By December, 1972, with the addition of lead guitarist, Ace Frehley, KISS was born. KISS’ mission was simple: They wanted to conquer the world. But, the job wouldn’t be easy.
At the time, the New York City music scene only boasted a few places to play original music, including Max’s Kansas City, the Mercer Arts Center and a club located outside of the city in Queens called Coventry. It was at this local hole in the wall that KISS performed its first show on Jan. 30, 1973.
Throughout the year, the band would return to Coventry and also ply its heavy-metal wares at other local dives including The Daisy in Amityville, Long Island, and shows at The Hotel Diplomat and a loft party on Bleecker Street. 2008 marks the 35th anniversary of KISS’s first show ever at Coventry in Queens. In celebration of that KISS-toric event, we spoke to KISS and members of the band’s inner circle, who shared their reminiscences of those pivotal performances and pre-fame days.
In the beginning, Coventry was ground zero for New York City’s glitter-rock scene, as everyone from The New York Dolls to The Ramones to Jayne County played there. KISS wasn’t the main draw at first, but it didn’t take long for the band to build a following.
PAUL SUB (Owner, Coventry): Coventry opened in the early ’70s. It was located on Queens Boulevard and 47th Street in Queens. The club was originally called Popcorn Pub, and I later renamed it Coventry after a town in England.
PAUL STANLEY: When we played Coventry, it was called Popcorn, and they were trying to change their image. It was a perfect relationship in that we brought in a certain New York credibility to the club, so other bands started coming across the water and playing there too.
PAUL SUB (Owner, Coventry): It was a big club, around 5,000 square feet, and it held around 700 people. Everyone from KISS, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Blondie, Sam & Dave, The Dictators and Elephant’s Memory played there. I’d put on 10 acts a week, both local and national. The only act we turned down, because we didn’t want to spend $300, was Aerosmith (laughs). The New York Dolls were really the ones that kept Coventry going. They played once a month, and whenever they played, 700 people would show up. They had the main following of all the bands who played there. The Dolls really helped pay my rent (laughs). All the other groups who played there, from KISS to The Ramones, didn’t really bring in that many people.
GENE SIMMONS: Coventry was located in Queens, New York, in a downtrodden industrial area. Two stories above the building we played was a subway, so when we played, the trains would be going by, and it was loud. It was owned by the boys (imitates tough guy accent) “Who kind of talked like this.’” We played a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and were paid 30 dollars.
PAUL STANLEY: First time we played there, it was virtually empty.
PETER CRISS: Nobody was there (laughs). It was a nightmare. We killed ourselves for six people.
LYDIA CRISS (Peter’s then-wife): I remember it was a really cold winter night. The only people who showed up at that first Coventry show were me, Jan Walsh, who was Gene’s girlfriend at the time, and her friend, plus the road crew — Eddie Solan; Joey Criscuola, Peter’s brother; and Bobby McAdams &mda