Two of hard rock’s mouthiest showmen, KISS’s Gene Simmons and former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth, have just become engaged in a new feud. And while it seems that, for now, Roth has gotten in the last word — 18 times! — the real winners of this amusing battle are the fans following Roth on social media.
Roth was the opening act for KISS’s End of the Road tour before coronavirus concerns put those dates on hold, but as KISS resumed that farewell tour this week, Roth was off the bill and, strangely, replaced by a performance painter named Garibaldi. When asked about the lineup change in a recent Rolling Stone interview, Simmons bluntly confirmed that Roth would not be returning, insulting Roth in a way that many Rolling Stone commenters complained was uncalled-for and “below the belt.”
“It bears noting that during Dave’s heyday, nobody did what he did. He was the ultimate frontman. Not [Robert] Plant, not Rod Stewart, nobody. He took being a frontman way beyond anything,” Simmons began. “And then, I don’t know what happened to him… something. And you get modern-day Dave. I prefer to remember Elvis Presley in his prime. Sneering lips, back in Memphis, you know, doing all that. I don’t want to think of bloated naked Elvis on the bathroom floor.”
On Friday, Roth took to Instagram to show exactly how he felt about Simmons’s remarks, posting a black-and-white photo of a sassy boy sticking out his tongue and flipping the bird. He added the caption “Roth to Simmons,” in case it wasn’t entirely clear to whom that middle finger was directed, and he actually Instagrammed the photo a whopping 18 times, just to ensure that it was seen by most of his 121,000 followers.
Simmons, who unsurprisingly does not follow Roth on Instagram, has not yet responded.
It should be noted that Simmons and Roth go way back, as Simmons actually played a key role in Van Halen’s early career: In the late ‘70s, he saw them play at Hollywood nightclub the Starwood and was so blown away that offered to sign them and record their demos. In a Yahoo Entertainment interview earlier this year, Simmons recalled that fateful evening, raving about Roth’s showmanship: “One guy had his shirt off, defying gravity, jumping up and down. … I just was so astonished. I was waiting the backstage by the third song.”
Simmons was convinced that Van Halen would become a “mega-band,” so he signed them to his Man of a Thousand Faces company and produced a 15-song demo for them at New York’s Electric Lady studio. But when KISS’s manager at the time, Bill Aucoin, was inexplicably unimpressed by the demos (which included early versions of “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “On Fire”) and declined to bring Van Halen into the Aucoin Management fold, Simmons tore up the hot young group’s Man of a Thousand Faces contract, allowing them to sign to Warner Bros. just two months later. However, this year Simmons still spoke fondly of Van Halen, describing them to Yahoo Entertainment as a “magnificent beast” and “one of the few bands that actually sounds like the record. You know when you hear a record and you go see a band live and ugh, it’s never quite as good? Nope. That's who they were.”
Obviously Simmons has a very different opinion about David Lee Roth circa 2021, so it’s unlikely the two will be working together again. But watch this space to see if Simmons acknowledges Roth’s latest unsubtle Instagram spree.
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