Gene Simmons on how Geddy Lee “didn’t understand” the basics of bass

In the realm of rock and roll, two bands have undeniably left an indelible mark on the music industry: Kiss and Rush. These iconic bands, despite their contrasting musical styles, shared the spotlight on numerous occasions during the mid-1970s. While Kiss, with their flamboyant personas and hard rock anthems, appeared to be worlds apart from the Canadian progressive rockers Rush, the intersection of their musical journeys offers a fascinating insight into the intricacies of the rock genre.

Kiss, led by the enigmatic Gene Simmons, were known for their electrifying live performances, elaborate costumes, and anthemic songs that resonated with a generation. On the other hand, Rush, featuring the incomparable Geddy Lee, delved into complex compositions, pushing the boundaries of rock with their multi-part epics and intricate musicianship.

The differences between these two bands were not limited to their musical styles. Kiss embraced the arena of hard rock, reveling in its simplicity, while Rush explored the intricacies of progressive rock, incorporating complex time signatures and instrumental virtuosity into their music. Despite these contrasting approaches, fate would bring them together on the same stage.

In the early years of their respective careers, both Kiss and Rush were struggling rock acts seeking to break into the mainstream music scene. To achieve this goal, they embarked on tours together, sharing the same stage and often performing in the same venues. This collaboration, though unexpected, would create memorable moments and anecdotes that continue to captivate fans to this day.

One such moment involved Rush’s playful parody of Kiss’s song “Goin’ Blind” during their “Caress of Steel” era. Geddy Lee recalled the genesis of this parody in 2004, saying, “We were touring a lot with Kiss in those days, and they had a song called ‘Goin’ Blind.’ So we were taking the piss out of that title by just coming up with this.”

Amidst their tours, a memorable encounter between Gene Simmons and Geddy Lee took place. It was a moment that shed light on the vast differences in their musical backgrounds and approaches to playing the bass guitar. Simmons, a renowned showman and bassist for Kiss, decided to engage in a jam session with Lee during one of their backstage meetups in the 1970s.

During this impromptu jam session, Simmons suggested they play a blues scale, a fundamental musical concept. He proposed that Geddy Lee should start, and he would follow with the chord progression. However, what transpired next was unexpected. Simmons recalled, “I said, ‘Do you want to do a blues scale? You go first, and then I’ll continue the chord pattern,’ and he said, ‘I don’t know what you mean.'”

In Simmons’ recollection, Geddy Lee appeared to lack even a basic understanding of musical theory. Simmons continued, “At least from what I recall, Geddy didn’t understand what a blues scale was or what ‘1, 4, 5’ meant.” According to Simmons, Lee’s novice-level knowledge extended to not knowing the locations of notes on the bass guitar. He recounted, “So I go, ‘Well, okay then, you hit a G, either octave or low,’ and he said, ‘Which one is that?'”

It’s tempting to view Simmons’ account of this encounter as a tall tale, considering his penchant for colorful storytelling. After all, Geddy Lee, known for his proficiency as a musician, began his musical journey as a guitarist. It seems improbable that he would lack knowledge of basic musical concepts such as a blues scale or the locations of notes on his instrument.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that musicians often have diverse backgrounds and approaches to their craft. Geddy Lee’s evolution as a bassist may have been rooted in his intuitive, ear-driven style before delving deeper into music theory. While it’s possible that Lee lacked formal theoretical knowledge at that particular moment, it is not a reflection of his overall musical aptitude.

As musicians, both Gene Simmons and Geddy Lee have made significant contributions to the world of rock music. While their paths may have crossed briefly during their tours together, they each brought their unique talents and styles to the stage, enriching the musical landscape in their own ways.

In the annals of rock history, the encounters between iconic bands like Kiss and Rush offer a glimpse into the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of music. While Gene Simmons’ recollection of Geddy Lee’s purported lack of understanding of bass fundamentals may raise eyebrows, it is essential to remember that music is a vast and multifaceted art form.

As fans, we celebrate the diversity of musicians’ backgrounds and approaches, recognizing that each artist brings their unique perspective to the world of music. Gene Simmons and Geddy Lee, despite their differences, have left an indelible mark on the rock genre, and their legacies continue to inspire generations of musicians and fans alike.


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