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Kiss’ Gene Simmons and his 13 favorite albums of all time

Gene Simmons


Kiss’ Gene Simmons and his 13 favorite albums of all time

Kiss bassist and singer Gene Simmons revealed in an interview with The Quietus back in 2015 his 13 favorite albums of all time and explained the reason why. Simmons listed Jimi Hendrix, Guns N’ Roses and more.


Kiss’ Gene Simmons and his 13 favorite albums of all time:

Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland”

“Electric Ladyland actually would be a welcome album if it was a brand new band today. It still holds up. It was actually a pivotal record in the sense that you had a guitar player, perhaps the pre-eminent one of them all, who actually took chances in terms of songwriting.”

“He also experimented with electronics, backing tapes and all that stuff. The reason that I know all of this is because the engineer and producer on that was a guy called Eddie Kramer who engineered some of the earlier Kiss records, and he would tell us stories and everything. A double album, it had lots of great guests on it like Dave Mason from Traffic and many others.”

“‘Crosstown Traffic’ is great, very unlike Jimi Hendrix. Noel Redding, the bass player actually auditioned as a guitar player and Hendrix told him, ‘I’m actually looking for a bass player’, so he had to switch over to bass right on the spot, which is why his bass playing, with a pick, is not the way that most bass players play.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“I was still in school when I heard it, I must have been 17 or so because I remember drawing the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the name and all that, on the cover of my notebook. In those days we used to buy albums sometimes just because of the album covers. There was an art to it, there were big hardcover books talking about the art and design of album covers and there were artists and companies like Hipgnosis and places like that which specialised in just creating album covers.”

“For instance, on Love Gun we had a painter named Ken Kelly who painted the piece, and it was a lot of time and effort. It was an art, and sadly that’s gone. Now the visuals are down to the size of a postage stamp, you don’t get much. I didn’t actually buy this one because of the cover. I’d bought Axis: Bold As Love because of the cover.”

Guns N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”

“The thing about that record is that it had an honesty that rock & roll had been missing. The 80s were a terrible time when guitars didn’t sound like guitars and there were drum machines, but then all of a sudden here comes this group, Guns N’ Roses who plug in their guitars and just didn’t mess around with any fancy stuff. And the songs were undeniable! ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ is an undeniable song in the same way that ‘Satisfaction’ has that great riff with the lyrics on top of it.”

“Great lyrics, great imagery, and as soon as you heard that high-pitched voice that harkened back to a Robert Plant-ish approach to singing, which hadn’t been heard in quite a while… Well, it still works today. That’s got to be coming up to 30 years old, but you put that on today if it was a brand new band, I would say, ‘Who’s that?’ That intro is almost symphonic, and it just defined the band. You hear that song, and then the rest of the album follows through.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“‘Welcome To The Jungle’ is head, hands and feet above the other material. Bands have a few songs that just stand up, you know? You think Thin Lizzy, you think ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. The Stones, you think ‘Satisfaction’. You think Led Zeppelin, you think ‘Stairway To Heaven’. There are just certain songs that, either because of the melody or lyric or the sound of the song, intrinsically say, “This is what that is”. The only band who doesn’t have that thing, just because they have so many god damn good songs, is The Beatles.”

“I don’t know if [us influencing them] is the case. We never paid attention to anything. There can be scenes or not and people can be influenced or not, but at the end of the day you are left to your own devices. When you think about it, The Beatles were influenced by Motown, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, etc. But then when you hear The Beatles, it’s their own stuff. It’s like cooks. Everybody uses salt, everybody uses vegetables, there is nothing unique, but how you mix up those elements makes it yours or not. If you can grab a style, I think it has to do with talent. Everybody cooks, but few people are cooks.”

Foo Fighters “The Colour And The Shape”

“The thing about this band is that it came out of a grunge background, obviously Dave [Grohl] came out of Nirvana. But he can play guitar just as well or better than Kurt, sings great. The most interesting thing I find about Foo Fighters, and songs like ‘My Hero’, is that they are based in pop melodies. Not based in the blues. Which is really interesting, having that big wall of sound guitar thing with pop melodies and interesting lyrics. Just an interesting band.”

“This album just has the songs and it has the attitude. You can have good songs on an album but… well I remember getting the Blur record [Blur] after hearing that ‘Song 2’ and I was shocked to find the rest of the record was just synths and stuff. What the fuck? You hear ‘Song 2’ and you think, ‘Wow, that’s great!’ and then you hear the rest of the album and it’s like REEEEOOW REEEOW. It’s like The Communards or something.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“Almost disco electronica or something. So, you know, consistency is not just a big word like gymnasium, you want an album to make a statement song after song. Maybe the most consistent band is AC/DC. Song after song could almost be the same song. There is a great interview with Angus where a critic says, ‘I don’t want to insult you, but I think your new record sounded just like your last record’, and Angus said: ‘I don’t agree.”

“I think our new record sounds like every record we’ve ever made.’ Sometimes the biggest criticism you can make can be the biggest compliment you can give. Colour is a consistent record. It makes one statement. So what that means is that they can take that music and play it live and it should sound similar to that record, consistent. I would include more if I could, but when you pick an album, it’s not just a standalone item. It’s about what’s happening in your life, where you are and so on.”

Beck “Mellow Gold”

“So he started off as an indie guy. ‘Loser’ was just a song he released on an indie label, but it caught fire. MTV picked it, blah blah blah. And it was later put on a proper album on Geffen. He is an eclectic artist and a Scientologist to boot. The irony is that Beck’s father [David Campbell] actually arranged the symphony orchestra that backed us up at the Melbourne stadium when we played there. Mellow Gold has got this eclectic sense to it in terms of, like, he uses drum loops, which I hate, but it sounds cool to me!”

“He uses different kinds of instruments and seems to play them all, and the songwriting is all over the place. But at the core of it, what he doesn’t do that other singers do is show off. He just gets the personality going and sings the song. So when you think of Brian Johnson and Robert Plant and Paul Rodgers, they’re showing off with their vocals, singing way up on the high end of their range.”

“I don’t care if it’s Steven Tyler or anybody else, you show off! Beck doesn’t show off. He’s just midrange or low-down. His attitude comes not from what he does vocally but it’s laid back, kind of matter-of-fact, as if he’s just thinking to himself. It’s a unique thing. In that way, even though it doesn’t have a wall of guitars or any of that, it’s very rock. That sensibility he’s got, although I’m sure he would consider himself an indie artist, but his sensibility is very rock.”

The Beatles “The Beatles”

“It’s an overlooked record I think. They were in the midst of breaking up. They were writing separately, and here you can really tell the differences between the Lennon–McCartney and George Harrison songs. What I find really interesting about the record is how it’s not really polished. ‘Glass Onion’ is as unique a song as I’ve ever heard, and with self-reference: ‘I told you about Strawberry Fields’, ‘the walrus was Paul’; I mean all that stuff! It refers to things the fans were talking about.”

“It’s a spectacular album. It doesn’t connect like Abbey Road or Let It Be anywhere near as fast because the songs are all over the place. In the days when album covers and packaging meant so much, it was just a brave statement to say it doesn’t have a title and leave it white. There is no title anywhere on the record, that’s fantastic! Just the solo photos of the band inside. It’s a strange record.”

The Rolling Stones “Their Satanic Majesties Request”

“An underrated Stones record. You know, they had a sound. They originally started off and covered the Beatles‘ songs and other covers, because they didn’t know how to write songs. Everybody hung out in the same clubs back then and they’d see each other socially. So, early on, the Beatles gave them ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, which the Beatles recorded, but the Stones did as a single. Their manager Andrew Loog Oldham told them that they had to write their own songs, so they went down and developed that sound.”

“Then eventually they saw the Beatles doing Sgt. Pepper’s and all this experimental stuff and the Stones decided to go outside of their comfort zone. That’s what I find interesting, whether Satanic Majesties is the Stones trying to do Sgt. Pepper’s and ripping off the Beatles or not, it has production value and songwriting that isn’t found on any other Stones records. ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, ‘2000 Man’; I mean, we covered ‘2000 Man’.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“It’s talking about computers and the year 2000, it’s so interesting. I can remember being at school in the 60s and reading 1984 by George Orwell, which is all about how in the future the government would be spying on us. Of course this was written well before 1984, which now sounds like a long time has passed. So it’s all relative. With the Stones’ music, the strings and backwards stuff, there is some very very good material on that record.”

“They happen not to like the record. I think it’s a unique record that shows that the Stones have some depth. There is some bad, out-of-key background singing because they were never the best singers, they didn’t have harmonies like the Beatles. The thing about it is that they were blues-based and they veered away from it on that record and went into almost Celtic and classical areas. It was a pastiche, a multi-coloured quilt! You can look at a band like a coin and say, ‘I see everything, I don’t need to see anything more’, but there is that other side. That other side is what I think is more interesting. The depth.”

Leslie West “Mountain”

“Leslie West – formerly Leslie Weinstein – was a New York guitar player who played with The Vagrants and lots of other local bands that were coming up in the New York scene. The thing about that record is the producer was Felix Pappalardi, who produced Cream as well as The Youngbloods, and was also an accomplished bass player. So, originally it was just going to be a Leslie West solo record, there was no Mountain, the name of the record was Mountain, but it was by Leslie West.”

“But he didn’t have a bass player so Felix Pappalardi played the bass, but the material started coming together so fast. I mean, songs like ‘Long Red’, I listened to those growing up and, in fact, a few of my songs had their beginning on Mountain songs. Bow buh duh doo dah duuh dow, that began a song called ‘Watchin’ You’ that I wrote, with a flat third; you can hear where it crosses over, that’s from ‘Never In My Life’, a Mountain song.”

“His guitar playing is just undeniable. And of course ‘Mississippi Queen’ is great, just three chords! When I picked up the guitar and started to play licks and stuff like that, I sound like Leslie West, because intrinsically he’s not about speed, he’s about melody. Blues-based melody, I’ll grant you, but it still holds up to me. I still play it.”

Montrose “Montrose”

“Montrose was one of the really important American statements made at a time when the only rock that was credible was English. They had Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie, just anything that was credible was all English and, out of nowhere, this Montrose record comes out that just kills! The American bands were sloppy and fat and looked like the Grateful Dead, and it was just pathetic. But Montrose came from the same area, the San Francisco Bay Area and it was like a breath of fresh air.”

“That first record, even Montrose couldn’t equal it, it was just better than the other American bands of the time. If you ever listen to ‘Kickstart My Heart’ by Mötley Crüe, that intro was note-for-note, everything was taken from ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, that sounds like a motorcycle going by. Clearly, Montrose was trying to do, with Sammy Hagar’s vocals, a sort of American Led Zeppelin thing.”

“But the songs were undeniable! Song after song, again: consistency. Unfortunately, after that Sammy Hagar left the band and everything changed. Ronnie Montrose never went back, never found his mojo again. Eventually he committed suicide. But when we’re putting on makeup and getting ready for shows because we’re in the middle of a tour, it never fails. Every other day we put on the Montrose record.”

Jeff Beck “Truth”

“The mythology is that Jimmy Page played on that, but it’s clearly Jeff Beck all the way – that personality. The interesting way they recorded the tracks is that the entire band were in the studio at the same time. And Ronnie Wood on bass. I think Ronnie Wood is actually a better bass player than he is a guitar player. The bass playing on that record is just great!”

“You can hear mistakes, but listen to what the bass does in ‘Rock My Plimsoul’, it goes completely against the drums, but it gives it like a slinky snake-like feel. From beginning to end you have this kind of jamming, drunken-keyboard-player-in-a-New-Orleans-whorehouse-upright-piano feel. It’s the best vocal that Rod Stewart has ever done on that first record, I don’t think he’s ever equalled it. He ran out of songs to do, so he covered ‘Greensleeves’ instrumental, he just didn’t have any more songs! ‘Shapes Of Things’ was a cover that he originally did with The Yardbirds and then did a version here, and tore. It. Up. Such a heavy, heavy band.”

‘I remember seeing them live in New York City. The rest of the kids didn’t understand, but I was just blown away. I remember it well, the opening band was the Crazy [World of] Arthur Brown. He came out in a mask with his head lit on fire. That was actually connected later to by fire-spitting in the band. I just thought, ‘Well that’s a good idea’. The thing you noticed that while everyone was drinking, flirting, talking or whatever, when Arthur Brown walked onstage with his head on fire, everyone stopped!” Gene Simmons said.

Def Leppard “Hysteria”

“Say what you will, nobody is trying to show off here, it’s just solid songwriting. The great thing about almost every song on that record is that you can pick up an acoustic guitar and just play it and sing along. Joe [Elliott] singing the melody, he doesn’t sing the highest and his voice doesn’t rip up the most, it just sticks to the melody. It’s great rock sensibility. The melodies aren’t too bluesy, it’s just a really solid record, and ten million other people must have thought so too because they bought it.”

‘But the interesting thing for me about that record is how honest it sounds, yet how unlike rock bands it was recorded. We took Def Leppard out with us and they told us the story of how their producer Mutt Lange would get them in the studio and the record was totally fabrication, by that I mean they would put down the drum track, then the computers would move the drum track so it really felt in time.”

‘Then he would ask Phil or someone to play one note – so instead of chords they’d be doing one note at a time. Then the chords would come from different tracks so you could control it, one note at a time. That record took two years. I’ve never heard of anybody doing that before or since. You can argue that it makes it sound different or better, but then there are great punk bands that go and bang things out in a day. There are no rules! Led Zeppelin I was recorded in 18 hours. The Beatles’ first two records were done in 24 hours. But you can’t argue with Mutt Lange’s success,” Gene Simmons said.

AC/DC “For Those About To Rock We Salute You”

“Bands have their anthems, you know, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, all that for AC/DC sure. For Those About To Rock is the call to arms, it’s the definitive anthemic album. Back In Black probably had better songs, but the band started to have a sense of itself because a band stands or should stand for something, like when you have a country you have a flag for that country. But when a flag stands for something, it takes on a meaning of its own, and then people realise that the flag doesn’t just represent the country, but it represents what the country stands for.”

“The platform – in our case, platform boots. So, For Those About To Rock We Salute You is what AC/DC is all about. The graphics and that cannon and the title – and it’s why they always end their set with it – it’s anthemic. ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ is probably the best song they’ve written in my estimation, but it’s not an anthem. It’s because the lyrics aren’t on that same level. They aren’t big and bold. ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)’ means something, it’s a connection. It’s like nationhood. Put your fist up in the air and say, ‘Yeah! This is what I believe in!’ ‘You Shook Me’ doesn’t have that, it’s just a rockin’ great song,” Gene Simmons said.

Gene Simmons continued:

“When the band realises its own meaning, when a band can see itself clearly, that’s when it connects. It happened to us on Destroyer. That album cover had no guitars on it, no drums, no guitars, no stage, nothing. That’s when we understood that we were bigger than the music we played. But you don’t see that until someone points that out to you. When you start to see your face in parades and on walls and on tattoos and all that.”

“And when you see that there just aren’t any guitars or drums in there. People are attracted to the personas. The personas are bigger than the guitars. Whereas, it’s hard to have an image of AC/DC without a guitar. Without a guitar, you would say, ‘Who’s that?’ The same goes for Metallica or almost anybody. They’re musicians. We are iconic images. That’s fine for me, that’s bigger, that’s part of pop culture,” Gene Simmons said.

Chubby Checker “Chubby Checker’s Greatest Hits”

“One of the first records I ever bought was Chubby Checker’s ‘Twistin Round The World’. He was a cultural phenomenon because the twist in those early days was a really big thing. He had an afternoon TV show every day called where he would show people how to do the twist. All it was was a green screen in those days and him doing all that stuff. I studied him, like anything else. Ernest Evans was his real name, and Kal Mann wrote those records, but the irony is that ‘The Twist’ was not originally recorded by Chubby Checker.”

“It was recorded by Hank Ballard And The Midnighters, that was the original and he sounds just like Chubby. Chubby changed his name from Ernest Evans to Chubby Checker after Dick Clark’s wife says, ‘He reminds me of a young Fats Domino’. Fats, Chubby. Checker, Domino.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“Again, ‘Twistin Round The World’, with the globe behind it and everything, it showed me that this was a global phenomenon. That told me something. That’s when I started to be aware that there are songs, then there are artists, and then there is the informational gathering of how you tell people how big you are, how famous you are.”

“I remember later on that I saw an advertisement for Sabbath in Rolling Stone, and the ad said: ‘Black Sabbath: Louder Than Led Zeppelin’, I thought that was genius. It didn’t say it was better, just louder. Chubby Checker had so many hits. Obviously ‘The Twist’, ‘Let’s Twist Again’, ‘Pony Time’, ‘The Fly’, ‘Limbo Rock’, lots of stuff! He must have had 20 hits. Great music isn’t just songs; it’s also a social tool, like a favourite song that people used to get married or something like that,” Gene Simmons said.

Paul McCartney “McCartney”

“That first McCartney solo record was an eye-opener. I was aware that The Beatles were breaking up and I was aware that McCartney was bringing out a solo record and, song after song it was, you know, decent! The production wasn’t like Beatles production, but it was decent enough. The playing wasn’t as good as Beatles playing, but it was good enough.”

“Then I found out that he wrote, engineered, produced, played all the background – except Linda would show up here and there – it was a one-man band. I mean everything! Drums, keyboards, everything, then engineered it, then produced it, did it all. Unbelievable! He only had these four machines with these RCA knobs, very primitive equipment. It’s a real tour de force. He’s not a great guitar player, not a bad guitar player, he plays just good enough to be able to get those parts down.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“It just comes down to song writing. You’ve got ‘Junk’, or “Maybe I’m amazed by the way you love me all the time” – that could have been a Beatles song! There’s another great story in how he and Lennon would work together and McCartney would bring songs to Lennon and Lennon would pooh-pooh them and one of those songs was a song called ‘Woman’. McCartney brought it and Lennon said, ‘That’s not great’.”

“So then McCartney said: ‘Look I’m going to prove it to you, I’ll give it to Peter and Gordon and they’ll have a number one record.’ Lennon purportedly said, ‘Yeah, but that’s because your name is Paul McCartney.’ And McCartney says, ‘Okay I’ll change the name to Bernard Webb’, and, sure enough, he gives it to Peter and Gordon and… number one. He did it again with Badfinger, brought in another song that Lennon purportedly said wasn’t good enough, called ‘Come And Get It’. I mean, what the fuck is it? Anyway, another number one song,” Gene Simmons said.

I am a Brazilian journalist, a Classic Rock and Heavy Metal lover. Music has always been part of my life, helped me through tough moments and was with me to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After college I did a postgraduate degree in digital communication. This has helped me to make the website better and bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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