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Kiss playing at Sauna Open Air 2010, during their Sonic Boom Over Europe Tour. From left to right: Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer.
|Origin||New York City, United States|
|Genres||Hard rock, heavy metal|
Vinnie Vincent Invasion
Black 'n Blue
Mark St. John
Kiss playing at Sauna Open Air 2010, during their Sonic Boom Over Europe Tour. From left to right: Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer.
|Origin||New York City, United States|
|Genres||Hard rock, heavy metal|
Vinnie Vincent Invasion
Black 'n Blue
Mark St. John
Kiss (often stylized as KISS) is an American rock band formed in New York City in January 1973. Well known for its members' black and white face paint and flamboyant stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid to late 1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics. Counting the 1978 solo albums, Kiss has been awarded 28 gold albums to date, the most of any American rock band. The band has sold more than 40 million albums in the United States, of which 20 million have been certified by the RIAA and their worldwide sales exceeds 100 million albums. The original 1973–'80 lineup consisted of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals) and Peter Criss (drums and vocals).
With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personas of comic book-style characters: Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), Spaceman or Space Ace (Frehley) and Catman (Criss). The band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs. Stanley became the "Starchild" because of his tendency to be referred to as the "starry-eyed lover" and "hopeless romantic". The "Demon" makeup reflected Simmons' cynicism and dark sense of humor, as well as his affection for comic books. Frehley's "Spaceman" makeup was a reflection of his fondness for science fiction and his supposedly being from another planet. Criss' "Catman" makeup was in accordance with the belief that he had nine lives because of his rough childhood in Brooklyn. Because of creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had waned considerably by that point.
Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup in 1996. The resulting Kiss Alive/Worldwide/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left Kiss again, but the band continues with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members. Kiss has been named in many "Top" lists. They include Number 10 on VH1's '100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock', 9th on 'The Greatest Metal Bands' list by MTV, number one on Hit Paraders's "Top 100 Live Bands", 56th on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists Of All Time", and 26th on Gibson's "50 Greatest American Rock Bands". Kiss was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ten years after becoming eligible. However, on December 15, 2009, it was announced that Kiss did not make it in.
Kiss traces their roots to Wicked Lester, a New York City-based rock and roll band led by co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Wicked Lester, with its eclectic mixture of musical styles, never achieved any success. They recorded one album, which was shelved by Epic Records, and played a handful of live shows. Simmons and Stanley, feeling that a new musical direction was needed, abandoned Wicked Lester in 1972 and began forming a new group.
In late 1972, Simmons and Stanley came across an ad in the East Coast version of Rolling Stone placed by Peter Criss, a veteran drummer from the New York City scene, who was previously in bands called Lips and Chelsea. Criss auditioned for, and joined the new version of Wicked Lester. The trio focused on a much harder style of rock than Wicked Lester played. Inspired by the theatrics of Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls, they also began experimenting with their image by wearing makeup and various outfits. In November 1972, the trio played a showcase for Epic Records A&R director Don Ellis, in an effort to secure a record deal. Although the performance went well, Ellis hated the group's image and music. On top of that, as he was leaving, he was vomited on by Criss's brother.
In early January 1973, the group added lead guitarist Ace Frehley. Frehley impressed the group with his first audition, although he showed up wearing two different sneakers, one red and one orange. A few weeks after Frehley joined, the Wicked Lester name was dropped and the band became Kiss.
Stanley came up with the name as he, Simmons, and Criss were driving around New York City. Criss mentioned that he was in a band called Lips, so Stanley said something to the effect of "What about Kiss?" Frehley created the now-iconic logo, making the "SS" look like lightning bolts, when he went to write the new band name over Wicked Lester on a poster outside the club where they were going to play. The runic letters happened to look similar to the insignia of the Nazi SS, a symbol that is now illegal to display in Germany. Therefore, to avoid controversy, since 1979 most of the band's album covers and merchandise in Germany have used a modified version of the logo instead, with the SS represented by two backwards Zs.
The band's name has repeatedly been the subject of many rumors pertaining to its alleged hidden meanings. Among these rumors are claims that the name is an acronym for "Knights In Satan's Service", "Kinder SS", or "Kids In Satan's Service". These claims have been denied by Simmons himself.
The first Kiss performance was on January 30, 1973, for an audience of three at the Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry shortly afterward) in Queens. For the first three gigs, January 30 – February 1, they wore little to no makeup; the iconic makeup designs associated with Kiss made their debut during the March 9–10 shows at The Daisy in Amityville, NY. On March 13 of that year, the band recorded a five-song demo tape with producer Eddie Kramer. Former TV director Bill Aucoin, who had seen the group at a handful of showcase concerts in the summer of 1973, offered to become the band’s manager in mid-October. Kiss agreed, with the condition that Aucoin get them signed to a recording contract within two weeks. On November 1, 1973, Kiss became the first act signed to former teen pop singer and Buddah Records executive Neil Bogart's new label Casablanca Records.
The band entered Bell Sound Studios in New York City on October 10, 1973 to begin recording their first album. On December 31 the band had their official industry premiere at the Academy of Music in New York City, opening for Blue Öyster Cult. It was at this concert that Simmons accidentally set his hair (which was coated in hairspray) ablaze for the first of many times while performing his inaugural firebreathing stunt.
Kiss' first tour started on February 5, 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The band’s self-titled debut album, Kiss, was released on February 18. Casablanca and Kiss promoted the album heavily throughout the spring and summer of 1974. On February 19, the band performed "Nothin' to Lose," "Firehouse," and "Black Diamond" for what would become their first national television appearance, on ABC's Dick Clark's In Concert (aired March 29). On April 29, the band performed "Firehouse" on The Mike Douglas Show. This broadcast included Simmons's first televised interview, a conversation with Douglas in which Simmons declared himself "evil incarnate," eliciting titters from an uncomfortable and largely confused studio audience. Fellow guest Totie Fields remarked that it would be humorous if, beneath all the make-up, Simmons was "just a nice Jewish boy." Simmons deftly parried this remark with neither a confirmation nor denial, by saying simply, "You should only know." To which she responded, "I do. You can't hide the hook," a reference to the Jewish nose.
Despite the publicity and constant touring, Kiss initially sold just 75,000 copies. Meanwhile, the group and Casablanca Records were losing money quickly. The band (while touring) stopped in Los Angeles in August 1974 to begin recording their second album, Hotter Than Hell, which was released on October 22, 1974. The only single, "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," failed to chart and the album stalled at No. 100.
With Hotter Than Hell quickly dropping off the charts, Kiss was pulled from their tour to quickly record a new album. Casablanca head Neil Bogart stepped in to produce the next album, trading in the murky, distorted sound of Hotter Than Hell for a cleaner and slightly poppier sound. Dressed to Kill, released on March 19, 1975, fared slightly better commercially than Hotter Than Hell. It also contained what later became the band's trademark song, "Rock and Roll All Nite".
Although Kiss albums had not proved to be big sellers, the band was quickly gaining a reputation as a top-flight live act. Kiss concerts featured things such as Simmons spitting "blood" (primarily raw eggs and food coloring) or "breathing fire" (spitting flammable liquid at a torch); Frehley soloing as his guitar burst into flames (light and smoke bombs placed inside the guitar); Criss's elevating drum riser that emitted sparks; Stanley's Townshend-style guitar smashing; and pyrotechnics throughout the show.
By late 1975, Casablanca was almost bankrupt and Kiss was in danger of losing their record contract. Both parties desperately needed a commercial breakthrough if they were to survive. That breakthrough came in an unlikely form – a double live album.
Kiss wanted to express the excitement felt at their concerts (which their studio albums had so far failed to do) with their first live album. Released on September 10, 1975, Alive! achieved Gold status and spawned Kiss' first top 40 single, a live version of "Rock and Roll All Nite." It was the first version of "Rock and Roll All Nite" with a guitar solo, and this recording has come to represent the definitive version of the song; supplanting the studio original (the live version is the basis of most covers, such as the cover by Poison in 1987). In recent years the band admitted that additional audience noise had been added to the album, as well as overdubs on select guitar and vocal spots, not to deceive fans, but to add more "excitement and realism" to the show.
The success of Alive! not only brought Kiss the breakthrough they had been seeking, but arguably saved Casablanca, which was close to bankruptcy. Following this success, Kiss partnered with producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper. The result was Destroyer (released March 15, 1976), Kiss's most musically ambitious studio album to date. Destroyer, with its rather intricate production (utilizing an orchestra, choir, and numerous tape effects), was a departure from the raw sound of the first three studio albums. Album art was designed by Ken Kelly, who had drawn Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and who also worked with acts such as Rainbow and Manowar. While the album sold well initially and became the group's second gold album, it quickly dropped down the charts. Only when the ballad "Beth" (the B-Side to the single Detroit Rock City) began to gain more airplay, on FM radio did the album's sales rebound. "Beth" was a number seven hit for the band, and its success revived both the album (which achieved platinum status by the end of 1976) and ticket sales for Kiss.
In October 1976, Kiss appeared on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, lip-synching "Detroit Rock City", "Beth", and "King of the Night Time World". For many teenagers, this was their first exposure to Kiss' dramatic appearance. The show was co-produced by Bill Aucoin. In addition to the three performances, Kiss was the subject of a brief comedic "interview" conducted by Paul Lynde himself. This included Lynde noting, when hearing the member's first names, "Oh, I love a good religious group." The group was introduced to Lynde by Margaret Hamilton dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard Of Oz.
Two more highly successful studio albums were released in less than a year—Rock and Roll Over (November 11, 1976) and Love Gun (June 30, 1977). A second live album, Alive II, was released on October 14, 1977. All three albums were certified platinum upon or soon after their release. Between 1976 and 1978, Kiss earned $17.7 million from record royalties and music publishing. A 1977 Gallup poll named Kiss the most popular band in America. In Japan, Kiss performed five sold-out shows at Budokan Hall, breaking the previous record of four held by The Beatles.
In May 1977, Kiss made their first of many comic appearances in Howard the Duck issue 12 published by Marvel. This served as a precursor to many more Kiss-related comics initially published by Marvel.
The first of what is now many Kiss greatest hits albums, Double Platinum, was issued on April 2, 1978. This double album included many remixed versions of their hits, as well as "Strutter '78," a re-recorded version of one of the group's signature songs. At Neil Bogart's request, the song was played in a style similar to the then-popular disco music.
During this period, Kiss merchandise became a substantial source of income for the group. Some of the products released included a pair of comic books issued by Marvel (the first one of which contained ink mixed with actual blood donated by the group), a pinball machine, Kiss dolls, "Kiss Your Face Makeup" kits, Halloween masks, board games, bubble gum trading cards, and many other pieces of memorabilia. Membership in the Kiss Army, the band's fan club, was in the six figures. Between 1977 and 1979, worldwide merchandise sales (in-store and on tour) reached an estimated $100 million.
Kiss was at their commercial peak by 1978. Alive II was the band's fourth platinum album in just under two years, and the ensuing tour had the highest average attendance (13,550) in the group's history. In addition, Kiss' gross income for 1977 was $10.2 million. The group, along with creative manager Bill Aucoin, sought to take the band to the next level of popularity. To that end, an ambitious, two-pronged strategy was devised for 1978.
The first part involved the simultaneous release of four solo albums from the members of Kiss. Although Kiss has claimed that the solo albums were intended to ease rising tensions within the band, their 1976 record contract did in fact call for four solo records, with each of them counting as half an album toward the group's five-record commitment. Each album was a solo effort (none of the group appeared on another's album), and were all released and marketed as Kiss albums (with similar cover art and poster inserts). It was the first time that all current members of a rock band had released solo albums on the same day.
For the band members, it was a chance to showcase their individual musical styles and tastes outside of Kiss, and in some cases to collaborate with contemporary artists. Stanley's and Frehley's albums stuck pretty closely to the successful hard rock style that Kiss had utilized, while Criss' album featured an R&B style and was loaded with ballads. Simmons's was the most eclectic of the four. It featured hard rock, ballads, Beatles-influenced pop, and ended with a straight cover of "When You Wish upon a Star" (from the film Pinocchio). Simmons' many collaborators included Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, the Doobie Brothers' Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, disco diva Donna Summer, Janis Ian, Helen Reddy, Bob Seger, Katey Sagal and then-girlfriend Cher.
The Kiss solo albums were released on September 18, 1978. The marketing blitz behind the albums was unprecedented. Casablanca announced it was shipping five million total copies of the albums (guaranteeing instant platinum status), and they spent $2.5 million marketing them. All four solo albums made it into the Top 50 of the Billboard album chart. All four solo albums sold about as many copies as Love Gun alone. Of the four, Frehley's album was the most successful (although not by a huge margin) and spawned the only radio top 20 hit (Russ Ballard's composition "New York Groove", originally performed by Hello).
The second part of Kiss' and Aucoin's plan called for the band to appear in a film that would cement their image as larger than life superheroes. Filming commenced in the spring of 1978. Although the project was proposed to the band as a cross between A Hard Day's Night and Star Wars, the final results fell far short of those expectations. The script underwent numerous rewrites, and the band (particularly Criss and Frehley) grew increasingly frustrated with the filmmaking process.
The final product, entitled Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, debuted on NBC on October 28, 1978. Despite scathing reviews, it was one of the highest-viewed TV films of the year. It was released theatrically, after many changes, outside the U.S. in 1979 under the title Attack of the Phantoms. While later interviews with band members would have them talk about their filmmaking experience with a mix of humorous embarrassment and regret as to the finished product, they were unhappy with the final product. They felt that the film ended up portraying them more as clowns than superheroes. The artistic failure of the film led to a rift between the band and Aucoin. It has been only sporadically available on home video; currently, a version of the film is available on a compilation DVD entitled Kissology Volume Two: 1978–1991.
Kiss' first album of new material in two years, Dynasty (May 22, 1979), continued their platinum streak. The disco-flavored "I Was Made for Lovin' You" became one of the band's biggest hit singles to date. Session drummer Anton Fig did almost all the percussion on the album while Criss recovered from an auto accident. Criss did play the drums on the song "Dirty Livin'", on which he also sang the lead.
Billed as "The Return of Kiss," the Dynasty Tour was expected by Kiss and their management to build on the success of previous tours. Plans were drawn up for a Kiss-themed traveling amusement park, called "Kiss World", but were abandoned because of the immense costs involved. However, "The Return of Kiss" saw a marked decline in attendance.
The crowds on this tour were much younger than previous audiences had been, with many pre-adolescent children in Kiss makeup with their mothers and fathers (who were sometimes wearing the makeup themselves) in tow at most concerts. Kiss themselves did little to dissuade this new fan base, donning colorful costumes that reinforced a cartoonish image for these younger fans.
The fans were unaware of the dissension within the band. One very public indication of the heightened friction within the group was an infamous October 31, 1979 interview on Tom Snyder's late-night The Tomorrow Show. During the episode, a visibly irritated Simmons and Stanley try to contain the bombastic (and inebriated) Frehley, whose non-stop laughter and joking overshadowed the content and conversation that takes place between Snyder and the rest of the band. Criss made repeated references to his large gun collection, to the chagrin of Simmons.
By the end of the Dynasty tour in December 1979, tensions between Criss and the rest of the band were at an all-time high. His drumming skills had noticeably eroded, and he even intentionally slowed down or stopped playing altogether during some concerts. The final show of the tour (December 16, 1979) was the last time Criss performed with the group (until the original foursome reunited in 1996), although he remained an official member for nearly six more months.
Fig also played all the drums on the next album Unmasked, although he was uncredited and Criss appeared on the cover art. Showcasing a slick, contemporary pop sound, Unmasked (May 20, 1980) had the dubious distinction of being the first Kiss album since Destroyer to fail to achieve platinum sales. Soon after the album's release, Criss's departure was officially announced.
The band auditioned dozens of replacements for Criss in June 1980, settling on a little-known drummer-guitarist-singer from Brooklyn named Paul Caravello (born July 12, 1950), who was given the stage name Eric Carr. He was Kiss' first replacement member. In his "Fox" makeup, he was introduced on ABC's Kids Are People Too!, and debuted with the group on July 25, 1980 at the Palladium Theatre in New York City. This was Kiss's only U.S. show in support of the album. The band's 1980 tour of Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, was one of the biggest in their history, as they played to sold-out crowds, and received overwhelmingly positive press coverage.
For their next album, the band worked with producer Bob Ezrin, with whom Kiss had found success on Destroyer. Early press reports indicated that the new album would be a return to the hard rock style that had originally brought the band success. What was released instead was 1981's Music from "The Elder", a concept album featuring medieval horns, strings, harps, and synthesizers.
The album was presented as a soundtrack to a film that was never made, making it difficult to follow the storyline. To make matters worse, having received negative feedback following their record company's preview of the album, Kiss altered the record's track sequence in most countries to emphasize potential singles "The Oath" and "A World Without Heroes," which all but guaranteed the inability of listeners to understand the already muddled storyline. Once released, fan reaction to The Elder was harsh; it failed to achieve gold status and peaked at number 75 on the Billboard Album Chart.
The band made only two appearances in support of the new album, both in January 1982. One was a performance on the ABC late-night variety program Fridays, while the second was a lip-synched performance that was broadcast via satellite during Italy's Sanremo Music Festival. Kiss also performed "I", and "A World Without Heroes" on Solid Gold.
Absent from the satellite performance was Frehley, who had become increasingly frustrated with Kiss' new musical direction. Upset with the band's decision to record Music from "The Elder", he did not actively participate in the album's creation, only providing lead vocals to one track, "Dark Light". He recorded his guitar parts at his home studio in Wilton, Connecticut and mailed them to Ezrin. Another source of frustration for Frehley was that with the departure of Criss, and with Carr not being an equal partner in the band, he was often outvoted 2-to-1 on group decisions. In June 1982, Frehley's departure from the band was negotiated, although he did not officially leave until December, and remained a business partner with Simmons and Stanley until 1985.
Simmons stated in his autobiography Kiss and Make-Up that Eddie Van Halen wanted to fill Frehley's spot. Simmons and Eddie's brother Alex convinced Eddie to remain with Van Halen. (Eddie was anxious to break up Van Halen because of rising tensions with lead singer David Lee Roth, who left the band soon thereafter.) Other notable musicians who auditioned for the band include Doug Aldrich of Whitesnake and ex-Dio, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Soon after, Kiss made major changes to their business dealings – chief among them was severing ties with their manager of nine years, Bill Aucoin, and cutting back on their unwieldy organizational tree. Although Frehley had already decided to leave the band, he was pictured on the covers of 1982's Killers and Creatures of the Night, although he did not participate in the recording of either album.
Creatures of the Night (October 13, 1982) was Kiss's heaviest album to date, and although it fared better than Music from "The Elder", it peaked at number 45 on the charts and was not certified gold until 1994. In Frehley's absence, Kiss utilized a number of guitarists for the recording of the album, including Vinnie Vincent (born Vincent John Cusano on August 6, 1952).
Frehley's last appearance with the band (until the original foursome reunited in 1996) was on the video for the single "I Love It Loud", which was co-written by Vincent. Frehley also appeared on the cover of the original Creatures of the Night album artwork. (When the album was re-mixed and re-released in 1985 with a non-makeup cover and a slightly different song order, to reflect the band's roster change and abandonment of their make-up and costuming, Vincent was again absent from the album cover, as then-current lead guitarist, Bruce Kulick, appeared there instead. The liner notes accompanying the re-mixed LP, however, have credited both Ace Frehley and Vinnie Vincent with lead guitar performances on the Creatures of the Night album.)
Vincent originally wanted to use his birth name in the band but this was vetoed by Gene Simmons on the grounds that it sounded "too ethnic": specifically, according to Simmons, "it sounded like a fruit vendor"; Simmons went on to note that "fairly or unfairly, rock and roll is about image". Vincent then suggested the name "Mick Fury", but this was also disallowed. Simmons later suggested the name change to Vinnie Vincent. Vincent started actively pushing to join Kiss as a full member. Despite the misgivings that both Simmons and Stanley harbored about his personality, Vincent was taken into the band. Stanley designed a character, "The Wiz" also known as "The Egyptian Warrior", and makeup centered around an Egyptian ankh, for Vincent. According to the official authorized Kiss biography, written by David Leaf and Ken Sharp, "The Egyptian Ankh Warrior" refers to Vincent's make-up and persona, while the nickname "The Wiz" refers to his virtuosity as a guitar player. According to Gene Simmons's autobiography Kiss and Make-Up, Vincent's Kiss persona was solely "The Wiz". A persona as "The Ankh Warrior" or the like, is not mentioned in the book at all.
From 1982–1983, the new lineup of Kiss became Simmons (the Demon), Stanley (the Starchild), Eric Carr (the Fox), and Vincent (The Egyptian Warrior or the Wiz). This incarnation of Kiss was to be the last incarnation of the original make-up era.
Vincent does appear on the cover of Lick It Up and was credited as the lead guitarist. He was co-writer on 8 of the 10 songs on the album; "Fits Like A Glove" and "Dance All Over Your Face" were written solely by Simmons.
Vincent's personality did not mesh well with either Stanley or Simmons, and he was dismissed from Kiss at the end of the Creatures tour. He was re-hired before recording started for Lick It Up because Simmons and Stanley could not find a new lead guitarist on such short notice. Personality issues arose once again and Vincent was fired following the Lick It Up tour and was replaced by Mark St. John (birth name Mark Norton). Vincent's work on Creatures of the Night was not officially recognized until the album was remastered in 1997.
Vincent was later utilized by Kiss as a songwriter on the 1992 album Revenge, contributing to the songs "Unholy", "Heart Of Chrome" and "I Just Wanna". Before long however, Vincent, Simmons and Stanley fell out with each other for a third time, and again severed their musical ties.
Persistent rumors have circulated for years amongst Kiss fan circles regarding the true reason for Vincent's dismissals from Kiss with at least one band member refusing to comment except to say that legally it wasn't up for discussion. Simmons stated in an interview several years later that Vincent's firing was for "unethical behavior" but he did not elaborate:
"I named Vincent Cusano, 'Vinnie Vincent'. That's the only gift he's allowed. It's interesting that Vinnie hasn't changed his name back to Vinnie Cusano. Vinnie, for the record, was fired for unethical behavior, not because of lack of talent. The guy is very talented. He was unethical. He was fired."
Sensing it was time for a change, Kiss made the decision to abandon their trademark makeup and costumes. They officially appeared in public without makeup for the first time on a September 18, 1983 appearance on MTV, which coincided with the release of the band's new album, Lick It Up. The tour showing off the new album and the unmasked band members started off in Lisbon, Portugal, on October 11, 1983, at Pavilhão Dramático de Cascais, their first concert without makeup since early 1973.
Lick It Up became Kiss' first gold record in three years, but the tour was even more sparsely attended than the one for Creatures of the Night. Vincent did not get along with Simmons and Stanley, and he left the band at the conclusion of the tour in March 1984. Vincent's replacement was Mark St. John, a session player and guitar tutor.
With St. John on board, Kiss released the glam metal album Animalize on September 13, 1984. Animalize followed the success of Lick It Up, and with the video for "Heaven's on Fire" being played often on MTV, Animalize was the band's best-selling record in America during the decade. With the success of the album and subsequent tour, Kiss had recaptured some of their earlier glory (though not to the level of their '70s heyday). St. John, however, was soon taken ill with reactive arthritis during tour rehearsals, and only performed at a handful of shows. St. John was relieved of his duties from Kiss in December 1984 and was replaced by Bruce Kulick (born December 12, 1953 in Brooklyn). Kulick was Kiss' fourth lead guitarist in less than three years, but he stayed with the band for 12 years. Kulick was one of the band's longest-running members, with the longest continuous tenure of anyone other than Simmons and Stanley, but he never wore the band's iconic makeup.
One of the first concerts Kulick played was in Detroit, Michigan's Cobo Hall. It was filmed for the MTV special Animalize Live. This was later released as the band's first home video (Animalize Live Uncensored).
The lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Carr, and Kulick turned out to be the most stable since the original, and for the rest of the 1980s Kiss released a series of platinum albums—1985's Asylum, 1987's Crazy Nights and the 1988 greatest hits compilation Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. Crazy Nights, in particular, was one of Kiss' most successful albums overseas. The single "Crazy Crazy Nights" reached number four on the singles chart in Britain, the highest showing to date for a Kiss song.
Kiss ended the '80s with the October 1989 release Hot in the Shade. Although the album failed to achieve platinum status, it spawned the February 1990 hit ballad "Forever", co-written by Michael Bolton. Peaking at number 8, it was the group's highest-charting single since "Beth" and was the band's second Top 10 single.
During these non-makeup years, Kiss struggled with their identity and fan base. Simmons, arguably the dominating force in Kiss during the '70s, became less involved with the group in the '80s as he pursued outside interests; most notably, a film career. During this time, Stanley became the driving force in Kiss, as well as their most prominent member.
In February 1991, the band decided to once again enlist Bob Ezrin to produce their first album of the 1990s. Before recording could begin in earnest, however, tragedy struck. In March 1991, it was discovered that Eric Carr had a tumor on his heart. It was successfully removed in an April surgery, but more tumors were soon discovered in his lungs. Carr received chemotherapy and was pronounced cancer-free in July. However, in September he suffered the first of two cerebral hemorrhages. He died on November 24, 1991 at the age of 41 (the same day as Freddie Mercury).
Though devastated, Kiss continued, bringing in veteran drummer Eric Singer (born Eric Mensinger on May 12, 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio). Singer had played with Paul Stanley previously, as part of Stanley's backing band during a 1989 solo tour. Singer also played with performers such as Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Lita Ford, Badlands and Alice Cooper.
Kiss released Revenge on May 19, 1992. It featured a leaner, harder-edged sound, as indicated by the first single, "Unholy". In a surprise move, Kiss enlisted the aid of Vinnie Vincent for songwriting duties. The album debuted in the Top 10 and went gold. Kiss embarked on a brief club tour of the U.S. in the spring of 1992, before beginning an American arena tour in September 1992. Kiss followed with the release of Alive III (May 14, 1993), which was recorded during the Revenge tour. Four days later, Kiss were inducted into the RockWalk of Fame in Hollywood.
During this period, Kiss nostalgia started to pick up steam. June 1994 saw the release of Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, a compilation album featuring popular artists of the era putting their own spin on Kiss songs. The result was an eclectic mix, featuring Lenny Kravitz's funky version of "Deuce" (with Stevie Wonder on harmonica), a ska punk version of "Detroit Rock City" by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Garth Brooks' straightforward take on "Hard Luck Woman," with Kiss as his backup band. In 1995, the group released the book Kisstory, a 440-page, 9 pounds (4.1 kg), detailed chronicle of the group's history to that point. That same year, the band embarked on a unique and well-received Worldwide Kiss Convention Tour. The conventions were all-day events, featuring displays of vintage Kiss stage outfits, instruments, and memorabilia, performances by Kiss cover bands, and dealers selling Kiss merchandise from every stage of the band's career. Kiss appeared live at the conventions, conducted question and answer sessions, signed autographs and performed a two-hour acoustic set composed mostly of spontaneous fan requests. On the first U.S. date (June 17, 1995), Peter Criss appeared onstage with Kiss to sing "Hard Luck Woman" and "Nothin' to Lose." It was the first time Criss had performed publicly with the band in nearly 16 years.
On August 9, 1995, Kiss joined the long line of musicians to perform on MTV Unplugged. The band contacted Criss and Frehley and invited them to participate in the event. Both joined Kiss on stage for several songs at the end of the set–"Beth," "2000 Man," "Nothin' to Lose," and "Rock and Roll All Nite." The Unplugged appearance set off months of speculation that a possible reunion of the original Kiss lineup was in the works. In the weeks following the Unplugged concert, however, the band (with Kulick and Singer), returned to the studio for the first time in three years to record a follow-up to Revenge. Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions was completed in February 1996, but its release was delayed for almost two years. Bootleg copies of the album circulated widely among fans.
While Kiss continued to exist publicly as Simmons, Stanley, Kulick, and Singer, arrangements for a reunion of the original lineup were in the works. These efforts culminated with a public event as dramatic as any the band had staged since their 1983 unmasking on MTV.
You know how the Grammys used to be, all straight-looking folks with suits. Everybody looking tired. No surprises. We tired of that. We need something different ...something new... we need to shock the people... so let's shock the people!
— Tupac Shakur
With that statement on February 28, 1996, Tupac Shakur introduced the original Kiss lineup (in full makeup and Love Gun-era stage outfits), to a rousing ovation at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards. On April 16, the band held a press conference aboard the USS Intrepid (CV-11) in New York, where they announced their plans for a full-fledged reunion tour, with the help of new manager Doc McGhee. The conference, emceed by Conan O'Brien, was simulcast to 58 countries. On April 20, nearly 40,000 tickets for the tour's first show sold out in 47 minutes.
The first public concert featuring the newly reunited Kiss was an hour-long warm up show on June 15 for the annual KROQ Weenie Roast in Irvine, California, during which the band nearly ignited the stage of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. On June 28, the Kiss Alive/Worldwide Tour began at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan in front of a sold-out crowd of 39,867 fans. The tour lasted for 192 shows over 11 months and earned $43.6 million, making Kiss the top-drawing concert act of 1996. The average attendance of 13,737 is the highest in the group's history.
In September 1998, the reunited group issued Psycho Circus. Despite their appearance as the first album with the original lineup since 1980s Unmasked (even though Criss didn't play on the album), the contributions of Frehley and Criss were minimal. While the images of Frehley and Criss are featured prominently on the album, most of the lead guitar work was later revealed to have been performed by future band member Tommy Thayer. Former member Bruce Kulick made an appearance on the intro of the song "Within." Most drum duties were handled by session musician Kevin Valentine. Despite the controversy, the album achieved a number 3 chart debut, the highest position for a Kiss album until Sonic Boom debuted at number two in 2009. The title track received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The Psycho Circus Tour opened at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Halloween night 1998, and was simulcast on FM radio across the U.S. It proved to be another success, and was historic for being the first to ever incorporate 3-D visuals into a stage show.
On August 11, 1999, Kiss was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the "Recording Industry" category. August 13 saw the nationwide premiere of a Kiss-themed motion picture, titled Detroit Rock City. The film takes place in 1978, and focuses on four teenagers (featuring Edward Furlong) willing to do anything to score tickets for a sold-out Kiss show in Detroit.
The next month, the group worked in collaboration with World Championship Wrestling to produce a Kiss-themed wrestler known as The Demon whose face was painted to resemble Simmons. The group performed God of Thunder live on WCW Monday Nitro to debut the character. The band got $500,000 for the one-night, one-song performance. The character was short-lived, as all ties to Kiss were cut by WCW when its head, Eric Bischoff was relieved of his duties in September of that year.
Kiss announced in early 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. Farewell Tour in the summer, which was to be the band's last, although it was last for the original line up; the tour kicked off on March 12, 2000. The group quickly added dates to the tour, which ran through April 2001. 2000 also saw the release of a computer game, Kiss: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child, based on the comic book series Kiss: Psycho Circus from Todd McFarlane Productions.
On the eve of the Japanese and Australian leg of the Farewell Tour on January 31, 2001, Criss suddenly left the band once again, due to the fact that he and the band could not come to agreement with his contract salary. Taking his place was previous Kiss drummer Eric Singer who, in a move that was controversial among longtime fans, assumed Criss's Cat Man persona as the Farewell Tour continued.
With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by early 2001, a career-encompassing collection entitled The Box Set (94 tracks on five CDs) was released in November of that year, while the summer saw perhaps the most outrageous item of Kiss merchandise yet – the Kiss Kasket. In introducing the Kiss Kasket, Simmons quipped, "I love livin', but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good."
On December 4, 2001, Kiss was one of the honorees at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences ("The Recording Academy") Heroes Award ceremony, at the NARAS New York Chapter. NARAS has 12 chapters throughout the United States, hence 12 ceremonies throughout the year, with the honorees each being honored by the chapter closest to their residence. By receiving this honor, which NARAS has renamed the "Recording Academy Honors," Kiss effectively received NARAS' second-highest career honor, right behind the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
Kiss was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with some controversy as Simmons took part in a controversial interview on National Public Radio with host Terry Gross. In February 2002, Kiss (with Singer on drums and Frehley on lead guitar) performed during the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. This was Frehley's final performance with Kiss.
On March 6, 2002, Kiss performed a private concert at a resort in Trelawny, Jamaica. Frehley, who was no longer under contract, did not perform with the group. He was replaced by Tommy Thayer, who donned Frehley's Spaceman makeup and costume for his first live appearance with Kiss. That month, the band (with Thayer) taped an appearance on the American sitcom That '70s Show. The episode, "That '70s Kiss Show", aired in August 2002. Thayer again performed with the group in April 2002, when Kiss performed "Detroit Rock City" (with pre-recorded music and live vocals) for an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary show, which aired on May 3.
In February 2003, Kiss traveled to Australia and recorded Kiss Symphony: Alive IV with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Etihad Stadium (then known as Telstra Dome) in Melbourne. Thayer once again replaced Frehley, while Peter Criss returned to the group. This album was the first released on Sanctuary Records, which has since been sold to Universal Music Group – owners of the rest of Kiss' catalog.
Despite claims made prior to the Farewell Tour that it would be the group's last, Kiss announced a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith in 2003. Frehley announced that his departure from the band was permanent, stating that he believed the Farewell Tour would be Kiss's last. and that he did not want to open for Aerosmith. He was permanently replaced by Thayer, as Kiss moved into a post-reunion phase that saw the band easing into a new line-up, permanently featuring Thayer as "Space Ace" and Singer as "the Catman". On this tour, still featuring Peter Criss, the group introduced the "Platinum" tickets package, with the most expensive packages costing $1,000. This package included a seat in the first five rows, a meet-and-greet with Kiss after their performance, and a photograph with the band. The tour earned more than $64 million in 2003, which ranked number seven for the year.
Simmons and Stanley did not renew Criss' contract when it expired in March 2004. Criss, on his website, stated that "No one, again, no one has called me, or my attorney about an extension for future touring. As a founding member I find this to be disrespectful to me, and to the fans that have made us one of the biggest bands in the world." Criss stated in a radio interview in 2004 with Eddie Trunk that Simmons and Stanley were going to start a new Kiss, and thought he was getting too old to play for two hours (even though Criss is only 4 years older than Simmons).
During the summer of 2004, Kiss headlined the Rock the Nation 2004 World Tour, with Poison as the opening act. The tour ended in August with a sold-out show in Mexico City. Selected dates on the tour were filmed for the Rock the Nation Live! concert DVD, released on December 13, 2005. Stanley, who had been experiencing increasing difficulty with his hip, had his mobility limited during the tour. He has already had two hip surgeries performed, with more likely in the future.
After the conclusion of the Rock the Nation Tour, Kiss performed only sporadically for a number of years. The group played two shows in 2005, and another six in 2006. Four of the 2006 shows were July concerts in Japan, including two dates (July 22 and 23) as a headlining act at the 2006 Udo Music Festival. Kiss performed four July 2007 concerts, three of which were dubbed the Hit 'N Run Tour. Prior to the final show on July 27, Stanley was hospitalized with an extremely rapid heartbeat. In his absence, Kiss performed in concert as a trio for the first time since 1982. This was the first Kiss concert Stanley had missed during his then 34-year tenure with the group.
Kiss (along with Queen, Def Leppard, and Judas Priest) were honored at the inaugural "VH1 Rock Honors" event, held May 25, 2006 in Las Vegas. On April 9, 2006, The Associated Press announced the event by saying "the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame looks to be getting some competition." A tribute band, consisting of Rob Zombie (vocals), Slash (guitar), Scott Ian (bass), and Supernova bandmates Tommy Lee (drums) and Gilby Clarke (guitar), performed "God of Thunder" with Ace Frehley.
In June 2006, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley attended the opening of the Kiss Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On October 15, 2006, Simmons, Stanley, and Criss were inaugural inductees into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, along with performers such as Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Louis Armstrong, The Ramones and Tony Bennett.
Stanley released his second solo album, Live to Win, on October 24, 2006, and undertook a brief solo tour in support. On October 31 the same year, the group released Kissology Volume One: 1974–1977, the first of 10 possible DVD sets featuring complete concert footage, interviews, and never-before-seen clips. As of January 2007, the set is certified 5X platinum in the United States. A second volume was released on August 14, 2007. It was certified 6X Platinum by the R.I.A.A. on October 24. What seemed to be the final entry, Kissology Volume Three: 1992–2000, was released on December 18, 2007 and has been certified 8X Platinum by the R.I.A.A. Stanley insisted that there are more volumes forthcoming in an interview with Norwegian broadcasting in the summer of 2008, but no details have been given.
In April 2007, tragedy struck Kiss again. Their former guitarist, Mark St. John, died from an apparent cerebral hemorrhage at age 51. After being fired from Kiss in 1984, St. John formed the short-lived glam metal group White Tiger. In 1990 he briefly collaborated with Peter Criss in a band called The Keep, which only performed once and released no recordings. St. John largely dropped out of public view in later years, but did make occasional appearances at Kiss fan conventions.
Though Kiss has been eligible for enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (whose rules state that an act is eligible 25 years after its first release) since 1999/2000, they were not nominated until 2009. While this snub displeases some fans, Stanley and Simmons maintain that it is meaningless to them. Nevertheless, a group of about 200 Kiss fans held a protest rally in front of the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5, 2006. It was the first known organized demonstration seeking the induction of a band into the Hall. On December 15, 2009, it was announced that Kiss would not be among the Hall's 2010 inductees.
In 2007, a new comic book series featuring the band was released by the Kiss Comics Group in association with Platinum Studios. Entitled Kiss 4K: Legends Never Die, the first issue came out in a regular size and a giant 1.5' x 2.5' size, dubbed the Destroyer edition. Kiss were scheduled to play in Whistler in mid September, but the concert plans were cancelled late August because of passport problems.
Then, in 2008 saw the band picking up the pace, doing their first proper tour of Europe for nearly a decade. On January 30, 2008, guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley confirmed that Kiss would launch the Kiss Alive/35 World Tour, playing arena and stadium shows in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. On March 16, 2008, Kiss closed the Formula 1 ING Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit – Melbourne, Australia as well as performing in Brisbane and Sydney as part of this tour. Kiss played at the Rock2Wgtn two-day festival held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 22 and 23, 2008; a festival which also featured Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Poison, Alice Cooper, Lordi, Sonic Altar and Symphony of Screams with special effects provided by WETA Workshop of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame.
Throughout the summer of 2008, Kiss headlined festivals as well as their own shows and played to a record audience of about 400 000 people. As part of this tour Kiss headlined the Download Festival in Donington, England, on June 13. Three days later they headlined the Arrow Rock Festival in Nijmegen, Netherlands. On June 28, Kiss headlined the Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium. It was the last show in the European leg of the 'Alive 35' tour. Monday, Aug. 4, Kiss played at Rockin' The Rally at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as part of the tour. South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds proclaimed August 4, 2008, to be "Kiss Rock and Roll Day" in South Dakota. In September 2008, both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley confirmed rumors that the Kiss Alive/35 Tour would continue with a big tour of North America in the beginning of 2009, a big tour in South America, when Kiss played in April 5 in Argentina, April 7 and 8 in Brazil, April 14 in Peru (first Kiss show ever in Peru) and other concerts in Venezuela (first Kiss show ever in Venezuela) and Chile, in the mid-end of the 2009 year Kiss came back to North America to continue the Alive/35 tour, starting at July 18 in Halifax, NS.
More than ten years after their last studio album, and following years of denials about ever wanting to do a new album, Stanley and Simmons changed their minds. In November 2008, Paul Stanley stated to rock photographer Ross Halfin that a new Kiss album was in the works. Stanley himself would be the producer, and the album would have a "real 70s Kiss sound" to it. Later that month, Simmons and Stanley both publicly confirmed the information about a new Kiss album.
"We have 4 tunes recorded. If you're a fan of our stuff from about 1977, you'll feel right at home. All of us have taken up the songwriting call to arms in the same spirit we once did – without a care in the world and without outside writers. Nothing to prove to anyone. Just doing what comes naturally. Ignoring fashions, trends and with a personal vow from all of us: no rapping. There are plenty of people out there doing this and they don't need four palefaced guys pretending they're from the hood. Besides, I'm not sure how to correctly pronounce 'wassup.' See you all there...Or maybe later!"
In July 2009, Paul Stanley announced a release date of October 6, 2009 for the new album Sonic Boom. It included a CD of new material, re-recorded versions of famous Kiss hits (previously released as Jigoku-Retsuden, a Japanese exclusive album in 2008) and a live DVD in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "Modern Day Delilah" was announced and released as the lead single from Sonic Boom on August 19, 2009 to radio. The song was Kiss' first single release in 11 years, the song's predecessor being "You Wanted the Best" which was released in 1998 off the band's Psycho Circus album. Due to early previews of the album, the song has gained positive feedback from both critics and fans, and has been compared to the band's '70s work. In support of the new album, Kiss appeared live on Late Show with David Letterman on October 6, 2009 and on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on October 7, 2009. Sonic Boom debuted at Number 2 on the Billboard 200, selling 108,000 copies in its first week of release.
On September 25, 2009, the Kiss Alive/35 North American Tour kicked off at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI; both nights were filmed for future DVD release. These were the band's final performances there, as the venue was scheduled to be closed, however it is still holding events to this day (such as the Carnage Tour with Slayer & Megadeth, in August 2010). The tour was originally scheduled to conclude on December 6, 2009, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX, however, several additional shows have been added and the last performance is now scheduled for December 15 in Sault Ste. Marie.
Kiss headlined Voodoo Fest 2009 held at City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana on Halloween Night.
During their performance at the MTS Centre on November 9, 2009 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, one of the lighting trusses caught on fire from a pyro cue. The truss had to be lowered in order to have the fire put out. During the five or so minutes it took to extinguish the fire, the band broke into the song "Firehouse". No one was hurt and the show continued on.
Kiss started the European leg of the Sonic Boom Over Europe Tour in May 2010. Tragedy struck Kiss for a third time, when their former manager Bill Aucoin died of cancer on June 28, 2010 at the age of 66. Stanley and Simmons said he was like the fifth member of Kiss. The tour included their first UK arena shows in 11 years and their first visit to Slovakia. Kiss later played at two dates in US cities Cheyenne, Wyoming and The North Dakota State Fair in Minot, North Dakota in July 2010. They also played at the Indiana state fair in August and the Minnesota State Fair in September. They also made a brief appearance at S.P.A.C. (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) in Saratoga, New York on August 17, 2010. On July 23, Kiss started The Hottest Show on Earth Tour in the United States. The tour saw the band play numerous shows throughout the US, Canada and Mexico.
On April 13, 2011, Kiss began recording a new album due for release later in the year. Gene Simmons stated, the album "is gonna be the next step to Sonic Boom. Very similar — straight rock songs, no ballads, no keyboards, no nothing, just rock." The band also went to use old analog equipment instead of a more popular digital recording gear. Gene Simmons said about it: "Technology is a seductive bitch, she will seduce you. You press this button, you don't have to do anything. But analog is the love of your life. You can push real hard and it always gives back. For the new album, the actual recording process was 24-track tape and an old Trident board. And as many tubes as possible. You need tubes, electricity and thick wood to make that thick sound."
In March 2011, while visiting Israel, Simmons announced that he had plans to bring Kiss to Israel. In May 2011, Kiss announced the first ever KISS Kruise to set sail in October 2011. The cruise will feature many activities such as the Kiss Halloween Party, Kiss Q&A on the Lido Deck and two Kiss shows (one of which is an acoustic show with no make-up), along with other artists.
Kiss spent the summer of 2011 playing venues in the US and Canada, visiting cities to which they have not been in a while. They have dubbed this the "Lost Cities Tour." According to www.kissonline.com, the tour ended in Verona, New York.
On August 21, 2011, it was announced on the Kiss website that the next album would be called Monster. Monster was originally slated for release in fall 2011, but was then delayed until January 2012, and later delayed again for an October 2012 release.
The band organized a "KISS Kruise" on board a cruise ship from October 13–17, 2011. The show involved acoustic sets as well as other activities. Over 5 days the cruise began in Miami, Florida and ended in Half Moon Cay. The band also announced a 2012 KISS Kruise was in the works.
KISS appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on March 20. A press conference was held on the same day to announce the summer North American tour called The Tour, co-headlined with Mötley Crüe. The Tour started on July 20 and will end on October 1.
Following the conclusion of The Tour, KISS will then embark on a full-fledged worldwide tour in support of Monster.
The new single, Hell or Hallelujah, was released on July 2, 2012 internationally and on July 3 in North America along with the Monster Book. Monster was released on October 9, 2012 in North America. Monster was made available for download on Spotify on October 5.
They have been classed under the genres of "hard rock" and "heavy metal". Most of their '70s records, specifically from '74 to '77, is a blend of hard rock, rock n' roll, and the catchy melodies that characterized power pop. They also experimented in the disco (Dynasty), pop rock (Unmasked), symphonic rock/progressive rock (Music from "The Elder") styles. In the '80s, with the unmasking, they came as a glam metal act. Later, in the early '90s, their sound grew heavier, culminating with the grunge record (Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions). Their last 3 albums, Psycho Circus, Sonic Boom, and Monster showed the band returning to their 70's hard rock roots with hints of modern sound and production.
Their music is described by Allmusic as "a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock, driven by sleek hooks and ballads powered by loud guitars, cloying melodies, and sweeping strings. It was a sound that laid the groundwork for both arena rock and the pop-metal that dominated rock in the late '80s." Its first critical review described Kiss as "an American Black Sabbath" in Rolling Stone. "With twin guitars hammering out catchy mondo-distorto riffs and bass and drums amiably bringing up the rear," said RS of Hotter Than Hell, "Kiss spews forth a deceptively controlled type of thunderous hysteria, closely akin to the sound once popularized by the German Panzer tank division." At the same time, Bennington Banner from Rock Music magazine said, "with its members bizarre, Kabuki-like makeup, studded black leather costumes and arsenal of on-stage firepower – both musical and literal – Kiss represents the most extreme form of hard rock in 1974."
The Starchild – Paul Stanley
The Demon – Gene Simmons
The Fox – Eric Carr
The Ankh Warrior - Vinnie Vincent
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