KISS is an American heavy metal/hard rock/glam rock band formed in New York City in 1973. The group has performed and recorded continuously since their formation. KISS has been awarded 22 gold albums to date, and has certified sales of 19 million records in the United States. The group's worldwide sales are in excess of 80 million albums.
Easily identified by their trademark face paint and stage outfits, KISS quickly rose to prominence on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured firebreathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars and pyrotechnics. Their instantly recognizable image has enabled them to promote themselves not just as a band, but a brand: KISS merchandising far exceeds that of any other musical act, including Elvis Presley.
The original lineup of Gene Simmons (bass and vocals), Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar and vocals), Paul "Ace" Frehley (lead guitar and vocals) and Peter Criss (drums and vocals) became the most successful and identifiable in the band's history, and released a series of gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums throughout the 1970s. With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personas of comic-book-style characters -- the Demon, the Star Child, the Space Ace, and the Cat Man. Due to substance abuse problems and creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band's commercial fortunes had also waned considerably by that point.
In 1983, KISS abandoned their makeup and enjoyed a commercial resurgence throughout the rest of the 1980s. Buoyed by a wave of KISS nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup (with makeup) in 1996. The resulting KISS Alive Worldwide Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996, where the group played in 210 cities worldwide for approximately 2.2 million people.
Criss and Frehley have since left KISS again, and have been replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, respectively. The band continues to perform, while Stanley and Simmons have remained the only two constant members.