japan for the first time. It was a pivotal moment in their career. Stanley later spoke of the crowd's surprising hysteria, which many reporters at the time likened to the Beatles mania of the 50s. Playing four straight nights to sold-out crowds at Tokyo's Budokan Hall, KISS actually surpassed the Beatles' attendance numbers. And KISS mania wasn't limited to their Asian fan base. A mid-1977 Gallup poll reported that KISS was by far the most popular rock group in America.
Stanley, Frehley and Criss look back and wave at the fans as they leave after a show, c. 1977
KISS enters the world of comic books and pop culture: Howard the Duck Issue No.13, featuring KISS, May 1977
Aucoin didn't stop at having KISS churn out albums and tour non-stop. Targeted marketing was the key to widening their audience base and Aucoin knew just how to leverage KISS's hardcore, out-of-this-world image. The burgeoning world of 70s comic books, pioneered in great part by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, dealt in superheroes, surreal universes and alternate realities. It was the perfect vehicle for a KISS pop culture revolution and Aucoin leaned into it hard. In May 1977, KISS appeared for the first time in comic book form in an issue of Howard the Duck.
Stan Lee created this blood-infused commemorative comic book, Marvel Comics KISS Special Edition, June 30, 1977
On June 30, 1977, Marvel Comics released the first official KISS comic book special as part of the launch promo for Love Gun, infamously inked with the band members' actual blood. It was followed by several more special edition comics, released intermittently over the years, all huge sellers. KISS also started selling their own branded products, releasing everything from mugs to pinball machines. It was a sound business move. Their elaborate performances and fast-paced album releases might have catapulted KISS to fame, but it was their no-holds-barred merchandising that made them wealthy, to the tune of millions of dollars.
The KISS solo albums, released in 1978, had abysmal sales numbers in the U.S. but did slightly better abroad
By the end of 1977, KISS had cemented their place among the top echelons of heavy metal and hard rock, with four platinum records under their belt, including Alive II, their latest release. Aucoin, constantly willing to push the envelope, came up with a plan to further increase the band's market presence. It would be a huge undertaking. To begin with, each member of KISS would record a solo album, with all four slated for a simultaneous release in September 1978. Out of the four, Simmons' album was the best received, but all proved to be commercial and critical failures.
The Aucoin helmed KISS movie was a commercial and critical flop, leaving KISS feeling embarrassed and humiliated
The second part of Aucoin's plan was even riskier. Wanting to capitalize on the Hollywood effect, Aucoin arranged for KISS to star in a showcase movie, originally conceived as a superhero, sci-fi, hard rock extravaganza. Filmed in the spring of 1978, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, was released as a television special on NBC in October. It was a complete disaster. Critics panned the subpar plot and hokey performances, and even diehard KISS fans hated it. Although it was re-released a year later with significant changes and under a new title, it was never a commercial success.
KISS tried to lean into the younger crowds on their Dynasty Tour with colorful costumes, Lakeland, FL, June 13, 1979
After the multiple failures of Aucoin's recent marketing strategy, KISS took a break from touring. In January 1979, they started work on a new studio album, but delayed its release until May. Dynasty, featuring several lead vocal performances by Frehley, quickly went platinum. In June, the band kicked off their six-month long Dynasty tour, playing to energetic, but noticeably smaller crowds. And there was more. Their audience was far younger this time around, mainly teens and their parents. KISS accommodated the younger audience, with colorful costumes and more bombastic onstage gimmickry, but tensions were rising, both onstage and off.
Peter Criss, performing as The Catman, in one of his last shows with KISS, c. 1979
Aucoin's questionable management decisions caused tension between him and the band. Although they would continue to work together a while longer, KISS has begun to lose faith in their manager. At the same time, Frehley was drinking heavily, even turning up wasted at an appearance on a late-night talk show. Meanwhile, Criss was still recovering from an accident that kept him from playing on the Dynasty album. He joined the band on their Dynasty tour, but his performance was lackluster at best. Criss left KISS at the end of the tour, although he was credited on their next album.
Unmasked originally featured Criss on the album cover, but he was replaced by Eric Carr as The Fox in later pressings
In keeping with their new pattern, KISS recorded their next studio album within weeks of wrapping up their latest tour. However, 1980 was a rough year for KISS. They had just lost their drummer, their lead guitarist was in freefall, their last two big ventures had failed spectacularly, and attendance at their shows was dipping steeply. Unmasked, released on May 20, 1980, was meant to tap into a modern, upbeat sound but it failed to please the fans. Widely panned, it never reached platinum status, breaking the band's long-running streak.
Carr's good-natured personality and undeniable talent won over the fans, Carr as The Fox, c. 1980
Anton Fig worked with KISS as their drummer when they were recording Unmasked, but he was fired before the tour started. Auditions began in June, for a new drummer, just after the official album release. They picked up-and-coming musical renaissance man, Paul Charles Caravello. Using the stage name Eric Carr, Caravello created a new character, "The Fox", introducing the persona to KISS fans at his first performance on July 25, 1980, opening night of the Unmasked tour. Carr quickly became a fan favourite, with his stellar percussion talents, easy charm, and genuine willingness to connect with the fans.
The Unmasked Tour was the first time KISS played exclusively outside the U.S. barring their opening night
The Unmasked Tour got off to a rocky start. Originally planned to kick off in Norway to coincide with the album 's release in May, several weeks' worth of dates had to be cancelled because the band still didn't have a replacement for Criss. Once they found Carr, they quickly reinstated the rest of the tour, playing their opening night in New York. That show, at The Palladium, was the only one they would play in America. The rest of the Unmasked tour was limited to Europe, New Zealand and Australia, where they were inundated by thousands of fans.
It was also the first time KISS performed in Australia and New Zealand, Unmasked Tour, Auckland, December 1980
When the Unmasked tour wrapped up with a final performance in New Zealand, KISS had definitely reclaimed their reputation for drawing in huge crowds. Pulling in audiences of tens of thousands wherever they went, KISS was in their prime. While the album may have been a disappointment, the tour was an unqualified success. It was now time for a new album. Music from "The Elder" was an ambitiously conceived, if conceptually confused, attempt at musical storytelling. A strange mix of medieval music and modern synthesizers, it was notoriously bad - even the band hated it.
Widely derided, Music From "The Elder" is often referred to as the worst rock album of all time
Unlike with every other album, there was no multi-date, months-long tour to promote Music from "The Elder". Released in November 1981, Music from "The Elder" was quite possibly the worst received album in KISS's history. The fans hated it, and Ezrin, who produced the album, as well as Stanley and Simmons themselves, look back on it with embarrassment to this day. KISS only played two promotional shows for the album, neither of which was live. The album was quickly shelved, but its production led to Frehley's final break with the band.
Ace Frehley, frustrated with his bandmates and Aucoin's management, quit the band in 1982
Frehley had never wanted to record Music From "The Elder". He had been unhappy with the musical choices the band had been making for some time and wanted nothing to do with the new album. He did end up performing on a couple of the tracks, but avoided the studio altogether, going so far as to mail his pre-recorded parts to the producers. He also refused to show up for the two promotional shows slated for the album. Frustrated by what he perceived as his lack of a voice within the band, Frehley decided to leave KISS in June 1982.
Gene Simmons' long-standing friendship with Aucoin came to an abrupt end when KISS fired him in 1982
Frehley's departure so soon after Criss was a major blow for KISS, but it was not the only big change on the horizon. Aucoin's relationship with the band had reached a turning point a few years ago, after his ill-conceived plans for solo albums and a badly misjudged movie tanked the band's reputation and income. With the group now leery of his decisions, Aucoin found himself more and more an outsider among his one-time friends. In the summer of 1982, soon after Frehley left, KISS fired Aucoin as their manager. It was the end of an era.
Creatures of the Night was a return to KISS's hard rock roots and the fans loved it
KISS, in its original form, was now gone and their latest album was considered by many to be the worst piece of music in the history of time. If they were going to survive the break-up of their band and their declining sales, they needed a new lineup and a successful album. Creatures of the Night, released in October 1982, was KISS's answer to the fans' criticism that they had become too soft in their push to reach a wider audience. Conceived as a return to the hard rock roots that made KISS famous, the album was relatively well-received.
Vinny Vincent signed on as lead guitarist, performing as a new stage character, the Wiz
The Creatures of the Night tour coincided with KISS's tenth anniversary. Right before the tour started, the band hired Vinny Vincent as their new guitarist. He had worked with them in studio on the album, one of many guitarists hired by KISS on a temporary basis to replace Frehley. Vincent's first performance as an official member of KISS saw him introduce a new onstage persona, the Wiz. Unfortunately, the tour was a huge disappointment, stirring little interest despite heavy promotion. Barring a huge audience turnout in Brazil, the 10th anniversary tour proved that the heyday of KISS was over.
The Creatures of the Night Tour saw poor attendance, with Vincent getting temporarily fired when it ended
And things weren't going great with the new lineup either. Vincent was a deeply talented musician, but he just didn't get along with Stanley and Simmons, who were never fully comfortable around him. Despite touring together for six months, the tension within the band didn't ease up. Vincent was unceremoniously fired in June 1983, the day after the tour ended, but it was only temporary. KISS, knowing they needed a way back from their disastrous tour, started work on their new album almost immediately. Without a guitarist in place, they had no choice but to hire Vincent back.
Lick It Up marked the start of KISS's new, unmasked phase, without their iconic make-up and costumes
Released on September 18, 1983, Lick It Up immediately drew fans in. For one thing, it was the first time KISS had ever appeared make-up free in public to promote their music. The album art for Lick it Up also featured KISS in regular clothes. Although it was a personal choice for the band, as a marketing ploy, "KISS Unmasked", (as the new era was referred to), was a stellar success. Sales soared and KISS, previously on the downswing, saw a renewed surge in their popularity. Show attendance was still relatively low, but the band had definitely turned the corner.
The Unmasked Phase lasted till the 90s and saw the introduction of Bruce Kulick as new lead guitarist
The Lick it Up tour also saw the end of Vincent's tenure with KISS. Tired of his grandstanding, the band fired him as soon as the tour wrapped up. This time, it was permanent. Vincent had a couple of replacements, first Mark St. John, who had to quit after recording Animalize due to persistent arthritis, and later Bruce Kulick, who remained with KISS for well over a decade. With the start of their unmasked phase, KISS entered a new, more mature, less frenetic period of musical composition, releasing several well-received albums over the next few years.
KISS ended the 80s on a high note, releasing the well-received album, Hot in the Shade
Kulick's addition to KISS led to a period of stability for the band, allowing them to release a number of gold and platinum records in quick succession. Asylum, released in 1985, was the first album where Kulick took the lead as guitarist. It hit gold and sold well, with the accompanying tour pulling in solid crowds who enjoyed the revamped band's onstage chemistry. Two years later, KISS released Crazy Nights which came out to rave reviews, hitting platinum within weeks. Their final album of the 80s, Hot in the Shade hit gold as well and featured the hit single, Forever.