It was 31 years ago today that the world got their first glimpse of their favorite glam rockers without make-up. Though guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss had left the band, fans were rocked by the bare-faced boldness of founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and it helped boost the band’s flagging popularity.
The band had enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom in the mid-70s with over-the-top performances which included fire breathing, spitting blood, rockets, smoking guitars and massive pyrotechnics. They churned out a hearty collection of gold albums but by 1982, with two key members gone, poor album sales and the Creatures of the Night tour ending in many cancellations, the band’s popularity was at an all-time low.
While recording their 11th album, Lick It Up, Stanley convinced Simmons it was time to do something radical. Stanley felt that the make-up had become a gimmick and that they needed to rely on the strength of their music.
In his book, Kiss and Make-Up, Simmons admits he was reluctant and scared to death but he agreed, and on September 18, 1983, they appeared unmasked on MTV with new members, Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent.
They promoted their new album, Lick It Up and premiered their video of the same name. The stunt drew major attention and helped put the band back in the spotlight. The album immediately tripled the sales of Creatures of the Night and went on to go platinum.
The band was back, filling concert halls, and playing to adoring, nostalgic fans. They went on to produce several more gold and platinum albums before reuniting with Frehley and Criss in 1996, once again donning their traditional facepaint, for a hugely successful tour.
Kiss unmasked on MTV in 1983
The "Lick It Up" video