As the legendary band embarks on their final farewell tour, now might be a good time to look back on the first KISS cash in.
Contrary to what Gene Simmons might want you to believe, the mighty KISS weren’t always a merchandising machine. They were just a band; granted, a band with a more exciting live show than the ’70s dinosaurs for whom they opened, but a band nonetheless.
And it was that stage show where KISS made their bones, not record sales. The first three studio albums sold so poorly that the band threw a hail Mary pass with record number four and released a live album. KISS Alive! was a huge hit, saving the band and enabling them to take another crack at the studio for album number five, Destroyer. That record went platinum within a few months, and KISS were certified superstars.
But what to do with those first three records that didn’t sell so well? Repackage them and sell them again, of course. As always, KISS (and their label, Casablanca) sweetened the deal with extra goodies–in this case a booklet, sticker, and six trading cards. The package cracked the top 40.
Nowadays repackaging albums is commonplace, but KISS deserves credit for getting in on the hustle early, maybe even first. The answer to that would require a bit more research than I’m willing to perform for this one; regardless, it was innovative marketing for the time.
As with all KISS albums, condition and completeness are everything. You can pay as much as a grand for one still in the shrinkwrap. Opened but complete and mint condition with all of the extras can fetch in the $300-$400 range. Second printings go for less, of course.
What you’re most likely to find, though, is a copy like mine: pretty clean vinyl, original inner sleeves, and no extras. A copy like that should only set you back around 20 bucks. Happy hunting, and go see KISS while you can. Sure, Ace and Peter aren’t there, Paul’s voice is ragged, and Gene makes for a rotund demon these days, but they still put on the best show you will ever see. Even if you hate the band, you’ll have one of the best nights of your life.