Gene Simmons recalls “holding on for dear life” while riding in Eddie Van Halen’s jeep

The shred pioneer was just as fast on the road.

When Eddie Van Halen offered Gene Simmons a ride back to Los Angeles after watching Metallica in concert in the 80s, the Kiss bassist had no idea what he was in for.

The whole incident began at the Long Beach Arena in California. At the time, Metallica was just about to burst onto the scene. “Metallica was coming up in the world,” Simmons said on The Dennis Miller Option podcast. “And we all started to hear about this new band and stuff. So I went out to Long Beach Arena, had a limo and bodyguard – all that stupid rock star stuff.”

Backstage after the show, Simmons ran into Van Halen, who had also trekked down to Long Beach to catch the gig. Simmons recalled the late guitarist offering to drive him back to LA – to which he responded, “Sure why not?”

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“So he puts me into this old jalopy thing with no doors,” Simmons continued. “Edward’s smoking away like a chimney and driving what I thought was a hundred miles an hour up the 405 [freeway].”

He also recalled being “scared to death” and “holding on for dear life”. “I said, ‘Eddie, Eddie, slow down.’ And a cigarette was hanging out of his mouth, and he said, ‘Why?’ I didn’t quite know what to answer.”

After battling cancer for six years, Eddie Van Halen died 6 October at the age of 65. The city of Pasadena – where the band Van Halen was formed – recently announced that it was planning a memorial to honour the late guitar icon.

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