Destroyer (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe)

Kiss

Destroyer (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe)

When Kiss returned to the studio in 1975 after their breakthrough live set, Alive!, they enlisted producer Bob Ezrin, who had helped make Alice Cooper one of the biggest rock stars in the world. “Little did we know that it was like going back to school,” Kiss bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons tells Apple Music. “At the time, we were just a garage band—we all taught ourselves how to play our instruments. Ezrin actually wore a whistle around his neck and had a cardboard box he used to hit with a drumstick to keep Peter [Criss] in time, which made Peter furious. And then Paul [Stanley] and I would just tune our guitars with our ears, but Ezrin showed us how to tune harmonically.”
Were it not for Ezrin, Destroyer would have been a very different album. As heard here on the 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition, Simmons and Stanley recorded demos for more than a dozen songs that didn’t make the final cut. “He tore apart our songs,” Simmons recalls. “I wrote a song called ‘Mad Dog,’ but Ezrin only liked one riff. So he stuck that riff into ‘Flaming Youth.’ Quite a number of the songs were Frankenstein songs like that, but it’s like the difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly. They look completely different, but at the core they’re the same insect. It’s just that the butterfly evolved. That’s what Destroyer is—the caterpillar’s still in there, but we sprouted wings and color.” Below, Simmons comments on each track.
“Detroit Rock City” “Paul and I were writing separately in those days, and we each found these little studios to make demos in. Paul came up with ‘Detroit Rock City’ at the studio he was working at. He had the A and B parts, but the song didn’t breathe. The lyrics went one right into the other without the space. It was Ezrin who added the space between the vocals—‘I feel uptight on a Saturday night,’ and then the space for the bass part. The confession is that Ezrin came up with that bass part. And the entire solo with the drums going off on their own, Ezrin sang the melody as well as the harmony parts. He was a real tour de force—a visionary.”
“King of the Night Time World” “This was a demo by Kim Fowley that Bob found. He saw the anthemic quality of it—even the title. We said, ‘Well, we don't do other people's material,’ so he met us halfway. We sort of kicked the tires here and there, but there was certainly an original version of ‘King of the Night Time World.’ This is great, though. The arrangement, with the kind of feedback thing before it hits—it’s fairly symphonic. Less rock, if you see what I mean.”
“God of Thunder” “Paul and I started making fun of each other about the kinds of songs that we write. He’d say, ‘Gene, you're always writing about monsters and stuff like that.’ And I'm going, ‘Paul, cut it out with using words like “love” in song titles. I'm so sick of that.’ So, Paul comes in with this song called ‘God of Thunder.’ Ezrin listens to it and goes, ‘That’s very good. Gene is going to sing that one.’ And Paul just about had a heart attack: ‘Why?’ And Ezrin said, ‘Because you’re not the god of thunder.’ That was harsh, but I have to say Ezrin was right, because—respectfully—I couldn’t imagine Paul singing this one. It’s like a different persona. It would be like Ozzy singing ‘Like a Virgin.’ The words have to sound like they’re in your lexicon.”
“Great Expectations” “I’d always written songs and never thought about whether they’re Kiss or not, and ‘Great Expectations’ came from a song I’d started writing called ‘I Am a New Man.’ It went, ‘I am a new man, born in the ashes of ruin, born in the meadows of lies.’ Same chords, same melody. And then, for whatever reason, I rewrote it as an afterthought about a fan. ‘Great Expectations’ was nothing I thought we’d ever do, but I showed it to Ezrin with my stack of 30 or 40 songs, because I’d always overwrite. Ezrin liked it and put the children’s choir on it.”
“Flaming Youth” “As it happened, Ezrin rented an apartment across from Paul's place in New York. He had a piano there, and we'd gather around the piano. ‘Flaming Youth’ and ‘Shout It Out Loud’ were written around the piano. Both Paul and I would just start strumming guitars and then figure out what it was going to be called later.”
“Sweet Pain” “I was always fascinated with the idea of sadomasochism. Like, ‘I get the shit beaten out of me and I sure love it.’ I’m going, ‘What are you talking about?’ So that’s where it came from—‘Sweet pain, my love will drive you insane’ just rolls off the tongue, and then the rest of the song wrote itself. Dick Wagner played the solo because Ace [Frehley] was in a card game at his place in upstate New York. It’s like, ‘The dog ate my homework.’ It just doesn’t get better. And if I didn't love Ace so much, I'd be furious. But, of course, he was much more furious that everything didn't stop just because he was flaking out up there with whatever else.”
“Shout It Out Loud” “It bears noting that in the previous band Paul and I were in, Wicked Lester, there was a song that The Hollies, of all people, were going to record—and did not. It was a song called ‘We Want to Shout It Out Loud.’ It was about a secret love affair. Then, when we were sitting around the piano with Bob, the melody came up. And I remember singing the chorus, and then we’d just throw out lines. Suddenly, it wasn’t a song about a relationship anymore, but just about the exuberance of life. A stand-and-deliver kind of a thing, as the English say.”
“Beth” “We played Flint, Michigan, and Peter and I were in one limo, and Ace and Paul were in the other. We were going to Cadillac, Michigan, to do Kiss Day with the entire town coming out in full makeup. On the way there, Peter starts singing this song, ‘Beck, I hear you calling…’ et cetera, et cetera. I’m going, ‘That’s really nice. What song is that?’ He said it was a song he wrote called ‘Beck.’ I suggested he sing it for Ezrin, and I suggested he change the name to ‘Beth,’ because it’s a much easier-sounding word than ‘Beck,’ which was short for ‘Becky.’ Ezrin loved it, played it on keyboards and added a Mozart piano concerto in the middle that was in the public domain. And that became ‘Beth.’ But Peter had nothing to do with writing that song. It was written by a guy named Stan Penridge, who was the guitar player in a group called Chelsea [that Peter was in].”
“Do You Love Me” “This also came in from a Kim Fowley demo. Ezrin reacted to ‘You really like my limousine/You like the way the wheels roll/You like my seven-inch…’ and then there’s a pause before ‘leather heels.’ That’s just rock, you know? And then we rearranged it, of course. It bears noting that there was an original ‘Do You Love Me’ written by Berry Gordy for the Contours. Nothing to do with this version, of course. But we still do this live, as a second encore out of three.”

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