Top 10 Kiss Songs

Kiss Songs

Photo: By Flickr user Wok (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wok/12916031/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Creating a list of the top 10 Kiss songs is a bit like driving across the US. At some point you’re going to have to make some choices about which route you’re taking and it means you’re going to miss some great stuff. Choose the Northern route and you miss the Cadillac sculptures outside of Amarillo. Choose the South and you’ll miss all that, you know, corn. Likewise with Kiss there are at least two eras with such different sounds and sensibilities that it’s almost like two different bands entirely and it’s not just about make-up verses no make-up. In the end it comes down to a choice between the 70s era Kiss and everything else. Try to keep that in mind as you peruse this list and fail to see much post-1983 music. While there is plenty of great material during the latter era, this list is focusing on the dirty, distorted sounds of the New York City band that conquered the world in the 1970s.

# 10 – Rocket Ride

Released as one of five studio tracks on the 1977 album, Alive II, “Rocket Ride,” is primarily a vehicle to highlight Ace Frehley’s skills as songwriter, superlative guitarist, and sexual double-entendre aficionado. “Baby wants it fast, baby wants a blast/ She wants a rocket ride. She wants a rocket ride.” Get it?

# 9 – Tie: New York Groove/Radioactive

This selection might be a bit of a cheat as these two recordings were technically off solo records but when all four members of the same band release solo records on the same day with the same cover art while wearing the same make-up they do when they’re performing as a band kind of makes it forgivable. Ace Frehley’s cover of the Russ Ballard song, “New York Groove,” was the most successful single of the four “solo” records but Radioactive, the opening song to Gene Simmons’ album, wins the award for song intro that scared the most children during the 1970s. By all definitions both are clearly Kiss songs so let’s not quibble about who released what and where.

# 8 – She

Bassist Gene Simmons wrote the lyrics for this song while the band was still under their original moniker, Wicked Lester. Though it had been in the bands repertoire for years it wasn’t officially released until 1975 as the eighth track on their third studio album, Dressed to Kill. While Frehley may have employed metaphors and double entendres to illustrate his sexual musings, Simmons went for more of a “straight forward” approach with lyrics like “I know she’s going down, going. Everybody knows she’s so good.”

# 7 – Strutter

The third single off their 1974, self-titled debut, “Strutter,” remains one of the few songs written by Simmons and Stanley together. The lyrics speak of that special lady-of-the-night who will “let you walk the streets beside her” which is not something most purveyors of prostitutes would be into but whatever floats your boat. More importantly though, there seems to be a trend in this particular band’s lyrics.

# 6 – Love Gun

Obviously the theory that all Kiss songs are about sex ends here because there is simply no way this title track off their sixth album is graphic in any way. The repetitive snare drum hits that lead into each chorus are obviously referencing some type of machine gun, which must be what the song is about. Right?

# 5 – Calling Dr. Love

From their 1976 album, Rock and Roll Over, “Calling Dr. Love,” hit number 16 on the Billboard charts becoming the band’s fourth Top 40 single. Written by Simmons, the lyrics seem to suggest, to the suggestible listener, that our hero, Dr. Love, has a cure for whatever is ailing you and the “first step of the cure is a kiss”. It’s not clear where the good doctor received his medical degree but that doesn’t seem like the best way to handle most diseases.

# 4 – Shout It Out Loud

Finally, a song about something other than sex. It’s about partying, another thematic staple in the Kiss oeuvre. “Shout it Out Loud,” was the first single off Destroyer, the double platinum record that launched Kiss into the stratosphere. Shout it Out Loud would not only be their second Top 40 single, it would be their first number one when it reached the top of the Canadian charts in May of 1976. “Shout it Out Loud,” became a prominent feature of their live shows for decades.

# 3 – Beth

Drummer Peter Criss penned the lyrics and handled vocals on this, the band’s highest-charting single. A simple ballad, Beth was originally released as the B-side to “Detroit Rock City,” but it wasn’t long before Casablanca Records re-issued the single with Beth as the A-side. Shooting up to number seven, “Beth,” was one of only two Top 10 hits for the band, the other being “Forever,”which reached number eight in 1990. Criss recorded the song without any of the other band members, accompanied by a piano and string orchestra, making this the only Kiss song with no instrumental performance by any member of the band.

# 2 – Detroit Rock City

Written about an actual Kiss fan that was killed on the way to a concert, “Detroit Rock City,” wasn’t much of a commercial success but has long been a fan favorite and staple of the band’s live performances. The third single off Destroyer, “Detroit Rock City,” failed to even chart in the United States but managed some success in markets like Canada and Germany. A 1999 comedic film of the same name tells the story of four teenagers in a Kiss cover band trying to meet their heroes in person.

# 1 – Rock and Roll All Nite

By far and away the most recognized arrow in the Kiss quiver, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” is a rock and roll anthem’s anthem. Originally released as a single off Dressed to Kill the song didn’t become a major hit until a live version was released to promote their first live recording, Alive, in 1975. This version of the song reached number 12 on the Billboard Charts, making it their first top 20 hit, and went on to become the finale of every live Kiss performance ever since. VH-1 listed it as the 16th greatest hard rock song of all time in 2008.

 

While songs like “Forever,” “Lick It Up,” and “Psycho Circus,” achieved great success and acclaim for the band, it’s the songs listed here that made Kiss one of the most successful bands the world has ever seen. Their unbelievable theatrics and powerful stage presence might have been all they ever needed to achieve success but songs like these took them to a whole new level. It’s Kiss’ rock and roll world. We’re just living in it.

Written by Michael Quinn

Photo by By Flickr user Wok (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wok/12916031/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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