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“I didn’t know who KISS were, but there was this little kid in Toronto who used to phone me – this was back when my number was listed – and he would tell me what was hot, what was not, what I should be listening to, what I should be producing. He was like my own personal fanboy. He called to tell me about KISS. ‘They’re amazing, but their records suck. You should produce them.’
“Their records didn’t suck, but I understood what he was saying – they could have been more sophisticated. It was pretty prescient of him to say, and he was dead right – we should be working together.
“When the song Beth was first played for me, it was bouncier, with almost a country or rockabilly vibe to it. It was also a little chauvinistic, like they were saying, ‘Me and the boys, we got something going on. You can sit there and wait.’ It was also called ‘Beck.’
“I asked them if it was OK for me to take it home to mess around a little bit, and Peter [Criss] said it was fine with him. I came up with the piano thing, which started to define it as more romantic and sensitive, so I changed the lyrics. First, I called it ‘Beth,’ and then I added stuff about ‘our house is not our home,’ along with a sense of sadness and loss about the death of the relationship. But that line ‘I hope you’ll be all right’ – that was important.
“I played it for everybody, and they thought it sounded good and that we should try it. I don’t think they realized how important it would be for them until they heard it being recorded during the orchestra date. I played piano on it – they’d heard my piano part before. But the orchestra really made them think, ‘Wow, this is going to be important.’
“And it was. When I had first gone to see the band in Saginaw, Michigan, they were playing to 15- and 16-year-old boys. It was amazing – hardly a girl in the place. I thought, ‘Here’s a great opportunity.’ Their whole show was so dick-swinging macho that I couldn’t see girls getting into it. I told them that I wanted them to be the bad boys, but they should be the bad boys that every girl wants to save. There had to be a little bit of vulnerability.
“The whole idea of the album was to show some sensitivity; it wasn’t going to all be cock and balls. One of the first songs to come up was Do You Love Me? For me, that was the best symbol of what I was hoping to do with the record. As it turned out, that one never became a hit single, but it did inform the project.”