PHOTO: Fin Costello | Getty Images
As Van Halen fans know, Kiss bassist Gene Simmons signed the group and produced their 15-track demo in 1976, shortly before the band rocketed to success on their own.
Simmons spotted Van Halen performing on the Sunset Strip, where they were regulars, and saw that they had the potential to be huge. He signed them to his company and flew them to New York City, where they cut a 24-track demo at Electric Lady Studios.
But the bassist now reveals that months afterward, he, Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen subsequently recorded demos together for three Kiss songs: “Christine Sixteen” and “Got Love for Sale,” two cuts that Kiss recorded for 1977’s Love Gun, and “Tunnel of Love,” a song Simmons recorded for his 1978 eponymous solo album. To date, none of the demos has been released.
Simmons tells Rolling Stone that he tapped the Van Halen brothers to assist him with the demos while he was in Los Angeles between Kiss tours.
“They did me a favor,” Simmons says. “I called Alex and Ed: ‘Listen, I got three songs. I’m going in at 2 a.m. Do you want to come down and help me?’ Usually, I play the guitars and the drums to the extent I can and put down all the parts. But I wanted to do three songs instead of one. So we did ‘Christine Sixteen,’ and I put the keyboards on, everything else. And Ed did the solo to the rhythm guitar, bass, and Alex was on drums.”
Simmons was so pleased with Eddie’s guitar work that he insisted Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley learn his solo. “When I brought the songs to the band, unfortunately for Ace, I forced him to learn Eddie’s solo note-for-note,” Simmons says. “He wasn’t fond of it, but in retrospect, it’s the right solo. It’s not the same old blues thing.”
Simmons is still the owner of Van Halen’s demo but is reluctant to release it without Van Halen’s blessing. The recordings have been heavily bootlegged over the years and can be heard in the YouTube stream below.
As for the demos that Eddie and Alex recorded for him, Simmons hopes to include them on a box set he’s been working on for several years. The set was originally being compiled under the working title Monster, but a name change was required after Kiss released its own album with that title in 2012. “So it may be called Alter Ego,” Simmons tells Rolling Stone. “We’ll include 150 to 200 songs that were never released. I’ve got one called ‘Mongoloid Man’ with Joe Perry on guitar, a lot of cool stuff.”
Simmons says the only remaining obstacle is distribution, and that until it’s worked out, “I’ll just hold on to it until it’s right.”
Have a listen to Ace’s solo in Kiss’s “Christine Sixteen” (starting at 1:21) and hear it with new ears. The complete Van Halen demo is streaming below it.