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32 Years Ago: Kiss Remove Their Makeup

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On Sept. 18, 1983, an unthinkable event in Kiss-story took place: the world’s most famous masked band removed their makeup and revealed their true faces.

Granted, the news wasn’t as earth-shaking as it would have been if the group had come clean a few years earlier, say the mid-to-late ’70s, when they were undeniably the hottest band in the land. However, by this time, internal tensions and a series of questionable disco and pop-influenced albums had severely crippled their commercial standing.

Original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley had also departed the group, and even the back-to-basics creative triumph of 1982’s Creatures of the Night failed to reignite their career. In his book Kiss and Make-UpGene Simmons reveals how the band’s other remaining founding member, Paul Stanley, convinced him it was time for a big change while they were recording Lick It Up, their 11th studio album:

“‘Let’s prove something to the fans,’ Paul said, ‘Let’s go and be a real band without makeup.’ I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I heard what Paul was saying — there was nowhere else for us to go. We did a photo session just to see what it would look like. We looked straight into the camera lens. We were defiant. I made one small concession to the fans — I stuck out my tongue, to try to keep something that connected us with the past.” (Nothing small about that concession, when you think about it!)

Speaking of the public unveiling on MTV — which you can see above — Simmons says, “We made the best of it, but I was scared stiff.” Turns out Stanley was indeed right, as the Demon happily relates: “Lick It Up was released and immediately tripled the sales of Creatures of the Night. It went platinum and we were soon filling up concert halls again. This was clearly a new lease on life.”

The newly unmasked Kiss — and to be honest, they had been captured au natural a few times in the ’70s — went on to release a series of gold and platinum albums over the next decade before reuniting with Criss, Frehley and their iconic greasepaint for a hugely successful tour in 1996.

See Kiss and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’80s

This Day in Rock History: September 18

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Next: Top Kiss 'Without Makeup' Songs

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