KISS bass player and co-lead vocalist Gene Simmons shares his favorite songs of all time. Simmons built an amazing legacy with KISS and is also a very successful entrepreneur, so it’s also interesting to see his takes on music. He knows how the music industry works and became an absolute legend.
This is why a list of the top Gene Simmons favorite songs can show what he likes and why. His appearance on the 2014 radio show “Celebrity Shuffle” proved this and made a list of his favorite tracks. Of course, most fans were able to hear his favorite songs.
The songs on that list say a lot about Simmons’ personal music taste. They are also quite varied. There is a lot to unpack from these songs. Especially considering Simmons’ own comments about them.
Gene Simmons reveals his favorite songs
Gene Simmons mentioned these 9 songs during the 2014 radio show “Celebrity Shuffle”. He also said these songs were the most representative of his music tastes. This list is also representative of his own musical bias.
Which are the top 9 Gene Simmons favorite songs of all time?
“Friday On My Mind” – The Easybeats
The Easybeats is not that known to the younger generations. There’s no debate about it. However, their importance to Australian rock is monumental. They were arguably that country’s equivalent to The Beatles.
This band started in the early 60s and was among the first Australian bands to write their own material. They were also one of the first Australian bands to find commercial success outside of their country. The main reason for their success back in those days? Their 1966 hit single “Friday On My Mind“.
The song was a massive hit back during the KISS legend’s youth so it makes sense that is in the top 9 favorite Gene Simmons songs list. When it comes to Gene himself, this is what he had to say about the song:
“When I first heard ‘Friday On My Mind’ by The Easybeats I didn’t know that there was gonna be a connection to AC/DC, the two guys in the band Vanda and Young, then went on to form a band called Flash and The Pan.”
“But The Easybeats had this crazy song that quarterly eludes me (Gene imitates the songs), certainly not blues-based, these licks. Then right before the chorus, the chords move the way notes move. If you try to play those notes they’re hectic. Try playing at his chords.”
“Concrete And Clay” – Unit 4 + 2
British pop dominated the 1960s. There is no debate about it. And while The Beatles were the absolute kings of the decade, several bands enjoyed a lot of success. There were also a lot of groups with one-hit wonders and Unit 4 + 2 is an example of the latter.
“Concrete and Clay” is the band’s most popular song and the group is often remembered because of that. It certainly left a mark on Simmons since he ranked it on his list of favorite songs. The Kiss bassist had this to say about the band:
“Unit 4 + 2 was an English band that had very strange influences: Bossa Nova, sort of Cha-Cha, South American beats with Jazz overtones. Very ‘Beatleleske’ melodies against a portal structure that defies logic”.
This band offered a very interesting sound, although they never had a lot of commercial success. Be that as it may, Simmons has managed to give them a bit of exposure.
“Baby Workout” – Jackie Wilson
It’s no surprise that a top 9 favorite Gene Simmons favorite songs would have some showmanship. Jackie Wilson was a legendary musician back in the 50s and 60s. He is instrumental to understand the transition R&B did to become a lot more soul-focused in the 60s. Plus, he is also celebrated because of his dynamic stage performances and absolute charisma.
Considering the latter, it makes sense that someone like Simmons would admire Wilson‘s work. The late Wilson had a lot of success but Gene picked “Baby Workout” as his favorite song of the former. It was the man’s second-highest charting song of all time, which is saying a lot.
Gene Simmons had a lot of positive things to say back in 2014 about Jackie Wilson:
“Jackie Wilson, one of the preeminent templates for lead singers. There would be nobody without Jackie Wilson. He was such an important figure in music that there were actually songs written about Jackie.”
He was a guy that was very acrobatic, he could do splits, jump up way before guys like James Brown came across and started doing that stuff. Raised in the church, this was pure pop big band. A big band playing with a real pop background.
“Sleep Walk” – Santo & Johnny
The most interesting part about “Sleep Walk” is that is an instrumental track. Both the titular musicians, Santo and Johnny, play guitar here and they display some truly catchy and amazing melodies. As a fun fact, their uncle Mike Dee is the one playing drums on this 1959 song.
This song was a monumental hit back in the late 50s and Santo and Johnny became rock and roll stars back in the day. It’s actually amazing to consider what they achieved as an instrumental band.
It featured on the top 9 of favorite Gene Simmons songs and the bassist had this to say about the song:
“The early 60s were a peculiar time, because at the same time that radio radio was figuring out how to play Rock and Roll. Which was still in it’s infancy, every once in a while you would hear very bizarre instrumentals by groups that would only come for one song, like The Tornados.”
“So at the same time that these instrumental bands were doing music to ‘Watch Girls Bye-Bye’, the Bob Crewe generation, instrumentals were big. Even Kiss did an instrumental called ‘Love theme from Kiss’, but one of the unique songs of all time was this kind of Latin-flavored sleepy Hawaiian guitar by two guys who up until then had had no success whatsoever but immediately it grabs you.”
“Running with the Devil” – Van Halen
It’s completely in character that Van Halen‘s “Running with the Devil” would be on the top 9 favorite Gene Simmons songs list. The reason for this is quite simple: Simmons is often credited for discovering Van Halen. In fact, he even helped them record the band’s first-ever demo.
Van Halen is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. This group has had countless hits and sold millions of records. The band also had a major influence on 80s hard rock, shaping the entire decade. Eddie Van Halen is also a generational musician, having changed the way rock musicians play guitar.
“Running with the Devil” is one of the band’s signature songs. That signature Michael Anthony bass intro, that Eddie Van Halen riff, David Lee Roth‘s vocals… it’s all there. Van Halen kickstarted their 1978 debut with this song and it was a perfect description of what they were all about. It’s no surprise that someone like Simmons took a liking to them.
Simmons was very straightforward in “Celebrity Shuffle” about how he met the guys of Van Halen:
“A band I saw in its infancy in a place called ‘Starwood’, it was a 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 yogurt 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 and we picked 15 songs and they were recorded on a 24-track and this was their demo.”
“Love Theme” – Barry White and Love Unlimited Orchestra
Barry White is one of the most legendary singers of all time. His iconic voice has trascended genres and generations. Ironically enough, it was the 1973 single, “Love Theme“, an instrumental song, what became a massive hit for him.
Simmons offered his own unique take on the song and White as a whole:
“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.”
“Magic” – Pilot
This list of the favorite Gene Simmons songs has some obscure tracks and Pilot‘s “Magic” is a very interesting example. This band hails from Scotland and built a following through some hit singles, such as “Magic“.
In that regard, “Magic” could work as an introduction to the band. It is a catchy and straightforward rock song with some glam and pop influences. In fact, it has some relative similarities to what KISS would end up doing later on.
Simmons had a lot of positive things to say about the band Pilot:
“‘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 and 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.”
“Rock and Roll All Nite” – Toad the Wet Sprocket
This is perhaps the most curious example on this list. Gene Simmons decided to do a KISS tribute album back in 1994 instead of waiting for someone else to do it. This is how several high-profile musicians, like Extreme, Anthrax, and Lenny Kravitz, got involved.
That is how Toad the Wet Sprocket was picked. It’s an alternative rock band from the mid-80s and started back in California. And this version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” is a lot more relaxed than the KISS version. In fact, it feels almost like a ballad.
Simmons didn’t care about the changes and is actually quite happy with the approach:
“I put together a Kiss tribute album because I didn’t wanna wait for anybody else to do it. You only get the respect you demand, so why not throw a party for yourself? So I called everybody I could think of and somebody offered up told Toad the Wet Sprocket and they decided to record ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’, which it was a curious case and they had complete latitude to do what they wanted with the song.”
“And what came out was a fascinating sound which changed the drumbeat and even had a different passage going into the chorus. But if anything, it reminds me of Jackson Browne.”
“Goin’ Blind” – KISS
It wouldn’t be Gene Simmons if he didn’t put himself on his own list of favorite songs. However, beyond a very good track from KISS‘ prime, the story about the lyrics is hilarious.
Basically, Simmons wrote in high school and never had a true meaning. It was basically about an old man falling in love with a mermaid. However, the man himself describes this better than anyone else:
“‘Goin’ Blind’ was a song I wrote with my school chum Stephen Parnell. In those days I didn’t think much about lyrics and I have no clue about why I sat down and wrote a letter called ‘I think I’m going blind’. Except 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’ and 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 and when we were recording the song Paul Stanley thought that the lyrics were ridiculous of course and 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.”