KISS‘ Paul Stanley says that “self-preservation” was the main reason he, and manager Bill Aucoin, turned down the opportunity to work with Van Halen in 1976, reports

While KISS was in Los Angeles to tape a three-song performance for ABC Television’s The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, Stanley and Gene Simmons received an invitation from DJ and club impresario Rodney Bingenheimer to watch two unsigned local acts, The Boyz and Van Halen, at the Starwood club. After the show, [KISS bassist/vocalist Gene] Simmons was introduced to Van Halen and he expressed a desire to work with the band, offering to sign them to his management label, Man Of A Thousand Faces, and to produce a demo for them to shop to record labels. Simmons ended up flying Van Halen to New York to record a demo at Electric Lady Studios, with Simmons at the production helm. But, he ended up not working with the group after Stanley and Aucoin expressed little interest in his demos.

They discussed the decision during Q&A session on this year’s Kiss Kruise, which concluded earlier this month. Simmons said, “We made one big mistake — one. There was a band called Van Halen. They were signed to Man Of A Thousand Faces Inc. There was a 24-track demo. They were owned lock, stock and barrel and signed and happy and wanted to sign with us, and we said no.”

Stanley added, “Thank goodness. The reason we said no was because part of Gene’s joie de vivre, which means love of life, is he likes to look and do all different things. And sometimes that means reining him in, especially early on in the band’s career where getting involved in other projects was really going to hurt the band. You couldn’t listen to Van Halen and not think they were great. Bill knew it. I was with Gene when he first saw Van Halen at the Starwood. But the idea of managing or producing bands, when we really were still at the beginning of our career, was something that was… The move is called self-preservation.”

Simmons  told Paul Brannigan, the writer of the Eddie Van Halen biography titled Unchained(U.S.) / Eruption (U.K.), that he couldn’t believe it when Stanley claimed not to hear anything special about Van Halen. “Everybody shrugged their shoulders and went, ‘So what?'” Simmons said. “And I’m going, ‘You’re killing me! Whaddya mean, ‘So what?’ Listen to that!'”

“I tore up the contract and said, ‘You guys are free,'” Simmons told Brannigan. “I said, We’re going out on tour, and when I get back, if you don’t have a deal, I’ll come back and I’ll try to help you. But right now, I don’t feel ethical in shopping your tape because the rest of the guys don’t get it.'” 

The full Q&A with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer and comedian Craig Gass, from the KISS Kruise X, can be seen below.

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  • robert davenport on

    I actually think both points of view are valid ,
    They could have easily screwed up Van Halens career , or …. their own, or it could have catapulted van halen to the stratosphere a year or 2 earlier –

  • RTunes68 on

    How was this a “mistake” for KISS? They were still a relatively new band and still on the rise at the time. They were putting out albums and touring and focused on promoting themselves. Were they going to personally manage another band on the side? Unlike Led Zeppelin, they did not have their own record label. Even if Van Halen signed to Casablanca and Bill Aucoin were to have managed them, how was that going to benefit KISS? At best (or worst), it was a “mistake” for Casablanca and Aucoin.

    • Dana on

      Well, Simmons, Aucoin or both, could have hired a few people to manage and promote Van Halen, without taking away from KISS.

      In my opinion, the legacy of both band’s will be remembered in a vastly different manner. I know this may enflame many, but I think Van Halen will be recalled with far more respect, not only from a musical standpoint, but for not turning their band into a saturated commercial punchline.

      Funny, now as I type those words, maybe it was advantageous that Simmons did not manage the band? Otherwise, we would have had Van Halen dolls, lunchboxes, a Frakenstein striped casket and condoms, etc., which would have completely diluted the reputation, and the importance, of the band. Additionally, Simmons might be seeking to find “replacements” for the original members, to keep the band going into perpetuity.

      It’s one thing to be a smart businessman, but something other to completely pervade the market with absurd products that dilute the integrity of the music, and the image of the band, as a whole.

      All this to say, I have now changed my mind, I believe it was better for Van Halen that they were not managed by Simmons. However, I still think it was a huge income loss for Simmons that he did not “own” Van Halen.

  • T on

    I wonder (if subconsciously) Paul and Bill thought, these guys are almost too good. Lets not fuel a band that’s already on fire, musically speaking. KISS was maybe a bit more “commercial” than VH, but VH had some good choruses in their songs also (although probably still developing at that time). KISS put on a heck of a live show, but once Eddie turned up, everyone stopped what they were doing and listened. I always love stories about early Van Halen.

    • Dana on


      Good point. I would imagine many musicians being intimidated by EVH and RR.

    • genesraccoonwig on

      Thank God the contract was ripped up – it would have ruined Van Halen and would have made Paul jealous.

      In the end, things worked out for both sides.

      But it would have been cool to have a Van Halen Toaster.

    • Dana on


  • Mr. Rock And Roll on

    Let’s be frank about this, even though your name may not be Frank. Name me one performer or band that has done well under Gene’s guidance. Cue up Jeopardy music. Here’s the answer: there aren’t any. Everyone from Black n Blue to Liza MInelli, from House Of Lords to fill in the blanks. As the Hollies’ song says, he’s King Midas In Reverse. If I’m wrong, please educate me, but I think VH were better off without him or Casab lanca, for that matter.

    • Dana on

      EZO? “Flashback, heart-e-tack?” 😉

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