'KISS: The Early Years'

Raymond Clark III, a Yale University animal research technician seen with fianc Personal Photo

Has it been 30 years already? It seems that just yesterday KISS, the influential rock 'n' roll band that wore theatrical make-up and staged elaborate concert events, was founded.

A new book released this week chronicles the band's beginnings. It's called, simply enough, "KISS: The Early Years."

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, contributors to the book and co-founders of KISS, visited The Early Show to discuss the first few years of the band's existence.

Simmons and Stanley say they first collaborated in a band called Wicked Lester. They then recruited Ace Frehley and Peter Criss to form KISS in 1973.

Now, about 80 million records later, they have secured their place as one of the most influential bands in rock n' roll history. With the zany makeup, pyrotechnic stage shows and ahead-of-their time marketing, KISS wasn't just a band, it was a phenomenon. And they keep doing it. In February, they will play a live show on pay-per-view in Australia, backed by the 60-piece Melbourne Symphony (all in KISS makeup.)

The book documents some early moments. A great one is the time when they visited the small town of Cadillac, Mich. The town's football team had been listening to KISS to get ready for games, and they started to win. So they invited KISS to town, and threw a parade for them. Everybody got into makeup, even the mayor.

The book has more than 250 photographs from rock photographer Waring Abbott. The book never shows KISS out of their makeup, but it does show the process of putting the makeup on. Simmons and Stanley say the band wore the makeup just to have fun, to create a spectacle. But, they became consumed by it — having to wear it every place they went, even the airport. Eventually, they did decide to take off the makeup, and the resulting album, 1983's "Lick It Up," did triple the sales of the album before it.

The KISS marketing machine is legendary. You can buy everything from KISS condoms, to coffins, to credit cards. Simmons is the marketing guru and isn't shy about it. He says he got into music to be rich and to be famous.
  • Rome Neal

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