If, as John Lennon said, Glam Rock was “just rock ‘n’ roll with lipstick on,” then there was surely none-more-Glam than the band KISS.
KISS, formed in 1973, played its first ever gig, makeup-less, to an audience of three—one less than the total number of band members. Leader Gene Simmons, determined not to repeat the experience, decided to try every possible gimmick to draw attention to the band.
The four members each used elaborate costumes and an infinite amount of makeup to portray comic-book-esqe characters on stage. Paul Stanley was The Starchild, Gene Simmons was The Demon, Ace Frehley was The Spaceman, and The Catman was Peter Criss. This set of pictures shows their ritual transformations prior to gigs in 1974 and 1975.
When Criss left the band in 1980, his place was taken by Eric Carr, as The Fox. Frehley was also replaced by Vinnie Vincent, under the somewhat opaque name of the “The Wiz”.
In 1983, the band went—gasp!—makeup free for the first time. The following tour was not well attended. But they soldiered on and have, to date, sold around 100 million records.
This year is the band’s 45th anniversary, and they will play their final ever gigs with the “End of the Road Tour.” Or so they say. This is the band, after all, that played a Farewell tour in 2000. It remains to be seen whether 2019 will be the last time they reach for the bottle of makeup remover.