By Elizabeth Barfoot Christian
More than 100 million albums sold. Twenty-four gold records—the most for any U.S. band. Able to draw crowds upwards of 80,000 worldwide after 37 years.
Yet, still no KISS in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
What’s a seven-foot-tall, fire-breathing god of rock have to do to get a little respect? KISS front man Gene Simmons would like to know.
Since its inception in 1983, the R&R Hall of Fame has inducted some questionable acts, which shall remain nameless here, but what is without question is KISS’s contribution to the showmanship of rock.
KISS elevated the rock concert to an electric, pyrotechnic art form, the likes of which remain unmatched. A few of the musicians vocal about KISS’ influence on their own acts include Bon Jovi, Marilyn Manson, Lenny Kravitz, Weezer, Metallica, Garth Brooks, Motley Crue, Pearl Jam, Poison, Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails. Even margarita-loving singer Jimmy Buffett, one of the most powerful musical brands ever, paid homage to KISS’ stage presence in his 1978 song “Manana.”
Plus, KISS was the first band to really give a voice to its fan base. And the KISS Army, the legion of faithful fans, have kept Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley rocking and rolling for nearly three decades. They remain some of the highest grossing musicians year after year because of the clever, creative marketing that has earned them respect from the business sector, including Forbes and Business Week. At the same time, items like KISS caskets and condoms have made them a laughing stock of serious music critics.
Even though the rockers have been eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame since 1999, KISS was not even nominated until a decade later. Still, the group was beat out for induction last year by ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and The Stooges.
Gene Simmons told the Billboard Touring Conference: "There are disco bands, rap bands, Yiddish folk song bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not Kiss. I believe we have more gold records in America than any other group, but it's OK."
According to the R&R Hall of Fame guidelines listed on its website, there is a method (albeit somewhat vague) to its induction of artists.
Artists are eligible 25 years from the date of release of their first album. They must have made a significant “contribution to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” The committee that makes the nominations is composed of rock music historians. Nominations are then sent to an international committee of more than 500 “experts” in the industry. Artists receiving the vote of more than 50 percent are inducted, which is usually five to seven each year.
Some argue that NOT getting in is actually a badge of honor for KISS now. Pop culture author and KISS fan Chuck Klosterman has said every year KISS doesn’t get in, the story puts the rockers back in the news.
Regardless, KISS long ago proved it didn’t need any critic’s or industry stamp of approval....it will just keep living up to its brand message and keep rocking and rolling all night....and raking in the cash every day. Lick that up, Cleveland!
Elizabeth Barfoot Christian is assistant professor of journalism at Louisiana Tech University and the editor of Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture.
Next blog: ‘I’ll have a medium popcorn, Junior Mints and a soundtrack please’: Music Marketing in the Dark.