Producer Bob Ezrin says the key to Kiss's success was getting girls to like them

Kiss fans in 1977
Kiss: a boy's band (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives)

Producer Bob Ezrin has revealed that his role in producing Kiss's Destroyer was to turn the band into one that was popular with girls.

Speaking to the Rockonteurs podcast – hosted by Pink Floyd/David Gilmour bassist Guy Pratt and former Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, who both play with Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets – Ezrin says that Kiss only appealed to 15-year-old boys prior to Destroyer, which was released in March 1976.

"The purpose of Destroyer, from my point of view, was to take them from being a cock and balls rock band that appeals to 15 pimply year old boys and no one else," says Ezrin. "When we first met I said to them, you know there's a there's a famous movie in the 50s called The Wild One with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. There were two warring motorcycle clubs. Bad guys – all bad guys. 

"The thing is that Lee Marvin was monochromatic, dressed in black, a bad bad bad guy. 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, the pretty daughter of somebody important – a tightly wound good Christian, lovely girl, you know, virgin, whatever – she saw something in Johnny, Marlon Brando's character that she fell in love with."

"So I said to them: 'Right now you're Lee Marvin. And that's a glass ceiling. We'll never we'll never go wide with that. It'll just be the 15 year old boys who go 'Oh, that's cool'. But we want to expand to where every girl in America looks if you guys and goes: 'I can fix that. I love him and I'm gonna fix them'. Because that's what girls do."

Ezein reveals that the key to this transformation was Peter Criss's ballad Beth, which the drummer had originally presented as a much more hard-edged song, with the protagonist focused on the importance of the his life on the road with the band rather than the time spent away from his partner.

"It was a little more, sort of cock and balls, kind of arrogant," says Ezrin. "A guy saying basically 'Screw you, you know, I'm not coming home. Me and the boys are more important' and all that stuff and it was a little bit bouncy.

"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 [sings 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. 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 that smoky voice that lent itself to the song perfectly in that form. 

"I 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."

You can hear the entire episode below. In December, Kiss announced their final ever UK dates, part of a European tour that will run from early June until mid-July.   

Kiss European Tour 2023

Jun 03: Plymouth Home Park, UK
Jun 05: Birmingham Arena, UK
Jun 06: Newcastle Utilita Arena, UK
Jun 10: Prague O2 Arena, Czech Republic
Jun 12: Amsterdam Ziggo Dome, Netherlands
Jun 13: Brussels Palais 12 Arena, Belgium
Jun 17: Munich Königsplatz Germany
Jun 19: Krakow Tauron Arena Poland
Jun 21: Dresden Messehalle, Germany
Jun 22: Berlin Max-Schmeling-Halle, Germany
Jun 27: Lyon Halle Tony Garnier, France
Jun 29: Tuscany Piazza Napoleone, Italy
Jul 01: Mannheim SAP Arena, Germany
Jul 02: Cologne Lanxess Arena, Germany
Jul 05: London The O2, UK
Jul 07: Manchester AO Arena, UK
Jul 08: Glasgow OVO Hydro, UK
Jul 12: Rättvik Dalhalla Sweden
Jul 13: Rättvik Dalhalla Sweden
Jul 15: Tonsberg Kaldnes, Norway

Tickets are on sale now

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.