(NOTE: Music That Sucks is the correct opinion of the author. If your opinion differs, do not hesitate in sharing the narcotics you are on.)
You wanted the best? ...Well tough s**t!
After a nine month negotiation in which he obtained the rights to the umbilical chord, placenta, and womb to be sold at a later date, Chiam Whitz, who would later be known to the masses as Gene Simmons, was born. Growing up he noticed how much money and poontang rock stars were getting, and he wanted a piece of the action. Despite having no talent whatsoever he found himself in a group called Wicked Lester. After the groups demise, he and bandmate Paul Stanley (b. Paul Eisen) decided to form another band together. They placed ads in Rolling Stone and Village Voice and found drummer Peter Criss (b. Peter Crisscoula) and guitarist Ace Frehley (b. Paul Frehley). Along with the propensity to adopt stage names, the others also had a love of money and poontang above all. Thus the band KISS was born.
There were two hurtles they needed to jump however; musically they sucked more ass than an accountant in prison for tax evasion, and on top of that not one of them was good looking. An idea was hatched, to detract from the fact that their music sucks they would don face paint and costumes, and put on elaborate stage shows. The face paint would serve a double purpose, also covering their ugly mugs. With that Gene Simmons became the Demon Lizard, Paul Stanley the Star Lover, Ace Frehley the Space Man, and Peter Criss the Cat Man. Cha-ching!
They played three live shows before being discovered by TV producer Bill Aucoin, who then got them signed to a tiny record label called Casablanca which was operated by Neil Bogart (and would later be known for unleashing many a Disco act upon the world). They quickly released three albums; KISS (1974), Hotter Than Hell (1974), and Dressed To Kill (1975), all of which went gold (500,000 copies sold, for those of you living under rocks). They gained a cult following and got most of their money playing live shows, much like The Grateful Dead. If that had been all they would not have merited inclusion into MTS, but 1975's live double album Alive went quadruple platinum (platinum is a million copies sold) which peaked at #9 on the album charts. The single "Rock and Roll All Night" (which unfortunately is stuck in my head at the moment), was a Top 20 hit. Their next studio album Destroyer (3x platinum) came out in 1976 on the strength of the chart-topping single "Beth", which was the birth of the Power Ballad (i.e. when supposedly hard-ass metal bands get in touch with their feminine sides and reveal themselves as the douche bags they truely are. Power Ballads would become nauseatingly popular in the 1980's).
This was not enough for Simmons and the others, for while they were making decent scratch by now they wanted more. An idea to put the made-up faces of KISS on various products came about. Now they weren't the first to do this mind you, but they were perhaps the most capitalistic. However, they might have been the first band that had a predominately male audience to go on a marketing blitz. Everything from action figures, lunchboxes, T-shirts, coloring books, pins, bumper stickers...you name it and their is a KISS version of it. Can't get laid because you're ugly? Use KISS make-up and you too can become a Star Lover! Forget those loser pinball machines, play the KISS pinball machine instead! Spider-man? Hulk? Batman? Pussies when compared to the KISS comic!Tired of playing boring old Monopoly? Try KISS-opoly! Did that KISS fan in your life bite the dust? Bury them in a KISS casket! Feel the urge to see the Demon Lizard thrust in and out of your old lady's twat while avoiding pregnancy? Get yourself some KISS condoms! I could go on and on. They even had a made-for-TV-movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, which I would love to check out purely for the cheese factor.
During this time (appx. 1976-1979) KISS' fan club the KISS Army was in the hundreds of thousands, and while putting their painted faces on truckloads of crap they were also churing out albums of sucky music at a break-neck pace. Along with Destroyer, 1976 saw the release of Rock and Roll All Over (2x platinum). In 1977 it was Love Gun (3x platinum), followed by Alive II (4x platinum) and Double Platinum (only went platinum, you egotistical bastards) in 1978 and '79's Dynasty (2x platinum).
Backtracking a bit to 1978, in a move that deserves it's own paragraph, KISS pulled off an audacious move by releasing four self-titled solo albums at the same time! On Gene Simmons one can hear the Demon Lizard sing/barf "When You Wish Upon A Star", and listening to Peter Criss one gets the impression that his true dream is to be a Vegas lounge singer. To the KISS Army Frehley's album was the best of the bunch, but I am convinced that they have been brainwashed by subliminal messages to not only like the music, but to stockpile the crappy merchandise as well.
Speaking of subliminal messages, parents and religious nut bags, never a group to remain idle, quickly voiced their disdain for KISS. Rumors of Satanism spread quickly, including one that KISS is an anagram for Knights In Satan's Service. As much as I wish differently, this is of course not true, although rumors of Simmons selling his soul the Lucifer for the fame and a piece of Cher still circulate.
As the Decade of Disaster (1980's) came around, KISS' popularity began fading. After '79's Dynasty (in which they tried their hand at Disco), 1980's Unmasked managed to only hit the gold plateau. Peter Criss was MIA on both albums (replaced by Letterman drummer Anton Fig) and eventually left the group. Eric Carr would replace him, first becoming The Hawk, but not caring for the makeup all that much settled on The Fox.
KISS would hit a "creative low" in 1981 with the release of Music From the Elder. This was a concept album about a boy who goes through all sorts of medieval battles in his quest to become a man, when all he had to do was believe in himself. The "rock opera" included an orchestra and full choir. Even the KISS Army couldn't be brainwashed into buying this crap, and it was their first album to not even go gold. It was around this time that Ace Frehley decided to call it a day, and he was replaced by guitarist Vinnie Vincent, who wore an Ankh (Egyptian symbol of life) on his face. When their next release Creatures of the Night also failed to reach gold, they decided a change was needed to recapture the US audience (they were still popular in places such as Brazil, Europe, and Australia).
Then the unthinkable happened. In an attempt to revive their fading popularity, Simmons, Stanley, Carr and Vincent revealed themselves without makeup on MTV in 1983. Although this actually did spark immediate album sales (all of the rest of their 80's albums went platinum, and two, Animalize (1984) and Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits (1988) went double platinum), it also revealed them as just another 80's hair metal band who to top it off were four ugly motherf**kers.
As the '80s made way for the '90s the band's popularity was slipping away. Vinnie Vincent left sometime the previous decade, opening the door for a succession of guitarists, including future MTS inductee Micheal Bolton's guitarist Bruce Kulick, and in 1991 Eric Carr died of cancer. With 1992's Revenge only reaching gold, as well as Alive III (1993) and two subsequent albums (KISS My Ass, and an MTV's Unplugged album) this new crop of teens didn't care much for these posers to the newly formed grunge scene.
In 1996, with grunge music on the wane, the four original members of KISS decided the time was right to cash in on the nostalgia trip everyone was on and reunite complete with makeup and costumes. The "Alive Worldwide" tour was a huge success, and in 1998 released Psycho Circus (gold). KISS marketing came back again, with a 3-D rock tour, a KISS Visa card, KISS Internet Service Provider, and a New Line Cinema film Detroit Rock City. There was even a contest to win a $75,000 KISS sports car. Dialing a 1-900 number was necessary for entry. Criss and Frehely once again opted out of touring, and two other ugly bastards (Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer) take their place, even wearing their makeup. Nothing is sacred.
That is the KISS motto, "Nothing is sacred". Yes, they would sell their children for the right price, but the least you can say about them is that they wholeheartedly admit it. Bad music, stupid costumes, and a marketing blitz; three ingredients that add up to a major bankroll.
KISS, music...that sucks!
(Shot-outs go to rollingstone.com, kissasylum.com, kissonline.com, and Doug Sarnecky for help with the particulars.)