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The 70s American band that Gene Simmons compared to Led Zeppelin

Gene Simmons


The 70s American band that Gene Simmons compared to Led Zeppelin

Kiss was formed in 1973 by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, quickly becoming in the following years one of the most successful American bands. They were heavily influenced by the Rock and Roll music made by the British groups in the late 60s and late 70s. One of them was of course, Led Zeppelin, which was a fundamental group for the evolution of Hard Rock.


Although the United Kingdom was the birthplace of many legendary groups that changed the course of music, there were many groups in the United States that were also important and influential. Kiss bassist and singer Gene Simmons even mentioned once an American group that had many similarities with Led Zeppelin.

The 70s American band that Gene Simmons compared to Led Zeppelin

In the late 60s and early 70s Rock and Roll music was evolving quickly and there were many different and original groups especially in the United States and United Kingdom. According to Gene Simmons one of them was Montrose, band which was formed by the guitarist Ronnie Montrose in 1973, which had Sammy Hagar as the vocalist.

He praised the band in an interview with The Quietus in 2013, saying they were a breath of fresh air. “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. 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.”

He continued:

“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,” Gene Simmons said.

The musician also revealed that before Kiss’ concerts when he was putting on his makeup, he used to put on that classic Montrose debut album. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1973, same year Kiss was formed. It had classic songs like “Rock The Nation”, “Bad Motor Scooter”, “Space Station #5” and “Rock Candy”.

In 1974 the group released the album “Paper Money” which wasn’t as successful as the first one. In 1975 Hagar was fired from the group and they still released three more albums. Two with Bob James on vocals: “Warner Bros. Presents Montrose!” (1975), “Jump On It” (1976) and one with Johnny Edwards as the vocalist: “Mean” (1987). As pointed out by Simmons, Montrose tragically took his own life in 2012 at the age of 64.

Sammy Hagar was Kiss’ opening act

Curiously, the singer and guitarist Sammy Hagar toured with Kiss as their opening act during their “Rock and Roll Over Tour” in 1976 and 1977. It was the beginning of his solo career and the musician had recently released his debut album “Nine On a Ten Scale” and the follow-up, known as “The Red Album”. But as he recalled in the book No Encore!, where musicians revealed their weirdest, wildest and most embarrassing gigs, he wasn’t really accepted by Kiss’ fans at that time.

“KISS was starting a tour, and it was their first headlining show in New York, their hometown. They sold out Madison Square Garden, and they asked me at the last minute to be the opening act for the ten-show, East Coast run. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were both fans of Montrose, and they liked my first solo record. I go on stage to open Madison Square Garden, but nobody knew who I was. Or even that I was on the bill, I was added last minute. I didn’t even have any fans yet anyway.”

He continued:

“’Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Sammy Hagar!’ The place immediately starts fucking booing. I was still green from Montrose. I didn’t feel like I was anywhere near famous. So I just tried kicking as much ass as I could. During the third song, which was a Donovan-balled cover called Catch The Wind, people started flipping me off and really losing their shit. I was looking out at the crowd, and I stopped the song. I yelled, ‘You fucking assholes! You didn’t even give me a chance. You started booing me before hearing the music. Fuck you!'”

“Everybody in the audience was dressed up like KISS. As far as I could see, they had all the makeup on too. Since it was New York, I said, ‘I see they’ve flown in an audience from Los Angeles for this show.’ That really pissed them off. They started throwing cups at me. I pulled down my pants, dropped my drawers, and pulled out my dick. I shook it at the crowd, then smashed my 1961 Stratocaster to pieces, and walked offstage,” Sammy Hagar said.

Gene and Paul were standing backstage and they wanted to know what was happening.

“I unloaded on them, too, saying, ‘Fuck you guys too!’ (Gene, Paul, Bill Graham). And that was it. I didn’t do any more shows with KISS. I stomped away to my dressing room. Paul was saying, ‘You can’t talk to people like that, man! You gotta go out and prove yourself. You can’t do it like that.’ I’m still going, ‘Fuck you and your makeup and your fans!’ Bill Graham was in my face. But I was furious.”

“That night almost made me want to quit the business. It was humiliating and disheartening, and my poor band didn’t know what to do. One of the guys, my rhythm guitarist who was the newest to the band, quit after that show,” Sammy Hagar said.

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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