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‘I saw Gene – I mean the Demon – again, darting his tongue in and out of his mouth. Ace stood up and he had the same weird walk. It was creepy. It was as if nothing had changed in seventeen years,’ recalled Peter Criss, the original drummer for KISS, in his recent autobiography.
During the chapter in question, Criss recalled the reunion of the band’s classic line-up for the 1998 album Psycho Circus, which marked their return to the iconic make-up of their early years and a step away from the hair metal image they had adopted during the 1980s.
Over the last forty years, KISS has expanded both as a musical venture as an enterprise, with group leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley capitalising on every area of merchandise possible in an effort to promote the brand name. In some respects, the business side of KISS has become much bigger than the music ever was.
During the late 1970s both Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley became unpredictable and as the new decade dawned the band would undergo a significant line-up change, with only Simmons and Stanley remaining and the drums and guitar spots now taken by Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent.
While their new style during the 1980s would alienate many older fans, KISS continued to enjoy chart success, with the single Crazy Crazy Nights entering the UK top ten in 1987, but during this time two further guitarists had been brought in to replace Vincent, while Carr’s untimely death in 1991 would result in the hiring of Eric Singer. Since 1996, both Criss and Frehley have enjoyed reunions with their former bandmates but this has only been temporary, and since 2004 the line-up for KISS has been Simmons, Stanley, Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer.
Recently it was announced that KISS was to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year, while other musicians to receive the honour will include Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens and Nirvana.In an interview with Rolling Stone, Simmons commented on the importance of former members such as Criss and Frehley on the legacy of KISS, ‘…they were equally important in the formation of the band. When you have kids with your first wife, you give kudos. The fact you got remarried doesn’t delete or minimise the important… There’s never been bad blood. I love them as people. I just hate drugs and alcohol. I don’t care if you are Mötley [Crüe] or Springsteen. If you don’t have the balls to get on the stage straight, it’s an insult to the fans and the band members.’
As for the artists that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have chosen to induct over the years, as well as those who have been omitted, Simmons added, ‘I think it’s a crime that Deep Purple is not in and Patti Smith is. What the fuck? There are disco artists and all kind of credible and important kinds of music that have nothing to do with rock and roll. But, hey, it’s not my thing. I think the best thing they did was to open it up to the fans.’