Just a few more hours
and I`ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin
Oh Beth what can I do
Beth what can I do
“Beth” was KISS’s first and, most likely, only top ten hit; originally a b-side from their 1976 album Destroyer, released on the flip side of “Detroit Rock City”. Written primarily by drummer Peter Criss, “Beth” has the dual distinctions of being the only song other than “Rock and Roll All Night (And Party Ev-er-y Day)” to still get radio airplay on rock formatted stations (seemingly played “Ev-er-y” day by area station WZZO), as well as probably the wussiest rock single ever to be certified gold. While most of segments at KISS concerts involve loud, hard rocking; over-the-top makeup and costumes; seizure-inducing lighting schemes; guitars that shoot flames; blood dripping from Gene Simmons’ eight inch tongue; and most likely legions of women throwing various undergarments in the direction of the band, the staging for “Beth” consists of a single spotlight beaming down on Criss as he bellows from a stool to a prerecorded backing track. You see, despite being written by a drummer, the song contains no percussion. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any “rock” instruments in it. The accompaniment consists of a heavyhanded string section and a piano, lightly highlighting the melody line.
What makes this song so terrible isn’t just the arrangement of it, though. It’s the arrangement combined with the subject matter. You see, while most of the album’s songs deal with rocking, becoming a god of rocking, living out your dreams by rocking, shouting out loud, dying in a car accident on the way to rocking, or the pleasures of S+M, “Beth”‘s theme is asking permission of your girlfriend/wife to spend the night rocking. That’s right. A guy in a band whose acronym stand for “Knights in Satan’s Service” is on the phone, pleading with his girlfriend to let him stay out a few hours because the band can’t get the song done the way they want. Peter,Peter, Peter, haven’t you learned anything from hanging around with Gene? You’re in effing KISS! You don’t ask permission! You just do it! It’s not even like you’re out partying all night or every day. You’re just playing in your band, singing songs about partying… and maybe shooting some flames out of a guitar. You shouldn’t have to ask permission if you’re on the clock. Especially if you’ve fought– and defeated– the “Phantom of the Park“.
What makes this song laughable though, is its grandiose nature. Criss has taken something truly mundane, and potentially humiliating in the rock community, and treated it with overwrought seriousness, movie score-scope strings, and a deadpan, raspy, wheezing delivery that would make Rod Stewart proud. Come on Peter, be a man!
“Beth” gets two stars for managing to stay around for so long, being the only top ten hit off of twenty-six albums released by the band, and somehow finding a way to make hardcore fans forget about the flames, lights, and fake blood, if only for a brief time. On the other hand, it’s probably the most unwarrantedly dramatic song I’ve ever heard, and would do good to be the anthem for a large population of men who are whipped. I guess that’s why Gene had the demon makeup and Criss was dressed like a cat.