45 Years Ago: The Three Stooges Inspire Kiss’ ‘Calling Dr. Love’
Inspiration can strike anytime if you're paying close enough attention. For Kiss' "Dr. Love," it happened while Gene Simmons was watching the Three Stooges.
The singer and bassist had been working on a song called "Bad Bad Lovin'" that had yet to make it into Kiss' repertoire. All the pieces finally clicked into place while he was staying at a Holiday Inn in Evansville, Ind., and put on the slapstick trio's 1934 short Men in Black.
"Then one day I was watching the Three Stooges, and something jumped out at me," Simmons revealed in the liner notes to Kiss' self-titled 2001 box set. "It was a passage where they had snuck into a hospital, donned surgical equipment and made believe they were doctors. And they kept running back and forth from room to room with a public announcement system saying, 'Calling Doctor Howard, calling Doctor Fine, calling Doctor Howard.' And then I thought of rewriting the chorus idea into 'Calling Dr. Love,' who has a peculiar way of injecting his patients."
Listen to Kiss' 'Calling Dr. Love'
Simmons and his co-bandleader, Paul Stanley, had refined their own writing styles over the course of several albums, and on "Calling Dr. Love," the Demon took a lighthearted swipe at the Starchild's poppier, more flamboyantly sexual songwriting style. "By the time Kiss had started earning gold and platinum records and filling every arena around the world, Paul and I naturally started kidding each other about our individual writing styles and song titles, both of us taking a turn at each other," he explained.
One can only assume the titular Dr. Love primarily treated female patients, so for the demo of "Calling Dr. Love," Simmons recruited Katey Sagal, who sang in the Group With No Name and Bette Midler's backing band, the Harlettes, before embarking on a successful acting career with roles such as Married ... With Children's Peggy Bundy and Futurama's Leela.
'The Three Stooges' - 'Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard'
With its poppy hooks, lecherously boneheaded lyrics and a red-hot guitar solo from Ace Frehley, "Calling Dr. Love" had all the hallmarks of a Kiss classic. "I like the 'Dr. Love' guitar solo," Frehley said in the 2003 band biography Kiss: Behind the Mask. "If I was doing a solo for a song that Gene wrote like 'Dr. Love,' a lot of times he would give me ideas or sing me a melody. He might say, 'Why don't you try this idea?' or refer to a solo I had done on an earlier record. He'd give me ideas if I was stumped."
Simmons, however, wasn't thrilled with the finished product.
"I cut the demo with me playing the guitars and Katey Sagal singing harmony," he said. "It was Gene Simmons with three girls singing. That was the original idea behind 'Calling Dr. Love.' They were originally singing the chorus to 'Dr. Love,' but Paul and I sang it falsetto. I thought that the demo had more of the feel that I wanted. I didn’t think we really captured it as a band."
Listen to Gene Simmons' 'Bad, Bad Lovin'' Demo
Fans apparently thought it worked just fine. "Calling Dr. Love" appeared on Kiss' Rock and Roll Over in November 1976, and they issued it as a single on Feb. 13, 1977. The song peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, while its accompanying album reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. "Calling Dr. Love" became a set- list staple for decades, and in 2009-2010 it was featured in a series of Dr Pepper Cherry commercials, with Simmons giving the beverage his stamp of approval and purring, "Trust me, I'm a doctor."
Crank the tune, but take his medical advice at your own risk.