Top 10 Kiss Songs of the 1970s
Full disclosure: This Top 10 Kiss Songs of the 1970s List started out with a career-spanning theme before Ultimate Classic Rock realized we’d never hear the end of Kiss fans squabbling over any songs we might pluck from the band’s post-1980 releases — as fine as many of them have been. So instead, we wisely (cowardly? lazily?) decided to focus on the band’s semi-ubiquitous ‘70s heyday instead … and then that turned into an almost impossible task, too! However, after much soul-searching, teeth-grinding and generalized music geek self-torture, we finally managed to dig through the dense piles of available all-time Kiss classics, and come out of the other side with what we modestly feel represents the absolute crème-de-la-crème of this legendary band’s formidable vintage lineup of Simmons, Stanley, Frehley and Criss. So without further ado: You wanted the best, and you’ve got it. The hottest band in the land … Kiss!
This evergreen album track from Kiss’ eponymous debut was somewhat overlooked by fans at first glance (but then you could say that about that entire first album), but would grow into a larger-than-life concert number by the release of 1975’s career-changing ‘Alive’ album -- where Peter Criss’ spectacular drum solo certainly seemed to go on for about ‘100,000 Years.’ Come to think of it, though, the fact that we’re still talking about the tune almost 40 years after that 1974 debut -- intriguingly oblique lyrics and all -- is further testament to its staying power.
'Shout It Out Loud'
If ever a Kiss song was custom-built specifically with the concert stage in mind (and, let’s face it, most all of them were), then ‘Shout It Out Loud’ is it. The lead-off single and most immediate anthem composed for 1976’s ‘Destroyer,’ it was allegedly inspired in part by the Hollies' obscure 1970 song "I Wanna Shout” (hear it here), which had been covered by Simmons’ and Stanley’s pre-Kiss band, Wicked Lester. And, as scripted years later by ‘Destroyer,’ the song became a show-stopping band-and-crowd sing-along for the remainder of the decade, as captured on ‘Alive II,’ and has rarely vacated its slot in Kiss’ set-list ever since.
Love it or loathe it, ‘Destroyer’s’ admittedly uncharacteristic and exceedingly schmaltzy pop single, 'Beth,' became one of only two platinum-selling singles for Kiss (the other being 1979’s disco experiment 'I Was Made for Lovin’ You'), and attained the band’s highest chart position at No. 7, in 1976. A tender showcase for drummer Peter Criss, who co-wrote the song’s basic framework years before with his pre-Kiss band, Chelsea, 'Beth' represented such a significant musical departure that it was only deemed suitable for inclusion on ‘Destroyer’ at the insistence of Kiss manager Bill Aucoin, after much band wrangling. Perhaps its greatest utility, though, was helping many among the band’s predominantly male fanbase convince their old ladies to tag along to the show; and if she wound up lured backstage for some unforeseen sexual hijinks with the band ... well, what’d you expect?
'God of Thunder'
This top Kiss song, Gene Simmons’ notoriously bloody and bombastic nightly concert showpiece, has become so inseparable from his ‘Demon’ character that one easily forgets it was actually written by ‘Star Child’ Paul Stanley, clearly with his partner’s self-conceived mythology in mind. Further adorned by a number of extraneous sound effects (most notably the sound of children screaming!), 'God of Thunder' also epitomizes producer Bob Ezrin’s cinematic influence over the entire ‘Destroyer’ LP (and foreshadows his involvement on Pink Floyd’s conceptual masterpiece, ‘The Wall’), while delivering Kiss’ most uncontestably ‘heavy metal’ statement of the 1970s.
Ace Frehley’s definitive contribution to Kiss -- beating out ‘Love Gun’s’ superlative 'Shock Me' by a nose hair -- 'Cold Gin' can trace its modest origins to Kiss’ 1974 overlooked debut, and was allegedly penned during a subway ride, on a day when ‘The Spaceman’s’ flying saucer was obviously (ahem) out of commission. In time, 'Cold Gin' became so entrenched with its composer’s public image (and not just due to his legendary alcohol intake, either), that it’s now easy to overlook the fact Ace was still insecure enough about his singing in those earliest Kiss days to ask Gene Simmons to share vocals with him.
Quite possibly Paul Stanley’s greatest tour de force (and that’s saying something, given how many Kiss all-timers he’s written), 'Love Gun' is about as perfect a commercial hard rock gem as one can find -- within or without Kiss’ mighty body of work. Even its hyper-sexualized lyrics -- eye-rolling by most standards, but comparatively clever and not-too-bawdy for Kiss -- suit the song’s outrageously infectious hooks and soaring chorus beautifully, while simultaneously illustrating Stanley’s ‘Star Child’ persona in dazzling Technicolor. No wonder 'Love Gun,' one of our picks for this Top Kiss Songs of the 1970s list, has been a mandatory feature in every Kiss tour since its release in 1977.
A popular concert starter throughout Kiss’ lengthy career, thanks to its distinctive opening guitar lick, 'Deuce,' like several cuts featured on the band’s debut, boasts another set of conspicuously impenetrable lyrics – quite at odds with the band’s ultra-direct songwriting philosophy in years to come. But then, even the song’s author, Gene Simmons, readily admits he has no idea what the heck he’s going on about on 'Deuce.' And lest that be enough to satisfy you ladies out there because the words have something to do with “your man working hard,” keep in mind that, in early ‘70s New York, 'Deuce' also doubled as hooker street slang for a blow job/intercourse combo. Oh, Gene.
As brilliantly creative and innovative as they’ve been about their image, stage show and even marketing concepts, Kiss have never been accused of taking huge risks with their songwriting, often choosing instead to contain even their wildest musical and lyrical ideas within reliably ‘safe’ rock and roll arrangements. Perhaps this is why 'Black Diamond,' with its timid acoustic introduction, cathartic development, various vocal exchanges and sheer melodic superiority represents an atypical epic within the band’s discography. First heard on Kiss’ first LP and then elevated to even greater heights on ‘Alive,’ one could even argue that this top Kiss song owes some of its sweeping, decadently romantic depiction of urban life to Broadway musicals like ‘West Side Story’ – and Gene Simmons would probably be the first to agree (and the first to demand royalties).
'Detroit Rock City'
Famously inspired by a fan’s fatal car crash en route to a Kiss show, 'Detroit Rock City”'became the emotional centerpiece of 1976’s world conquering ‘Destroyer’ album. Penned by Paul Stanley and producer Bob Ezrin, its distinctive hammer-on lick is surely among the most instantly recognizable in rock, and its lyrics’ powerful imagery have guaranteed the song’s permanence not only on Kiss’ set lists, but in rock and roll pop culture, in general. Heck, in 1999 the song -- coming in at No. 2 on our Top Kiss Songs of the 1970s list -- even spawned a major motion picture centered around a comedic coming-of-age story about (you guessed it) a bunch of Kiss fans.
'Rock and Roll All Nite'
Surprise, surprise. Yes, even amid Kiss’ remarkable collection of universal smashes, 'Rock and Roll All Nite' maintains a special place in the group’s history and iconography -- in many ways representing their band mission statement in its most direct and purest guise. The irony of it all is that Kiss was under intense pressure to deliver a bona fide hit during the recording of their third album, ‘Dressed to Kill,’ before coming up with such a euphoric and carefree definition of rock and roll’s powers of escapism. And those of Kiss themselves, since this remains one of the few songs to feature Simmons and Stanley trading vocal lines back and forth -- a celebration of their decades-long partnership. And, once Kiss proceeded to bring the song to life (literally) on the ‘Alive’ album, they really were on their way, with their record deal safe and their destiny ready to be fulfilled.