Part of the fun of ever having been a Kiss fan is being able to argue about when, why, and how the band lost their mojo. For many, it was when the once-iconic band appeared in the embarrassingly bad made-for-TV movie "Kiss Meets the Phantom of The Park" or recorded a disco song ("I Was Made For Loving You") for their Dynasty album.
For others, it was when the band recorded Songs From 'The Elder', a soundtrack from a movie that would thankfully never exist, or began treating founding members like crap.
Knowing how hard the original four had fought together against the music establishment to become the biggest band on the planet, it was disheartening to watch as jealousy and greed tore the band apart.
Where KISS (i.e., Gene) went wrong was by thinking of Ace and Peter as employees of the Kiss Korporation and, therefore, treated like corporate liabilities when, in any other band, their rock star behavior would have been seen as nothing more than respectfully carrying on the prototypical "rock star" antics set forth by their forefathers, Mick, Keef, Ronnie, et al.
While Gene & Paul were singing about rock & rolling all nite and partying every day, Ace and Peter were actually doing it, lending credibility to the band's bigger-than-life rock persona.
By comparison, the Stones were also a horrible mess throughout much of the late '60s, all of the '70s, and at least half of the '80's too, yet they managed to do some of their best work while one or more members were completely lost up their own arses in one lengthy drug haze or another.
The difference between Kiss and the Stones, among other things, is that Mick knew enough to not fuck with Keith. If the guitarist wanted to spend six months doing drugs in the bedroom of his French chateau, by golly, the studio would come to him and, voila, Exile On Main Street was born.
Instead, by his own admission, Gene began viewing Ace and Peter as expendable. As for the fictional characters "The Space Man" and "The Cat", well, Gene knew dozens of skilled players who'd kill for the opportunity to eat on a regular basis.
That is, until that fateful day in 1983 when Kiss removed their make-up quite uneventfully, due in large part to the fact that two of the faces fans most wanted to see unmasked (Ace and Peter) were gone.
At that point, seeing the band bring in a succession of session ringers served only to normalize everything that had been unique about the band. With Vinnie and Eric replacing Ace and Peter on Lick it Up, all nuance flew out the window to make room for shameless bombast.
By trying to compete with the Beau Hill bands of the day, Kiss had made themselves invisible.
In retrospect, there had always been something "bubblegum" about Frehley and Criss's playing that acted as a natural barrier preventing the band from ever straying too far into lunkhead metal territory. With both founding members gone, all bets were off and Gene & Peter would ultimately spend the better part of fifteen years chasing the Wingers, Warrants, and White Lions of the day.
Until, that is, the fateful day in 1996 when Gene took a good long look at his bottom line and not only brought back the make-up, but Ace and Peter as well.