The Story Behind Why Kiss Made “Unmasked”


Creativity sometimes can hit a wall, and writers usually call it “a writer’s block.” Musicians and artists usually seek inspiration, but sometimes you cannot always be at your best as one band, Kiss, discovered. Kiss “Unmasked” album was so bad that even one of the members, Paul Stanley, called it “crappy,” joining the many fans who thought the same. So, what led the band to produce the album. Here is more regarding the “Unmasked” album as we also enlighten you on how they made a comeback through a drastic decision.

Off to a Good Start

Kiss made hit albums year after year, and the live shows were all sold out, much to the disbelief of the band members. Stanley is quoted as always asking what the attendance was, but it only took the doubting Thomas to believe they had come so far after seeing a big crowd during a performance at the Hara Arena. Unfortunately, the success did not bring the band closer together. By 1978, Criss and Frehley were threatening to quit, despite the band making $17.7 million in three years from royalties and music publishing alone.

The members decided to part ways and pursued solo careers hoping to sell more records, which did not do well. Realizing the error of their ways, the members reunited in 1979 to record “Dynasty.” They went on the “Dynasty Tour,” which ended in December 1979, but their return had seen negative changes; there was a massive decline in attendance, and the fan base had changed to a much younger audience. According to 2 Loud 2 Old Music, by the time the “Dynasty Tour” came to an end, Kiss was not doing well. Frehley and Criss had been drinking too much, which of course, impacted the band. The other members did not hide the disapproval, but still, they had to forge on and continue making music to keep their fans happy. Hence they decided to try their luck to win the masses with “Unmasked.”

The Start of a Downward Spiral

The tension in the band led to the music being impacted. Criss did not play drums on one song in the album, and instead, Anton Fig performed. On the other hand, Simmons did not play bass in any of Frehley’s songs, and Stanley had to play bass himself on one of his songs. The producer of the album, Vini Ponci, made the mistake of pushing the songs to be more Pop than Rock which Kiss thought was a great idea. Unfortunately, it was not, as was the choice of their cover art.

While Stanley said he would give the “Unmasked” album a one-star, Frehley disagreed, saying that he thought his songs were good. Maybe it was the misleading title of the album that did not sit well with fans who thought that finally, the band members would unmask themselves. Others believe that it was the fact the album’s sleeve was so dull, being only black without any pictures. For whatever reason, the album was a flop becoming the second after “Dressed to Kill” not to go platinum. That was only the beginning of the band’s troubles because between 1980 and 1982, Frehley and Criss finally made good on their threat to quit. “Unmasked” left Kiss on its knees, wondering how best to move forward. That 1980 album spelled doom for the band. “Music From the Elder” marked the first time that the band did not do a promotion tour. It was also the first album by then to not be certified by the RIAA. The desperate attempts to go back to having a massive cult following had Stanley convince the other members to shed off the make-up and reveal their faces. In his book “Kiss and Make-Up,” Simmons disclosed that he reluctantly agreed to Stanley’s suggestion because there was nowhere else for them to go. So the members did a photo session to see how they would appear to the public.

When Push Came to Shove

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, when the band realized the commercial failure of “Unmasked,” they knew they had to do something different, which was to show their faces. MTV had ignored Kiss in favor of other bands like Duran Duran and Boy George that also wore make-up but differently. Therefore, it is no wonder that even when the band was granted time to make that life-changing televised press conference, MTV did not hide their lack of interest.They slotted the unmasking of Kiss for 11 pm on a Sunday and did not do much to make the members look good on camera. Simmons, however, said they made the best of the televised event despite being scared stiff. Still, the band aimed to enjoy a new lease of life which could be proven if the upcoming album would go platinum. Despite the anticlimactic revelation that lacked graphic images, background music, or even an audience to hype the members up, they achieved their objective for the unmasking event.

“Creatures of the Night” tripled in sales, thus going platinum. “Lick It Up,” on the other hand, became the band’s first gold record since the failure of “Unmasked,” and they started a promotion tour on October 11, 1983, in Lisbon, Portugal. While it helped the band to sell more records, the new look was not comfortable for both the members and the fans. Simmons insisted that they were very comfortable because they were still the same with or without the make-up. However, later, he admitted that they hated it, especially the fans who wanted the mystery to remain. It only took 13 years before Kiss gave in to the pressure from the public for them to return to their masked faces. Stanley had confessed that their biggest competition was the band’s history. Thus, they gave in to the public demand, and in 1996, during the Grammy Awards, Tupac Shakur introduced the band with their costumes and make-up. The unmasked faces were finally masked again. It was another lucrative career move because the next tour they did together after the band reunited was sold out, raking in $143.7 million and becoming the most successful Kiss tour to date.

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