On this day in 1974 in Rock History, KISS undertook their ill-fated Destroyer I sessions with an young, virtually unknown foley artist named Laszlo Fiorentino as producer (on his birthday, no less!). The band was looking to make an artistic and commercial impact following the success of Dressed to Kill and Alive, and it so happened that Stanley and Simmons, while taking a working holiday in Rome to flesh out their ideas for the opening sequence — the moments immediately leading up to the spectacular death of a young rock god — that would bind the record together while simultaneously elevating KISS itself to godlike status, had occasion to see two films to which the 20 year old had contributed his sound effect producing skills and decided he was the man with the talent and creativity to help them realize their vision.
Frehley and Criss were less enthusiastic, Frehley largely for the lack of democracy, Criss for that, and his belief that he should be the group’s go-to man, “As pertains to all things percussion.” “Please don’t start with that,” snapped Frehley, who quickly opted to go along with “The Bosses” over taking a stand with “Catdrummer.”
The sessions collapsed in utter acrimony after only 3 days. On the first day, with the backing of Stanley and Simmons, Fiorentino asked that all instruments initially be removed from the studio to make room for visualization and team building exercises, and “mistakenly” locked the studio door and “misplaced” the key while Frehley and Criss were loading out their gear. By the time the locksmith had the door opened again in the mid-afternoon, the opening sequence’s running time was 23:14, of which five full minutes was a car keys-jingling solo. No guitars. No drums.
On day two, Frehley and Criss arrived at the studio to find themselves confronted with armed guards in possession of photographs of each of them, and strict orders to prevent either of them from entering the building, “By any means necessary, gentlemen.” Criss did manage at one point to convince a telephone operator that he was a rabbi responding to a spiritual emergency, getting her to patch him through to the control booth for just under three minutes, just long enough for him to pitch them ‘Beth’ before they recognized him and disconnected the call.
On day three, good news and bad news for Criss to start the day. The good news, ‘Beth’ would make the album. The bad news: they would use only the version he sang over the telephone; no piano, no strings. He would admit later that he fared better than Frehley, whose apartment was barricaded from the outside, preventing exit until just past noon, but he was sufficiently chagrined at the time to go in with Frehley’s plan, upon his arrival, of “smoking out the rats” with stink bombs placed in the building’s ventilation ducts.
Announcing that he could not work under such strenuous conditions, Fiorentino walked out on the sessions right then and there, boarding the next flight to Italy and vowing never working in rock and roll again.**
You know what happened next: upon his leaving American soil, Stanley and Simmons were released from the foley artist’s psychic grasp, Bob Ezrin was eventually taken on to oversee the Destroyer II sessions (after replacements for Frehley and Criss were secretly auditioned and hired), and the album was a big hit. Especially ‘Beth’.
**he has emerged from his retirement twice: once each to jingle car keys for Swell’s Well? and on Songs for the Deaf by the Queens of the Stone Age.