How Bob Ezrin Re-Wrote ‘Beth’ to Get Girls to Like Kiss
Created as a much harder song by drummer Peter Criss, “Beth” appeared on the 1976 album Destroyer as a softer ballad. In a recent episode of The Rockonteurs podcast, Ezrin explained he had a particular aim in mind as he worked on the LP.
“The purpose of Destroyer, from my point of view, was to take them from being a cock-and-balls rock band that appeals to pimply 15-year-old boys and no one else,” he said. Citing the 1953 outlaw biker movie The Wild One, he said Kiss seemed like the dark, unapproachable Chino character played by Lee Marvin and told them that was a “glass ceiling” position and they needed to be more like Marlon Brando’s Johnny Strabler.
"Lee Marvin was monochromatic, dressed in black, a bad, bad, bad guy," Ezrin noted. "Lee Marvin was just nasty. Whereas Marlon Brando – there was something about him that was a little vulnerable, a little more humane, and the girl … saw something in Johnny … that she fell in love with. I said to them … ‘We want to expand to where every girl in America looks at you guys and goes, ‘I can fix that. I love him, and I’m gonna fix him.’ Because that’s what girls do."
You can hear the interview below.
When he first heard “Beth,” Ezrin continued, it was “kind of arrogant. A guy saying basically, ‘Screw you, you know, I’m not coming home. Me and the boys are more important.’ I went back to my apartment on 52nd Street and I sat at my piano, and I don’t know where it came from, but [the melody] just came out. I thought, ‘This is actually a very sad song. Why isn’t he coming home? He knows that he’s breaking her heart. Why? What’s going on? So we made it into a ballad – a really kind of sensitive, sad ballad. And Peter just happens to have this kind of smoky voice that lent itself to the song perfectly in that form.”
Ezrin added that he "just knew that it was a hit, but the rest of the band didn’t feel like it was representative of Kiss. And it wasn’t, you know, not at the time. It wasn't representative of Kiss as people knew them – but it was representative of the Kiss of Destroyer."