"In a nutshell, I think "Beth" is both the single greatest and worst thing to happen to Peter Criss."
I think you are absolutely correct. Peter Criss really should be a guy who works in a tire shop and plays weddings on weekends with his buddies. Instead he hooked up with a couple of somewhat talented egomaniacal sociopaths and a couple of world class promoters and became one of the most famous people on earth for a time.
Like many of you, I grew up thinking these guys were awesome. If you had told me when I was 10 what they were really like based on this book, I would have cried and called you a liar. I think they are a washed up Vegas act these days, but they were a huge part of growing up in the late seventies. Peter Criss was instrumental to the band as a kid, because when people accused them of being Satanists you could point to him and say, "What?! Look at that guy. He has crosses all over him."
Peter Criss never really understood a few things (IMHO):
- The people who liked "Beth" by-and-large didn't like KISS. They were Billy Joel fans and parents. When I bought the 8-track of Destroyer, I told my mom it was the band that did "Beth" and she had me put in on in the kitchen. That lasted about a minute into Detroit Rock City. Although she did come to appreciate "Do You Love Me".
- Girls in grade school liked Peter Criss because "he looked like a kitty". Guys liked him because drums are cool. Mostly we suffered through his songs on albums. (Most kids liked Ace or Gene. No one liked Paul best. When someone did, we said, "You're crazy. He looks and acts like a woman.")
- For hundreds of thousands of kids, Criss's solo album was like opening a Christmas present and finding a dead puppy inside. I feel I had pretty broad musical tastes as a kid. In fact, I liked some doo-wop and Sinatra. But even I couldn't swallow this album. Gene's was challenging. This was impossible. If you want to see a truly sad display, find a video of KISS in their ridiculous Dynasty outfits singing "Tossing and Turning". Even as a 12 year old at the show in Cleveland, that one had me asking my Dad to go to the restroom.
For about one year after he left the band, I honestly think he could have hooked up with a producer and a songwriter and had a top 40 album. He had money, he had contacts, he was still famous, he had a couple of hit singles he sang with KISS under his belt (between "Beth" and "Hard Luck Woman", a lot of non-Kiss fans knew the guy's voice) and he was the first one out of the gate with no makeup. Maybe he really was sabotaged. I have no idea. But I've heard his post-KISS solo albums and they did not exactly blow my mind.