Like the Cadillac and Coca Cola, Kiss are a great American icon (or four great American icons, if you prefer). These stackheeled superheroes busted out of the New York club scene to build the greatest empire music has ever seen.
You could listen to their albums while eating from the Kiss lunchbox, playing the Kiss pinball machine or, thanks to the Kiss condom, getting your Uh! All Night on. And then when it’s all done, there’s the Kiss coffin to carry you away to the great Firehouse in the sky.
But as Gene Simmons himself admits, all of that would have been nothing without the music. Kiss aren’t the cleverest or most sophisticated band around. They’re not reinventing the wheel or changing the world or winning any prizes for poetry. But the songs they’ve written since they exploded into life back in the multi-coloured swirl of the early 70s stand among the greatest songs in the history of rock’n’roll, anthems of love, lust, rebellion and rock’n’roll that have soundtracked millions of lives the world over.
As Kiss complete their final farewell lap around the world, we present the 40 finest songs Kiss ever committed to tape, as voted for by fans.
40. War Machine (Creatures Of The Night, 1982)
One of the heaviest tracks Kiss have recorded was, surprisingly, co-written by Gene Simmons, Bryan Adams and Adams’s writing partner Jim Vallance. Also surprising is the fact that Simmons came up with the bones of the song while tinkering on a cheap miniature synthesiser. Bombastic, powerful and badass, The Demon’s foreboding vocals on War Machine are full of scowling menace.
39. Tomorrow (Unmasked, 1980)
The first Kiss album to rely largely on the help of outside songwriting talent, Paul Stanley has dismissed 1980’s Unmasked as “a pretty crappy album”, but there is one track on the record that he still loves. “Tomorrow is a really great song,” he says. He’s right – it’s a pop-rock classic, and the hit that never was.
38. Forever (Hot In The Shade, 1989)
Although the 1989 album Hot In The Shade is now all but forgotten, this masterful, acoustic-based power ballad was a Top 10 hit in the US. One of Kiss' more mournful lighters-in-the-air moments, this song makes all the more sense when you learn Paul wrote it with the king of power ballads – and of bad hair – Michael Bolton.
37. Unholy (Revenge, 1992)
A Simmons and Vinnie Vincent co-write – despite the fact that Vincent had been fired from Kiss eight years previously – Unholy signalled the return of a hard-hitting, foot-stomping Kiss.
Gene Simmons: “I got the idea for Unholy from a song that [Kiss collaborator] Adam Mitchell wrote that Doro Pesch recorded called Unholy Love. I just loved the word ‘unholy’. Vinnie Vincent and I wrote the lyric together.”
36. Sure Know Something (Dynasty, 1979)
For 1979’s Dynasty album, Paul Stanley wrote this brilliant pop song with producer Vini Poncia, co-writer of Leo Sayer’s hit You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. With its smooth funk vibe and killer chorus, Sure Know Something is high-class Kiss and a clear indication of the myriad sounds and influences that have always made Kiss a unique proposition.
35. Modern Day Delilah (Sonic Boom, 2009)
From 2009’s Sonic Boom, this track incorporates all the hallmarks of a quintessential Kiss tune: a fiery, muscular riff hot-wired to a soaring lead vocal by Stanley (the song’s writer), and sporting tough, kiss-off lyrics to a love gone bad. The band’s first single in 11 years, the song was the opener on the Sonic Boom tour and has proved an enduring favourite with audiences.
34. Makin’ Love (Rock And Roll Over, 1976)
A cast-iron classic of Kiss’s sexually charged oeuvre, this torrid tale of a marathon all-night ‘session’ was co-written by Paul Stanley and Sean Delaney (who also helped develop the band’s on-stage choreography).
Special mention for Ace Frehley, whose guitar playing here is at its most loose and lethal.
33. 100,000 Years (Kiss, 1974)
Gene Simmons: “I read a book called 100,000 Years where 100,000 years ago we were visited by aliens. Also Einstein’s theory of relativity. I was reading all kinds of space and time continuance stuff, and it was all swirling around my head. I showed this stuff to Paul, and he’s going: ‘What’s 100,000 years?’ I said: ‘Let’s just try it.’ And then Paul came up with some stuff and I added the riff.”
32. Nowhere To Run (Killers, 1982)
Nowhere To Run is Kiss’s lost classic – a great song pissed away as a makeweight on the stopgap ‘best of’ album Killers, which, by rights, should be sitting comfortably at the other end of this list.
It’s powerful and melodic – vintage Paul Stanley – and its thrumming intro echoes The Who’s Pinball Wizard.
31. Heaven’s On Fire (Animalize, 1984)
Beginning with Paul Stanley yodelling, this is one of the great Kiss songs of the 80s. Assisted by ‘hit doctor’ buddy Desmond Child, Paul based Heaven’s On Fire around a huge chanted chorus and created a hair-metal masterpiece. Its status as a band favourite is illustrated by fact it's one of only a few of the bands' non-makeup era songs to have been performed live after the band returned to painting their faces.