By 1976, KISS was one of the hottest bands in rock, on the verge of becoming the most popular group in all of America just one year later, according to the Gallup Poll. After breaking out in a big way with 1975 concert album, Alive!, Gene Simmons and company employed producer Bob Ezrin to help fine-tune the band's sound on the follow-up, and double-down on the momentum of the live record.
Ezrin, who at the time was best known for his work with Alice Cooper, turned the resulting Destroyer album into a somewhat conceptual affair, bringing in all kinds of sonic flourishes to the music, including wild sound effects, a children's choir, and orchestral arrangements.
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KISS had already spun out a trio of singles--"Shout It Out Loud," "God of Thunder" and "Flaming Youth"--before they spun out album opener, "Detroit Rock City." Relegated to the B-side of the 45: uncharacteristic ballad, "Beth."
The gentle piano ballad works in the context of Destroyer. Given the album's conceptual flair, the song sung by drummer Peter "Cat-Man" Criss, the tune played like a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the record: the drummer's wife stuck at home, lonely for her rock star drummer. Said rock star drummer is stuck in the recording studio with the band, since "They just can't find the sound."
While the A-side of the single did respectable business on rock radio, it was a teenage girl who would help propel the B-side up the charts. Rosalie Trombley was the music director at CKLW, a powerful Canadian radio station located just a stone's throw from Detroit, Michigan, in the city of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
It was Trombley's daughter who heard and fell in love with "Beth." She bugged her mom about the song until she finally relented and played in on the air. The rest is history, as the spins on CKLW inspired other radio stations to play "Beth." After it became a hit, KISS was sure to present Trombley's daughter with her very own gold record.
Released as a single in August 1976, "Beth" began its unlikely ascension up the Hot 100. Pushing the song over the top: KISS' legendary appearance on Paul Lynde's Christmas Special on ABC that October, where Criss performed the song. The mass exposure was more than enough to launch the track into the upper reaches of the Hot 100, peaking at #7 for the week of December 4, 1976. The #1 song in America that week: Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)."
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