October 17, 2020


“The lead singer, long hair down to his butt, looked like a wild horse, no shirt on top, doing splits and all that,” says Simmons. “He was the predominant visual representation of that band. Musically, clearly it was Edward.”

The songs played were mostly original, and all of them ignited with a guitar sound that was speedy and melodic, all bright colors and no trace of gloom.

“Everybody’s head just turned around like Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’: What is that?” says Simmons. “When the solo came up, you couldn’t believe your ears because all this music was symphonic, the melodies and the runs and the speed, all coming out of one guitar.”

Before Van Halen’s half-hour set was over, Simmons was backstage waiting to meet them. He ultimately signed the quartet to a contract with his production company, instantly sold on what he’d witnessed and anxious to get the band into a recording studio.

After some sessions in Los Angeles, Simmons flew the band to New York to continue work at Electric Lady Studios, fittingly the studio built by guitarist Jimi Hendrix, another singular sound-scientist. Simmons and engineer Dave Wittman guided the 24-track sessions.

“Some of the arrangements were mine, but mostly it was the guys playing their hearts out live in the studio,” Simmons says. “The great bands have a fingerprint that is unique. Even today, nobody sounds like Van Halen.”

The recordings that emerged were never officially released but have been widely bootlegged and posted online under the title “Zero Demos.”

And arguably, they sound better than Van Halen’s first album. This was a band that was clearly on its way to superstardom, and a video that brings new meaning to the old music industry cliche, “chasing the demo:”

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