All images courtesy of Getty Images/KISSonline
You wanted the best! You got the best!
Welcome to the first post of a series I will be hosting called A Guide to KISS Bootlegs. I have been an avid admirer of bootlegs, even long before I started collecting vinyl. While we support the artists we love by buying their releases as they come out, there are always these interesting releases, whether it be studio outtakes or live recordings, that perhaps dive a little deeper into an artist than what their respective label is willing to release to the mainstream-buying public. With that said, these releases are quite variable. They range from fantastic soundboard recordings/radio broadcasts to poor audience recordings that were done with a small handheld cassette recorder. As you dig deeper into this rabbit hole, you can start bypassing the audio quality and simply enjoy the performances. I have no one else to thank but my dad for making me aware of bootlegs and how they can serve their purpose as being for collectors who are longing to have practically everything and anything an artist does. They serve as interesting antidotes that can reside along with the official studio/live releases an artist releases.
This first entry is going to be focusing on the early days of KISS, covering their early club shows and the tour in support of their self-titled debut album. One would assume that quality live recordings that come from an artist’s early career are scarce to find. In the case of KISS, there are tons of exceptional recordings from this early era to dig into. Enough of the chit-chat, let’s dig right in! Or as Paul Stanley would say, “It looks like we’re gonna have ourselves a Rock ‘N Roll party tonight!”
Amityville, Long Island, NY
June 16, 1973
Set 1: Nothin’ To Lose/Firehouse/Life in the Woods/Simple Type/Acrobat/Deuce/100,000 Years/Black Diamond
Set 2 (Partial): Strutter/Watchin’ You/Let Me Know
As of writing, this is the earliest known KISS live recording in existence. Along with the Coventry, The Daisy was one of the clubs KISS appeared frequently in 1973. This show was recorded by former KISS roadie Eddie Solo via the soundboard and it is a perfect (and only) snapshot of KISS doing a traditional club set. A large portion of the set consists of songs that would be found on their debut album such as “Deuce,” “Nothin’ to Lose” and “Black Diamond.” There is also the song “Life in the Woods,” a long jam-based song that the band never recorded in the studio. Alongside newly-written material, the band also polished off some leftovers from the pre-KISS band Wicked Lester such as “Simple Type.” The one drawback is that the recording only captures the first few songs of the second set. The rendition of “Acrobat” from this show was given an official release as part of the KISS Box Set in 2001. Ultimately, the recording got leaked in 2013. It wasn’t long until the show was pressed onto vinyl under the very oddly titled, Horny Bitches & Daisy Daze. I remember seeing this bootleg at my local record store when it had just come out around 2014. This was just before I started to collect vinyl and I am kicking myself to this day for not buying it, as copies now are scarce to find. One of these days I will find one out in the wild or it will get re-released. Fingers crossed!
Queens, New York City, NY
December 21-22, 1973
Setlist for December 21 (Partial): Deuce/Cold Gin
Setlist for December 22: Deuce/Cold Gin/Nothin’ to Lose/Strutter/Firehouse/Let Me Know/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Baby Let Me Go
At this point, KISS had just recorded their first album at Bell Sound Studios and was slated to perform on ABC’s “In Concert” in early 1974. These two shows are poignant because it was to be KISS’ last New York club show and they bring forth the earliest known KISS performance footage. Their manager, Bill Aucoin, had set up a single camera and recorded the band’s two final Coventry shows in black and white. It can be speculated that the entire show from December 21st was filmed in its entirety. Only two songs exist from that show because the December 22nd show starts midway through “Cold Gin.” Luckily, the December 22nd show was 100% intact. It is general knowledge that these filmed performances existed but nothing circulated in the bootleg circles. It wasn’t until 2003-2004 that Bill Aucoin got the tape digitized and copyrights registered, with the help of KISS video guru Dave Streicher. The song “Deuce” from December 22nd was available as an Easter egg on the KISSOLOGY Vol. 1 DVD set in 2006. In 2007, as part of KISSOLOGY Vol. 3, the December 22nd show was released in its entirety; a very fitting way to round off the series (even though there are talks of future volumes in the works). The audio quality of the video (more than likely a single microphone was used to capture the audio) is great enough for vinyl pressings to be made available of the show, one of which includes artwork taken from the poster designed for KISS’ Hotel Diplomat show, the show that prompted Bill Aucoin to become KISS’ first manager.
Academy of Music
New York City, NY
December 31, 1973
Setlist: Deuce/Cold Gin/Nothin’ To Lose/Firehouse/Let Me Know/100,000 Years/Black Diamond
This was KISS’ first industry professional show and their first to feature their iconic lighted logo designed by Mark Ravitz (who would go on to design the Destroyer stage set). They were at the bottom of the bill alongside other headlining acts such as Teenage Lust, Iggy & The Stooges, and Blue Oyster Cult. This show was also one of the rare occasions where Paul Stanley was sporting his short-live bandit makeup design. It also marks the first time a KISS show was privately recorded to tape. However, the sound quality of the recording is rather poor. Still, it is historically significant because it was also this show where Gene had breathed fire for the first time. While doing so, he also managed to set his hair on fire. It wouldn’t be the only time this would happen!
Georgetown, Washington DC
March 25, 1974
Setlist (Second Set): Deuce/Strutter/She/Firehouse/Acrobat/Let Me Know/Black Diamond/Baby Let Me Go
KISS performed two sets at the Bayou. The second set was captured onto tape and the result was a rather reasonable audience recording. Some notable facts that entail about this show are that it features the band performing a Wicked Lester track called “She,” which would ultimately be recorded for Dressed to Kill in 1975. This is also the last known occasion where “Acrobat” was performed in its entirety. The beginning instrumental section was recorded as “Love Theme from KISS” on the first album and the rest of the piece was subtitled “You’re Much Too Young.” This show was released on vinyl under the title The Harder They Come.
April 1, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Strutter/Cold Gin/She/Firehouse/Nothin’ To Lose/100,000 Years/Black Diamond
Now we get into some interesting territory! KISS was the support act for Rory Gallagher at this show. What exists in terms of audio content from this show is rather surprising: a pre-FM soundboard recording. Radio station WMMS had a series called “Nights Out at the Agora” where they would broadcast various performers that appeared at the venue. While Rory Gallagher’s set was broadcasted, KISS’ set wasn’t. This was recently released by the bootleg label Diskotron under the title April Fool, which comes with four different cover and colored vinyl variants. Aside from the recording, during the show, as Peter Criss’ drum riser levitated during the finale of “Black Diamond,” Peter suffered from a lack of oxygen due to the fumes of the pyrotechnics and passed out. He was hospitalized after the show. What can you say, the Catman has nine lives and he almost lost one of them that night!
April 7, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Strutter/She/Firehouse/Nothin’ To Lose/Cold Gin/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Baby Let Me Go
Detroit is a city that has a special place in the heart of KISStory. Whether it be naming a signature song after the city or selling out 3 consistent nights at Cobo Hall on more than one occasion, it goes to show that KISS and Detroit have had a very deep and strong relationship this early on. KISS was the third opening act (The Mojo Boogie Band and Michael Fennelly went on before them) to go on before the headliner Aerosmith. Both KISS’ and Aerosmith’s sets were broadcasted on WABX. Pre-FM reels survived from this show and many fans have gone as far to say that this particular show is amongst the best from this tour. This was given a vinyl release under the title Gold, which featured a nice gatefold sleeve, packaged with an OBI strip, pressed on colored vinyl and came with a foldout poster. A lovely package indeed!
Lafayette’s Music Hall
April 18, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Strutter/Firehouse/She/Nothin’ To Lose/Cold Gin/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Acrobat
Here is another show that was broadcasted on the radio by WMC FM-100. Performance-wise, the band is loose at this show. In terms of the sound quality of what circulates in the bootleg circles, while it does flutter and drop-out from time to time (most likely to do with the tape source), it is a rather decent recording. The rendition of “Acrobat” performed at this show is the second half of the song (the “You’re Much Too Young” section). Is it safe to say that this recording is quasi-official? I say that because in the KISSOLOGY Vol. 1 DVD, there is silent 8mm footage of the band performing at the Long Beach Auditorium in California on February 17th, 1974, and the recording of “Acrobat” taken from this show is synched up to the video. There have been numerous variations of this show released, one of them being “Livin’ the Dream.”
Long Beach Auditorium
Long Beach, CA
May 31, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Nothin’ To Lose/She/Firehouse/Strutter/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Baby Let Me Go
Here is yet another radio broadcast that was done by KNAC-FM. This recording is perhaps one of the most well-known KISS bootleg recordings because it was released in 1976 as Fried Alive, one of the very first KISS bootlegs to ever be released. While there are various versions of the broadcast exist in various degrees of quality, there is an audience recording that circulates of this same show.
Baton Rouge, LA
July 16, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Strutter/She/Firehouse/100,000 Years/Black Diamond
This is one of the best audience recordings that derive from the early days. There is some speculation as to if there were any other songs that were performed at the show and weren’t captured onto tape. Regardless, this recording is crankable! This show has been released as The Louder They Are and Fast and Furious. The latter features four different cover variants.
Morris Civic Auditorium
South Bend, IN
August 4, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Nothin’ to Lose/She/Firehouse/Strutter/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Baby Let Me Go
This was the last show KISS’ would do before they flew to Los Angeles to record their second album, Hotter Than Hell. This is another decent-sounding audience recording. Fun fact: this was recorded on a Superscope CS200 stereo cassette recorder with built-in microphones! This was released as KISS of Fire 1974, which was limited and numbered all the way up to 100. There was a new source tape discovered from this show and that has been released as part of the “KISS Kronicles II 1974-1994” box set (which you can watch me unbox!).
Toronto, ON, Canada
September 14, 1974
Setlist: Deuce/Strutter/Nothin’ to Lose/Firehouse/She/Parasite/100,000 Years/Black Diamond/Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll
The band performed two shows on this day (one at 8 pm and one at 11 pm). It is unknown which show the recording comes from. What exists is an audience recording, which is a bit rough-sounding but the performance can be made out. This show started to circulate in 2018 and was released as With Fire and Thunder.
Phew, that is it! I am sure that once you are done reading this, you are going to hunt down some of these shows. I should say that the nature of bootleg releases that have come out in the past 10 years or so make it quite difficult for them to be tracked down for decent prices. Vinyl aside, all of these shows can be accessed on YouTube and other websites. Luckily, there is a bootleg box set, which came out recently, that specifically covers this period called “KISS Tour 74,” which includes the shows from Washington DC, Cleveland, Baton Rouge, and Toronto on four picture discs. There are also all the usual bells and whistles that come with box sets such as a replica press kit, poster, button pin, postcards, and a full-color booklet.
Stay tuned for my next entry in the A Guide to KISS Bootlegs series, which is going to get “hotter than hell.”
Dig this article? Check out the full archives of The Record Spinner, by Dylan Peggin, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/the-record-spinner-archives/