Destroyer was released on March 15, 1976.
Destroyer was produced by Bob Ezrin, who was already famous for his work
with Alice Cooper. Ezrin
later became infamous for his work on Pink
Floyd's "The Wall." Ezrin also worked with Kiss on their
commercial flop "Music from the Elder" as well as their "Revenge"
Gene Simmon's signature song "God of Thunder" was written by
Paul Stanley. The children heard on "God of Thunder" are producer
Bob Ezrin's sons David and Josh, who were nine and four at the time. The
boys also recorded all the odd "monster" noises heard on the
"I had little to do with the writing or production of 'Destroyer', but if I take a step back and try to judge it objectively, I'd have to say it's one of KISS's best studio efforts."
-No Regrets, Ace Frehley, p153
"King of the
Nightime World" was oringally written by Mark Anthony of the band
Hollywood Stars, but was never recorded by them.
"Great Expectations" featured the Brooklyn Boys Choir. For the
recording of this song, Kiss and Casablance invited all the press and
recorded the song in full Kiss make-up and costumes.
The main riff for "Flaming Youth" came from a demo that Gene
had written and recorded called "Mad Dog." The demo later appeared
on the Kiss Box Set. The song name came when Gene Simmons and Bob Ezrin
were dicussing the band Flaming Youth that Kiss opened for on their
first show at the New York Academy of Music.
"Sweet Pain" was written by Gene Simmons. Dick Wagner recorded
the guitar solo on "Sweet Pain."
According to Gene
Simmons, "Bob rearranged the song and Ace never showed up to
play his parts so we brought in Dick Wagner to come in and play the
solo." (p226, Kiss Behind the Mask)
According to Ace
Frehley, "I had done a solo on "Sweet Pain" and it
was okay. I said, 'Maybe I'll come in tomorrow and take another shot
at it." Dick Wagner, the guy who plays lead guitar on the Alice
Cooper records, was in town. He stopped by the studio and I'm not
sure exactly what went down, whether Gene or Paul said, 'Why don't we
let Dick Wagner take a show at doing the solo?' Dick's a very good guitar
player. He just knocked out a great solo. They decided to keep it but
they didn't even let me know about it. They didn't check with me or
ask me if it was okay. When I first played the record back, I go, 'That's
not my fu**in' solo! What the f**k is this?' I called Gene and tore
him a new asshole. He gave me some bullshit saying, 'We tried to call
you but we couldn't find you.' One of many bullshit stories, lies, lies,
lies. (Kiss Behind the Mask, p.226)
According to Peter Criss,"Ace was drinking and partying with friends a lot, and he started missing sessions...Ezrin called one of his own ace session guys, Dick Wagner, who came in, nailed the songs, and left. The consummate pro, Wagner never got the credit, but it's him playing on songs like "Beth" and "Sweet Pain". Ace was furious he had been replaced and felt that Gene and Paul were traitors. (Peter Criss, Makeup to Breakup, p.129)
The orchestration on "Beth" was recorded on January 13, 1976
at A&R Studios. Dick Wagner plays acoustic guitar on "Beth."
The front cover painting was painted by Ken Kelly. Originally Gene wanted
Frank Frazetta to paint the cover. Ken Kelly is Frazetta's cousin. Ken
was paid $5,000 to paint the cover.
Bob Ezrin brought to the studio a song written by Michael Des Barres called
"Ain't None of Your Business" that Peter Criss sang on. The song was dropped
from the album and never released. (p.73 -Black Diamond)
The first single for Destroyer was "Shout It Out Loud" (backed with "Sweet
Pain") and was released on March 1, 1976. "Shout It Out Loud" reached
#31 on the charts. The second single, "Flaming Youth" (backed with "God
of Thunder") tanked.
The third single released was "Detroit Rock City" (backed with "Beth")
and didn't get much attention either, other than in Detroit and Atlanta.
It was obvious why the single was getting played in Detroit. However Casablanca
and Kiss' management (Rock Steady) decided to investigate why the single
was doing well in Atlanta, but had died everywhere else. They discovered
that a DJ in Atlanta had begun playing "Beth" on a regular basis. The
single was selling because of the b-side. Casablanca owner Neil Bogart
re-released the single soon after with "Beth" as the A-side (backed with
"Detroit Rock City"). The song reached #7 on the Billboard charts and
helped rocket "Destroyer" sales.
"As a guitar player this is hard for me to admit, but the solo on 'Detroit Rock City' is one of the single best moments in any KISS song. And I had nothing to do with creating it. I always loved the song, and I would be the first to credit Bob Ezrin for writing the guitar solo. He came up with the melody, and I learned how to play it, and Paul figured out the harmony. It's a classic guitar solo, as good as anything you'll find on a KISS record. I wish I thought of it, but I didn't. It was all Bob's."
-No Regrets, Ace Frehley, p153
"Beth" was the big hit single off the record, and ended up being
Kiss' highest charting single. Orignally, both Simmons and Stanley didn't
want "Beth" on the album. However, when "Detroit Rock City"
failed to do much on the charts and "Destroyer" began falling
off the charts, "Beth" became the album's surprise bullet. The
song was originally written by Peter Criss and Stan Penridge when the
two were in Chelsea, before Kiss. The song was originally titled
"Beck." It is unclear who changed the name of the song to "Beth"
as both Ezrin and Simmons have taken credit for it. However, the song
was essentially re-written and orchestrated by Ezrin. Since Ezrin has
a co-writing credit on the song, it's likely he was given that for the
change in the title alone.
About Beth,"I was ecstatic. (Bob) Ezrin had taken Stan and my little song and had turned it into a masterpiece. Now I really understood why he was considered a stone cold genius."
-Peter Criss, Makeup to Breakup, p. 131
score Kiss a People's Choice Award on Feb. 10, 1976 as most popular song
Kiss took third place as best artist behind Led
Zeppelin and Aerosmith in Circus
Magazine's annual "Modern Music Makers Award" in 1976. They also took
second, behind Aerosmith's "Rocks"
for the Album of Year for 1976. (Although they actually received the award
for "Alive!" rather than "Destroyer".) They took first place for Best Live
Act of 1976.