|You're Crazy||A Rock Tribute To Guns N' Roses|| |
|Wango Tango (Cover Version)||World's Greatest Tribute To Ted Nugent|| |
|Lights||Metal School 101|| |
|Red Hot (Razor Remix)||Shout At The Remix: A Tribute To Motley Crue|| |
Of course, the rest is history, and the early-day exploits of the original Hollywood Rose were of course consigned to the realm of vague memory once GNR exploded to worldwide stardom on the back of 1987's watershed Appetite for Destruction. And that's how they remained for 20 years, until those five long-forgotten 1984 demos were unexpectedly unearthed, appended with ten remixes, and issued on CD under the title of The Roots of Guns N' Roses to the delight of aging hair metal fans everywhere. Not surprisingly, the release immediately drew a cease-and-desist lawsuit from Axl Rose, but with litigation still ongoing, it appears that this very patchy, very belated, but nevertheless fascinating article of L.A. hair metal history will remain available to enthusiasts of the genre for the time being.
Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi
In the meantime, they developed a prototype for power ballads with "Dream On," a piano ballad that was orchestrated with strings and distorted guitars. Aerosmith's ability to pull off both ballads and rock & roll made them extremely popular during the mid-'70s, when they had a string of gold and platinum albums. By the early '80s, the group's audience had declined as the band fell prey to drug and alcohol abuse. However, their career was far from over -- in the late '80s, Aerosmith pulled off one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock history, returning to the top of the charts with a group of albums that equaled, if not surpassed, the popularity of their '70s albums.
In 1970, the first incarnation of Aerosmith formed when vocalist Steven Tyler met guitarist Joe Perry while working at a Sunapee, New Hampshire, ice cream parlor. Tyler, who originally was a drummer, and Perry decided to form a power trio with bassist Tom Hamilton. The group soon expanded to a quartet, adding a second guitarist called Ray Tabano; he was quickly replaced by Brad Whitford, a former member of Earth Inc. With the addition of drummer Joey Kramer, Tyler became the full-time lead singer by the end of year. Aerosmith relocated to Boston at the end of 1970.
After playing clubs in the Massachusetts and New York areas for two years, the group landed a record contract with Columbia Records in 1972. Aerosmith's self-titled debut album was released in the fall of 1973, climbing to number 166. "Dream On" was released as the first single and it was a minor hit, reaching number 59. For the next year, the band built a fan base by touring America, supporting groups as diverse as the Kinks, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Sha Na Na, and Mott the Hoople. The performance of Get Your Wings (1974), the group's second album and the first produced by Jack Douglas, benefited from their constant touring, spending a total of 86 weeks on the chart.
Aerosmith's third record, 1975's Toys in the Attic, was their breakthrough album both commercially and artistically. By the time it was recorded, the band's sound had developed into a sleek, hard-driving hard rock powered by simple, almost brutal, blues-based riffs. Many critics at the time labeled the group as punk rockers, and it's easy to see why -- instead of adhering to the world music pretensions of Led Zeppelin or the prolonged gloomy mysticism of Black Sabbath, Aerosmith stripped heavy metal to its basic core, spitting out spare riffs that not only rocked, but rolled. Steven Tyler's lyrics were filled with double entendres and clever jokes, and the entire band had a streetwise charisma that separated it from the heavy, lumbering arena rockers of the era. Toys in the Attic captured the essence of the newly invigorated Aerosmith. "Sweet Emotion," the first single from Toys in the Attic, broke into the Top 40 in the summer of 1975, with the album reaching number 11 shortly afterward. Its success prompted the re-release of the power ballad "Dream On," which shot into the Top Ten in early 1976. Both Aerosmith and Get Your Wings climbed back up the charts in the wake of Toys in the Attic. "Walk This Way," the final single from Toys in the Attic, was released around the time of the group's new 1976 album, Rocks. Although it didn't feature a Top Ten hit like "Walk This Way," Rocks went platinum quickly, peaking at number three.
In early 1977, Aerosmith took a break and prepared material for their fifth album. Released late in 1977, Draw the Line was another hit, climbing to number 11 on the U.S. charts, but it showed signs of exhaustion. In addition to another tour in 1978, the band appeared in the movie "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", performing "Come Together," which eventually became a number 23 hit. Live! Bootleg appeared late in 1978 and became another success, reaching number 13. Aerosmith recorded Night in the Ruts in 1979, releasing the record at the end of the year. By the time of its release, Joe Perry had left the band to form the Joe Perry Project. Night in the Ruts performed respectably, climbing to number 14 and going gold, yet it was the least successful Aerosmith record to date. Brad Whitford left the group in early 1980, forming the Whitsford-St. Holmes Band with former Ted Nugent guitarist Derek St. Holmes.
As Aerosmith regrouped with new guitarists Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, the band released Aerosmith's Greatest Hits in late 1980; the record would eventually sell over six million copies. The new lineup of Aerosmith released Rock in a Hard Place in 1982. Peaking at number 32, it failed to match the performance of Night in the Ruts. Perry and Whitford returned to the band in 1984 and the group began a reunion tour dubbed Back in the Saddle. Early in the tour, Tyler collapsed on-stage, offering proof that the bandmembers hadn't conquered their notorious drug and alcohol addictions. The following year, Aerosmith released Done with Mirrors, the original lineup's first record since 1979 and their first for Geffen Records. Although it didn't perform as well as Rock in a Hard Place, the album showed that the band was revitalized.
After the release of Done with Mirrors, Tyler and Perry completed rehabilitation programs. In 1986, the pair appeared on Run-D.M.C.'s cover of "Walk This Way," along with appearing in the video. "Walk This Way" became a hit, reaching number four and receiving saturation airplay on MTV. "Walk This Way" set the stage for the band's full-scale comeback effort, the Bruce Fairbairn-produced Permanent Vacation (1987). Tyler and Perry collaborated with professional hard rock songwriters like Holly Knight and Desmond Child, resulting in the hits "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Rag Doll," and "Angel." Permanent Vacation peaked at number 11 and sold over three million copies.
Pump, released in 1989, continued the band's winning streak, reaching number five, selling over four million copies, and spawning the Top Ten singles "Love in an Elevator," "Janie's Got a Gun," and "What It Takes." Aerosmith released Get a Grip in 1993. Like Permanent Vacation and Pump, Get a Grip was produced by Bruce Fairbairn and featured significant contributions by professional songwriters. The album was as successful as the band's previous two records, featuring the hit singles "Livin' on the Edge," "Cryin'," and "Amazing." In 1994, Aerosmith released Big Ones, a compilation of hits from their Geffen years that fulfilled their contract with the label; it went double platinum shortly after its release.
While Aerosmith was at the height of their revitalized popularity in the early '90s, the group signed a lucrative multi-million dollar contract with Columbia Records, even though they still owed Geffen two albums. It wasn't until 1995 that the band was able to begin working on their first record under the new contract -- nearly five years after the contract was signed. The making of Aerosmith albums usually had been difficult affairs, but the recording of Nine Lives was plagued with bad luck. The band went through a number of producers and songwriters before settling on Kevin Shirley in 1996. More damaging, however, was the dismissal of the band's manager, Tim Collins, who'd been responsible for bringing the band back from the brink of addiction. Upon his firing, Collins insinuated that Steven Tyler was using hard drugs again, an allegation that Aerosmith adamantly denied.
Under such circumstances, recording became quite difficult, and when Nine Lives finally appeared in the spring of 1997, it was greeted with great anticipation, yet the initial reviews were mixed and even though album debuted at number one, it quickly fell down the charts. The live A Little South of Sanity followed in 1998. Three years later, Aerosmith strutted their stuff on the Super Bowl halftime special on CBS with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Nelly, *NSYNC, and Britney Spears, just prior to issuing their heart-stomping Just Push Play in March 2001. Next up for the band was a blues album, Honkin' on Bobo, released in 2004, along with two live album/DVDs, You Gotta Move and Rockin' the Joint. Another greatest-hits collection, Devil's Got a New Disguise: The Very Best of Aerosmith arrived in 2006.
From there, Aerosmith entered a period of volatility. A world tour followed in 2007 and the group attempted to record a new studio album with producer Brendan O'Brien but the sessions were never finalized. Instead, another tour followed in 2009, this time a supporting jaunt for Aerosmith's own special edition of the Guitar Hero video game. This tour proved to be ill-fated, with Steven Tyler suffering a leg injury in June, then falling off the stage in August, leading to the cancellation of the subsequent dates. As 2009 came to a close, Joe Perry released a solo album called Have Guitar, Will Travel as Tyler announced that he was planning on "working on the brand of myself," which included working on an autobiography and a solo album, along with a stint in rehab to wean himself off painkillers prescribed due to his stage injuries.
Before Tyler embarked on solo projects, he returned to the band for a series of concerts in 2010, in the midst of which it was announced that the singer would be a new judge on the televised singing competition "American Idol". Perry voiced his dissatisfaction in the press but Tyler's time on "American Idol" helped raise the band's profile, while providing a platform for Tyler's memoir, "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?" The book performed better than his two solo singles -- 2010's "Love Lives" and 2011's "(It) Feels So Good" -- singles that did not wind up signaling his departure from Aerosmith. Tyler continued to tour with the band and in 2011 they recorded a new album with producer Jack Douglas, the man who helmed their classic '70s LPs. Originally scheduled for release in summer of 2012, Music from Another Dimension! wound up being pushed back to that year's holiday season, by which time Tyler had departed his judgeship on "American Idol".
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Guns N' Roses released their first EP in 1986, which led to a contract with Geffen; the following year, the band released its debut album, Appetite for Destruction. They started to build a following with their numerous live shows, but the album didn't start selling until almost a year later, when MTV started playing "Sweet Child O' Mine." Soon, both the album and single shot to number one, and Guns N' Roses became one of the biggest bands in the world. Their debut single, "Welcome to the Jungle," was re-released and shot into the Top Ten, and "Paradise City" followed in its footsteps. By the end of 1988, they released G N' R Lies, which paired four new, acoustic-based songs (including the Top Five hit "Patience") with their first EP. G N' R Lies' inflammatory closer, "One in a Million," sparked intense controversy, as Rose slipped into misogyny, bigotry, and pure violence; essentially, he somehow managed to distill every form of prejudice and hatred into one five-minute tune.
Guns N' Roses began work on the long-awaited follow-up to Appetite for Destruction at the end of 1990. In October of that year, the band fired Adler, claiming that his drug dependency caused him to play poorly; he was replaced by Matt Sorum from the Cult. During recording, the band added Dizzy Reed on keyboards. By the time the sessions were finished, the new album had become two new albums. After being delayed for nearly a year, the albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were released in September 1991. Messy but fascinating, the albums showcased a more ambitious band; while there were still a fair number of full-throttle guitar rockers, there were stabs at Elton John-style balladry, acoustic blues, horn sections, female backup singers, ten-minute art rock epics with several different sections, and a good number of introspective, soul-searching lyrics. In short, they were now making art; amazingly, they were successful at it. The albums sold very well initially, but while they had seemed destined to set the pace for the decade to come, that turned out not to be the case at all.
Nirvana's Nevermind hit number one in early 1992, suddenly making Guns N' Roses -- with all of their pretensions, impressionistic videos, models, and rock star excesses -- seem very uncool. Rose handled the change by becoming a dictator, or at least a petty tyrant; his in-concert temper tantrums became legendary, even going so far as to incite a riot in Montreal. Stradlin left by the end of 1991, and with his departure the band lost its best songwriter; he was replaced by ex-Kills for Thrills guitarist Gilby Clarke. GNR didn't fully grasp the shift in hard rock until 1993, when they released an album of punk covers, The Spaghetti Incident?; it received some good reviews, but the band failed to capture the reckless spirit of not only the original versions, but its own Appetite for Destruction. By the middle of 1994, there were rumors flying that GNR were about to break up, since Rose wanted to pursue a new, more industrial direction and Slash wanted to stick with their blues-inflected hard rock. The band remained in limbo for several more years, and Slash resurfaced in 1995 with the side project Slash's Snakepit and an LP, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere.
Rose remained out of the spotlight, becoming a virtual recluse and doing nothing but tinkering in the studio; he also recruited various musicians -- including Dave Navarro, Tommy Stinson, and ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck -- for informal jam sessions. Remaining members were infuriated by Rose's inclusion of childhood friend Paul Huge in the new sessions when both Stradlin and Clarke were excluded from rejoining the band. And a remake of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" was essentially the straw that broke the camel's back, as Rose cut out some of the other members' contributions and pasted Huge over the song without consulting anyone else. By 1996, Slash was officially out of Guns N' Roses, leaving Rose the lone remaining survivor from the group's heyday; rumors continued to swirl, and still no new material was forthcoming, though Rose did re-record Appetite for Destruction with a new lineup for rehearsal purposes. The first new original GNR song in eight years, the industrial metal sludge of "Oh My God" finally appeared on the soundtrack to the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger film "End of Days". Soon after, Geffen issued the two-disc Live Era: '87-'93.
The year 2000 brought the addition of guitarists Robin Finck (of Nine Inch Nails) and Buckethead, and 2001 was greeted with Guns N' Roses' first live dates in nearly seven years, as the band (which consisted of Rose plus guitarists Finck and Buckethead, bassist Stinson, former Primus drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia, childhood friend and guitarist Paul Huge, and longtime GNR keyboardist Dizzy Reed) played a show on New Year's Eve 2000 in Las Vegas, playing as well at the mammoth Rock in Rio festival the following month. On New Year's Eve 2001, the band played almost the exact same set as the year before.
An appearance at MTV's 2002 "Video Music Awards" helped garner interest in the new lineup, but a rusty performance from Rose and an interview where he said his new album wasn't coming out anytime soon didn't do much to further their cause. That summer, GNR started on their first tour in almost eight years, and they managed to fulfill all of their commitments in Europe and Asia. Sadly, they caused a violent and destructive riot in Vancouver when Rose failed to show up for the first date of their North American tour. While he was up to his old shenanigans with the retooled lineup, former Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland, Slash, Sorum, and McKagan formed the successful Velvet Revolver in spring 2002.
And so years passed and still no new GNR album, to the point where it became one joke too many. The album was long billed as Chinese Democracy, and occasionally session recordings would leak and make their way onto Internet file-sharing networks. A fascinating article written by Jeff Leeds for The New York Times, published in March 2005, revealed how tangled and costly the making of the album had become. According to the article, titled "The Most Expensive Album Never Released," Rose began work on the album in 1994 and racked up production costs of at least $13 million dollars. Producers involved with the album at one time or another included Mike Clink, Youth, Sean Beavan, and even Roy Thomas Baker. (Curiously, Moby claimed to have been offered the job as well.) Marco Beltrami and Paul Buckmaster were allegedly brought in for orchestral arrangements, and there was a revolving door of guitarists. In 2006, the album seemed closer to release, as Rose began surfacing in public and even took his band on the road for some shows. The music industry's biggest boondoggle finally bore fruit in 2008 when Axl unveiled a record that was well over a decade in the making. While Chinese Democracy received many rave reviews, and the critical response was positive overall, the record underperformed (its almost impossible) expectations, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200 when it came out in November. A worldwide tour followed.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Greg Prato, Rovi
Formed in January 1981, Mötley Crüe were originally the pet project of bassist Nikki Sixx (born Frank Ferrana), vocalist/guitarist Greg Leon, and drummer Tommy Lee (born Thomas Lee Bass). Leon was a veteran of the Hollywood scene, having replaced Randy Rhoads in Quiet Riot two years prior. He butted heads with the strong-willed Sixx, however, resulting in his departure from the lineup several months later. Local guitarist Bob "Mick Mars" Deal joined in his place, bringing the moniker "Mottley Krue" with him. After altering the name and adding a pair of umlauts (allegedly in tribute to German beer), the trio began efforts to recruit Vincent Neil Wharton, vocalist for the L.A.-based band Rock Candy. Neil initially refused the advances, only joining the band after his Rock Candy cohorts announced their decision to transform their group into a new wave act. With Vince Neil now on board, Mötley Crüe became a cult favorite on the L.A. circuit, infamously known for such theatrics as setting Sixx's pants on fire midsong.
The band soon secured management with Allan Coffman, who financed recording sessions for a debut album. Initially released in November 1981 by Lethur Records -- a small, independent label launched by Coffman and the band -- Too Fast for Love sold a surprising 20,000 copies. It also prompted a Canadian tour, where the musicians made headlines by wearing their spike-laden stage attire onto the plane, carrying suitcases of pornographic material through airport security, and fielding death threats from incensed fans in Edmonton. Such exposure only served to fuel Mötley Crüe's sensationalist appeal, generating the sort of shocked press coverage that the band desired.
Back at home, Elektra Records had become impressed by the band's popularity in local venues, prompting the label to sign Mötley Crüe before releasing a new, remastered version of Too Fast for Love. Following the band's return to California, Elektra also released the sophomore effort Shout at the Devil in 1983. The video for "Looks That Kill" became an MTV hit, broadcasting the group's glammed-up theatrics to an audience unfamiliar with Mötley Crüe's popularity on the club circuit, and the record went platinum as a result. Shout at the Devil sold an additional million copies in 1984, but the party was brought to a temporary standstill when Vince Neil crashed his car on December 8, killing passenger Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley of Hanoi Rocks. The other victims emerged with broken bones and brain damage, while a relatively unscathed Neil was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. He was ultimately incarcerated for 15 days in 1986, in addition to performing community service and paying a large cash settlement. By the time Neil was sentenced, however, the band's newest record, Theatre of Pain, had already enjoyed a lengthy stay on the charts, cementing the band's mainstream status and producing Mötley Crüe's first Top 40 hit with a cover of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room." Neil's stint in jail was brief, and the band was free to continue its decadent reign.
Under the management of Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee, the latter of whom also managed Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe's popularity expanded throughout the latter half of the '80s. "Home Sweet Home," a power ballad from Theatre of Pain, yielded another popular music video, while a 44-minute home video cassette entitled Uncensored was issued in 1986 to multi-platinum sales. Meanwhile, Lee married actress Heather Locklear, and the band returned to the studio to record a fourth album, Girls, Girls, Girls. Released during the band's substance-addled heyday in 1987, the album debuted at number two, with the raunchy title track becoming Mötley Crüe's second Top 40 hit. The group quickly embarked on a headlining tour, but the European dates were canceled when Sixx suffered a near-fatal heroin overdose. He was pronounced legally dead en route to the hospital, only to be revived by two shots of adrenaline to the heart. Upon returning home, Sixx immediately shot up once again. Shocked, Thaler and McGhee urged their clients to enter a drug rehabilitation program, and Mötley Crüe remained out of the spotlight while the bandmates cleaned up their act.
They returned in 1989 -- clean and sober this time -- with the release of Dr. Feelgood, a muscled album that became Mötley Crüe's first release to top the Billboard charts. Meanwhile, the title track became the band's first Top Ten hit, and a string of additional singles -- "Kickstart My Heart" (inspired by Sixx's brush with death), "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," and "Without You" -- made Dr. Feelgood the most successful Crüe album to date. After another worldwide tour, the compilation album Decade of Decadence arrived in 1991, propelled to multi-platinum status by a new version of "Home Sweet Home" that became the band's final Top 40 hit.
After creating their own record label, Mötley Records, the bandmates signed a renewed contract with Elektra for $25 million. The music industry had begun to devote most of its attention to grunge music, however, and the pressure to keep pace with changing trends took its toll on the band's camaraderie. In 1992, sessions for Mötley Crüe's next album turned ugly, leading to the dismissal (or departure, depending on the source) of Neil, who was replaced by the Scream's John Corabi. The revised band issued Mötley Crüe in 1994, which peaked at number seven in the U.S. and eventually went gold. Such an attempt to embrace a new, grungier sound proved to be a commercial disappointment, however, as did the band's supporting tour. Corabi was fired in 1997 at the label's behest, and Neil returned to the lineup for the release of Generation Swine. The subject of a heavy marketing campaign, Generation Swine debuted at number four, although it failed to generate any significant singles. Meanwhile, Corabi resurfaced alongside former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick in the group Union.
Shortly after the release of Greatest Hits in 1998, Tommy Lee was arrested for spousal abuse against Pamela Anderson. He spent most of the year in jail, effectively killing any momentum generated by the gold-selling status of Greatest Hits and Generation Swine. Meanwhile, the group's contract with Elektra fell apart, prompting Mötley Records to switch its affiliation to the Beyond label. The band acquired the rights to its back catalog in the process.
After numerous bitter encounters with Neil, Tommy Lee left the band in 1999 to form Methods of Mayhem, which released a self-titled debut album later that year. He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo, and the revamped lineup celebrated its acquisition of the Crüe catalog by issuing remastered editions of every studio album, as well as the rarities collection Supersonic and Demonic Relics. A collection of new material, New Tattoo, appeared in the summer of 2000 to a lukewarm reception, and Castillo became stricken with an undisclosed illness on the eve of the requisite tour. While he recuperated at home, the band temporarily enlisted Hole's drummer (and lifelong Crüe fan), Samantha Maloney, to handle percussion duties.
In May 2001, the band issued a best-selling, tell-all biography entitled The Dirt. During the downtime that followed its release, Neil launched a brief solo tour of U.S. clubs and Sixx wrote material for other artists, including Tantric, Meat Loaf, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and James Michael. Sadly, Castillo succumbed to cancer during the following spring, prompting the band to continue its hiatus. Although Sixx speculated publicly about the possibility of a reunion tour, Tommy Lee quickly rebutted such rumors, claiming that his relationship with Vince Neil was simply too poor for any sort of reconciliation. Controversy surrounded the band again as former producer Tom Werman sued for unpaid royalties, Neil's former wife Heidi Mark publicly accused him of physical abuse, and Neil was kicked off a nationally syndicated radio show for being too drunk to maintain an interview.
Rumors of a reunion continued to swirl throughout the following two years, even as Mötley Crüe's members remained loyal to their individual projects. Both Tommy Lee and Vince Neil participated in celebrity TV shows -- Lee as the focus of an NBC series that featured the drummer attending college classes, and Neil in the first season of The Surreal Life -- while Sixx toured and released an album with his new band, Brides of Destruction. In late 2004, however, the four original members announced a full-scale reunion tour for the following year, marking their first outing since the late '90s. The tour coincided with the February release of Mötley Crüe's double-disc greatest-hits collection, Red, White & Crüe, which went platinum within six months of its release. The reunion tour was further celebrated by the release of a concert album, Carnival of Sins Live, in 2006, while a record of new material, Saints of Los Angeles, arrived in 2008. In keeping with their recent dedication to the road, the bandmates subsequently unveiled plans for Crüe Fest, a summer package tour that netted over $40 million during its inaugural year.
Andrew Leahey, Rovi
Kiss was the brainchild of Gene Simmons (bass, vocals) and Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals), former members of the New York-based hard rock band Wicked Lester; the duo brought in drummer Peter Criss through his ad in "Rolling Stone", while guitarist Ace Frehley responded to an advertisement in "The Village Voice". Even at their first Manhattan concert in 1973, the group's approach was theatrical, and Flipside producer Bill Aucoin offered the band a management deal after the show. Two weeks later, the band was signed to Neil Bogart's fledgling record label, Casablanca. Kiss released their self-titled debut in February of 1974; it peaked at number 87 on the U.S. charts. By April of 1975, the group had released three albums and had been touring America constantly, building up a sizable fan base.
Culled from those numerous concerts, Alive! (released in the fall of 1975) made the band rock & roll superstars; it climbed into the Top Ten and its accompanying single, "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite," made it to number 12. Their follow-up, Destroyer, was released in March of 1976 and became the group's first platinum album; it also featured their first Top Ten single, Peter Criss' power ballad "Beth." Kiss mania was in full swing; thousands of pieces of merchandise hit the marketplace (including pinball machines, makeup and masks, and board games), and the group had two comic books released by Marvel as well as a live-action TV movie, Kiss Meet the Phantom of the Park. A 1977 Gallup poll named Kiss the most popular band in America. The group was never seen in public without wearing their makeup, and their popularity was growing by leaps and bounds; the membership of the Kiss Army, the band's fan club, was now in the six figures.
Even such enormous popularity had its limits, and the band reached them in 1978, when all four members released solo albums on the same day in October. Simmons' record was the most successful, reaching number 22 on the charts, yet all of them made it into the Top 50. Dynasty, released in 1979, continued their streak of platinum albums, yet it was their last record with the original lineup -- Criss left in 1980. Kiss Unmasked, released in the summer of 1980, was recorded with session drummer Anton Fig; Criss' true replacement, Eric Carr, joined the band in time for their 1980 world tour. Kiss Unmasked was their first record since Destroyer to fail to go platinum, and 1981's Music from the Elder, their first album recorded with Carr, didn't even go gold -- it couldn't even climb past number 75 on the charts. Ace Frehley left the band after its release; he was replaced by Vinnie Vincent in 1982. Vincent's first album with the group, 1982's Creatures of the Night, fared better than Music from the Elder, yet it couldn't make it past number 45 on the charts.
Sensing it was time for a change, Kiss dispensed with their makeup for 1983's Lick It Up. The publicity worked, as the album became their first platinum record in four years. Animalize, released the following year, was just as successful, and the group essentially recaptured their niche. Vincent left after Animalize and was replaced by Mark St. John, although St. John was soon taken ill with Reiter's Syndrome and left the band. Bruce Kulick became Kiss' new lead guitarist in 1984. For the rest of the decade, Kiss turned out a series of best-selling albums, culminating in the early 1990 hit ballad "Forever," which was their biggest single since "Beth." Kiss was scheduled to record a new album with their old producer, Bob Ezrin, in 1990 when Eric Carr became severely ill with cancer; he died in November of 1991 at the age of 41. Kiss replaced him with Eric Singer and recorded Revenge (1992), their first album since 1989; it was a Top Ten hit and went gold. Kiss followed it with the release of Alive III the following year; it performed respectably, but was not up to the standards of their two previous live records.
In 1996, the original lineup of Kiss -- featuring Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Criss -- reunited to perform an international tour, complete with their notorious makeup and special effects. The tour was one of the most successful of 1996, and in 1998 the reunited group issued Psycho Circus. While the ensuing tour in support of Psycho Circus was a success, sales of Kiss' reunion album weren't as stellar as anticipated. Reminiscent of the band's late-'70s unfocused period, few tracks on Psycho Circus featured all four members playing together (most tracks were supplemented with session musicians), as the band seemed more interested in flooding the marketplace with merchandise yet again instead of making the music their top priority. With rumors running rampant that the Psycho Circus Tour would be their last, the quartet announced in the spring of 2000 that they would be launching a U.S. farewell tour in the summer, which became one of the year's top concert draws. But on the eve of a Japanese and Australian tour in early 2001, Peter Criss suddenly left the band once again, supposedly discontent with his salary. Taking his place was previous Kiss drummer Eric Singer, who in a controversial move among some longtime fans, donned Criss' cat-man makeup (since Simmons and Stanley own both Frehley and Criss' makeup designs, there was no threat of a lawsuit) as the farewell tour continued.
With the band scheduled to call it a day supposedly by late 2001, a mammoth career-encompassing box set was set for later in the year, while the summer saw perhaps the most over-the-top piece of Kiss merchandise yet -- the "Kiss Kasket." The group was relatively quiet through the rest of the year, but 2002 started with a bang as Gene Simmons turned in an entertaining and controversial interview on NPR where he criticized the organization and berated host Terry Gross with sexual comments and condescending answers. He was promoting his autobiography at the time, which also caused dissent in the Kiss camp because of the inflammatory remarks made toward Ace Frehley. Frehley was quite angry at the situation, leading to his no-show at an "American Bandstand" anniversary show. (His place was taken by a wig-wearing Tommy Thayer, but no one was fooled and the band looked especially awful while pretending to play their instruments during the pre-recorded track.) The appearance was an embarrassment for the group and for their fans, but Simmons was quick to dismiss the performance as another in a long series of money-oriented decisions. The band kept touring the globe with no new album in stores, but in 2008 they returned to the studio, re-recorded their hits, and released Jigoku-Retsuden aka KISSology or Kiss Klassics. The release was exclusive to Japan until a year later when it became a bonus disc for the band's first studio album in 11 years, Sonic Boom. Produced by Paul Stanley and Greg Collins, the album was exclusively distributed in North America by the Wal-Mart chain of stores. In 2012, the band's twentieth studio album, Monster, surfaced, rewriting the cowbell-heavy party rock of their '70s heyday and adding some nods to the sinister metal of 1992's Revenge.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Greg Prato, Rovi
Steve Huey, Rovi
Greg Prato, Rovi
Furnier formed his first group, the Earwigs, as an Arizona teenager in the early '60s. Changing the band's name to the Spiders in 1965, the group was eventually called the Nazz (not to be confused with Todd Rundgren's band of the same name). The Spiders and the Nazz both released local singles that were moderately popular. In 1968, after discovering there was another band with the same name, the group changed its name to Alice Cooper. According to band legend, the name came to Furnier during a Ouija board session, where he was told he was the reincarnation of a 17th century witch of the same name. Comprised of vocalist Furnier -- who would soon begin calling himself Alice Cooper -- guitarist Mike Bruce, guitarist Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith, the group moved to California in 1968. There, the group met Shep Gordon, who became their manager, and Frank Zappa, who signed Alice Cooper to his Straight Records imprint.
Alice Cooper released their first album, Pretties for You, in 1969. Easy Action followed early in 1970, yet it failed to chart. The group's reputation in Los Angeles was slowly shrinking, so the band moved to Furnier's hometown of Detroit. For the next year, the group refined their bizarre stage show. Late in 1970, the group's contract was transferred to Straight's distributor Warner Bros., and they began recording their third album with producer Bob Ezrin. With Ezrin's assistance, Alice Cooper developed their classic heavy metal crunch on 1971's Love It to Death, which featured the number 21 hit single "Eighteen"; the album peaked at number 35 and went gold. The success enabled the group to develop a more impressive, elaborate live show, which made them highly popular concert attractions across the U.S. and eventually the U.K. Killer, released late in 1971, was another gold album.
Released in the summer of 1972, School's Out was Alice Cooper's breakthrough record, peaking at number two and selling over a million copies. The title song became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and a number one single in the U.K. Billion Dollar Babies, released the following year, was the group's biggest hit, reaching number one in both America and Britain; the album's first single, "No More Mr. Nice Guy," became a Top Ten hit in Britain, peaking at number 25 in the U.S. Muscle of Love appeared late in 1973, yet it failed to capitalize on the success of Billion Dollar Babies. After Muscle of Love, Furnier and the rest of Alice Cooper parted ways to pursue other projects. Having officially changed his name to Alice Cooper, Furnier embarked on a similarly theatrical solo career; the rest of the band released one unsuccessful album under the name Billion Dollar Babies, while Mike Bruce and Neal Smith both recorded solo albums that were never issued. In the fall of 1974, a compilation of Alice Cooper's five Warner albums, entitled Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits, became a Top Ten hit.
For his first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare, Cooper hired Lou Reed's backing band from Rock 'N' Roll Animal -- guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, bassist Prakash John, keyboardist Joseph Chrowski, and drummer Penti Glan -- as his supporting group. Released in the spring of 1975, the record was similar to his previous work and it became a Top Ten hit in America, launching the hit acoustic ballad "Only Women Bleed." Its success put an end to any idea of reconvening Alice Cooper the band. Its follow-up, 1976's Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, was another hit, going gold in the U.S. After Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, Cooper's career began to slip, partially due to changing trends and partially due to his alcoholism. Cooper entered rehabilitation in 1978, writing an album about his treatment called From the Inside (1978) with Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist. During the early '80s, Cooper continued to release albums and tour, yet he was no longer as popular as he was during his early-'70s heyday.
Cooper made a successful comeback in the late '80s, sparked by his appearances in horror films and a series of pop-metal bands that paid musical homage to his classic early records and concerts. Constrictor, released in 1986, began his comeback, but it was 1989's Trash that returned Cooper to the spotlight. Produced by the proven hitmaker Desmond Child, Trash featured guest appearances by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and most of Aerosmith; the record became a Top Ten hit in Britain and peaked at number 20 in the U.S., going platinum. "Poison," a midtempo rocker featured on the album, became Cooper's first Top Ten single since 1977. After the release of Trash, he continued to star in the occasional film, tour, and record, although he wasn't able to retain the audience recaptured with Trash. Still, 1991's Hey Stoopid and 1994's The Last Temptation were generally solid, professional efforts that helped Cooper settle into a comfortable cult status without damaging the critical goodwill surrounding his '70s output. After a live album, 1997's Fistful of Alice, Cooper returned on the smaller Spitfire label in 2000 with Brutal Planet and Dragontown a year later. The Eyes of Alice Cooper appeared in 2003 and found Alice and company playing a more stripped-down brand of near-garage rock. Dirty Diamonds from 2005 was nearly as raw and hit the streets around the same time Alice premiered his syndicated radio show, "Nights with Alice Cooper". Three years later he returned with Along Came a Spider, a concept album that told the story of a spider-obsessed serial killer. In 2010, he released the live album Theatre of Death, along with a download-only EP of redone Cooper classics titled Alice Does Alice. 2011's Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to his 1975, conceptual classic of the same name (minus the 2), was recorded with longtime co-conspirator Bob Ezrin, and featured 14 brand new cuts that spanned multiple genres and relied on the talents of a host of previous members of the Alice Cooper band (including Steve Hunter), as well as a guest spot from pop superstar Ke$ha.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Together, the duo formed their first band together, Wicked Lester, who borrowed heavily from their heroes, the Beatles, and just about any other hip musical style at the moment. The band recorded an album that never saw the light of day, but while in the band, the two first came up with the idea of putting on a real show for the audience: makeup, costumes, and a grand stage show. They eventually hooked up with two other New Yorkers, Peter Criscoula and Paul Frehley. All the members changed their names (Eisen became Paul Stanley; Criscoula to Peter Criss; Frehley to Ace Frehley; and Klein was re-christened Gene Simmons), and assumed identities relating to their personalities. Kiss then became one of the top hard rock acts of the 70s and beyond.
While Kiss' fame was sky-rocketing, Simmons tried his hand at another facet of the music biz: scouting up-and-coming talent. He tried to convince Kiss' manager to sign a young California band called Mammoth in the mid-'70s, who eventually renamed themselves Van Halen. Simmons' pleas fell on deaf ears, but the event sowed the seeds for Simmons launching his own record company (albeit short-lived) in the '80s, Simmons Records, as well as briefly managing Liza Minnelli. In addition to his work with Kiss, Simmons has tried his hand at acting on the big screen with varying degrees of success; Runaway, Trick Or Treat, Wanted: Dead Or Alive, and Never Too Young to Die are just some of the films he's appeared in. Simmons is also a shrewd businessman, often credited as the main force behind turning Kiss into a mega-dollar-generating, merchandising machine (look no further than Kiss' top-grossing 1996-1997 reunion tour).
With Kiss announcing their Farewell Tour in 2000, some assumed that it would be the last the public would hear from Simmons and company. But this proved hardly to be the case, as the band toured the world (off and on) for the next few years. Meanwhile, Simmons became involved in numerous projects: including penning an autobiography (2001's Kiss & Make-Up), creating his own magazine (Gene Simmons' Tongue), developing his own clothing line ("Gene Simmons' Dragonfly"), hosting the TV show Hit Men, and was in discussions for re-launching his Simmons Records label, his acting career, and starting up his own TV talk show (The Gene Simmons Show). Simmons took a break from farewell tours in 2004 and released his second solo album, ***HOLE, on the Sanctuary label.
Greg Prato, Rovi