Video Breakdown: Kiss – Lick It Up

The cover art for Kiss' album Lick It Up

If you’re creating a playlist featuring songs related to the tongue, you could do worse than open the whole shebang with Kiss’ 1983 single Lick It Up.

The video for the album’s title track – written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent – was the first to feature the band without their makeup and appears to be set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated entirely by scantily clad women.

But what’s the meaning hidden in this grainy televisual treat? Let’s look at it scene by scene and try to make sense of this crazy alternate world…


For many people, this would be first time to see what Kiss looked like without layers of theatrical paint and flecks of stage blood. Of course, they’d tease their fans a little longer on their MTV premiere in September 1983 by opening the video with a shot of their legs. Lick It Up opens with a shot of the four band members striding with purpose through what could be a disused mechanics yard in South East London. They all appear to be wearing boots from New Look.


There’s a manhole. Who’s that with the massive hair? Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez? No, it’s a lady wearing a vest and some shoelaces wrapped around her arm. It was the 80s. People wore t-shirts that looked like nets and all sorts.


There’s Kiss, but you’re still not going to see their faces yet. One chap has brought his sandwiches in the front of his tight blue jeans.


One lady is scrubbing her clothes on a pavement next to a broken fire hydrant. These are clearly desperate times.


The sandwich man is wearing a pair of leopard print boots that defy rationale. To our right, the person in black high-heeled boots is struggling on the road’s uneven surface. A visit to hospital is only a misstep away.


Is that woman guzzling hot dog mustard from the bottle?


It’s Kiss without makeup. Paul Stanley is up for a good time, while Gene Simmons stands like someone at a cold, blustery bus stop. Four seconds later, the director will give the command to walk a little more towards the camera.


Look at Gene’s face. Any ideas what that was about?


Paul Stanley’s compelling enthusiasm is drawing attention from the gang of women. Simmons, meanwhile, has the posture and scowl of a man chasing kids off his lawn.


The appearance of Kiss in bad boots and skimpy t-shirts has inspired the women to do a variety of gym stretches and endless pouting.


Cut to the evening. Paul Stanley’s lips are covered in foam or something. The drinks are flowing. They’re all having a lovely time.


A salad leaf cascades from Gene Simmons’ mouth in this bacchanalian feast. Does he care? Does he fuck. Not even when he’s put in a gentle headlock and given a drink from a futuristic petrol canister. We know it’s futuristic from the orange markings.


The band finish their drinks with urgency. Something is afoot. Stanley spits out his drink. Could’ve been a poorly-made vinaigrette.


Ah, they’ve come to perform a concert in the ruins to entertain these post-apocalyptic women. The street fires perfectly light the stage.


Simmons gives the crowd a wiggle in his leather trousers. The crowd’s reaction is not documented.


There’s Simmons’ tongue, just in case you’d thought it had been put in storage with his Demon costume.


And there’s the tongue again. He could get rid of any spillages in seconds. Handy to have around the house.


Stanley leaps into the air. A solid 810 for height and landing, particularly when you consider he’s wearing leopard print boots.


The video cuts back to a shot of the band’s boots while they were standing in the puddles earlier on.


A woman lies down next to a skull and smiles. We’ve no idea what’s happening. And it’s finished.

What did we learn from Lick It Up?

There are so many plot holes in this video, we don’t know where to start. Why is this video set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Why is it populated by women in rags? What are Kiss doing there? Did Gene Simmons really opt for a salad at the party? We guess we’ll never know. What we do know is that Simmons only cheers up when he gets to stick his tongue out almost three minutes into the video while Paul Stanley does enough strutting for the entire band. So there’s that.

Kiss Quiz

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.