Kiss’ ‘Beth’ History Disputed by ‘Spinning Gold’ Director
Kiss is one of the many artists whose history is woven into the new film Spinning Gold. Interestingly, the movie presents an alternate history of how the band's hit song "Beth" was created.
Spinning Gold is a biopic about Neil Bogart, the music executive behind Kiss' first label, Casablanca Records. The film was written and directed by Neil's son, Timothy Scott Bogart, who admits he took dramatic license with some of the movie's historical points. Still, he defends the film's timeline for "Beth," which is noticeably different than the band's (and producer Bob Ezrin's) accounts over the years.
Spinning Gold posits the idea that the hit was pitched to Casablanca before 1975's Alive! and that the title was changed from "Beck" to "Beth" as a dig at Neil, whose ex-wife's name was Beth. "My father heard it before the name change and thought it was quite something," Tim Bogart reveals in a conversation with UCR.
Drummer Peter Criss initially wrote the song during the early '70s with Stan Penridge in a previous band, Chelsea, which had auditioned for Kama Sutra Records - a part of the Buddah Records family when Neil Bogart ran the company. ("Beck" was not among the tracks played for the label, however.)
"They did a whole recording session where they brought in the strings but Gene and Paul didn't go," Tim recalls. "They missed it entirely. It wasn't the sound of Kiss. It wasn't for the audience of Kiss. 'We're never gonna release that song!' But my father was supporting Peter, supporting the song because they desperately needed a radio hit."
There was additional resistance to the track, too, according to Bogart. "Other execs at Casablanca - notably [Vice President] Larry Harris as well as Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] - hated that song when Peter wrote it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. They thought it was a joke and made fun of [Criss] relentlessly."
According to Kiss' accounts, "Beck" was more upbeat in its original form and didn't take on the string-laden ballad arrangement until Ezrin got his hands on the song as the group was making Destroyer.
"Gene and Paul, who I love dearly, have systematically written the history they want -- and they're entitled to it. They’re the hardest working guys on the planet and I have nothing but respect for them," Tim says of the disparities. "That being said, they keep changing their story to craft the perfectly manicured version of it." All agree, however, that Neil Bogart did not like the song when it was renamed "Beth."
Listen to Kiss' 'Beth'
"My mother was Beth," Tim says. "My mother was with [Kiss] all the time. That was a direct attack on my father by changing the [title] and he said, 'To hell with you! I'm never releasing the song!' and he kept it off those couple of albums until Destroyer."
Harris, meanwhile, told James Campion, author of Shout It Out Loud: The Story of Kiss' Destroyer, in 2013 that "Neil was going through a pretty miserable divorce ... and because we were having contractual problems with Kiss and there was animosity there, Neil thought when he heard 'Beth' for the first time - and he heard it without listening to the words real closely - that it was put-down of him getting a divorce. So I called Peter, and I said, 'What the fuck is this? ... Why would you do this to Neil?' And he goes, 'It's not about Neil!'"
Despite those dust-ups, Tim Bogart maintains that his father always felt a close kinship with Kiss and especially Stanley and Simmons. "They were these Jewish guys who came from the same kind of place, Brooklyn and Queens," he explains. "They all changed their names - [Neil] Bogatz, Chaim Witz [Simmons], Stanley Eisen [Stanley] - and became these kind of characters, but they knew the real people in each other. Neil saw what Kiss was going to become. He could see they were gonna be the greatest band in the world. He knew they were going to rule the world, and he put a lot of work into making that happen."