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Gene Simmons’ opinion on The Who

Gene Simmons
Images from Gene Simmons' Instagram and Gavin Cochran


Gene Simmons’ opinion on The Who

When Kiss was formed by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in New York back in 1973, The Who already was one of the biggest bands in the world and had released most part of their classic albums.


Even though the two groups didn’t appear at the same era, they are considered nowadays two of the most influential bands in the history of music. Over the years, the Kiss bassist and singer Gene Simmons gave his opinion on many of his peers, including The Who.

What is Gene Simmons’ opinion on The Who

It’s not a secret that The Who was a band that influenced the Kiss members a lot. At every concert of the American Hard Rock, they use a snippet of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in the middle of the live version of “Lick It Up”.

In an interview with Goldmine magazine in 2023, Simmons listed The Who’s “Tommy” (1969) as one of the 10 albums that changed his life. The musician praised the record said that is extremely hard to do a concept album and they done an incredible job, something that according to Simmons, Kiss couldn’t “shine their shoes” when the group tried to do the concept album “Music From ‘The Elder'” (1981).

In the same conversation he recalled the first time that he had the chance to see The Who live. The musician recalled that he told his bandmate Paul Stanley that they were good on stage, but that Kiss would “kill them”, because the American group was really good playing live.

“The first time I saw The Who live? It’s a funny story. Bill Aucoin, who just came on to manage KISS in late ’73, said to myself and Paul, “Hey, we’re going to Philly to see The Who, want to come along?” It was the Quadrophenia tour. Lynyrd Skynyrd opened. Al Kooper, who discovered them, came from Blood, Sweat and Tears.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“And we’re sitting there and The Who come on and we can’t wait. Quadrophenia, in my estimation. Was a flawed attempt, it was reaching too high. I didn’t know what it was. The sound was all mired, and The Who weren’t really The Who. They didn’t do what we came to see. And I remember Paul and I looked at each other.”

“This is going to be embarrassing because I hold The Who in such high esteem, ‘We’re going to kill them.’ And that’s what you want from new talent. We’re pretty good onstage. I want new bands to come and see us and go, ‘Yeah, pretty good. We’ll kill them.’ That’s what every boxer should have in his heart when he steps into the ring with the champion. Otherwise, you’re never going to become a champion,” Gene Simmons said.

In the same interview he also said that The Who’s late drummer couldn’t work with any other band. The reason would be because the group had only one bassist and guitarist. That gave him a lot of room to “be” Keith Moon. He said the same for Ringo Starr (Beatles) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), that according to Simmons maybe wouldn’t fit in The Who, because it would be “too plodding” and wouldn’t have a “soaring effect”.

According to Simmons, Kiss learned a lot about showmanship with The Who

Kiss is not only praised for their music, but also for their live concerts. Even in the early days when the band had not a big budget had many lights, fire and other special effects that made their show bigger than any other band around at the time. As Gene Simmons said in a conversation with Kyle Meredith in 2021, they learned a lot from The Who.

“Of course, we were influenced. You can’t be here without those who have gone before. So you’ve got a point to the greats that came before you. Jimi Hendrix, and so on. Whenever you see Jimi Hendrix footage, the classic stuff is him on the floor, on top of his guitar lighting it on fire, or [The Who’s Pete] Townshend smashing his guitar, and all that stuff. It’s showmanship, stagecraft.”

The musician continued saying that fans pay a lot of money for a concert ticket. So they deserve to have an incredible experience, that must be complete. Not only with a band playing the songs. Simmons recalled that he got dissapointed many times by going to see some of his favorite bands that didn’t had much more than the music at their live shows.

“The main issue for me has always been – I was so disappointed growing up with seeing bands whose music I loved. I loved Sly & The Family Stone, and The Lovin’ Spoonful and all kinds of bands that came before. But it wasn’t until I saw The Who and the English bands, especially The Who and a few others that understood – there were smoke bombs. Townshend was smashing his guitar, and Roger Daltrey, who’s become my friend, is twirling his microphone, and all that. You go away not just remembering the sound but also what you saw.”

Gene Simmons continued:

“It’s audio and visual, it’s both. So when you’re at home or in your car, it’s just your ear that gets tickled. But when you go to a live event, you got to tickle the orbs. You got to give them something they’ll remember, and the lights. I mean, we have more firepower on that stage than some third-world countries. And I mean that the very nicest way,” Gene Simmons said.

What Pete Townshend said about Kiss

Talking with Hazy Rock back in 2014, Pete Townshend said that the “Kiss phenomenon” would never happen in the United Kingdom. According to the guitarist and singer Kiss came out “Straight out of Creem magazine meets Las Vegas. Or New Orleans, even. There is a bit of New Orleans in it, a very American, kind of Mardi Gras thing.”

That’s the reason why he said they wouldn’t be the same if the musicians were born in Britain. He pointed that they might had happened in Germany, but they would probably sound different.

“They couldn’t have happened here, They could maybe have happened in Berlin — in which case their music wouldn’t have been like their music. They would have looked like they looked. But they would have made different kind of music. They’re a very American phenomenon.”

“The early years of Kiss were difficult, because there was sort of a parody of rock inherent in what they were doing. Also, that business of wearing disguises. Not quite sure about it. You know, I think I’d have to do an academic study to try and work out what’s really doing on there,” Pete Townshend said.

The members of both groups have a deep respect for each other. Simmons is a good friend of The Who’s Roger Daltrey.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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