Gene Simmons co-founded Kiss in 1973, that became one of the most successful bands from the 70s, that helped to shape Hard Rock music. But besides the American group, many other bands released incredible songs during that decade and the musician is a big fan of that era.
To show a little bit of the love that the Kiss bassist and singer has for the music that was made during those years, Rock and Roll Garage selected the 12 songs from the 70s that Gene Simmons said he likes.
The 12 songs from the 70s that Gene Simmons said he likes
Van Halen “Runnin’ With the Devil”
Gene Simmons was one of the first to see Van Halen‘s potential when he saw the band playing in a club in Los Angeles. He promptly helped the band record a demo. Even though he wasn’t able to get them a record deal, not long after that, they were signed and begun their successful recording career.
So it’s not a coincidence that one of his favorite songs from the 70s is “Running With The Devil”. Song from Van Halen’s self-titled debut released in 1978. He chose that track in a list he made for the radio show “Celebrity Shuffle” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) and recalled the first time he saw them.
“A band I saw in it’s infancy in a place called ‘Starwood’. It was club in Los Angeles. They were the warm up band to the headliner and it was just a club band. I went backstage and immediately convinced the band. Eddie, Alex, Roth obviously, that they should not sign with a yougurt manufacturing company guy who was gonna support them. But that I would fly them to New York and produce their demo at Electric Lady studios and I did.”
“I worked with the band trying to figure out what arrangement worked, what didn’t. We picked 15 songs and they were recorded on a 24 track and this was their demo,” Gene Simmons said.
At the time of the release the song peaked at number 84 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 52 on the United Kingdom singles chart.
Queen “We Will Rock You (Live)”
Another 70s hit that Gene Simmons likes is “We Will Rock You” released by Queen on their 1977 album “News Of The World”. The track was written by the guitarist Brian May, who is a good friend of the Kiss bassist.
The musician chose the track as one of his favorites in an interview with Planet Rock (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) in 2022. He noted that the live version is even better, since the audience joins the band to make the song even bigger.
“The right kind of music and the right kind of songs are the songs you play at funerals. Couples have their songs, it means more than a song. You get married to songs, your pledge your allegiance to a country with a song. You march off to war with a song. I don’t know what we would do without music. The right song in football stadiums.
“Dr. Brian May is a friend of mine. when you hear ‘We Will Rock You’ in a stadium full of people I don’t know how to described it. It’s less a song and more a ‘We Are One’,” Gene Simmons said.
Curiously, Kiss drummer Eric Singer who is in the band since 2004, already worked with Brian May. He was the drummer of May’s solo band in 1998 during the “Another World” tour, made to promote the album of the same name released that year.
Mountain “Theme for an Imaginary Western”
Talking with Music Radar in 2017, Gene Simmons chose the Mountain‘s “Theme For an Imaginary Western” as one of the tracks that blew his mind. “I used to go and watch Lesley Weinstein – as he was back then – with his old band, The Vagrants. They did a lot of gigs out on Long Island. I remember walking in and there was this big guy, playing so… sweetly.”
“He had the kind of pure tone that would have made Clapton jealous. Such majesty coming from a Les Paul Jr. that looked like a toy in his giant hands. Yeah, we all know ‘Mississippi Queen’. But this is something completely different. A pastoral lyric that feels almost English and yet captures the grandeur of America. Go back and listen to Mountain’s first album. What you’ll hear is Rock music that refuses to be defined,” Gene Simmons said.
Mountain was always compared with the sound that Cream made, since the band’s bassist Felix Pappalardi was the one who produce their classic albums “Disraeli Gears”, “Wheels of Fire” and “Goodbye”.
“Theme for an Imaginary Western” was originally released by Cream’s bassist and singer Jack Bruce on his solo album “Songs For a Tailor” (1969). It was covered by Mountain on their acclaimed debut album “Climbing!”.
Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes”
The British early 70s Glam Rock was one of the main inspirations for the Kiss members when the band was created. One of the songs that Simmons often mentions as one of his favorites is Mott The Hoople‘s “All The Young Dudes”, released on the album of the same name in 1972.
In 2018, in an interview with Sirius XM (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he listed the song as one of the tracks he “can’t live without”.
“I always liked Mott The Hoople, starting with the name. I thought, ‘What a bizarre thing.’ And when I heard Ian Hunter, the lead singer, doing his ‘Bob Dylan-isms,’ you kind of sing and talk at the same time. So they were about to break up, their career was over. They just couldn’t get hits. David Bowie had known them because they came from the same town. He had met Ian Hunter and the guys.”
“They were saying: ‘Yeah. Well, thanks a lot. It was great knowing you. When are you playing?’ And they go ‘No, we are breaking up. We can’t make heads or tails. We can’t get a hit.’ He goes: ‘Well, you know. I’ve got two songs I’m not recording. Listen to them and see if you want them.’”
Gene Simmons continued:
“One of them was Suffragette City and they go: ‘No, we don’t like that. What else?’ (The other one was) ‘All The Young Dudes’, David Bowie singing the lead. It is astonishing because it immediately says there’s something here that’s grand. Sounds ‘anthemic’ coming from the word ‘anthem’. I’m still not sure what the news is. ‘All the young dudes carry the news’. But who cares?”
“Because ‘wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom’ (Little Richard’s ‘Tutti-Frutti) doesn’t mean anything. Neither does ‘Ooga-chaka Ooga-chaka’ (Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked On a Feeling’). But if it feels right. Because music is feeling. So when I heard ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott, it wasn’t just a career saver for them. It was one of those songs that carved it’s own niche in what a great song can be,” Gene Simmons said.
“All The Young Dudes” is considered an anthem of Glam Rock music. At the time of the release reached number 3 on the United Kingdom singles chart.
The Clash “London Calling”
The classic song The Clash song “London Calling” from their album of the same name released in 1979, is another song from the 70s that Simmons chose as one of his favorites. He listed the track to be played in an interview with Planet Rock (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) in 2022.
He was asked if he felt threatened by Punk Rock music when the movement appeared and he said: “No, I think that anything that starts honestly and has integrity is authentic. It’s authentic in it’s own way. You don’t have to understand it. For me, Punk was authentic in England.”
“In America it’s style. The Ramones were were not Punk. We knew those kids when they were little boys and they used to come to all the shows. That ain’t Punk, that’s Pop. Punk, the real anger, the frustration of being outcasted or filling the blanks, they didn’t fill part of the mainstream (and that) was authentic as you can get,” Gene Simmons said.
“London Calling” is The Clash‘s third studio album. The record was a top ten chart success in the United Kingdom and the track was a top 20 single.
Humble Pie “30 Days in the Hole”
Another British band that Gene Simmons admires is Humble Pie that was led by the late singer and guitarist Steve Marriott. In an interview with Sirius XM in 2018, he chose the track “30 Days In The Hole” as one he couldn’t live without. That song was first released by the in 1972 as a single, then being included on their classic album “Smokin'”. That record didn’t featured the guitarist Peter Frampton, who left the group one year before.
Over the years the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was criticized multiple times for the artists who still weren’t nominated. In an interview Tampa Tribune in 2014, Simmons was asked which groups he would like to induct into the Rock Hall and he mentioned Humble Pie as one of them.
“So I would put Run DMC, who I believe are very good, and the rest of hip-hop into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. I would take Madonna and Donna Summer, who was a dear friend, and put them in the Disco or Dance Hall of Fame. I would put Deep Purple in the Hall. The fact that Blondie got in before Humble Pie is crazy,” Gene Simmons said.
The group still wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Steve Marriott was posthumous inducted as a member of the Small Faces in 2012.
Cheap Trick “Surrender”
Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender” is another song that Gene Simmons told Sirius XM in 2018 he can’t live without. The track was first released by the band in 1978 as a single and then featured on their album “Heaven Tonight”. It was their first single to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Simmons is a big fan of the group and back in 2016 Kiss invited Cheap Trick’s guitarist Rick Nielsen to their stage to play “Rock and Roll All Nite” with them. In 2017, he also had the opporunity to introduce Cheap Trick to the audience before a benefit show.
In 2019 he shared on his official Twitter a video of him backstage listening to Cheap Trick while doing his “Demon” make up for the Kiss concert. He said: “Listening to Cheap Trick in our dressing room. Love that band!”
Listening to Cheap Trick in our dressing room. Love that band! pic.twitter.com/bslIY0b0Rl
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) April 13, 2019
The band members know each other since the 70s when Cheap Trick had the chance to be Kiss opening act.
Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side”
One of the biggest hits from Lou Reed‘s solo career, “Walk On The Wild Side” is another track that Gene Simmons told Sirius XM in 2018 he can’t live without.
The track was first released by the Velvet Underground frontman on his second solo album “Transformer” in 1972. That album was produced by his friend David Bowie and the guitarist Mick Ronson.
Curiously, there is a connection between Lou Reed and Kiss. He tried to help the Hard Rock group to write some songs in the 70s. Simmons recalled in an interview with Classic Rock in 2016 the opportunity he had to work with Reed.
“Bob Ezrin started rehearsing with us for the Destroyer record in 1975. He had just come off working with Lou Reed on Berlin. We rehearsed in a place called Carol’s on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue in New York City. Lou walked in and I’d been aware of, and had been a big fan of, Walk On The Wild Side, which was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson. Reed walks in, we’re rehearsing, trying to work out songs.”
“Bob says that he would like Lou to work on lyrics with us and maybe get another angle. But it didn’t work out, actually. We went off and did Destroyer. Because we couldn’t wait to put all these new songs down, like Detroit Rock City and Flaming Youth and all that,” Gene Simmons said.
Lou Reed helped Kiss in the early 80s to compose tracks that were featured on the not well received album “Music From The Elder” (1981). The musician is credited on tracks like “Dark Light”, “A World Without Heroes” and “Mr. Blackwell”.
Love Unlimited Orchestra “Love’s Theme”
The only song of the list that is not rooted in Rock and Roll, “Love Theme” was first released by the singer and songwriter Barry White and Love Unlimited Orchestra as a single in 1973. Until this day it’s one of the few instrumental and purely orchestral singles that were able to reach the first position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States.
Simmons chose the track as one of his favorites in an interview for the radio show “Celebrity Shuffle” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) in 2014.
“One of Shannon Tweed‘s (Simmons wife) favorite songs is “Love Them” by the Love Unlimited Orchestra. Barry White doesn’t even put his name up there. Barry White at the height of his popularity was not only going out there and doing sellout to women who would clearly be swooning at a man who was approaching 300 pounds and yet had a voice of a fault phone porn star. ‘Yeah baby, you know you want it’.”
“You know, he hardly sang the songs. But before rap, before anything, this guy cornered the ‘Oh yeah, come to daddy’, type of music. He produced his own records, often wrote his own tunes and actually got up like Jackie Gleason. But that’s another story and was a maestro,” Gene Simmons said.
The classic song “Magic” from the Scottish group Pilot is another track from the 70s that Gene Simmons told the radio show “Celebrity Shuffle” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) that he likes.
“‘Magic’ by Pilot is a gem by the middle period of English music, the group had a big album that I was aware of and after that they disappeared. But this song ‘Magic’ combines all the best things of English pop music, great songwriting, terrific production by Alan Parsons, who himself would go on to form his own band called Alan Parsons Project.”
“The engineer was a guy named Mike Stone who would later work with Kiss and with Paul (Stanley) on some of his projects, including a band called New England,” Gene Simmons said.
It was released in 1974 and then featured on their debut album called “From the Album of The Same Name”.
Kiss “Goin’ Blind”
Since Gene Simmons is very good when the subject is promoting his own work, there is one Kiss song that he listed as one of his favorites in the interview for “Celebrity Shuffle” in 2014 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). He explained that it was one of the first songs he ever wrote, when he was still in school.
“‘Goin’ Blind’ was a song I wrote with my school chum Stephen Parnell. In those days I didn’t think much about lyrics. I have no clue about why I sat down and wrote a letter called ‘I think I’m going blind’. Execpt I thought it was terribly romantic. It was about an old guy. I remember a movie called ‘The Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea’. My vision of that was the old man and a mermaid.”
“A little lady from the land beyond the sea and all that kind of stuff. She was this kind of love interest for this old guy. When we were recording the song Paul Stanley thought that the lyrics were ridiculous of course. He yelled out ‘I’m 93, you’re 16’.”
“That was Paul Stanley’s sole contribution to that song ‘I’m 93, your 16, can’t you see I’m going blind’. Of course it makes absolutely no sense. I can’t tell you what ‘Goin’ Blind’ means except everybody’s told me what it means. Every single version has been a different story,” Gene Simmons said.
The track was released on “Hotter Than Hell”, the second studio album released by Kiss in 1974.
Thin Lizzy “The Boys Are Back in Town”
One of the biggest bands from Ireland, Thin Lizzy is another group that Gene Simmons loves and told Sirius XM in 2018 that he can’t live without one of their biggest classics “The Boys Are Back In Town”. The song was first released by the group on their famous 1976 album “Jailbreak”. The late bassist and vocalist of the band, Phil Lynott was the one who wrote the lyrics and he even won the NME award that year for “Best Single”.
Even though Phil Lynott tragically died in 1986 at the age of 36, Thin Lizzy surviving members reunited many times over the years with special guests. The group even toured with Kiss in 2013.