"You wanted the best and you got it. The hottest band in the land...KISS!" It was those immortal words from KISS' original road manager, the late JR Smalling, that kicked off KISS' Alive!, the double-album released on September 10, 1975, that launched the band from hard-working shock-rock cult heroes towards superstardom.
While KISS Alive! now stands among the vanguard of live rock and roll albums, the record was a last-ditch effort to save the band and its label, Casablanca Records, from total financial ruin. Here's a look back at one of the greatest live LPs in rock history with five fun facts about KISS Alive!
1. KISS Alive! made up for a disastrous Johnny Carson album
In 1974, Casablanca Records, the brainchild of industry whiz-kid Neil Bogart, was on the verge of collapse. The label's parent company, Warner Bros, was ready to cut the imprint loose. The impresario, however, had a plan: a double-album featuring the best of Johnny Carson taken from The Tonight Show. Here’s Johnny: Magic Moments From the Tonight Show, however, was a major flop. With KISS seemingly on the verge of breaking out, Bogart put all of his remaining chips on a live album that would hopefully capture the band's concert magic. While the band and its manager, Bill Aucoin, were into the idea, they were more than ready to bolt to another label at the first opportunity.
2. KISS Alive! outsold the band's first three albums combined
While the band had struggled to sell records early on, KISS Alive! was a record store phenomenon. The LP flew off shelves across the country and sailed up the charts, peaking at #9 on the Billboard 200 for the week of December 12, 1975. The #1 album in America that week: Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits. KISS Alive! rocked the charts for a stunning 110 weeks, a KISS record.
3. KISS Alive! inspired an onslaught of live rock albums in the 1970s
Before Alive!, live records were seen as novelty releases, often used as a way for act to fulfill contract obligations. After the breakout success of KISS Alive!, however, live records became all the rage. “Shortly after it hit, just about every hard rock band issued live albums,” music writer Greg Prato told Mental Floss. “Some of those albums were the best live rock recordings of all time: Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, the Ramones’s It’s Alive, Queen’s Live Killers, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, Cheap Trick, At Budokan.”
4. The band doesn't apologize for adding overdubs to the live recordings
“After recording these shows for the album, we went in and fixed it, polished it and doctored it to make it into an accurate representation of what everybody experienced at the show,” Paul Stanley told Loudwire. “You couldn’t record an explosion onstage and get the magnitude or size of it because the microphone caved. It can’t take that kind of impact. So what did we do? We added canons. We added bombs. We pumped up the audience by having separate loops of different audiences at different fevered pitches so we could control the sense that you were in the middle of it as opposed to watching it as you watch television.”
5. Lee Neaves and Bruce Redoute became stars in the KISS universe after being featured on the back cover of KISS Alive!
It's an image well-known by most members of the KISS Army: a pair of Detroit-area teenagers on the main floor of Cobo Arena holding up a homemade KISS banner. The image was even used in a full-page ad in advance of the album that was featured in such prominent rock magazines as CREEM.