Gene Simmons Claims He Taught Geddy Lee the Blues Scale, Says The Edge ’Couldn’t Play Chords’ When Starting With U2

Bassist Gene Simmons looked back on the time when Rush were opening for Kiss back in the 1970s and how he ended up teaching a few music theory basics to Rush bassist and frontman, Geddy Lee. In a newly published interview excerpt from last year, conducted by Ultimate Guitar, Simmons looked back on this occasion while discussing the basics of the bass guitar and how an absolute beginner should approach their instrument. He then shared the story:

“Kiss took out Rush on their first tour. They came out to support us, you know, because we liked what they did. And this was in the, in their ‘Working Man’ period, when they sounded kind of like a Canadian Zeppelin, which I still prefer, sound-wise, but obviously, they’ve done very well, and we used to hang out with the guys and joke around everything.”

Rush Laura Secord Secondary School, 1974, St Catharines, Ontario

Going more into it, Gene then remembered the occasion when he sat down to jam with Geddy. But according to Gene, although a great bass player, Lee wasn’t familiar with some basic music theory concepts:

“One night back at the hotel or backstage someplace, Geddy [Lee] and I were sitting down, trading licks, and 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.'”

“At least from what I recall, Geddy didn’t understand what a blues scale was or what ‘1,4,5’ meant. That also bears noting that when you go ‘1, 4, 5’ to a musician, that means something, it’s a relationship of notes or chords.”

And, as Gene recalls, Geddy didn’t really know the notes either and relied on playing things by ear:

“And so I go, ‘Well, okay then, you hit a G, either octave or low,’ and he said, ‘Which one is that?’ Geddy played purely by ear.”

At this point, we’re aware of Geddy Lee’s greatness as one of the most proficient musicians in rock music. But while recalling the story, Simmons also compared this to U2 guitarist David Howell Evans, popularly known as The Edge. He continued:

“Now of course later on, [Geddy Lee] learned what the notes were and stuff like that, but it’s the same thing with The Edge.”

U2 - Live in Berlin 1981 (HD REMASTERED)

“The reason you heard ‘jingle jangle jingle jangle,’ kind of thing — that became the style of U2’s guitar sound is when The Edge started playing guitar in a band, he couldn’t play chords. He just strummed various notes so, it’s all open to… Music is an interesting thing. You don’t have to get complex about it, just start.”

During the interview, the whole story about this started with Gene being asked about where an absolute beginner, who never played bass at all, should start. Kiss bass legend simply explained that “it’s a simple idea” and then added how he can’t really read or write music but still creates stuff:

“I can write songs and I can play various instruments, guitar, bass keyboards, and something like that, and even though I understand the basics of it, I understand that this handheld chord on a guitar is an, A minor, or A major, I understand that. But I can’t read or write music.”

KISS - Live At Capital Center - Largo, MD -12/20/1977

And, as he claims, he’s not the only one:

“Nor could Jimi Hendrix or Lennon and McCartney or anybody who’s in popular music almost without exception. And likewise, I can speak various languages, although it’s not important to be able to read or write.”

Sharing another example, Simmons mentioned drum legend Buddy Rich as a musical great who didn’t know how to read or write down music:

“Buddy Rich is one of the all-time greatest band leaders and drummers, but he couldn’t read or write music, he did it all by ear.”


Gene then continued, explaining how he teaches music without being a proficient reader and writer:

“So the first thing I teach everybody is to forget what the strings are called, and what the notes are called, the first string is ‘one,’ the second string is ‘two,’ and ‘three,’ and then ‘four.'”

“And you’re gonna give me combinations of numbers, they’ll go, ‘three,’ and ‘one,’ and ‘four,’ and all that. And then I go, Okay, here’s the count, boom, boom, everybody starts plugging away at those three [notes they called out], and then it’s musical, they don’t have to know the names of [the notes].”

"I Was Made for Lovin' You Live 4K" KISS 2020 Goodbye Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai

As of this moment, Kiss are on what it billed as their final tour. Accompanied by Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are planning to cease all touring activities with the final show on December 2 at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.

On the other hand, neither Simmons nor Stanley are ruling out the end of Kiss. In fact, they believe that the band could actually go on without any of the original members, as they revealed in some of the interviews. However, as of yet, nothing is official and they seemed to have only been tossing some ideas around.

Photos: Agente47 (M1cz1doaxayq), Shipguy (Geddy Lee 2007), U2start (The Edge in Belfast, Nov 19 2015)


  • 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.