Ace Frehley on KISS’s 1st Gig, “A lesser band might have been humiliated…” – The Popcorn Club – January 30, 1973 – This Day in Rock History
January 30, 1973
On this day 50 years ago, in a small club in Queens, New York KISS played their first public concert ever. They would perform two sets this evening which would include future classics such as “Deuce”, “She”, “Firehouse”, “Black Diamond” and others. They were not wearing the legendary makeup yet, and basically no one except their girlfriends or friends were in attendance.
The picture of Peter Criss comes from Lydia Criss and is featured in her great book “Sealed With A KISS”. The photo was taken before Peter left his house for the first KISS concert!!
The band photo was taken around the same time period and is a good indication of what they looked like and how they were dressed for this first show.
When was the first time you saw KISS in concert?
The Popcorn Club, Queens, New York, January 30, 1973. It’s a bone-chilling Tuesday night in Queens as Kiss roll up to the Popcorn Club for the load-in at their first official show as Kiss. They’ve previously performed as Wicked Lester, who’ve been signed (and subsequently dropped) by Epic Records after recording a still-unreleased album.
“Paul and I weren’t happy with the record,” Gene Simmons told Classic Rock. “It had a West Coast American hippie sound. We looked at each other and decided to form a new group, which was Kiss.”
The name change came at some point between the booking of the Popcorn show and the performance itself.
“I remember very clearly when our picture went up on the outside of this club, Ace [Frehley] took a marker and wrote our new name right on the picture,” Simmons wrote in his memoir Kiss and Make-Up. “The way he drew it was pretty crude, but it resembled our logo, with the two ‘S’s like lightning bolts at the end of the word.”
And so, before a small but supportive audience of less than 10 – and even then, mainly girlfriends and friends – four local dudes wearing face paint ripped into Deuce.
“I could laugh at the absurdity of it all, even as I looked out over the ‘crowd’ and spotted not a single unfamiliar face,” wrote Ace Frehley in his book No Regrets. “A lesser band might have been humiliated to the point of quitting, but we weren’t deterred in the slightest.”
During an interview with WFSB’s program “Better Connecticut”, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons was asked how the band came up with its name nearly five decades ago. He responded:
“I couldn’t drive in my early 20s — I didn’t start driving till I was 34, ’cause in New York you just took cabs — and Paul [Stanley, KISS frontman] was driving myself in his beat-up Mustang or something. Myself and I think it may have been Peter [Criss, original KISS drummer] or maybe Ace [Frehley, original KISS guitarist] in the back of the car. And we were trying to think of a name. And I said why don’t we call the band the word ‘F’, which you can’t say on stage. And the first album could be called ‘It’, like ‘F It’. The second record could be called ‘You’, [like] ‘F You’. And the third record could be called ‘Us’, [like] ‘F Us’. ‘Yeah, kind of cool. How about that?’ And we started laughing. And I don’t know if he was half serious or not, but Paul said, ‘Yeah, let’s call ourselves KISS.’ And we went, ‘Woah, woah, woah, woah. What did you say?’ And we just got it right away. Whatever happened happened naturally. There were no marketing companies. We didn’t even know what that was. Kiss — yeah, everybody on earth knows what that is. It’s universal — the kiss of death, the kiss of life, and all that stuff. And so it just felt right.”
It was previously reported that Stanley came up with the name KISS after Criss mentioned he was in a band called LIPS.
KISS TURNS 50!
Wow! 50 years ago today, Gene, Paul, Ace and myself played our very first show at the Popcorn Club in Queens, New York – later known as The Coventry. It feels like it was yesterday. I never expected to be so blessed. Thank you & God Bless you #KissArmy !#Kiss pic.twitter.com/gXpJT0hHbC
— Peter Criss (@RealPeterCriss) January 31, 2023
WOW! 50 YEARS AGO TODAY! #KISSTORY Jan 30, 1973: We performed our very first concert at Popcorn (The Coventry) in Queens, NY. We did 2 sets at the club that night for a crowd of around 10. That was the beginning! #KISS50 https://t.co/eci8Hfr0D6
What was your 1st KISS show? pic.twitter.com/RfQqvAr1zC
— KISS (@kiss) January 30, 2023