Maybe it’s just the extreme boredom lately, but I thought I’d delve into the interesting history of one of my favorite songs.
Beth, by KISS.
(Sure, they “borrowed” the theatrics from Alice Cooper, but how many hard rock bands did they inspire? Marilyn Manson, Motley Cru, Slipknot, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, and pretty much every hair-metal band in the 80’s)
I found a clip on YouTube from the 1978 TV movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.
(Yes, that was an actual movie. You can’t make this shit up, I swear)
Not really the sound that the KISS Army – that’s what their fans call themselves – was expecting from the “Knights In Satan’s Service” in 1976.
Drummer Peter Criss,
without Paul Stanley
without Gene Simmons
without Ace Freeley,
recorded KISS’ biggest hit. In fact, it’s the only KISS song to not feature a contribution from any of the other band members.
No wonder they hate it.
Criss was backed by Alice Cooper’s guitarist Dick Wagner. But it was legendary KISS producer Bob Ezrin who had the idea to bring in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
I know, just brilliant.
The song was written by Peter Criss and Stan Penridge while they were playing together in the band Chelsea. Only it wasn’t titled Beth in the beginning, it was Beck. Guitarist Mike Brand’s wife, Becky, would constantly call and interrupt Chelsea rehearsals. So much so, that Penridge started taking notes of everything Mike told his nagging wife. He and Criss wrote the song just as a poke in the ribs to poor Mike.
Line for line the lyrics are a conversation between a hen-pecked husband (Mike) and his wife Becky, or Beck.
Beck, I know you’re calling
But I can’t come home right now
Me and the boys are playing
But we just can’t find the sound
Just a few more hours
And I’ll be right home to you
I think I hear them calling now
(I know you like complaining)
Oh Beck, what can I do?
Beck what can I do?
“Just pause after each sentence and pretend there’s a bitch at the other end of the line. You’ll catch it.” explains Stan Penridge.
Even though Paul and Gene fought to keep the song off the album, Destroyer, it was released as the B-side to the album’s third single, Detroit Rock City, in an attempt to bury it.
I mean, who actually listens to B-sides?
Rosalie Trombley’s teenage daughter, that’s who.
Rosalie Trombley was the program director at CKLW in Ontario. Egged on by her teenage daughter, who was obsessed with the B-side, she added Beth to the station’s playlist.
The song was an instant hit, and Casablanca Records quickly re-released it as a single, only this time as the A-side, with Detroit Rock City – Paul and Gene’s song – on the flip side.
It was the fist KISS single to go gold, and even garnered play on adult contemporary stations – GASP!
Something the KISS Army of fans never would have expected.
The song’s television debut was on the Paul Lynd 1976 Halloween Special. (If you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. It’s just a perfect example of campy 70’s variety shows.) Criss pretends to play the piano and lip syncs a shortened version of the song.
Oh Hell, you’re not doing anything else right now. Here ya go. Watch this….
In later years, Paul Stanley has made several claims that Peter Criss didn’t realy have much to do with writing the song, and that it was mostly Penridge’s work. “It was a lifeline that Peter hung on to validate himself.” When Criss was fired from the band in 1980 the new drummers, Eric Carr and then eventually Eric Singer, took up performing the song on tours.
Paul Stanley wouldn’t touch it.
Interesting enough, Lydia Criss, Peter’s first wife, claims that she is responsible for the song’s name change from “Beck” to “Beth”.
AND she also claims to have added the last few lines of the song, upset that the band’s success meant that Peter was always on the road touring and rarely home with her, she told him,
“I feel so empty. I feel like this house isn’t even my home.”
And Peter put that in the song.
Doesn’t really matter who wrote it, it’s always been one of my favorite songs.
And now it’s stuck in your head.
Such a great tribute to your (obviously) beloved band!! Between my laughing, I’m rolling my eyes thinking of all the people (me) who don’t know all they players you are talking about, but I read anyway for the music history and the passion of their fans which is really what live music is all about! OK – now let’s talk the Grateful Dead and their Long Strange Trip. You aren’t doing anything – I’m sure you have 3.7 hours to devote to this Dead Head – plus eye rolling is good exercise!
Cackie!!!! You crack me up! I mean, surely you know the song….. and Paul Lynde, and Gene Simmons, surely. Right? If not, I’m glad that I could tech you something new. Because I know nothing about The Grateful Dead; they performed at Woodstock, Jerry Garcia had 9.5 fingers, and their only top 40 hit was “Touch of Grey”…. That is absolutely ALL I know!
I always loved that song. Even back in the KiSS days. It was so sad, we thought. We thought it meant the love of his life died!! Just goes to show that you have to read all the liner notes!! I still buy albums and cd’s and read every liner note. I like to know all the little details. I can see you are even more of a fan of music than I am!! Thank you for this great blog post. Christine.