That Time Ace Frehley Had to Learn Eddie Van Halen Solo Note-for-Note, Gene Simmons Recalls

According to Kiss bassist and co-founder Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley once had to learn a whole solo that was written by Eddie Van Halen — note-for-note.

Now, Ace is one of the most influential guitar players out there. Both his riffs and lead parts have inspired generations of musicians, including Eddie Van Halen himself. However, Ace is also very open about not exactly being a virtuoso and how he could have practiced more.

Back in the day, in the 1970s, Gene Simmons tried to push this young band named Van Halen — often bragging about being the one who actually found them first. Appearing in a chat with Artists on Record, Simmons recalled how he produced Van Halen demos in 1976 before they signed a deal with Warner Bros. First reflecting on the early version of “House of Pain,” which would eventually appear on their album “1984,” the Kiss bassist said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“It’s one of the 15 songs that never wound up on the [debut] record. And it kills. It’s almost completely live in the studio, and it’s just a steamroller. Unbelievable.”


Of course, one of the songs that Gene did with them was his own original piece. “Christine Sixteen” eventually found its way on Kiss’ sixth studio album, “Love Gun,” but it was initially demoed by Van Halen. And the lead guitar part that Eddie did was so good that Gene wanted it exactly like that in Kiss.

“I did demos with Alex and Eddie Van Halen, actually,” Simmons continued. “You can Google and shmoogle it. And the guitar solo in ‘Christine Sixteen,’ note for the note, I had Ace learn that solo.”

However, being a lead guitar player in Kiss, Frehley wasn’t exactly happy about this decision. Gene continued:

“And he was furious. ‘I want to write my own solo!’ ‘Yeah, but it’s not as good. Eddie’s got a better one.’ And to this day, those notes, that was Eddie’s note-for-note solo.”

Despite Eddie practically writing a guitar solo for this song, the only person credited as a writer for “Christine Sixteen” was Gene Simmons himself. But this isn’t unusual for rock bands where the solo, no matter how memorable, would end up as just a part of the song that doesn’t fall under the actual writing credit.

During the chat, Gene also reflected on Eddie Van Halen’s incredible guitar skills, combined with his legendary Frankenstrat guitar that he made by himself. The one thing that he remembered was the odd way Eddie could put his guitar in tune. Looking back at hanging out backstage before one of Van Halen’s live shows, the Kiss bassist offered:

“I said, ‘Hey Ed, do you mind if I play some licks on your guitar?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ So, he gave me the guitar, acoustically. Obviously, it’s not plugged in.”

“I tried playing a few chords, and it was way out of tune. I said, ‘Eddie, you can’t go up on stage. This thing’s out of tune.’ He goes, ‘I’ll show you.'”

“He took the guitar back. He constructed his guitar — he took a neck from another guitar that he liked because of the feel of the fretboard, and he connected it to a Schecter or a Stratocaster of whatever that body was, and put different pickups on it. He, in essence, made that guitar.”

“And that neck had give. He literally bent the neck into tune. Which I’d never seen done before. And live, he’d constantly be doing that.”

KISS Van Halen 1977 Christine Sixteen Demo (Ft. Eddie Van Halen & Alex Van Halen)

Going back to Ace Frehley, in a recent interview, the original Kiss guitarist looked back on the 1970s and how he probably had some impact on young Eddie Van Halen to start tapping.

Now, finding the real originators of guitar tapping is impossible. You have guys like Roy Smeck doing the technique on a ukulele, and you had Steve Hackett doing tapping on an electric guitar way before Van Halen. But according to what Frehley said, some of his 1970s tricks could have impacted Eddie to some extent:

“All I can tell you is when I was doing my guitar solo at Madison Square Garden before they became famous, Eddie was down in the pit watching every f***ing move I made.”

Ace Frehley Guitar Solo 1975

“I did it with the pick. I didn’t go with my finger. Eddie probably got some ideas from me, just like I got ideas from other guitar players.”

Nonetheless, Frehley is more than aware of how young Eddie solidified this technique and did it in a way no one else did before him:

“But he perfected it. There’s no way I could play some of the solos that he pulled off.”

Photos: b8ddy h8lly (Ace Frehley-10), Carl Lender (Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.