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 band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs. 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' cynicism and dark sense of humor, as well as his affection for comic books. Frehley's "Spaceman" makeup was a reflection of his fondness for science fiction and supposedly being from another planet. Criss' "Catman" makeup was in accordance with the belief that he had nine lives because of his rough childhood in Brooklyn. Because of creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had waned considerably by that point.
Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup in 1996. The resulting Kiss Alive/Worldwide/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left Kiss again, but the band continues with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members. Kiss has been named in many "Top" lists. They include Number 10 on VH1's '100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock', 9th on 'The Greatest Metal Bands' list by MTV, number one on Hit Paraders's "Top 100 Live Bands", 56th on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists Of All Time", and 26th on Gibson's "50 Greatest American Rock Bands". Kiss was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ten years after becoming eligible. However, on December 15, 2009, it was announced that Kiss did not make it in.
Early years and struggles (1971–75)
Kiss traces their roots to Wicked Lester, a New York City-based rock and roll band led by co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Wicked Lester, with its eclectic mixture of musical styles, never achieved any success. They recorded one album, which was shelved by Epic Records, and played a handful of live shows. Simmons and Stanley, feeling that a new musical direction was needed, abandoned Wicked Lester in 1972 and began forming a new group.
In late 1972, Simmons and Stanley came across an ad in the East Coast version of Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss, a veteran drummer from the New York City scene, who was previously in bands called Lips and Chelsea. Criss auditioned for, and joined the new version of Wicked Lester. The trio focused on a much harder style of rock than Wicked Lester played. Inspired by the theatrics of Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls, they also began experimenting with their image by wearing makeup and various outfits. In November 1972, the trio played a showcase for Epic Records A&R director Don Ellis, in an effort to secure a record deal. Although the performance went well, Ellis hated the group's image and music. On top of that, as he was leaving, he was vomited on by Criss's brother.
In early January 1973, the group added lead guitarist Ace Frehley. Frehley impressed the group with his first audition, although he showed up wearing two different sneakers, one red and one orange. A few weeks after Frehley joined, the Wicked Lester name was dropped and the band became Kiss.