On Dec. 15, 1995, Bruce Kulick performed his last appearance as an official member of Kiss.
His farewell to performing live with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Eric Singer began as a three-song acoustic set at the Palladium in Los Angeles. The event was Mark and Brian’s annual Christmas concert, a regulated radio special broadcast live on stations throughout the country, which saw Kiss sharing the act with such diverse artists as Peter Frampton, Spencer Davis, and Bob Hope.
“I have to admit, it wasn’t easy playing at eight in the morning,” Kulick revealed in a new video celebrating the anniversary, “but I thought we actually sounded very good considering the time of day we had to perform.”
During that time Kiss were recording what would turn out to be Kulick’s last studio album with the group, 1997’s Carnival of Souls. Nine months before the December show, founding members Frehley and Peter Criss reunited the band’s current lineup for four tunes during a taping of MTV Unplugged.
“Most of the time when I talk about my last show with the band, I actually refer to it as Unplugged,” Kulick tells UCR, “only because that was a ‘real’ show. You know, with the whole band. Even though we were playing acoustic, the four of us were rocking out.”
The fiercely devoted fan response and press coverage carried on by the appearance of Criss and Frehley made an initial lineup reunion all but certain. And surely that’s precisely what Kiss declared via a surprise presentation at the Grammys in February 1996, two months after the Mark and Brian show.
“I did not know about the reunion until January,” Kulick explained. “So I went through the holiday season [thinking], ‘we’re working on a new studio album.’ But then a week or two into January is when Gene invited Eric and I up so we could have that discussion with Paul and the band. It was good that Carnival of Souls was about two-thirds done, because that would have taken a little bit of wind out of it for me.”
Simmons and Stanley were decided to complete the album and, given that they had broken up with Criss and Frehley over significant deep disagreements before, were not satisfied that the original lineup would continue together for very long. “They were thinking, ‘Hey, this [reunion] might only be for six months,'” Kulick explains. “And that’s why they actually kept Eric and I on salary that whole year, just in case. It wasn’t like the current band stunk or were insubordinate or anything, it’s just all of a sudden an amazing opportunity came along, it’s understandable. I think all of them had that fear of ‘if we don’t do it now, we’re never gonna get to do it.'”