KISSteria on Vinyl: Ten’ 70s-era Bootlegs for Records Collectors

Kiss Bootlegs

Feature Photo: Tony Norkus / Shutterstock.com

For vinyl collectors, the obsession goes far beyond listening. Indeed, it’s about wanting, yearning, searching, and possessing fetishized treasures. To be sure, these treasures come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, they’re released through various means and outlets, some of which operate in the shadows. If you haven’t guessed, we’re talking about bootleg records, which you’ll know can be some of the most delicious pieces one might aspire to accumulate.

But let’s throw another wrench into the works; the fanatical nature of vinyl lovers is one thing, but how about the ravenous nature of KISS fans? Now, suppose we combine the two. What you’ll get is a hungry beast who now doesn’t only want vinyl but KISS on vinyl. Jokes aside, KISS has always been a heavy concert draw, as evidenced by the fact that they pack houses to this day. But what of the days of yesteryear when four kids from NYC stormed stages across the nation selling their wild oats via rock ‘n’ music without a care in the world?

Those were the days, and fortunately, many of them were recorded via a myriad of tried-and-true techniques. Even more fortunate still is the fact that these recordings have endured and now, mercifully, are making their way onto vinyl. In the spirit of exalted treasures sought out by ever-hungry seekers of illegally sourced music on wax, what follows are ten ’70s-era KISS bootlegs on vinyl for record collectors.

# 10 – KISS at Coventry

Recorded at The Coventry Club on December 21-22, 1973
Queens, NY

As one of the earliest (and rawest) KISS bootlegs, the shows recorded at Queens Coventry Club serve as some of the earliest examples of KISS’s inherent bombast. This show was scheduled after the band’s self-titled debut, so it finds the young foursome brandishing early classics like “Deuce,” “Cold Gin,” and “Strutter.” Their manager Bill Aucoin set up this show to be recorded with a single camera, and it’s from that same audio that bootlegs that have circulated are pulled from. As with most bootleg records, Discogs disallows their sale, but the one to hunt for would be the single slab released by Distant Hymns Ltd., which was limited to a paltry 100 copies.

# 9 – April Fool

Recorded at the Agora Ballroom on April 1, 1974
Cleveland, OH

KISS’s spring 1974 show at the Agora Ballroom was interesting for various reasons; the coolest was that they opened for Irish six-stinger Rory Gallagher. Headline tidbits aside, KISS was firing on all cylinders for this one, with searing renditions of “She” and “Black Diamond” checking in as highlights. The word is that this one was laid to tape via a local Cleveland radio broadcast via WMMS for their Nights Out at the Agora series, and it’s circulated ever since. Also of note, Peter Criss reportedly needed to be rushed to the hospital after the show due to a “lack of oxygen.” Have mercy! Collectors will want to search for the purple, green, white, red, or blue variants on vinyl via Serbian label, Diskoton.

# 8 – King Biscuit Alive!

Recorded at the Wildwood Convention Center on July 23, 1975
Wildwood, NJ

This release is an amalgam of four different shows – Cobo Hall, Music Hall, RKO Orpheum Theater, and the Wildwood Convention Center – but the Wildwood show takes the cake. A lot of retrospective love is heaped upon the May 16 Cobo Hall show, but the truth is those shows, while famous, weren’t as tight as the band’s Jersey shows, which took place just a few months later in July. The fact is that a lot of studio trickery was used to smooth over the tapes used for Alive!, but the Jersey shows seemed to need the least amount. Diskoton was at it again with this release, with a sinful red variant. Go find it, if you can.

# 7 – Alive! In Winterland

Recorded at the Winterland Ballroom on January 31, 1975
San Francisco, CA

Well known by the KISS faithful, the band’s January 31 show at the Winterland Ballroom is the stuff of proverbial legend. Filmed by the band’s in-house crew and circulated immediately ever since, you’d be hard-pressed to find a KISS diehard who hasn’t seen at least a few minutes of this. As mentioned earlier, Alive! was doctored in the studio, and so, in many ways, a show like KISS laid down in Winterland is the best example of what they truly sounded like in 1975. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are seething with youthful exuberance here, and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons’s energy are equally infectious. Bootlegs like this make the KISS Army long for a time machine to take them back to the ’70s. In 2020, French label Verne Records managed to press this one to wax, but as is often the case with these boots, we’re talking about limited numbers and, with that, big dollars.

# 6 – Three Nights at Cobo Arena

Recorded at Cobo Hall on January 25-27, 1976
Detroit Michigan

KISS’s famous show at Cobo Hall in ’75 might have been the one that made history, but it’s the band’s return shows in ’76 – in support of Alive! – that found the band a force to be reckoned with. Now armed with a history-making live album, KISS hit the road with the fire of a thousand furnaces fueling their endeavors, and boy, did it show. The setlists for their three-night stand in Detroit are par for the course, but the electrifying energy and deep synergy the band seemed to share with the crowd are apparent throughout. It was at these shows that Casablanca Records presented KISS with their platinum record award for Alive!, and the pro-shot videos taken of the event are the same used to get this show pressed to wax over four glorious discs. Little is known about who pressed this boot to vinyl aside from the fact that they did so from Europe, and only 100 copies exist.

 # 5  – KISS Destroys Anaheim

Recorded at Anaheim Stadium on August 20, 1976
Anaheim, CA

Yet another example of a famous KISS boot, this audience recording has been circulating since the ’70s. Recorded during KISS’s Destroyer Tour and is said to have been a highlight during a tour that saw KISS rise from a band playing clubs and halls to arenas and stadiums nearly overnight. While the most famous is the audience recording, producer Eddie Kramer was enlisted to professionally record this show, too, with those recordings circulating as a CD around 2000. But the original KISS Destroys Anaheim holds the most charm despite their shoddy sound quality and the fact that they reflect an incomplete show. You’ll want to find the initial release from 1976 on Ruthless Rhymes for its sheer collectability.

# 4 – Tokyo 1977 Nippon Budokan Hall

Recorded at Nippon Budokan Hall, April 2, 1977
Tokyo, Japan

As its title suggests, this one was recorded during KISS’s initial trip to Japan in 1977. KISS recorded two show’s this day, one at 3 pm and another at 7 pm. The word is that the 7 pm show was better, so that’s the one that ended up being used for this boot. As an audience recording, it’s not going to wow audiophiles, but it’s not half bad, either. Years later, this show’s video footage surfaced, which was used for the KISSOLOGY Vol.1 DVD set. Readers should note that while these shows were rumored to be recorded for an unreleased version of Alive II, the truth is that an entirely different run of shows at Budokan was used for those purposes. As for this bootleg on vinyl, the audience recordings continue to be used for some reason, and you’ll find this to be true should you pursue Royal Works’ two-disc release from 2015.

# 3 – 50,000,000 KISS Fans Can’t Be Wrong

Recorded at Cow Palace on August 16, 1977
San Francisco, CA

Aside from being known as one of KISS’s finest shows ever performed while they were at the height of their powers, the band’s performance at San Francisco’s Cow Palace is also infamous for taking place the same day that Elvis Presley died. And at the end of the show, Paul Stanley can be heard dedicating the festivities to the King to that end. This one is a soundboard recording, which means the quality is outstanding. But there is one oddity: for some reason, “Beth” is missing from the recording entirely, which has never been explained. Also of note: at the soundcheck for this show, Eddie Kramer recorded the legendary “You wanted the best, you got the best…” introduction used for KISS’s famous Alive II album opener. The man who did the yelling? That would be KISS’s chief of security, Eddie Balandas. If you want this one on vinyl, options are limited, so you’ll want to track down the 2016 version on King Records.

# 2 – The Summit

Recorded at The Summit on September 1-2, 1977
Houston, TX

Widely considered one of, if not the greatest, KISS bootlegs ever to be illegally recorded to tape and distributed, KISS’s two-night stand is the stuff of enduring legend. The electricity in the air here is palatable, with ballistic renditions of “I Stone Your Love,” “Shock Me,” and “God of Thunder” showing the band to be one riding high. Throughout the show, Paul Stanley sends the crowd into a perpetual frenzy, and Peter Criss’s jazz licks on steroids style is in full force to boot. The second night is the one people usually go for, but you can’t go wrong with either. And so, keep a lookout for the only version of this on vinyl, which was pressed to white wax in 2019. The label? None knows. Moreover, you’ll pay and pay big if you can track one down.

# 1 – KISS Rocks Madison Square Garden

Recorded at Madison Square Garden, on December 14-16, 1977
New York, NY

We started this journey in New York, and in New York, we shall end. KISS recorded many shows professionally after they hit the road in support of Alive II, probably with an eye to cash in on a proposed Alive III. And while many soundboards exist, when it comes to KISS’s homecoming shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the audience recordings came through in the clutch. Throughout three nights, KISS sold out the World’s Most Famous Arena, treating audiences to their unique blend of rock ‘n’ roll splendor. The setlist was tried and true, but what’s interesting is both Bob and Bruce Kulick were reportedly in the audience for these shows, which ties some KISStory together quite nicely. This was released under an obviously fake “Casablanca Records & Filmworks, Inc.” in 2020. Imposters they may be, but no one can claim they didn’t do this bootleg justice through a glorious four-disc boxset documenting the entirety of KISS’s MSG stand.

KISSteria on Vinyl: Ten’ 70s-era Bootlegs for Records Collectors article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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