From KISS Destroyer (1976)

A KISS Army Loyalist on How KISS Transformed His Life and How the Band Should End It All

A KISS Army stalwart muses on the band’s legacy and a lifetime of super-fandom as KISS nears the “End of the Road”.

Scenario 1 

The best possible scenario, though highly unlikely. The original four reunite one last time. Think of the fan frenzy and media it would generate! They hire personal trainers for Ace and Peter, get in remarkable shape, rehearse seven days a week as they did in the early, halcyon days, and do a very limited run of stadium shows in major cities around the globe. KISS goes out just as they came in, the original four on top and on fire. 

But this is wishful thinking. Peter Criss has indicated he is done, and some fans argue he no longer has the chops or stamina to pull off a tour of, say, 20 or 30 shows around the world. I say the man can do it. Why the hell not? Charlie Watts just hit 80. 

Ace Frehley, in recent years, despite a voluminous output of new recorded material and touring, has shown a resistance to rehearsing for live performances. He used to write out his guitar solos. And this is why they were so memorable. “Like opera”, as Simmons described his solos.

Today, and this pains me to say, Ace often just fires off a bunch of spontaneous riffs and Pro Tools them together in a Frankenstein monster of pentatonic noodling. I love you Space Man, but you would have to work to make a final reunion possible. To be sure, the scenario of a final reunion would take Herculean effort. But think of the payoff for band and fans! The KISS machine, given the associated hype, and the exorbitant costs of ticket prices, could eclipse even their ‘70s jackpot of riches. 

Odds of all this on a scale of one to ten:

Unprecedented Conclusion: 10

Fan Response: 10

Likelihood: 2

Scenario 2

The band in the current, finetuned incarnation of Simmons, Stanley, Singer, and Thayer, resume the “End of the Road” tour (at present, they are scheduled to resume on 18 August in Mansfield, Massachusettes). Ace Frehley is touring with Alice Cooper throughout September and October. Once that tour concludes, starting, say, in 2022, KISS begins the final leg of their tour with Frehley as the opening act, playing only songs from his solo career and a smattering of KISS songs not on the KISS setlist.

A nerd aside to Ace and the Ace Frehley Band. Here is your set list. Done. Decided. 

Open with the totally unexpected, ripping instrumental track, “Escape from the Island” off Music from the Elder, leading directly, no stop, into “Rip It Out” the lead track from Ace’s ‘78 solo record masterpiece. Then followed by “Rock Soldiers”, “Into the Night”, “Shot Full of Rock”, the unreleased track “Audio/Video (Catch Me When I Fall)”, “Gimme a Feelin’”, “Hard Times”, “Breakout”, “Strange Ways”, “New York Groove”, “Rocket Ride”. 

This set list would smoke!

And here is how to truly end it all with true KISS bombast. 

KISS performs their tightly choreographed, fine-tuned show. The setlist thus far on the “End of the Road” Tour has been exceptional. A great mix of almost all eras of the band. But for God’s sake, toss in some raw meat for the diehards, songs that stand up with any tune already in the mix: “Flaming Youth”, “It’s My Life”, “I” or “Shandi”. All four of these songs would go over as well or better than some of the songs already in the set.

For the encore, Thayer and Singer take their bows and exit the stage. Frehley and Criss come out in full makeup and costume (see above for workout regimen).

Frehley and Criss conclude the show with five songs as the original KISS: “Strutter”, “Cold Gin”, “Nothin to Lose”, “Shock Me”, and “Beth”. 

Thayer and Singer come out, now in street clothes, sans makeup as a nod to the original four, and they all end the show with “Let Me Go Rock and Roll” and “Rock and Roll All Nite”. 

No band has done this! KISS has the opportunity! HISTORIC.

On a scale of one to ten:

Unprecedented Conclusion: 10

Fan Response: 10

Likelihood: 4

Scenario 3

Longtime KISS manager Doc McGhee has stated that all past members of the band have been invited to “The End of The Road” Tour. Simmons, when he toured behind his self-released Gene Simmons Vault, a literal safe that included ten disks of Simmons demos and unreleased songs, invited all living members of KISS to join him at different stops. All of them did. The door is now open (thank you, Gene). Communication established with all living members of the band.

There is one caveat, however. Stanley has stated that he would not want to celebrate Vinnie Vincent, despite his impressive songwriting contributions to KISS on three albums. This likely has to do with the fact that Vincent has attempted to sue Simmons and Stanley, according to them, 14 times for past royalties and has been unsuccessful. So maybe Vinnie is out. Okay.

So, here is the simple scenario for KISS and the final show: It is a free concert in New York City. But there are also unprecedented, multi-tiered paid options that on the high-level would include merch, autographed albums, decorative gold records, signed photographs from any era…the possibilities are freaking endless and very much in keeping with the unstoppable KISS machine. There would be a simultaneous pay-per-view component for fans around the globe. 

Ace Frehley is the opening act (see Scenario 2). KISS, in its current incarnation, puts on the biggest spectacle of their career, and past members come out for the encore. Bruce Kulick performs “Tears Are Falling”, and “Forever”. Frehley and Criss join Kulick and the band for the final five-song encore, concluding with “Rock and Roll All Nite” in New York City, where the band started it all, 50 years ago.

As the saying goes, “We’ll Drive You Wild. You Drive Us Crazy.”

Unprecedented Conclusion: 10

Fan Response: 10

Likelihood: 8

On an early fall day in Manhattan, I made the pilgrimage, and it was more profound than I could have ever expected. I was on the East Coast speaking at a book festival. As an author of fiction and nonfiction and the biographer of the late, great science fiction and fantasy legend Ray Bradbury, I was doing a series of events at a literary festival in a small Connecticut hamlet. (I was weirdly within minutes of Ace Frehley’s former home and recording studio, “Ace in the Hole” in Wilton, Connecticut, where KISS recorded some of the tracks from Music from the Elder.) 

On my day off, I took the train into Manhattan. Autumn in New York may as well be the Emerald City. All the leaves in Central Park turning. The afternoon sunlight the color of champagne. I was doing some Bradbury research in the archives at the venerable New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. It was a remarkably magical moment for a biographer, holding letters Ray Bradbury had written to editors 70 years ago. When I was done, I decided to take a long walk to the Flat Iron district.

Along my stroll, I passed Madison Square Garden, the storied arena. It was always the goal of the members of KISS to perform here. As kids, they attended shows at this mecca. And they did it. On 18 February 1977, KISS played a sold-out show at the Garden. 

I walked past the arena and cut over to Broadway heading toward lower Manhattan and saw it in the distance. The Flat Iron building, built in 1902, impossibly slender and angular, all 22 stories bathed in the gold light of the late afternoon. As iconic as the Empire State Building, as iconic as the Chrysler Building. As iconic as any building in the world.

But that wasn’t the building I sought. A block away, I found it: 10 East 23rd, the original rehearsal loft of KISS. The birthplace. Hallowed ground for KISS fans. I pushed on the glass door and walked into the slender entry hall. There was no one there. I walked back to the staircase. 

The same staircase the four members of KISS had taken their first publicity shot in, almost a half-century ago. 

I began walking up, I knew where the photo was taken–4th floor. I just wanted to stand there and soak the energy in. To feel the flash pots of history.

As I marched up the iron steps, a man yelled out, “May I help you?”

I turned, and a young guy approached.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m a lifelong KISS fan, I just wanted to see where it all started.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can’t let that happen. Too many people come by. Crazy fans. KISS fans—you know. Someone carved a brick out of the wall once and stole it. We can’t let people in anymore.”

“I understand,” I said. But I was crestfallen.

The guy looked at me. He had heart.

“Look,” he said. “I’ll take you up. Let’s just make it quick.” 

Memories are ghosts. They linger about. We see them through the periphery. The apparitions of our past. 

The young building attendant let me up the iron staircase at 10 East 23rd, our footfalls echoing. The first concert at the Chicago Amphitheatre echoed. The Creatures show in Rockford echoed. All the albums and the days listening to them. Danny. My mom. My wife and kids witnessing KISS. A lifetime of joy and empowerment and solace I found through this band. It all echoed.

We reached the fourth floor on the staircase. As any legit enlistee in the KISS Army would recognize, I saw a series of water pipes running along the wall. Unmistakable. This is exactly where they stood for that first band photo so long ago. Even before the makeup and the costumes. They stood right here. And I stood there. Nothing had changed in nearly 50 years. It was exactly the same. I took a selfie, the ghosts all around me.  

Works Cited

Brown, Derek. Personal interview. 26 May 2001.

Klosterman, Chuck. “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits-All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of KISS”. Grantland. April 2014. Accessed 10 June 2021.

Leaf, David and Sharp, Ken. KISS: Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography. Warner Books. 2003.

Lendt, Chris. KISS and Sell: The Making of a Supergroup. Billboard Books. 1997.

LouderSound, “Shout It Out Loud: 20 Classic Gene Simmons Quotes“. 25 August 2014. Accessed 10 June 2021.

Morello, Tom. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Speech for KISS. Youtube. 10 April 2014. Accessed 10 June 2021.

Sharp, Ken; Simmons, Gene; Stanley, Paul. Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS 1972-1975. !t Books/HarperCollins, 2013.

20/20 “KISS”. 20/20. ABC. August. 1979. Youtube. Accessed 10 June 2021.