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20 Years Ago: Kiss Make a Surprise Comeback at the Grammys

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When rap superstar Tupac Shakur came out dressed in a suit by Versace and a medallion around his neck for the Suge Knight-run Death Row Records at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 28, 1996, no one knew what was up his sleeve when he started with, “You all down with this? We’re gonna try to liven it up.”

“You know how the Grammys used to be all straight-lookin’ folks with suits, everybody lookin’ tired, no surprises; we tired of that,” he continued. “We need something different; something new. We need to shock the people. So let’s shock the people.”

Out walked Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley, the original lineup of Kiss appearing in public together in full makeup for the first time since December 1979. They were clad in their outfits from the 1977 Love Gun-era, likely the last time the foursome had gotten along.

“Now…these my homeboys,” Shakur said. “And I’ve seen just about everything now.”

Simmons gave a shout out to the Grammy host city of Los Angeles, while returning members Criss and Frehley expressed their enthusiasm at just being there, no doubt feeling that they were two of the luckiest musicians in greasepaint that night.

It was all over in the blink of an eye after Stanley announced the nominees for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal — an award which, incidentally, went to Hootie & the Blowfish — but the buzz in the rock industry was at an apex following the appearance. Six weeks later, the Demon, Starchild, Catman and the Spaceman would properly announce the Alive/Worldwide Tour on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City.

The seeds had been sown the summer before when, during the early August 1995 taping for the MTV Unplugged series, Kiss brought Criss and Frehley onstage for five songs at the end of the set. As expected, the reaction to the union with the then-roster, which included drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Bruce Kulick, was gonzo from those in attendance and just as insane to the televised audience when the network aired the concert that Halloween.

Unfortunately for Singer and Kulick, their time together with Kiss was suddenly at an end, which was poor timing as that era of the group was coming off its strongest album in a decade in 1992’s Revenge. The follow-up, Carnival of Souls, was stunted by the reunion, suffering a redshirting and was released with zero fanfare in the fall of 1997. Despite the Alive/Worldwide Tour having come to a close that summer, Stanley and Simmons decided to press their luck with Criss and Frehley, resulting in the disjointed Psycho Circus album in 1998 and ensuing tours which eventually saw the wheels fall off the original lineup for good.

See Kiss and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’90s

Next: Top 10 Peter Criss Kiss Songs

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