Despite steadfast denials from the band, rumours have persisted for decades that KISS is actually a secret acronym for something. And no, Klowns Inarguably Sucking Shit isn’t one of them, even though that’s a pretty good guess, considering the greasepainted tycoons from New York have basically done just that for the bulk of their career.
The two most popular theories are that KISS stands for either Knights in Satan’s Service or Keep It Simple Stupid. A smarter-than-average person would wager the band’s lucrative merchandising rights on the latter. After all, the group’s two mainstays, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, have indeed kept things at a level of intelligence carefully designed not to confuse the average cretin—which is to say, everyone who ever willingly enlisted in the KISS Army. There’s nothing wrong with that. The hilarious reality is that there will always be those among us whose main ambition in life is to give’r like Terry and Dean from FUBAR. And really, is there any finer anthem for shotgunning that first Kokanee tallboy than KISS’s 1975 lowest-common-denominator breakthrough, “Rock and Roll All Nite”?
As for Knights in Satan’s Service, well, it’s there that someone might actually be onto something.
Considering that KISS remains huge despite not having made a decent record since Gerald Ford was sitting in the White House, the band obviously signed a long-term deal with the devil.
As anyone who’s been mentally scarred by his leaked sex tape will confirm, Simmons wasn’t exactly blessed with a Coney Island Wife Tamerâ„¢ in the twanger department, but compensating for that is one of the biggest brains in the rock ’n’ roll industry. Ironically, though, given the fire-breathing, blood-spewing bassist’s legendary smarts, KISS has made no shortage of stupid career moves over the years. Topping the list early on might be the decision to move into movies with 1978’s KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, a feature film so righteously savaged, it made Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band starring the Bee Gees seem like The Last Waltz.
There was the 1981 Dungeons & Dragons–inspired disaster Music From “The Elder”, without which Spinal Tap might never have dreamed up “Stonehenge”. There was the decision to finally get rid of the makeup in 1983, a move that was nothing short of hideous, mostly due to the fact that Simmons is, well, hideous. (Dude, if we weren’t willing to “lick it up” before you removed the greasepaint, we sure as hell weren’t afterward.)
There was the 1989 power ballad “Forever”, egregious for no other reason than the band that once sold itself as evil incarnate actually collaborated with Michael Bolton. And let’s not even get into the way that KISS has happily watered down its own brand by hawking its wares to anyone with a functioning TV camera. The Mike Douglas Show and The Paul Lynde Halloween Special might have been understandable, but seriously, would Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, or AC/DC ever have consented to an appearance on Kids Are People Too!?
What’s craziest about KISS, though, is that it’s still filling hockey rinks even when no one can name a post-’76 song that anyone actually gives a shit about. (Sorry, “Domino” doesn’t count; the only thing that made that minor hit halfway decent was the way Simmons kept a straight face while delivering the fabulously progressive line “That bitch bends over, and I forget my name/Owwwwwww.”)
The band’s endurance is explained entirely by nostalgia; if a KISS lunch box was your most prized elementary-school possession from 1976 to 1979, why wouldn’t you want to hobble down memory lane with Simmons, Stanley, and whatever two sad sacks they’re letting dress up as the Spaceman and the Catman on their current tour?
That’s right, KISS hasn’t even been KISS Classicâ„¢ since the middle part of the last decade, which marked the last time the definitive lineup played together, briefly quashing old beefs for a lucrative cash grab. Sure, they still sucked shit, but somehow that did little to stop Satan from smirking.
KISS plays GM Place on Saturday (November 14).