Dressed to Kill by Kiss hit record stores on March 19, 1975. The third album by the hottest band in the world upped the pop energy of previous records without skimping on the hard and heavy and (at least) three of its ten songs endure as rousing, roof-raising classics—including one that, bar none, is rock-and-roll’s all-time greatest party starter.
Alas, as with Kiss’s self-titled debut and it’s follow-up, Hotter Than Hell, poor Dressed to Kill landed with a dull thud. That three-peat losing streak broke, big time, upon the explosive breakthrough of 1975’s Alive, which sent new fans scrambling to catch up with the Kiss back catalogue. As a result, Dressed to Kill got a second chance at life and today, as we celebrate the album’s fortieth birthday, it’s proven to be nothing less than immortal.
Here now are 40 Kisstastic facts to celebrate Dressed to Kill still knocking dead all comers at the dawn of its fifth decade.
1. First and foremost: “Rock and Roll All Nite” closes Dressed to Kill on the ultimate of up notes. Although it (some how) wasn’t an instant hit, the song steadily and within a couple of year’s time became Kiss’s signature anthem on par (some might dare to even say surpassing) the mighty likes of what “Satisfaction” is to the Stones or how “Stairway to Heaven” looms so large in the lore of Led Zeppelin.
“Rock and Roll All Nite” – original promo video
2. Dressed to Kill’s shot of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss wearing business suits on a street corner stands as one of rock’s great cover images. Only drummer Criss actually owned a suit, the other guys borrowed theirs from manager Bill Aucoin. Good thing he was skinny.
3. The corner of 23rd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, where the cover photo was taken, is a now an unofficial rock-and-roll landmark. It’s akin to 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place, the buildings depicted on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, as well as where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sit on the front steps alongside reggae legend Peter Tosh at the beginning of the Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend” video.
4. Dressed to Kill was first the Kiss album to crack the Billboard Top 40, peaking at #32. Kiss topped out at #87, while Hotter Than Hell only made it to #100.
5. After radio completely ignored Kiss’s first two albums, the single “C’mon and Love Me” became a big FM hit in the Detroit region. Kiss famously repaid the province that first embraced them a few years later with “Detroit Rock City.”
“C’mon and Love Me”
6. “Rock and Roll All Nite” was the lead single from Kiss’s 1976 breakthrough album, Alive! The song hit #12, but also inspired new fans to go back and rediscover the original album it came from. Two years after it was released, Dressed to Kill finally went gold.
7. The 1975 Dressed to Kill Tour started in 3,000-5,000 seat venues, and ended with the group selling out arenas.
8. Rush opened for Kiss on the Dressed to Kill Tour. The bands got along famously, although Kiss was pleasantly baffled by how Rush wasn’t interested in partying backstage.
9. Ace Frehley’s famous smoke-spewing guitar debuted on the Dressed to Kill Tour. He fired it up each show for the solo of “She.”
10. “C’mon and Love Me” opens with Paul Stanley singing: “She’s a dancer, a romancer, I’m a Capricorn and she is a Cancer.” Since the Starchild was born on January 20, he’s actually an Aquarius.
12. Back in 2009, Vans issued super-cool Dressed to Kill sneakers.
15. In their early days, the very young Van Halen used to cover “Rock and Roll All Nite” live. Check out this ultra-rare recording.
“Rock and Roll All Nite” – Van Halen
16. The original version of “She” by Wicked Lester, the first incarnation of Kiss, features flutes and sounds like a total Jethro Tull rip-off with high-pitched lad vocal harmonies.
17. “Love Her All I Can” by Wicked Lester is instrumentally close to the Dressed to Kill version but, again, it’s got those entirely unexpected almost Bee-Gee-ish harmonies.
18. With its exquisite acoustic intro, “Rock Bottom” naturally highlighted 1995’s MTV Kiss Unplugged.
19. “Room Service” and “Ladies in Waiting” arose from Kiss’s nonstop touring for the previous year. They’re a lot more fun than other classic songs on the same subject such as “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger and “The Load Out” by Jackson Browne.
“Room Service” from the Kiss Kruise 2011
20. “Rock and Roll All Nite” opens the anti-classic 1978 TV movie, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. The band performs it while looming 100-feet tall each over an amusement park, and then soaring through the sky in flying bumper cars.
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park opening credits
21. As much as the band loves to goof on Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, it hardly shied lead singer Gene Simmons away from acting. The God of Thunder memorably plays the heavy in the 1984 Tom Selleck sci-fi thriller Runaway.
Runaway (1984) trailer
22. . In addition to Runaway, Gene plays Velvet Von Ranger, a bosomy hermaphrodite supervillain in the in-freakin’-sane 1986 espionage adventure Never Too Young to Die. Demon’s co-stars include John Stamos as the high school gymnast hero and Vanity as a spy, as well as Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert England and one-and-done James Bond star George Lazenby.
Never Too Young to Die (1986) – John Stamos vs. Gene Simmons
23. Gene’s gender-bending costume is the exact same garment worn by Lynda Carter, aka TV’s Wonder Woman, on a TV special where she performs “I Was Made for Loving You” with dancing boys dressed as Kiss.
“I Was Made for Loving You” – Lynda Carter with Kiss dancers
24. Twenty-seven years after Phantom, Ace Frehley finally followed up his big debut by co-starring as a tough guy alongside Sopranos mobsters Frank Vincent and Vinnie Pastore in the 2005 crime drama, Remedy.
Remedy (2005) – Ace Frehley as Johnny
25. Kiss performed “Rock and Roll All Nite” in 1999 as the opening number for Super Bowl XXXIII, complete with a field full of cheerleaders in Kiss makeup.
26. Kiss also performed “Rock and Roll All Nite” on board a rolling float the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Kiss at the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
27. Poison covers “Rock and Roll All Nite” on Rick Rubin’s great Less Than Zero soundtrack.
28. Anthrax covers “She” on the 1994 tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved.
“She” – Anthrax
29. A cover of “C’mon and Love Me” by Skid Row also appears on Kiss My Ass.
“C’mon and Love Me” – Skid Row
30. Kiss My Ass also boasts an acoustic version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Toad the Wet Sprocket. Even wimp rockers can’t resist!
“Rock and Roll All Nite” – Toad the Wet Sprocket
31. Non-Kiss movies that feature “Rock and Roll All Nite” include Dazed and Confused (1993), Role Models (2009), and Gulliver’s Travels (2010).
Dazed and Confused
32. The Kiss movie Detroit Rock City showcases the film’s young stars, led by Edward Furlong, as a garage band playing “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
33. In conjunction with the book, And Party Every Day: The Story of Casablanca Records, an ultra-rare Dressed to Kill Tour promo film has surfaced online. Local TV stations dubbed in specific announcements over the footage to promote the show coming to town.
34. Videogames featuring “Rock and Roll All Nite” include Tony Hawk’s Underground and Madden NFL 11.
35. Other key heavy metal albums of 1975 include Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, Sabotage by Black Sabbath, T.N.T. by AC/DC, Fly By Night by Rush, Welcome to My Nightmare by Alice Cooper, Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith.
36. In 1975, Iron Maiden first formed and Ted Nugent debuted as a solo artist. They both later opened for Kiss on tour. Other metal acts that first formed in 1975 include Motörhead, Quiet Riot, Rainbow, the Runaways, Triumph, and Starz.
37. UK power pop act Sweet scored an international hit in March 1975 with the single “Fox on the Run.” In terms of combining heavy metal and bubblegum pop, Sweet served as Kiss’s only truly rivals. Both Ace Frehley and present Kiss drummer Eric Singer recorded solo cover versions of “Fox on the Run.”
“Fox on the Run” – Sweet
38. During a Kansas stop on the Dressed to Kill Tour, Gene Simmons saw the Cleveland-based Angel. He got the group signed to Casablanca Records where they were sold as “the anti-Kiss.”
39. The roguish hustler nature of Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart, who also produced to save money, is charmingly evident in how padded the original pressing of Dressed to Kill is in order to reach full-length LP status: long pauses between tracks, incorrect run times listed. Being in on the con job is always a fun part of Kiss fandom.
40. Cher swiped the name “The Dressed to Kill Tour” for her 2014 concert trek. Perhaps its homage, or perhaps it’s payback for whatever happened when she dated Gene Simmons in the ’70s and he insisted wearing a bandana on his face in public.
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the author of Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever! (Bazillion Points).