It was 45 years ago today (September 10th, 1975) that Kiss released its fourth album, the breakthrough double live set, Alive! The album, which was produced by Eddie Kramer, was culled from concerts in Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Wildwood, New Jersey; and Davenport, Iowa, while on the road in support of the band's then-recent Dressed To Kill album. The band admittedly sweetened the live tapes at New York City's Electric Lady Studios prior to the release.
Alive!, like Peter Frampton's 1976 blockbuster Frampton Comes Alive!, featured the cream of the band's studio sets with the crucial element of the band's live show which had yet to translate to vinyl — or notable record sales. Alive! peaked at Number Nine on the Billboard 200 album charts and featured the band's signature call to arms — “Rock And Roll All Nite.”
The tracklisting to Alive! is: “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Got To Choose,” “Hotter Than Hell,” “Firehouse,” “Nothin' To Lose,” “C’mon And Love Me,” “Parasite,” “She,” “Watchin’ You,” “100,000 Years,” “Black Diamond,” “Rock Bottom,” “Cold Gin,” “Rock And Roll All Nite,” and “Let Me Go, Rock N' Roll.”
Gene Simmons told us that the band's label, Casablanca, was dead set against the band releasing an costly double-live album: “We were on our last legs, Casablanca was gonna go belly-up. We didn't get paid for the album — in fact, when we told the record company we were gonna do a live record, they didn't want to do that, because live records didn't work. In those days, a live album was a liability. You did that after your career was over.”
The late-Larry Harris, Casablanca's co-founder and executive vice president, chronicled Kiss' rise to fame in his 2009 memoir And Party Every Day: The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records. Harris explained that a relentless touring and release schedule is what eventually propelled Kiss into platinum territory: “What we needed to keep the company going — at least the first two or three years — we needed an album from them every six months, which. . . nobody was putting out that product flow. Even though they fought it, we insisted, and that's one of the main reasons Alive! — which I talk about in the book — came out is we didn't have any money to put them in the studio again. It was almost a no-brainer that we needed a Kiss album, let's go with this one — even though they really didn't have any hits! They're the first band, I think, to come out with a double live album that never really had a hit up to that point.”
Paul Stanley told us that the success of Alive left him truly dumbstruck: “My expectations were certainly much lower than what happened. I remember talking to our manager at the time and saying, 'Do you think we might sell $350,000 albums?' We were hoping for success and that would've been, y'know, the mark of success. What we got was much, much bigger than that. We were followed by rabid fans around the country, and yet our albums weren't selling particularly well. We couldn't seem to capture in the studio what the fans got from us live, so it became a no-brainer to do a live album.”
When we last caught up with Ace Frehley, we asked him what he ultimately thinks Kiss will be remembered for: “Well, I think it’s an obvious question; it’s the makeup, it’s the costume, it’s the fantastic show that we created. And as it evolved over the years, it only got bigger — and I think that’s what we're gonna be remembered for. And the music, of course!”
Gene Simmons was asked what he considers the band's career highlights from their first five decades: “Having a successful career in makeup, having a successful career without makeup. Being right behind the Beatles in the number of gold records by any groups in history, per Billboard magazine. Getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bubble-gum cards, Kiss movies, comic books — anything you can imagine that other bands can't do — I mean, literally where no band has gone before. We basically decided to write our own rules.”