Song: “Lick It Up,” by KISS
The year was 1983. After 10 years, 50% new members, 10 albums, 4 awkward solo albums, and the even more awkward concept album, Music from “The Elder” (quotes around a thing that wasn’t even a thing, for those of you keeping score at home), KISS made the bold move to take their makeup off. And this seems as good a place to begin our journey through hair band videos as any, as KISS’s aesthetic was an inspiration for a number of glam bands.
So, on September 18, 1983 KISS “unmasked” themselves on MTV for the Lick It Up album, revealing their true identities:
from left to right:
Eric Carr (may he rest in peace), The Fox. True identity: Guy Who Will Commit to This Video as Hard as Possible in Hopes of Landing a Different Gig
Gene Simmons, The Demon. True identity: Guy Who Thinks Music Videos are a Passing Fad
Paul Stanley, The Starchild. True identity: Guy Who Fights Post-Apocalyptic Battles With the Power of Dance
Vinnie Vincent, The Ankh Warrior (I wish I was making that up). True identity: Guy Who Wants to Talk To You About Crystals
Wikipedia describes the video for “Lick It Up” as tongue in cheek. However, since they’re unable to cite this source, I’m pretty comfortable dismissing this description, as is Gene Simmons. Tongues are many places in this video, but in one’s cheek is not one of them.
What we learn here is that KISS was doing dystopian wastelands before dystopian wastelands were cool. But cool this wasteland is. The video opens with our heroes walking through a post-apocalyptic landscape, where they reveal themselves to a cadre of women who wash their clothes against manhole covers in order to save the generator power for their crimping irons. Because Paul Stanley’s boots match those of some the girls, they can tell the band is friend and not foe, and they welcome them into their lair.
And by lair, I mean underground milk party. This sounds filthier than it is. I think. At any rate, the girls are waiting with Fischer-Price My First Canteens (tm) just to pour liquids of all manner down our heroes’ throats. Dehydration seems to be of real concern in this world.
Whatever the band is drinking, it soon gives them the power to perform. It also appears to make the girls disappear, which, I’m not going to lie, seems antithetical to the KISS ethos. But that’s okay because Paul’s here. And he’s here to dance. Originally, I mistyped that sentence as “here to do dance” which may not have been a mistyping at all:
I had a theory that Paul’s dancing was an elaborate plan to distract the viewer from his poor lip-synching skills. Upon further inspection, however, it’s clear that this desolate wasteland has unlocked in him a love of dance and/or West Side Story and he just wants to share it with all of us. I, for one, feel the richer for it.
Meanwhile, everyone else appears to have gotten their own separate script for the video. Eric Carr drums away with a seriousness and earnestness that suggests he wasn’t told he’d be wearing a modified fanny pack. Gene is afraid we’re going to forget that the song has the word lick in the title. And Vinnie is…well, Vinnie.
The video ends with overly long still of one of the world’s leaders leaning over a skull. Where did these skulls come from? Who are they? Did she kill the band? Is it a message to Peter Criss and Ace Frehley? Is this what happens when you lick it up? I thought it wasn’t a crime to be good to yourself! Perhaps it’s one final reminder about the importance of staying hydrated.
That, or a metaphor for KISS’s post-makeup career.