Gene Simmons: Geddy Lee Didn’t Understand Bass Basics

Geddy Lee

The disparity in musicianship between American hard rockers Kiss and Canadian progressive rockers Rush seems huge. Concepts like key changes, augmented chords, or anything beyond their riff-rock wheelhouse seem like it wouldn’t even fly with Kiss. Meanwhile, Rush has demonstrated musical powers by creating complex compositions, including extensive epics like ‘2112’ and ‘Cygnus X-1 Books I & II’.

While emerging from immensely diverse origins, the members of Kiss and Rush teamed up on many events during the mid-1970s. In their early years, both bands frequently performed together. They aspired to form themselves in the fierce rock music scene. Remarkably, Rush even made a spoof of Kiss ‘Goin’ Blind’ in their album ‘Caress of Steel’ with the track ‘I Think I’m Going Bald.’

In 2004, Geddy Lee revisited the past, saying, “During that period, we were often on tour with Kiss, and they had a song called ‘Goin’ Blind.’  We chose to playfully make fun of that title. As a result, Pratt (a nickname for Neil Peart) created the line, ‘I think I’m going bald.’  This was due to Alex Lifeson’s constant concerns about his hair. Even when he wasn’t actually losing it, he would experiment with various treatments for his scalp.

Few people would truly try to argue Gene Simmons’ bass skills against those of Lee. It’s not that Simmons couldn’t perform ‘YYZ’; it’s more likely that he cannot perform ‘YYZ.’  Nevertheless, it’s important to differentiate between innate talent and a grasp of basic principles, a lesson Simmons learned during a jam session with Lee while they were on tour in the 1970s.

In 2021, Gene Simmons said Ultimate Guitar in the evening at a hotel or backstage. While the bands were on tour together, he and Geddy were sitting down, exchanging musical ideas. Simmons suggested, “Let’s play a blues scale; you start, and then I’ll follow with the chord pattern.” To Simmons’ recall, Geddy looked unknown with the concept of a blues scale. And didn’t grasp the significance of “1, 4, 5.”

According to Simmons’ recollection, Lee’s information on bass was so restricted that he couldn’t even recognize the bass notes. Simmons noted, “I told him, ‘Well, in that case, just play a G, either high or low.’

And he said, ‘Which one is that?'” Geddy depended entirely on his musical ear for playing. Naturally, he gradually obtained knowledge of the note names and such as time went on.

It seems like a bit of an exaggeration, especially from someone as loose with the truth as Simmons is. Lee started as a guitar player, so the chances that he wouldn’t at least know what a G chord was, or where the G note was, appears absurd. But maybe, just maybe, Simmons is telling the truth this time.


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