A look back at 50 years of Kiss-tory as the heavy metal band prepares to take its final bow

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1973: Gene Simmons, who worked briefly as a teacher and loved horror films and comic books, and taxi driver Paul Stanley, who once dropped passengers off at Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley and vowed someday he’d be on that same stage, exit their band, Wicked Lester. 

They began searching for bandmates to put together a true spectacle: An act where the show and the visuals were as important as the music. They find drummer Peter Criss, who had placed an ad in a music paper looking for a band, and Ace Frehley, who showed up at auditions with one red sneaker, one orange sneaker and a guitar.

Each member adopts a specific stage identity: Simmons the demon; Stanley the starchild; Frehley the spaceman, and Criss the catman. The band hones their act with tiny club gigs, and by New Year’s Eve, lands a support slot on the bill with Blue Oyster Cult. Simmons accidentally sets his hair ablaze that night while breathing fire. (It would happen many times over the years, to the point where they stationed a roadie with a sopping wet towel nearby.)

1974: Kiss releases its self-titled debut album, and its follow-up, Hotter Than Hell.

1975: The band releases its third album, Dressed To Kill, which includes a catchy song called Rock And Roll All Nite. But it wasn’t until that track’s live version came out later that year as the anchor of Kiss Alive! that the band had its first major hit.

1976: Kiss releases what is considered by many fans to be its best studio album, Destroyer, which includes the orchestral ballad Beth which would accidentally become one of their biggest hits. Beth was the B-side of the hard-rocking single Detroit Rock City, but radio disc jockeys began playing the ballad instead and it took off.

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