Gene Simmons reflected on the emergence of Van Halen and his minor role in their success, highlighting how the renowned Pasadena group outshone Black Sabbath while opening for the pioneers of metal in 1978.
The Van Halen saga epitomizes the classic rock ‘n’ roll narrative, showcasing how Eddie Van Halen and his bandmates defied the odds with their raw talent and fearless approach, despite lacking connections in the music industry. Regardless of who discovered the band first or when, it can be argued that their triumph was inevitable, a sentiment shared by Gene Simmons of Kiss.
“I’ve often been credited with discovering Van Halen, but that’s not true. I had no hand in it. I was simply fortunate enough to witness their extraordinary abilities during their early days,” Gene reveals in a recent interview with Classic Rock, reminiscing about that fateful night in 1976 at the Starwood club in Hollywood when he first witnessed the exceptional performance of the iconic band.
“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. This was one man making all of these sounds with his bare human hands? Everybody in the band was singing and playing live and Eddie was a complete guitar symphony in his own right.
“In those early days Ed would sometimes stand with his back to the audiences because he didn’t want to give his tracks away. But even if you saw how he played those licks, how could you possibly emulate them?”
As he went on, Gene described the legendary early Van Halen demo sessions that he made happen in the first place:
“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.”
Needless to say, the energetic and hungry Van Halen blew Sabbath out of the water, but the tour nevertheless also resulted in a great friendship forming between Tony Iommi and Eddie Van Halen.
Reflecting on that moment in history, Gene went on:
“But the songwriting was just as important as the music, and David Lee Roth deserves his share of credit. Nevertheless, possibly due to Roth’s swagger and acrobatics onstage, Van Halen’s songs are often overlooked.
“That’s a shame as at their absolute peak nobody could touch them. When they went out on tour with Black Sabbath in 1978, Van Halen destroyed that band. Tony Iommi admitted it, and so did Ozzy.”