KISS bassist/singer Gene Simmons has a storied history with Van Halen. After seeing the band perform on the Sunset Strip club circuit in 1976, Simmons offered to produce the band’s demo and sign them to his company.
Simmons shopped the band to various labels, but astonishingly at the time, no one bit. The KISS bassist eventually let the band off their contract.
Simmons recently shared a touching tribute about the band with Classic Rock’s Dave Ling.
“When I was told that Eddie Van Halen had died, it hit me like a punch in the face,” Simmons said. “He was such a kind and beautiful soul, a genuinely nice person. He was so non-judgmental. It’s impossible to think of him without remembering that ever-present smile of his, or the way that his fingers always flew across the guitar.”
“He made it all look so effortless, but that’s absolutely the last thing it was. And it’s strange to think that Eddie began as the drummer of Van Halen. His brother Alex was the guitarist until they swapped instruments. Ed had been a classically trained pianist which is why none of the other rockers could touch his musicality.”
Simmons said he is falsely credited sometimes as the person who discovered Van Halen.
“I first met Eddie on the night that I saw Van Halen playing at the Starwood, a small club in Hollywood, in 1976. I’ve been credited as the man that discovered Van Halen. No, I didn’t. I did no such thing. I just happened to be there and witness their greatness at what was still a very early stage. I saw them that night and was left incredulous. I stood at the front of the stage and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears.”
Simmons continued: “So I signed the band to my production company, Man Of 1,000 Faces, flew them to New York and produced a demo for them at Electric Lady Studios. If you Google the words ‘Gene Simmons Van Halen demo’ you can hear the song that I consider to be Edward’s defining moment. Not to be confused with the re-make from the album 1984, the version of ‘House Of Pain’ they recorded with me is the most powerful thing they ever did. It erupts from zero to 60mph in a second. Play it loud; it’s like a steamroller over your face and the band performed it completely live in the studio.”
“I had wanted to take Van Halen under the wings of Kiss. We should have signed them and taken them out on tour with us. Sadly, nobody else in our organization saw it and of course months later Warner Brothers came by and scooped them up.”
Simmons went on to say how frustrated he is that younger generations aren’t aware of Eddie Van Halen’s importance as a musician.
“Those that had the honour of having met Eddie Van Halen will know that he never said a bad word about others. Eddie didn’t bad-mouth rival bands. He conducted himself with a shrug of the shoulders. That part of his character was always a b*tchslap to me, with my big ego. I’m full of myself and I love the sound of my own voice. Spending time in the presence of Edward made me think: ‘I should probably stop this’. You know, give up the airs and stupid stuff and just concentrate on being a human being.”
“As much as his death was upsetting, it also made me a little furious that so many of our so-called ‘younger generation’ remain unaware of his talents. For f*ck’s sake, parents should be slapping mobile phones out of their kids’ hands and telling them to check out this guy. Our millennials need to know about the most important musician since Jimi Hendrix. There will never be another like him.”
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