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All bands have a shelf life, some much longer than others (Rolling Stones defy belief). Some break up due to band fall outs, some through losing interest, some just get too old. There was never a template for what you do when you get old as a rocker, but there comes a point when the voice goes and the body won’t carry you through the shows any more. There has to be a point when you leave the stage gracefully.
Kiss is one of the real greats. I remember sitting on a school bus around 1980 and looking at another lad carrying an album, the cover picture hooked me in and I had to hear the music. That album was Destroyer and I am still a fan all those years later. As they push along with the COVID-delayed last tour, the end is coming into sight, and for a bunch of 70-year olds, they still kick a huge amount of ass. But surely the end means the end? For other mortal bands, the answer would be yes, but for Kiss, a range of options open up. This is our take on six possibilities.
- The last show takes place in New York, a huge pay-per-view event. Ace Frehley gets paid a ridiculous sum of money to swallow pride and take the stage alongside Tommy Thayer for a track, and the band bows out on top with one last big pay day. All involved settle down for a retirement. Gene to the stock exchange, television reality shows and lucrative lecture work. Paul to his art and Soul Station project (which tends to sound like Peter Criss’ 1978 solo album), Eric to well-paid session work, and Tommy to supervising the legacy. Kiss is at an end.
Likelihood – 20%.
This will not happen. Gene and Paul have their eyes on continuing the band in other forms (see below). They don’t want the income to end, and interest in the band has to remain high for the sales and merchandise to continue. Kiss, after all, is not like other bands. The face paint and image are more powerful than the members who wear them, no matter how much die-hard Kiss fans object to that principle. Other routes are more likely.
- Kiss stops touring, so this is the “End of the Road” as a touring band, but they continue to record, similar to The Beatles from 1967-69.
This is really not going to happen. Kiss last hit the studio for an album (Monster) in 2012. Their last new material was the unusual KISS vs Momoiro Clover Z collaboration single, which hit #1 on the Oricon Japanese Singles chart in 2015. Although the band have been releasing Soundbyte albums of old live concerts (and even as a fan, how many times do I need a live variation of the same set list?) There is no desire at all from Gene or Paul to put out one last Kiss album. The fans want it, but they won’t get it. The only chance of new material might be Tommy Thayer putting together some remastered tracks that never made it onto albums that are sitting in the vaults.
- Kiss stops touring but enters a form of Vegas residency using hologram images of themselves in concert. This residency of holograms can tour major cities as “the Kiss Experience.”
Gene admires Abba, and the huge Abba sold-out hologram concert series will not have escaped his attention, nor that of the band. Whether rock fans will willingly accept holograms as a substitute for their heroes we are uncertain, but it could put Ozzy back on tour, put an endlessly young Paul McCartney out on the road, who knows? Abba were required to film the moves, but remained forever young on stage. It is impressive and could work for Kiss. This now enters the possibility range.
- Kiss finish their last show, then run a reality show to recruit a new band to wear the make-up. Gene and Paul then licence KISS2, they wear the original makeup designs and become the demon, star child, cat and spaceman. They have full access to the stage, merchandise, and website promotion.
Likelihood – 75%
This is likely to happen within a short period of the bands “last” show. Gene and Paul have both indicated the possibility. Let’s face it, outside of The Beatles and one or two select bands, very few people can name all the members. Kiss has a unique identity from the face paint, they have tried other designs such as the Fox (Eric Carr) and the Ankh (Vinnie Vincent, I loved that design actually) but they never took to the fans like the original 4. Some fans were really vocal about Tommy and Eric taking on the original designs, but most fans were never bothered. The casual fan couldn’t care less. My son is 14, he’s seen Kiss live five times, every time with Eric and Tommy. To him, they are the band. People crowd in to see Queen today, but they have no Freddie and no John Deacon. 50% of the members have left, and there is no dent in the fans welcoming the music. Frankly, if Kiss2 were really great, I am sure it could pack arenas without the majority of those buying tickets even being aware it was a new band. If this “official tribute” happens, expect Kiss to be aggressive about shutting down the plethora of unofficial tribute bands they have tolerated over the years. They can be highly aggressive about protecting their interests.
- Gene and Paul retire, but Tommy (as the youngest member) recruits three new members and hits the road (and studio) as KISS.
Likelihood – 15%
This is a development of the last point, but less likely. Tommy could well be the person to look after the bands’ long-term legacy (he’s 61). The 80’s era of the non-make-up KISS is cared for by Bruce Kulick, and Tommy will probably do the rest. Where I could see him having some form of management role in the KISS2 scenario, I couldn’t see him performing and recording with them. I would not see KISS2 as a recording band, Kiss2 would only tour as a Bootleg Beatles style tribute.
- Gene and Paul sell all their interests in KISS in a massive billion dollar deal, they sell the merchandise, recordings, everything. They have a massive pay day and then they allow the new owners to do as they choose.
Likelihood – 40%
This could happen. The talk of the young team who will take over could be a marketing ruse to gain the best price, sell up and go while there is still an interest. After all, how much interest is there in KISS2? The image on cartoons etc (remember the KISS meets Scooby Doo?) can still bring in the cash, the back catalogue will continue to sell and “Crazy Nights” will keep turning up on compilation albums. At the end of the road money will talk, Gene and Paul may now be more interested in their food chain (Rock n’ Brews) than music. This could happen. In this scenario, prepare for a Japanese buy-up and KISS manga and anime on screen by 2024.
There we are, everybody, what do you think?
An Article by Mark C Chambers
& Benny the Ball.