“You wanted the best – you got the best.
The hottest band in the world…”
…although the career of this band started in a little loft in New York City about thirty years ago, it still has the impact to fascinate people from all around the world. Besides Star Wars, KISS stands for one of THE American phenomenon of the seventies. As a classic American success story, it inspired many people to found their own bands or express themselves creatively in many other ways beyond music. Living in a teenage fantasy world, KISS provided the fuel for breaking out of everyday life. This may be the main reason why the band is still able to play sold-out concerts up to this day while the demand for merchandise products featuring the KISS logo gets stronger year after year. In today’s fast moving music business, KISS’ formula of success lies in the timeless elements of rock and roll that have ever remained permanent throughout the years.
By looking at the history of rock & roll records, the feature that stands out the most is the fact that they delivered endless fun. You would take the record out, start playing it and then go through the packaging of the album. You would examine the cover, soak up the pictures, read all the liner notes and all the while you were listening to some great tunes.
In the fifties, most records came in just plain paper sleeves and you were forced to get some pictures and info from your favourite act through magazines or newspapers. The possibility to create an own piece of art in which the packaging and artwork of the cover beautifully corresponds with the music on the record was explored during the mid-sixties by the Stones, Beatles and other groups with an experimental approach. In the seventies, the public would see new bands emerging at the top of this trade. And there was one band that would join music and packaging like no one else did: KISS.
More than that, KISS looked very different than any other band as definitely no one in the business of rock music wore their kinds of costumes and distorting make-up while playing guitars shaped like stars, coated with reflective mirrors that shoot out rockets towards the sky. These guys looked like your comic-book heroes come to life and with their action-packed stage show of flames, bombs, blood-spitting and exciting theatrics they had everything a little boy could ask for from his first favourite band.
There was something for all of your fantasies: Gene was the demon, Ace the man from outer space, Paul the eternal beau and Peter the calm but dangerous cat man. By hiding their real faces they created a mystique that went far beyond music and images of other bands. Sure, there were other interesting groups with cool music and attitude like AC/DC, The Ramones or British bands from the punk scene. And of course there were bands like Led Zeppelin that played much more ambitious music. But you never found the raw energy of a KISS song when you’re deep into puberty. What appealed to your basic instincts was easily accessible riff-rock that was everything else but intellectual. Although you didn’t know what they were singing about, it was obvious that the band stood for the basic things: escapism from everyday life, partying all night long, sex and rock and roll. There was nothing they would demand from you but your full passion. KISS told you nothing but to have a good time.
Being a ten year old kid growing up in a small village in the heart of Germany, there would be not that much visually appealing than a band that looked like they just landed from outer space. Guys who wore just black and silver on the top of Empire State Building, surrounded by nothing but a sea of skyscrapers. So I learned very early, that a city named New York was a cool place as all of my heroes appeared on this scene: the superheroes from my beloved Marvel Comics, actors from classic movies and a band called KISS.
So most of my pocket-money was spent on this band. It started with posters and articles from magazines and soon I began the traditional “KISS fan room-redecorating-project” by spending hours on arranging dozens of them on my wall for a most spectacular look. Fortunately, my mother supported my dedication and gave me KISS records for birthday and Christmas.
Although it can be a drag to share your room with your older brother, it surely has some positive side-effects. As older brothers have a bigger wallet, they would bring records and magazines into the room that you would be able to explore not until many years later. So my first contact with KISS came with a poster from the German BRAVO magazine in 1980. It was a posed shot of the full group on the Unmasked stage set-up that had Gene, Paul and Ace standing in smoke in front of Eric’s drum kit. It was like a lightning bolt that hit my eye which burned the image deep into my conscious instantly. I realized that there are only very few things that would provide that kind of passion and boundless emotionality as pop music. And at the same time it was this kind of dedication that would lead to a conscientious research of any KISS related product out there. Collecting every article, poster, single and album, putting them into a chronological structure and preserving them in a faultless condition soon became an obsession. I kept this obsession very private and shared it with nobody as I knew that most people wouldn’t keep up with it. This band belonged to me alone. And when the music was played LOUD, it created the perfect environment for your fantasy life that no one would dare to enter. (…)