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Beth by Kiss

Album: DestroyerReleased: 1976Charted:
7
  • This song dates back to a band called Chelsea, which future Kiss drummer Peter Criss was in with the guitarist Stan Penridge from 1970-1972. Criss and Penridge came up with a song called "Beck," which was about the wife of their guitarist Mike Brand, whose name was Becky. She was constantly interrupting their band practices asking when Mike was coming home, and the song was a joke directed at him.

    In August, 2000, less than a year before Penridge died at age 50, he explained to the KissFAQ: "'Beck' was written, almost word for word, from Mike Brand's responses to his wife's constant calls that interrupted our rehearsals. It got to the point where I wrote down his remarks over a period of 3 or 4 days in what I called my 'wizard book.' It was merely a small notebook I carried to jot down silly sayings, sketch in, to save ideas. If you look at the lyrics and view them as a hen-pecked hubby's remarks to his nagging wife you'll see what I mean. Just pause after every sentence and pretend there's a bitch at the other end of the line. You'll catch it - I'm sure. Absolutely not responsible at all. Another poorman's copyright by me in '70."

    Penridge and Criss recorded a demo of "Beck" but never released the song. In 1976, after Criss joined Kiss, he and Penridge revived the song and with the help of producer Bob Ezrin, they changed the title to "Beth" and made it more sentimental, changing the end of the first verse from:

    "I know you love complaining, but Beck what can I do?"
    to
    "I think I hear them callin', Oh, Beth what can I do?"
  • A piano ballad not typical of Kiss' sound, this was released as the B-side of "Detroit Rock City," which was the third single from the album, following "Shout It Out Loud" and "Flaming Youth." These three first single releases were hard-driving anthems in the style of Kiss' previous hit "Rock And Roll All Nite," but the song that got the most attention was "Beth." Radio stations began playing the song, and the record company responded by flipping the sides of the single, with "Beth" becoming the A-side about 6 weeks later. It became the biggest hit for Kiss, and their only their only song to get significant airplay on Top-40 radio and even - gasp - Adult Contemporary formats.
  • Stan Penridge co-wrote and played guitar on most of the songs on Peter Criss' 1980 solo album Out of Control. Criss was Best Man at Stan's wedding (Ace Frehley was also in the bridal party) and they worked together for a few years after Criss left Kiss. In 2000, Penridge filed a lawsuit claiming he was owed money for some of the songs he wrote with Criss that Kiss recorded, including "Baby Driver," "Dirty Living," and "Baby, Don't You let me Down."
  • Peter Criss sang lead, as he did on several Kiss songs, including "Black Diamond" and "Hard Luck Woman." He was the only member of the band to perform on this song - Dick Wagner played the acoustic guitar and an orchestra was brought in. Wagner had toured with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, but was living in New York and taking session work at the time. He wasn't credited on the album, but remembers also playing on the tracks "Sweet Pain" and "Flaming Youth."
  • Live performances of this song were a bit of a problem unless Kiss had an orchestra handy. When they didn't, Peter Criss would move to the front of the stage and sing it to a recorded backing track.
  • This song is a source of contention between Peter Criss and Kiss frontman Paul Stanley. Criss was fired from the band in 1980, and while he participated in reunion tours, he was replaced by other musicians who wore his famous "cat" makeup onstage: first Eric Carr and then Eric Singer (on later tours, Singer would sometimes sing this song like Criss used to).

    As the co-writer/singer of Kiss' biggest hit, Criss stakes a solid claim to the band's legacy, but Stanley has maintained that Stan Penridge wrote just about all of "Beth," and Criss contributed very little to the song. "Peter had nothing to do with it," Stanley told Rolling Stone in 2014. "It was a lifeline that Peter hung on to validate himself, but it wasn't based on reality."

    The rift between Criss and Stanley runs far deeper than a dispute over this song. When Kiss was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, Stanley and Gene Simmons refused to reunite with the original lineup and ultimately decided not to perform at the ceremony.
  • Sitcom writer Paul Simms named the obnoxious secretary character from NewsRadio Beth after this song. The character had "no last name." (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
  • Peter Criss married his first wife, Lydia, in 1970. They were still together when this song became a hit, which lent some veracity to the lyric about coming home to see your girl. In 1978, their relationship turned rocky when Criss took up with Debra Jensen, who was Miss January in Playboy that year. Peter and Lydia divorced in 1979 (with Lydia getting a reported $1 million settlement), and Peter and Debra were later married.
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Comments: 31

On December 5th 1976, "Beth" by Kiss peaked at #7 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top chart; it had enter the chart on September 9th at position #79 and stayed on the Top 100 for 21 weeks.Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
This had nothing to do with his wife or what most people assume. If one of you runs into Paul or Gene and can talk privately they may admit origins but they are under a non disclosure agreement and representational agreements. They were given persona's to follow and this affected the songs. Beth was simply from the name Elizabeth it was a middle name of someones grandma. The writer (and aren't they lucky they wont be silverspooned again for pissing them off) pictured what it must be like to be on the road a distance from someone you love. A similar song written by the same writer behind the pen names also wrote Helene by Roch Voisine. How the heck do I know? My cousin is Steven Spielberg whom with some of his sisters (Lari and Terri did business but often Leslie did voice acting/music) backed several of these bands via other names they do business with. My cousin Steven when I was younger (and worked in the industry) would call me up occasionally or send me records and videos. One of the times was during the recording of the KISS solo albums. Gene got on the phone and frankly was a jerk and I told him off and Steven told him to go record and leave me alone. Then I had a talk with Ace who was much more friendly and little less ego freak. What did Gene say? "You should stick to writing science fiction." How stupid was that? At the time I was well known by his peers and his contract while it didn't stop him from having an opinion also didn't get him out of doing what he was told. Frankly I did kind of lift an eyebrow when I heard his solo album outside of kiss. He probably lifted one when I got mad and asked my cousin to make him play "Silverspoon" where just guitar saw an upgrade to include other things and then Steven showed him what else I did. I will say on the flip side most of the other entertainers were friendly. Billy Idol was positively adorable.Susie - Burnaby, Bc
To Rick in N.J.:if "Beth" had been intended to be a "B" side(which it was a "B" side),it was issued on a 45 which is considered to still be a single!Charles Hollingswort - Leeds, Al
Thanks to James from Columbus for sharing that experience. This song and James' comment have had me thinking all day about the song's theme. I have always thought this melody was the quintessential song about young guys who don't realize how great they have it at home, it's about the guy who chooses the friends and other women instead of the lady at home. We aren't forever young and time with Beth would have been the better investment.Benz1r - Dallas, Tx
I'm 52 now but when the song first came out I was a college student working at a Pizza Hut in San Antonio. Many of my friends also worked there and we had an absolute blast. It was one of the best periods of my life.

While at Pizza Hut, a fellow was hired to help cook. He didn't fit in with our group so we didn't know much about him. One evening while we were working a really beautiful girl walks in. She had long black hair and on the scale of 1 to 10 she was a 15. I would guess she was in her very early 20s. She walks up to the counter and I'm stunned by her beauty. I noticed she had this innocent look but appeared somewhat distraught. I go up to see if she needed anything and she asked to see this one fellow. I noticed she was wearing a wedding ring and that's when I realized she was married to him. I called him over then went back to the pizza make table. Since I was close to the counter I overheard her asking him when he was coming home that evening. He told her he was going out with his friends and would be home late that night. He turned and walked back to his station. She stayed for a moment before walking out. If I had to guess he was probably very tired of their marriage and wanted out.

All us guys dream of falling in love with a gorgeous lady. He did and I would venture to guess their marriage did not last. He was young, good looking, and I guess wanted to be free to play the field. Every time I here Beth, I think of that sad relationship.
James - Columbus, Oh
My mother loved this song when it came out (no, neither her name, nor mine, is Beth). She thought it was so pretty. One day when we were out shopping, I showed her the cover of "Destroyer" and told her, "These are the guys who do the song 'Beth'." She's never listened to it again.Karen - Manchester, Nh
I was at the reunion concert at Tiger Stadium in Detroit on June 28, 1996. I remember when Peter sang this song, I became a little watery eyed because after many years of hearing this song on albums and the radio,I thought to myself I cannot believe I am actually seeing him sing the live in make up and with the other original members....WOWJason - Denver, Co
Jeff from Wayne, NJ wins the argument here. His explaination is the correct one. I can't believe that so many people post before doing their homework, sheesh!Gregg - Raceland, Ky
The song was written by Peter Criss and Stan Penridge, both of whom were in a band called Chelsea. A demo tape of the song, however, was recorded later, during Criss' tenure in another band, Lips, immediately before he joined Kiss.

Although Criss has stated that the original song, entitled "Beck", was about his then-wife, Lydia, this is in contradiction to other statements which point to a woman named Becky (Rebecca, or "Beck" for short), who was the girlfriend of Chelsea guitarist Mike Brand. The song was written as an insult to Rebecca, who would frequently interrupt recording sessions and rehearsals. She was, according to Criss, also a notorious hypochondriac.

Several years later, when Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin was presented with the song, he re-wrote the lyrics and suggested the piano and orchestra. Gone was the caustic (and reportedly profane) diatribe against an annoying woman. What it became was a sweet ballad about missing a loved one while on the road; telling her that even though you're not there and have a job to do, you're still thinking about her. However, it was Gene Simmons who suggested a change in title to "Beth". The two versions of this story alternately have Simmons concerned about fans believing it was about guitarist Jeff Beck or, worse yet, misconstrued as a gay love song about the guitarist.

During the recording sessions for Beth, the only Kiss member to be present in the studio was Peter Criss.

Live, "Beth" was performed by Peter Criss backed solely by a tape of the instrumental track. However, during the years when Eric Carr and Eric Singer were Kiss' drummers, the song was never performed live by Kiss. The version of Beth featured on the group's 2003 Kiss Symphony: Alive IV DVD and subsequent album would be the only time the song was performed live with a full orchestra.
Jeff - Wayne, Nj
I was AT that concert! BEST I'd ever heard Pete sing that!Axeman - Melbourne, Australia
Brett from Canada is correct.

It was for Mike's GF and Peter wrote the lyics while on a train riding from Ny to Nj for practice
Chris - Selinsgrove, Pa
The most overrated Kiss song ever.Austin - Bristow, Va
Steve, Birmingham, AL, you're mistaken. Or, have you never heard of KISS: UNPLUGGED, on which it is performed on acoustic guitars.Gary - Morgantown, Wv
I hear this song ALOT on a couple of our local FM stations. It's about my favorite song by KISS with its heartfelt(!) emotion. But...there is something about hearing KISS 30 years later on an "easy listening" station. It just don't seem natural...Don - Indianapolis, In
The Eric Carr version is also quiet nice (1989).Draal - Tilburg, Netherlands
This is a really sad song and I cry alot whenever I listen to it. Call me a wuss if you want but it is indeed a sad song despite it being a powerful ballad. Hey it's ok to cry whenever you hear a sad song like this.Frank - Brampton, Ontario, Canada
"Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park" contains the only recording of "Beth" performed on acoustic guitars. Supposedly, the soon-to-be-released Kissology Vol. 2 contains the first ever DVD copy of this rare film.Steve - Birmingham, Al
This one of my favourite KISS songs ever!Randell - Sydney, Australia
Gee...i love this songBeth - Pittsburgh, Pa
If you pay close attention on Alive II you can hear the spring in Peter's throne rattle as he gets up to sing the song. Also, towards the end of the song, you can hear a woman in the crowd scream "Peter!" at the top of her lungs.Brian - L.a., Ca
Originally this song was on the B side of the single Detroit Rock city. The only reason KISS put it there was because they thought that it would be a dud, but man were thy wrong it won them a people choice award and will always be one of KISS'S most popular and known song.Cam - Cambridge, Canada
This song still gives me chills. KISS was one of the loudest bands of that time, and this was such a beautiful departure.Clarke - Pittsburgh, Pa
In the movie Detroit Rock City, the epic saga of 4 teen boys trying to get to a Kiss concert (produced by Gene Simmons) one of the boys falls for a girl named Beth, appropriately.Craig - Madison, Wi
I read or heard somewhere that the band changed the name from "Beck" to "Beth" as to avoid any confusion about the song being a tribute to guitarist Jeff Beck.Jordan - Wv
I was seven when this was hot on the radio. It still envokes memories of an era gone buy. It was the only song I knew by Kiss for the longest time. As an adult I got more into them and have seen them in concert three times. Beth is one of the shortest songs to ever get radio play during the 70's, if you don't include some of the punk ones that have made it. Especially , when many songs lasted half an album side.Dee - Indianapolis, In
Love this song, but i really would like to know what it is really about!Sarah - Colac, Australia
pretty good song, but im surprised it did so well...i wouldnt say its as good as some of their other stuffShana - Pembroke,ontario, Canada
he didn't write it for his wife, Criss wrote it with Penridge in his old band Chelsea. It was the Mike the guitarist girlfriend Becky who called while they were rehearsing and nagged him to come home.Brett - Sudbury, Canada
I heard thet the song was written about his dog? I have heard this from several venues.Tristan - Anderson, Sc
I heard it was written about Peters mom.Andrew - Some Where In Tx, Tx
Peter Criss wrote it for his first wife...being a major rock star and being married caused problems. Pete also won a songwriting award for it. Good on himSteph - Melbourne, Australia