David Lee Roth: Gene Simmons Tried To Recruit Eddie For KISS, But I Was On To His Game

Yesterday we featured a quote from an old friend of Van Halen’s that said that sometime before Van Halen’s debut album was released, Kiss’s Gene Simmons tried to recruit Eddie Van Halen for his band. 

In his out-of-print autobiography, ‘Crazy From The Heat’, David Lee Roth concurs that Gene Simmons tried to recruit Eddie Van Halen for KISS.  Here’s what Roth had to say in his book about Simmons and his manager (where he goes into much more detail):

There was a brief interlude in 1977, when Gene Simmons from KISS came to the Starwood and saw us play to a sold-out audience and thought we were absolutely spectacular, and said, “I’d like to make a demo tape.” He was thinking of himself as a producer. He had a couple of artists that he was producing, doing whatever in the studio. KISS was at an all-time high, they were at their zenith. We said, “Sure. Let’s make a demo tape.” We didn’t have a clue. He flew us all to New York City, we made a demo tape, four songs, some of which later wound up on records—“Runnin’ with the Devil,” I believe was on there, “House of Pain” wound up on the 1984 album.

We had a big meeting with his manager, Bill Aucoin, who was riding very high on the hog at the time. It was at his Madison Avenue office, high floor of the building. We sat in front of his mahogany desk, and he had his shoes polished by a little Italian man while he spoke to us.

And he said to us, “Guys, I think the music is great but I don’t think the vocals hold up. I just don’t hear the melodies, the hits that are required in this day and age.” He said, “Dave, maybe there are a couple other acts that I can handle that we could get you to work with. Guys, you and the band, maybe another vocalist would work. But otherwise, Gene has his own career, he’s in KISS, and barring any other permutations, I don’t think I can work with you.” Like so.

We walked out of that office, and I felt terrible. Wow—had I let the band down? This was my first experience with somebody getting his shoes polished by an Italian guy on Madison Avenue. I didn’t know what the Van Halens were thinking at the time; perhaps they were buying this load of horseshit.

Turns out that Gene Simmons’s true interest was in conscripting Ed Van Halen into their show in some form or another, get him to play on a record, get him to help write guitar solos, get him into the band. So this dismissal was followed up by calls to Edward, “Come on down, we’re recording at Larrabee Studios in Hollywood and we got a new song, we need a guitar solo. Come on down.”

I was always very fiercely protective of what we were doing as a group, as a clan, ’cause there’s always going to be pirates, there’s always going to be carpetbaggers, like Simmons. And I would show up with Ed at the studio. Simmons would look at me with horror. Horror. ’Cause I was on to his game way early.

There were scenes like: “Oh, all of you guys are invited to the big KISS show down at the Forum,” and I would show up and there would be no tickets for me. The Van Halens would be inside, comfortably ensconced in the back room with Gene and his pals. Of course I knew what was up, and I was super protective of the band at the time, or people like that would have picked us apart right away. In line with that kind of thinking, when we made our first album for Warner Brothers, Ted Templeman, the producer, approached Ed Van Halen and said, “I’d like you to play on the Nicolette Larson album.” I got right between them, I said, “No way! You’re not going to run off with bits and pieces of the scenery before the play starts.” Ed wanted to play on it. I said, “Great. But you got to put a question mark where your name goes [in the album credits]. Got to keep it in one camp.” A theory that has stood Van Halen well to this day.