30 Years Ago: KISS Complete a Hail Mary Named ‘Lick It Up’
On Sept. 18, 1978, Kiss were on top of the world. On that day, all four members of the famously face-painted group released solo albums in one of the most extravagant displays of marketing power in rock history.
Exactly five years later, the band’s original lineup was reduced by half, and their commercial standing had suffered an incredibly sharp decline. So they decided to make a drastic, previously unthinkable change in order to save their careers: They took off their trademark makeup and revealed their real faces on the cover of their 1983 comeback album ‘Lick It Up.’
How did things get so dire so quickly? Here’s the quick roundup: The solo albums didn’t sell to expectations, and together with a live album and a best-of released right around the same time, Kiss overloaded the market.
Then the band attempted to reach a broader audience with a pair of albums — 1979′s ‘Dynasty‘ and 1980′s ‘Unmasked‘ — that drifted too far into pop and disco for those who loved its original hard-rock sound. To make matters worse, the records didn’t connect with new fans. After original drummer Peter Criss left, the band’s attempt to return to its roots somehow got derailed and turned into the disastrous 1981 concept album ‘Music From the Elder.’ Lead guitarist Ace Frehley checked out somewhere in the middle of making the record, and it seemed like remaining founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons had hit bottom.
Amazingly, they recovered — at least creatively — with 1982′s ‘Creatures of the Night,’ a defiant, backs-to-the-wall masterpiece that added new levels of grit, drama and shading to their repertoire. It should have returned Kiss to the top of the mountain. Instead, it went largely ignored by an audience that had either moved on or grown tired of the band’s recent stylistic wanderings.