Formed by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in New York City back in 1973, Kiss became still during that decade one of the biggest bands in the world. Their success wasn’t only related to their music but also to their live shows that were much more than just music and of course, the characters created by them using the costumes and makeup were the final touch to make them a unique group.
It is incredible how the group managed to create a second meaning to a simple word like “Kiss” to fans all over the world, since most of the times when they hear that word they instantly remembers the band. But who gave the idea for the name and why they decided to call the group “Kiss”?
The story of how Kiss chose their band name
One year before Kiss was formed, in 1972, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons who knew each other already formed a group called Wicked Lester which eventually would become Kiss. The drummer Peter Criss was a member of the group for one year already when they decided to form a new band with Ace Frehley as one of the guitarists. Not long after was when they decided they needed a new name. The idea was to “create the band they always wanted to see” as Gene and Paul said many times over the decades.
In an interview with Howard Stern in 2023, both original members recalled how Paul Stanley came up with the name. But first, Gene Simmons recalled which name he suggested (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “We were talking about it. Let’s call the band F*ck. The first record could be “it”, the second record can be “you”. But it wasn’t serious,” Gene Simmons said.
Paul Stanley then explained how he came up with the name: “All of us were writing in my car. I think it was a Plymouth or a Dodge Polara. We were throwing around names. I thought to myself ‘Oh Jesus, this is the name. Dear God, let’s not turn this into an ego fight. I said “You’re ready? Kiss!'”
“And everybody went: ‘Yeah!’. So to me Kiss was a word that transcended the English language. You could go almost anywhere in the world and say the word Kiss. (That) people would go ‘Oh, I’ve heard of them’. It’s like calling a band ‘water’. And it’s a Kiss of death, Kiss of passion. It just seemed to incorporate all the elements of what we were doing,” Paul Stanley.
Curiously, the band’s original drummer Peter Criss was already part of a band called Lips before Kiss existed.
The band owns the rights for the word “Kiss”
Another interesting fact is that according to Gene and Paul they own the rights for the word Kiss. Howard Stern asked them if he wanted to put in the market something for example called “Kiss bed sheets” he could without having a problem with the band. Gene Simmons answered: “No, but we could make a deal (laughs)”.
According to Gerben IP, in 1974 when the group released their self-titled debut album they already filed trademark applications for their logo to be used for musical services. At the same time they also filed an application for the design of each makeup of the members. It was only in 1981 that they managed to obtain a federal trademark registration for the word “Kiss” to be used for musical services.
But since they are certainly one of the bands that commercialized the biggest variety of merchandising, including condoms and coffins, they made many other registrations over the decades for many different areas. One of the most recent ones is related to non-fungible tokens and blockchain technology.
When the believers said they were called “Knights In Satan’s Service”
Back in the 70s and 80s there was resurgence of conservatism in the United States. It was obviously allied with religion, which ultimately led to an era which was called “satanic panic”. Anything different, shocking and that would break rules could be considered by those groups a real menace. And if there was a characters called “The Demon” that spitted fire and called himself “God of Thunder”, that would really make them mad.
Like many other Hard Rock and Heavy Metal groups from those eras, Kiss was also accused by those groups of satanism. They even found a new meaning for the band’s name which was “Knights In Satan’s Service”. In the conversation with Howard Stern in 2023 Stanley even joked that they were smart at the time. But not so smart to come up with a meaning like that.
Although there were strikes made at that era to try to cancel the concerts of bands accused of satanism. There were also people gathering and burning their albums, it was all good and free publicity for the groups. It helped to make them even more known and to make the young fans want to listen to them even more since they would represent a shock against the system.