Much like the drummer role in Spinal Tap some bands just seem to have a revolving door of members. A core one or two in every lineup and constant changes elsewhere. Notable exceptions would have to be the Rolling Stones who have had minimal changes in comparison to the longevity of their career, and U2 who still have their original lineup. But one band who has had regular changes, some even covert, is my favourite band KISS. In this post I’ll attempt to summarise some of those complex arrangements.
First up the drummer’s chair. Peter Criss, the original drummer for KISS and the first to wear the cat makeup was present on the first 6 studio albums and first 2 live albums in their entirety released during the period 1974 to 1978. In 1979 KISS released their massively successful album Dynasty. Although pictured on the artwork Peter Criss only appeared on 1 song on the album on which he sang the lead vocal and played drums.
On the remainder of the Dynasty album the drums were played by South African session musician Anton Fig. Fig would remain on the drum stool for the next album, Unmasked (1980). Peter Criss did not perform on the album in any way despite his image being used on the cover and the fact that he had actually left the band. KISS did not admit this until they had found his replacement for the Unmasked tour, Eric Carr.
Eric Carr would remain as drummer until illness and his untimely death in 1991. Eric Singer then took on the drummer role and first appeared on the album Revenge (1992). He would remain as drummer until the reunion with original lineup in 1996.
Now for the really confusing part. The reunion tour and subsequent album, Psycho Circus (1998), saw Peter Criss back as drummer. However, Psycho Circus predominantly featured Kevin Valentine on drums with Criss only drumming on 1 track and singing on 2.
Criss would remain with KISS from 1996 to 2001 until his departure and subsequent replacement by Eric Singer. Criss would again return to the drummer’s stool in 2003 before being permanently replaced by Singer once again in 2004. Singer continues to perform with KISS donning, controversially, the Catman makeup and appearing on the albums Sonic Boom (2009) and Monster (2012).
Now for the lead guitarist role. Ace Frehley was the original lead guitarist in KISS and appears on all their recordings from 1974 to 1976. On the album Destroyer (1976) Dick Wagner played lead guitar on 1 track and acoustic guitar on their hit song, “Beth”.
1977 saw the release of the second KISS live album Alive II. Side four of the original vinyl album included 5 new recordings, only one of which featured Ace Frehley on guitar. 3 featured Bob Kulick on guitar (older brother of future KISS member Bruce Kulick) and the final new recording featured Paul Stanley in the lead guitar role.
Ace Frehley appeared on the next 3 studio albums released by KISS, Dynasty (1979), Unmasked (1980) and Music From “The Elder” (1981). Although not participating on the 4 new songs on the compilation album, Killers (1982), Ace Frehley still appeared on the cover art. He was replaced once again on these recordings by Bob Kulick.
Ace Frehley also appeared on the cover art for the studio album Creatures Of The Night (1982), despite not appearing on it. It actually featured 4 different guitarists, Robben Ford, Steve Farris, Bob Kulick (again) and Frehley’s eventual replacement Vinnie Vincent, who had also co-written some of the tracks.
Vinnie Vincent officially replaced Frehley and appeared on the album Lick It Up (1983) the first to feature the band without makeup. Rick Derringer also played lead guitar on 1 track on the album.
The next album to be released by KISS was Animalize (1984) and another new guitarist, Mark St. John, was unveiled. The album also featured Bruce Kulick on 2 tracks.
Mark St. John became ill during the Animalize tour and was replaced by Bruce Kulick. His first appearance on album with the band was on Asylum (1985) and he would remain with the band until the 1996 reunion.
As with Peter Criss the reunion in 1996 saw Ace Frehley rejoin the band. On the Psycho Circus album Frehley only appears on 3 tracks with his future replacement, Tommy Thayer, playing on all the others. Former member Bruce Kulick also appears playing lead guitar on 1 track and bass on another. Frehley remained with the band until their performance at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was then replaced by Tommy Thayer who continues with the band to this day wearing the Space Ace makeup in concert and appearing on their last 2 studio albums including Monster (2012).Clear as mud, right?