The Story Of How Gene Simmons Discovered Van Halen, Signed Them And Then Tore Up Their Contract
There is no doubt that KISS is one of the most well-known hard rock bands in rock history and it was formed in 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss. The band is known for their progressive music, face painting and amazing stage outfits, and of course, their top-notch live performances including smoking guitars, shooting rockets, and pyrotechnics.
Although it is often believed that there is an extreme rivalry between rock bands, there have been instances that a rising star helped another band achieve success. A great example of this comradery and support is Gene Simmons and the story of how he discovered Van Halen and introduced them to the rock world.
How Did Gene Simmons Discover Van Halen?
By the mid-’70s, KISS had already risen to prominence, they were doing a worldwide tour and their fan base was getting bigger by the day. Around the same time, Van Halen caught a major break and was hired to play at the Sunset Strip club Gazarri’s. Although the first owner thought that Van Halen were ‘too loud,’ the new managers that took over really liked the band and booked them through 1976.
Van Halen started gaining some fame and got gigs at well-known clubs such as Whisky a Go Go in Sunset Strip. It was around that time in 1976 that a disc-jockey and Gene’s friend Rodney Bingenheimer saw Van Halen at Gazzarri’s and told Gene Simmons to check them out. After watching their performance, Simmons was convinced that Van Halen would go places and decided to help them out.
Did Gene Simmons Hire Van Halen?
After watching the band perform, Gene Simmons decided to sign Van Halen to his Man of 1,000 Faces production company and flew them from Los Angeles to New York. He took them to Electric Lady Studios and produced 15 songs there. However, after helping them for a while, Gene Simmons had to take a step back to concentrate on his career with KISS, and thus, he tore up the contract and let them go.
Gene Simmons told Van Halen that he’ll be busy with touring for a while but in case they don’t get a record deal until he’s back, he’ll definitely go ‘shopping for a deal’ for them. However, that wasn’t necessary as they ‘got signed right away‘ and in return, the Van Halen brothers appeared in three songs that Gene wrote after he came back from Japan in 1978.
Here’s what Gene Simmons said about discovering Van Halen:
“I discovered Van Halen playing in a club and signed them to my Man of 1,000 Faces production company, flew them to New York, produced 15 songs at Electric Lady Studios.
And then when I got too busy I tore up the contract and I said, ‘You guys are free. I gotta go back on tour, and if I have time at the end of the tour I’ll go shopping for a deal for you. I can’t ethically, personally, hold on to you guys while I’m off on tour.’
So I did the right thing. And the guys, of course, got signed right away. And in return, the brothers Van Halen were kind enough to appear on three songs that I wrote when we came back from Japan in 1978.
One of those songs was ‘Christine Sixteen’ that we recorded about 2 a.m. in the morning.”
Click here for the source and you can listen to ‘Christine Sixteen‘ below.