Gene Simmons Said This Kiss Hit Wouldn’t Exist Without Eddie Van Halen
Kiss and Van Halen might seem like two very different classic rock bands, but they had a major connection. Gene Simmons said one of Kiss’ early hits wouldn’t exist if a member of the band didn’t copy Eddie Van Halen. In addition, Simmon’s opened up about his feelings about Eddie as an artist.
A Kiss song that a member of Kiss didn’t think was real rock music
It all started with a title. According to the book Behind the Mask – The Official Authorized Biography, Kiss’ Paul Stanley came up with the name “Christine Sixteen.” Simmons loved the title, saying it sounded like “forbidden fruit.” Afterward, Simmons drew influence from Elvis Presley and various doo-wop artists when writing the track. These artists inspired Simmons to include some spoken lyrics in “Christine Sixteen” — a practice that was significantly more common in the 1950s than the 1970s.
Kiss’ Ace Frehley hated the song because he didn’t think it was true rock music. Simmons decided to include “Christine Sixteen” on the album Love Gun precisely because of what Frehley said. While members of the band contributed to “Christine Sixteen,” the song wouldn’t be the same without Eddie.
How Eddie Van Halen contributed to ‘Christine Sixteen’
“Around ’77, I wrote ‘Christine Sixteen’ and two other songs,” Simmons told Rolling Stone. “On the way back from Japan, at one in the morning, I called Eddie and Alex [Van Halen] and said, ‘I’ve got some songs — you want to help me do these demos?’ And they did. Eddie did the solo on ‘Christine Sixteen’ in one take. I loved it so much that I made Ace Frehley copy it note for note. So when you hear ‘Christine Sixteen,’ that’s Eddie’s solo you’re hearing, but copied by Ace.”
According to Behind the Mask – The Official Authorized Biography, Simmons worked on two more Kiss tracks with Eddie: “Got Love for Sale and “Tunnel of Love.” Only “Christine Sixteen” was released as a single. So how did the public react to the combination of Kiss and Eddie’s talents?
How the world reacted to ‘Christine Sixteen’
Simmons’ decision to take cues from Eddie paid off. “Christine Sixteen” reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. That’s not an especially high peak, but it was very good for Kiss, who only reached the top 10 three times during their career. Kiss certainly had reason to be thankful for Eddies’ help.
What Gene Simmons thought of Eddie Van Halen as an artist
This raises an interesting question: Did Simmons think Eddie was a particularly good artist? “Lots of guys play fast but with no melody or heart or soul,” Simmons told Rolling Stone. “Eddie’s solos had all that. Not since [Jimi] Hendrix had anybody bent strings like he did. He cast a large shadow. You think you’re pretty good and famous and you’re filling arenas. But when you were sitting in front of Eddie, you were in the presence of greatness.”