Few bands short of the Beatles inspired more kids to play the guitar and drums than KISS. With their signature makeup, explosive stage show and anthems like “Rock And Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” they are the very personification of rock stars. Original members Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons came together in New York in 1972. While their first two records did not generate many sales, they quickly gained a national following for their bombastic, pyro-filled stage show. Their 1975 live album Alive! captured that energy and reached Number Nine on the charts, quickly making them one of the most popular bands of the 1970s – scoring countless hit singles, sold-out tours and appearing everywhere from comic books to lunch boxes to their very own TV movie. In 1977, KISS received a People’s Choice Award for the song “Beth.” Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band in the early 1980s to pursue solo careers, while KISS regrouped with a different lineup of musicians. Another major change was the group’s decision to take off their makeup for 1983’s Lick It Up. They continued to be a popular live draw, but in 1996 the original quartet reformed (and they put their makeup back on) and KISS mania was reborn. In 2001, Ace Frehley left the band for a second time; Peter Criss followed in 2003, and KISS reformed with a post-reunion new lineup. In 2009, KISS released Sonic Boom, their first album of new material in 11 years. They released Monster in 2012.
The track that launched KISS' 1974 self-titled debut and pointed to the high-energy bombast that would soon follow. A tight, driving rocker that reportedly took its inspiration from stylish women Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons saw on the streets of New York – "Everybody says she's lookin' good/and the lady knows it's understood" – "Strutter" took the group's singular glam rock aesthetic and peppered it with the type of seedy groove favored by the likes of the Rolling Stones.
"Rock 'N' Roll All Nite" (1975)
For all the band's outrageous imagery, "Rock And Roll All Nite" is just a driving, straight-ahead boogie tune devoted to the party lifestyle. It's also one of the most popular rock and roll anthems of the 70s, and the defacto rock soundtrack to events worldwide. Although it appeared on 1975's Dressed to Kill, its appearance on Alive! captured the live energy of the band and the song, most notably its infections, singalong chorus.
"Shout It Out Loud" (1976)
Before KISS, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons played in a group called Wicked Lester that covered the Hollies track "I Wanna Shout." Years later, the pair returned to that song, though giving it the full KISS treatment and penning one of the great parents just don't understand–life is a perpetual party rally cries.
"Detroit Rock City" (1976)
Working with Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin to record Destroyer, KISS committed this pumped-up towering rocker to tape to kick off the album. Despite its morose subject matter – the protagonist's impending death ("Whoa, my God, no time to turn/I gotta laugh 'cause I know I'm gonna die") – the chorus quickly raises spirits with the band's gift for fist-pumping rock and roll. It remains a staple of the group's live act.
"Black Diamond" (1974)
Clocking in at more than five minutes long, the coda to KISS again found the band delivering tales based on scenes in their New York stomping grounds. The down-and-dirty gritty realism follows an arrangement the escalates in ferocity, making it the go-to grand finale of early concerts and a fan favorite.
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