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KISS Stories That Earn Them The Title Of 'The Most Calculated Band In Rock History'

KISS is a polarizing rock band - or brand, depending on how you look at it. From their first days together, KISS supposedly created an image linked to Nazis, Satan, and blood. That image has become a marketing juggernaut and demonstrates why people are split when it comes to the KISS rock and roll legacy. Were they serious musicians that managed to parlay their success into continuous fame, or were they simply actors in it for the money, sex, and drugs?  

To some, KISS is known for their outrageous outfits, makeup, and antics - everything from Gene Simmons's tongue action to on-stage blood-spewing and fire-breathing - aspects that reach far beyond their music. KISS got their start with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley in 1973. Each member played a part - Simmons as the Demon, Stanley as the Starchild, Criss as the Catman, and Frehley as the Spaceman (or the Space Ace). By 1982, Criss and Frehley were out, but the band still played on at shows. Later members Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent became the Fox and the Ankh Warrior, respectively.

KISS's biggest hits were released in the 1970s, and their international fame eventually led to solo projects. During the 1980s, KISS without makeup toured the world, but - after a resurgence in the 1990s - the original KISS band members dove back into their personas. Did they do it for the music? Or for the brand they had created

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  • KISS Might Have Made A Deal With The Devil And Wanted Fans To Do So, Too
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    KISS Might Have Made A Deal With The Devil And Wanted Fans To Do So, Too

    KISS's songs intended to play up their image as a sex-crazed, Lucifer-loving group of guys that lived outside the lines, exactly what parents hated. The song "The Oath" is allegedly about giving into Satan:

    Like a blade of a sword, I am forged in flame

    Fiery hot

    Tempered steel, fire-bright to the night I take 

    I fear not

    Now compelled by something I cannot see

    I go forth surrendering to history

    Your glory, I swear I ride for thee

    Your power, I trust it rides with me

    Your servant, I am and ever shall I be

    This song, among others, got KISS a lot of attention and die-hard fans intrigued by the band's supposed demonic ties. Decades later, KISS still capitalizes on this so-called deal with the Devil - and so have the band's fans.

    While the band hasn't had a hit since the late 1970s, they continue to sell merchandise and profit from their connections with the Prince of Darkness. 

  • Band Members Tell Drastically Different Stories About Their Heavy Partying Days
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    Band Members Tell Drastically Different Stories About Their Heavy Partying Days

    What is the truth when it comes to KISS and their hardcore rock and roll lifestyle? One story that has multiple versions is what happened during a photo shoot for the Hotter Than Hell album from 1974. Based on the pictures, it appeared to entail a full-scale group sex session. Peter Criss, in his autobiography Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of KISS supports that notion.

    Criss states that he was drunk, and Paul Stanley was reportedly "lying half-naked on a velvet bed, offering no resistance at all to the half a dozen girls and guys who were buzzing around him like bees drawn to honey."

    Others present at the photoshoot tell a different story. Lydia Criss, Peter's ex-wife, alleged there was no sex and that her former husband may have played fast and loose with the truth in his autobiography. The original KISS drummer also wrote that Ace Frehley may have gone down on him, something his ex-wife refutes as well. Criss's autobiography is full of claims about KISS:

    [We] went from smoking weed and chasing girls to f*cking 19-year-olds in their signature makeup and costumes (the ultimate form of rock-star narcissism), doing mountains of blow, destroying hotels, hurling lunch meat on naked groupies, then shoving them in hotel elevators.

    It's a challenge to separate fact from fiction. 

  • Ace Frehley Is Considered 'A Gold Standard' Of 'Craziness And Rock Star Self-Destruction'
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    Ace Frehley Is Considered 'A Gold Standard' Of 'Craziness And Rock Star Self-Destruction'

    When lead guitarist and founding KISS member Ace Frehley published a memoir in 2012, his crazy tales spread like wildfire through the internet and among KISS Army members alike. AV Club music critic Nathan Rabin reviews Frehley's book:

    In his 1970s prime/nadir, Frehley's behavior deviated so wildly from even the fuzziest, most generous conception of acceptable human behavior that he might as well have been an other-galactic Harpo Marx, communicating largely through gestures and sounds.

    Throughout the decades, rock-star hedonists have been able to assure themselves that while they might be pretty drugged-up and f*cked-up at any given time, at least they weren't Ace Frehley-level drugged-up and f*cked-up. They similarly could take comfort in the knowledge that even if they were losing their minds, they weren't Ace Frehley-level crazy.

  • The Band's Management Ran Roughshod Over The Creator Of The KISS Army
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    The Band's Management Ran Roughshod Over The Creator Of The KISS Army

    Bill Starkey went to his first KISS concert in 1974 and became enthralled by the music. By the next year, he had enlisted several of his friends and started the fan group KISS Army. Starkey and his fellow high school classmates began disseminating KISS music - they claimed it wasn't about the gimmick, costumes, or makeup; it was all about the music. Starkey was the first commander in chief of the KISS Army, with his pal, Jay Evans, as his field marshal, and they made it their mission to get KISS on the radio.

    Starkey's efforts on behalf of KISS got the attention of the band, and he met them in 1975. He decided to run the KISS Army out of his home, but in 1976, he received notice that KISS's management would be taking over the group. Starkey got no compensation for his idea. Management also designed a logo and began recruiting members, reaching as many as 100,000 members. The group waned for a time, but was revitalized in 2007 with a new website.

    As of 2018, joining the KISS Army includes receiving a t-shirt, discounts on KISS merchandise, and pre-concert ticket information for a yearly subscription of $50. There are also millions of unofficial members.

  • Fans Thought The Illuminati Kept The Band Out Of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
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    Fans Thought The Illuminati Kept The Band Out Of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

    KISS were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 15 years after the group's initial eligibility period, a delay that sent the KISS Army down a path of conspiracy theories. One theory involves journalist Dave Marsh, a key player in the Hall of Fame selection process, who once reportedly said, "KISS is not a great band, KISS was never a great band, KISS never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot." This led to outrage by KISS fans around the world. 

    Another theory was that KISS were kept from the Hall of Fame by the Illuminati because of their apparent relationship with Satanism. KISS's connection with the Illuminati traced back to Vinnie Vincent (real name Vincent Cusano), a member of the band from 1982 to 1984.

    Vincent, who brought the band into a new artistic period (ushering in rhythm, according to one observer), was also said to have been driven by the desire to pull KISS away from Satanism, as he had defended the New World Order. Vincent became known as Ankh Warrior, wearing an Egyptian ankh, the key of life symbol, which was tied to Illuminati power.

    Vincent didn't last long in KISS and failed to eliminate the connections between the Devil and the band. According to the conspiratorial line of thinking, his failures meant the Illuminati would have to find other ways to suppress KISS. The secret group had made a bold move, keeping the band out of the Hall of Fame - an entity established for the creation of recruiting "lucrative performers into their globalist endgame." The heads of the Hall of Fame are, after all, New World Order luminaries, or so some conspiracy theorists posit. 

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally inducted KISS in 2014 and, while the band decided not to perform - and there was controversy over only the four original members being inducted - it was a relatively uneventful ceremony.

  • Germany Banned The KISS Logo In The 1970s Because Of Its Resemblance To WWII Iconography
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    Germany Banned The KISS Logo In The 1970s Because Of Its Resemblance To WWII Iconography

    The KISS name and logo have remained subjects of speculation since the band's origin. The purported ties to Satanism feed into assertions that KISS is an acronym for "Knights in Satan's Service." Gene Simmons always denied this, but has also admitted that the band didn't dismiss the idea because it was good for business:

    Misinformation about the band began to spread in the southern Bible Belt states, including a rumor that the name KISS stood for Knights in Satan's Service, and that the four of us were devil worshippers. Ironically, this rumor started as a result of an interview I gave in Circus magazine after our first album; in response to a question, I said that I sometimes wondered what human flesh tastes like. I never wanted to really find out, but I was curious intellectually.

    Later on, this comment seemed to ignite the whole idea that in some way KISS was aligned with devil worship. When I was asked whether I worshipped the devil, I simply refused to answer for a number of reasons: the first reason, of course, was that it was good press. Let people wonder.

    When it comes to the logo, the lettering of KISS was thought by many to be remarkably similar to the SS or Schutzstaffel troops from WWII. Germany even banned the logo during the late 1970s. But according to Ace Frehley, who drew the logo, it was a coincidence.