40 Years Ago: Kiss Stares Down a Very Uncertain ‘Tomorrow’
By the time Kiss' original lineup released their final single, the divisions that had been privately plaguing the band for years were plain for all to see.
The catchy pop-rock confection "Tomorrow" was one of the highlights of 1980's underrated Unmasked. But the upbeat, carefree sound of both the song and the album didn't match up with what the band was really going through.
"We were not functioning as a band," Paul Stanley noted in 2001's Kiss: Behind the Mask. "We wanted to create something for the fans that was cheery and fit the picture that they had of us, sometimes covering up people's shortcomings."
After playing on only one song on 1979's Dynasty, addiction battles and personality conflicts kept drummer Peter Criss from participating at all on Unmasked. He had already been publicly replaced by Eric Carr three months prior to the Nov. 1, 1980 release of "Tomorrow."
Lead guitarist Ace Frehley was fighting his own substance abuse issues, and had grown increasingly unhappy with the band's move away from their original hard rock sound. With Criss gone, he also felt continually outvoted by bandmates Stanley and Gene Simmons.
There were also external problems. Although Dynasty's lead single "I Was Made for Lovin' You" was a worldwide smash, Kiss' once red-hot popularity with ticket buyers suddenly went missing on their 1979 tour. Due to a combination of overexposure and the displeasure many longtime fans felt over the group's new sound, they struggled to fill single shows in cities where they had previously sold out multiple nights.
Stanley says the original plan for "Tomorrow" was to give those old-school fans more of what they wanted. "It originally didn't quite sound like that," Stanley says of the song in Behind the Mask. "It was much harder and had a lot of guitar. [Producer] Vini Poncia's background was a little different than it originally was supposed to be. It was a guitar song. We wound up with all these keyboards. It just kind of got diffused, distilled, diluted."
Unmasked's lead single "Shandi" was a big hit in some parts of the world, particularly in Australia where Kiss briefly became the center of a wave of popularity akin to Beatlemania. But it was clear this was a mirage, an aftershock to the band's original wave of success.
Both "Tomorrow" and the album's other single, "Talk to Me," failed to make any kind of impact on the charts or with fans. Back home, the group's popularity had fallen so fast that they didn't even attempt to mount a North American tour in support of the album.
It was clear that Kiss needed to make a big change. Unfortunately, there was one more mistake to make before they could begin to get back on track.