In 1973, there were four men who painted their faces in black and white. They also donned some interesting costumes that added to the band’s comic-style trademark. From New York City, drummer Peter Criss, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, bass guitarist Gene Simmons, and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley formed Kiss. This brand of shock rock served as the marketing genius that would catapult these four men into the status of superstardom. Aside from the special effects used to put on jaw-dropping performances, this was a group that knew how to spit out hits clean through the second half of the 1970s. Not only did each man serve his role as a musician but also as a singer and a songwriter. Coming from Paul Stanley, some of his top ten songs as a contributor became some of the biggest hits Kiss ever experienced.
Originally born Stanley Eisen on January 20, 1952, Paul Stanley grew up in a Jewish household, first in upper Manhattan, New York City, then in Queens. Despite its religious affiliation, their practice in Judaism wasn’t quite as dedicated as those who take this belief system more seriously. The family did, however, have an appreciation for classical music. It’s what influenced Paul Stanley as he was a kid who loved Beethoven’s musical scores. For Paul Stanley, this was his refuge as he was often ridiculed in school by his classmates. For the first thirty years of his life, he had to contend with microtia, which is a visible birth defect in the ear that rendered him partially deaf on the right. Not only did Stanley have a surprising appreciation for music despite his hearing issues, but he was also a fan of American Bandstand. These two loves were key influences that would turn a small child into one of the biggest names the music industry ever heard of.
Aside from his love for Beethoven, Paul Stanley also became a big fan of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Their radio and television presence inspired the young man to hone in on his guitar-playing and vocal harmonizing skills. It was enough to earn him a spot at the High School of Music & Art before graduating in 1970.
After graduation, Paul Stanley served as a member of a few local bands, including Rainbow and Wicked Lester. It was the second of these two groups Stanley met Gene Simmons for the first time. Although they recorded music as Wicked Lester in 1972, it was never released. That same year had both men come across an ad posted by Peter Criss in a magazine. After bringing him to their musical fold, an audition was held for a lead guitarist. Ace Frehley beat out the competition that would turn Kiss into a complete lineup. Come 1974, the band recorded and released its first studio album. This would be the only recording that would have Paul Stanley use his birth name. After this, he legally dropped Stanley Eisen in favor of Paul Stanley.
When Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley came together as Kiss, they did more than apply makeup to their faces and wear space-themed jumpsuits. They also became comic book characters. Criss became the Catman, hence why his makeup had him look like a humanoid version of a cat. Frehley was either referred to as Space Ace or Spaceman during this time while Simmons was the Demon. When Kiss made the decision to dress up in face paint and costumes, Stanley sported the black star over his eye and became the Starchild. Since each man was given a voice to express as a character that best described himself as a person, Stanley wasted no time favoring the star. He was already a fan of astronomy, to begin with. Because of this expression of theatrical creativity, Kiss also had a comic book series that brought their personalized characters to life. This was the formula of success that worked in Kiss’s favor until Criss opted out of the lineup in 1980. In 1982, Frehley briefly did the same. However, before 1982 was over, the original lineup of Kiss was made whole again.
Kiss It Goodbye
1983 marked the year Kiss did away with the makeup and costumes that became the group’s trademark image. Oddly enough, the unmasked heroes of rock and roll experienced a new wave of success as they adopted this new identity. It wouldn’t be until five years after the death of Eric Carr in 1991 would Kiss put the makeup back on, along with the costumes. When the 1996 reunion tour was over, Criss and Frehley decided they had enough. Criss briefly left in 2001, only to return from 2002 until 2004. When Frehley left in 2002, he left for good. Today, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer serve as the new Catman and the new Spaceman, respectively. They, along with Simmons and Stanley, are in the middle of performing Kiss’s final tour. The lengthy farewell tour began in January 2019 and was slated to continue until 2023. 2023 would mark the fiftieth year Kiss has rocked the world with their iconic rock music.
The legacy of Kiss includes a record number of thirty RIAA-certified gold albums, as well as fourteen either RIAA-certified platinum albums or multi-platinum. In addition to these achievements, Kiss became one of the most bestselling and influential rock bands of all time. In 2014, the original Kiss lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Paul Stanley’s role as guitarist, singer, and songwriter placed him in an elite category of the world’s best musicians in the business. Even though Kiss seeks to bid farewell as a group, their music, their videos, and even their comic books will forever remain in the cosmos as one of its brightest shining stars.
Top 10 Paul Stanley with Kiss Songs
#10 – Lick It Up
“Lick It Up” was released as a single by Kiss in 1983. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number sixty-six hit while on the UK Singles Chart at number thirty-one. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it peaked as high as number nineteen. Aside from the song’s chart performance, it became one of Kiss’s all-time fan favorites and has since become a staple in the band’s live performances. This was Kiss’s run as a group that didn’t have Peter Criss or Ace Frehley in the lineup. Instead, Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent held their roles in what became the beginning of an unmasked Kiss era. This song was all about lapping up as much pleasure as possible while spending opportune moments together. At the time, this was a great party tune for bonafide rockers who knew a classic the moment they heard the first riff.
#9 – Hotter than Hell
1974’s “Hotter than Hell” was a song written by Paul Stanley after he was inspired by Free’s “All Right Now.” The song itself was about an encounter with a potential love interest that the not-so-subtle Stanley hoped would become a night of romance. By the time it was over, he realized she was married and had no interest to take their casual encounter any further. This revved-up song that ended in rejection had Kiss inject their classic riffs to amp up what otherwise may have passed as an easy-listening number if it was performed by anyone else.
#8 – Crazy Crazy Nights
Released in 1987, “Crazy Crazy Nights” came from Kiss’s fourteenth studio album, Crazy Nights. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a minor hit at number sixty-five. It faired out better on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart at number thirty-seven. In the UK, it was considerably more popular as it peaked as high as number four. It also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry. It was also a top-ten hit in Ireland and Norway. If anyone would know a thing or two about crazy nights, crazy times, and all the adventures and misadventures between, it would be Kiss.
#7 – Modern Day Delilah
2009’s “Modern Day Delilah” was a single released from the album, Sonic Boom. Eleven years after Kiss’s previous single, “You Wanted the Best,” Paul Stanley and his bandmates made a comeback with a hit that peaked as high as number eleven on the US Billboard Airplay chart, and at number fifty on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The highlight of this song probably came from the music video as the roster of Kiss during that time was enlarged to look like giants walking around Detroit, Michigan. This was a song that took the biblical reference of Delilah from the Samson era and used her to illustrate the devious behavior of a woman whom Paul Stanley sang about.
#6 – I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Without a doubt, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” became the most popular hit ever to come from Kiss. Released in 1979 from the album, Dynasty, this was a song that was lyrically put together by Paul Stanley, Desmond Child, and Vini Poncia. At the time of writing, Stanley was determined to come up with a heavy-hitting disco song while the sub-genre was at the height of its popularity. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” became the group’s signature hit and rightfully so. Oddly enough, as much as fans loved it, Gene Simmons wasn’t quite as impressed with it. Nevertheless, the commercial success of this song outdid anything that ever came from Kiss’s musical roster.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number eleven. It was a number-one hit in Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. It was at least a top-ten hit in Australia, Austria, Germany, Norway, South Africa, and Switzerland. What this song did was bring in a whole new wave of fans Kiss never had before. However, this also came at the expense of some loyal fans who felt Kiss abandoned them in favor of a music style they didn’t care for. Among the fan base who were more neutral, they seemed to share the same mentality as Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
What Kiss did was an experiment with a new sound and it worked. This came at a time three years after Kiss had their last top-ten hit and it was a risky step away from the norm. Among fans who wanted to see what more this group from New York could do, Stanley’s vision gave them exactly what they wanted. Like it or hate it, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” became Kiss’s greatest hit overall. It became certified platinum in Italy after reaching the 50,000 copies sold mark. The song also became certified gold in Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK, and in the US. At the time, in order to achieve gold certification with the RIAA, a minimum of one million copies needed to be sold. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” achieved that, an unlikely feat coming from a group that was already nine years old and dealt with mixed reactions from a divided audience from the very beginning.
#5 – Heaven’s on Fire
Paul Stanley opened “Heaven’s on Fire” with his easily identifiable falsetto voice before the riffs kick in to make this song one of Kiss’s greatest hits of all time. Released from 1984’s Animalize, it became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It was a number forty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. “Heaven’s on Fire” also featured video footage that saw Kiss unmasked as the group made the decision to ditch the makeup and the costumes for a while. The course of the song was themed with the carnal desire to crank up the heat in an invite to burning off the sexual energy Stanley and his bandmates were apparently experiencing.
#4 – Psycho Circus
“Psycho Circus” was the title track from Kiss’s eighteenth studio album, which was released in 1998. Paul Stanley co-wrote this song with Curt Cuomo and performed it as the lead vocalist. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it became the group’s first number-one hit since 1979. In Canada, Norway, and Sweden, “Psycho Circus” became at least a top ten hit, again putting an end to a big multi-nation hit drought in nearly twenty years. The fact Kiss was able to earn this feat as a rock group that was approaching its thirtieth anniversary as a band was impressive. This song proved Kiss still had it in them to put out a hard rock favorite.
The music video that accompanied this song was primarily ignored by MTV, which prompted a VHS release by the band that came with 3D glasses. This marketing technique saw enough copies of the video sold to become certified platinum with the Recording Industry Association of America. It was also the second music video that had the Kiss return to sporting makeup and costumes as part of its trademark image. While MTV opted to ignore “Psycho Circus,” the 1998 edition of Metal Edge Readers’ Choice Awards recognized it as Video of the Year.
#3 – Shout It Out Loud
Before Kiss, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were in a group known as Wicked Lester. The two had a song, “Shout It Out Loud” that was supposed to be a recording due for that band’s release. However, Wicked Lester disbanded and the two moved on to form Kiss with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Simmons and Stanley shared the lead vocalist roles with “Shout it Out Loud” as an anthemic Kiss song from the 1976 album, Destroyer. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number thirty-one hit. Meanwhile, the Canadian Singles Chart peaked the song at number one. As a Kiss song, “Shout It Out Loud” was among the select few that would feature Simmons and Stanley singing together in what became one of Kiss’s signature tunes.
# 2 – Strutter
Although it wasn’t often, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley did write songs together as bandmates. This began when they were with Wicked Lester and continued as they became Kiss. In 1974, “Strutter” was released as one of those few songs that had these two men write out the lyrics. Stanley’s performance of this song as lead vocalist stood out as one of the best Kiss ever produced as a single. The power behind Stanley’s vocal talent was undeniable in a song that went down in history as a Kiss cult classic. Even though the song never appeared on any official music charts, it became one of the band’s signature songs that kept the fans coming back for more. Originally, “Strutter” was titled “Stanley the Parrot” before the direction of the musical composition gave reason to make the switch. In content, the song was inspired by New York City’s sexiest women.
#1 – Detroit Rock City
“Detroit Rock City” came from the 1976 album, Destroyer. When it was first released as a single, it was a commercial failure. However, the subject city was very happy to hear their city was glorified by Paul Stanley and his Kiss bandmates. Over time, the appeal of “Detroit Rock City” grew to become one of the all-time fan favorites. When this was released as a record with “Beth” on the B-side, the radio stations preferred the softer song about a love interest over the edgier “Detroit Rock City.”
Although Paul Stanley’s songwriting mentioned the city from Michigan, the actual event he wrote about took place elsewhere. It was a reaction he experienced after learning about a fan getting struck down by a car just outside an arena Kiss performed in previously. For Stanley, reality hit how one celebratory moment could easily meet a tragic end without notice. When Alive II was released as a live recording, “Detroit Rock City,” as well as Kiss as a rock band, finally got the recognition it deserved. From this point forward, Kiss surged in popularity to become one of the most popular rock bands in the 1970s.
Top 10 Paul Stanley Kiss Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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