I’ve been doing Beatles tours for about 25 years and during that time have taken around 150,000 people on tours. Perhaps the best experience I had was when I was asked to appear on the show ‘Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.
Gene is lead singer of Glam Rock group Kiss. In the band, known for it’s extravagant make up and clothes. Gene has been ‘happily unmarried’ to Shannon Tweed for more than 20 years. Shannon is a former Playboy ‘Playmate of the Year’ and former girlfriend of Hugh Heffner. They have two kids, Nick and Sophie.
For the show they are ‘on holiday’ in the UK and I gave them a tour of Studio Two at Abbey Road – where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs. Normally it is impossible to get into the Studios – but Gene’s crew hired Studio Two for the morning. Even though I’d been in Studio Two many times I still get a thrill being inside the place where The Beatles recorded so many songs. I’d also never done a tour inside the Studio, so I knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience.
I was expecting the family to be rather weird and the whole experience very daunting. In Kiss, Gene was known as ‘Demon’ and supposedly spitting blood on stage, however, in real life he is a real gentleman. He is also an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable Beatles fan – something that surprised me as Kiss are know for their heavy rock.
The day of the tour saw London’s first snow of the winter and was freezing cold. I was glad most of the morning was going to be spent inside.
I left for the studios early as I was worried transport would be affected but luckily the buses weren’t too bad and I arrived in good time. When Gene and his family arrived I was asked by their TV crew to meet them on the famous steps of the Studios and lead them inside. They greeted me very courteously and any nerves I had about the occasion disappeared.
We first entered the control room in Studio Two where I told them a bit about The Beatles recording history in the Studios. I was surprised that Gene knew the name of Andy White, the session drummer that played on Love Me Do. Gene told the story of how he met Ringo at a party at literally picked him up. He then demonstrated on me!
We then went down into the Studio itself and I pointed out the various instruments in there which the Beatles used on their sessions, including the piano used on Lady Madonna. Nick played some very nice tunes on the piano. We were amazed to see that the piano had cigarette burns all over it – including on the piano keys! Gene expressed surprise that smoking was allowed in the studios – it seems the whole family are against smoking (another surprise!)
They were also just as nice when the cameras were switched off. At one point, I told Gene I had written a book about the Beatles In London. He asked me for a copy – and asked me to sign it for him! A nice touch.
The two hours went by much too quickly. Gene and his family were some of the nicest people I’ve had on a tour. The experience obviously meant more to Gene than the rest of the family, but they all treated me with great respect and listened with interest. A very pleasant morning.
To see the show click http://www.aetv.com/shows/gene-simmons-family-jewels/videos/25-british-invasion
My bit is at about 3 minutes, 50 seconds.
Abbey Road Studios, Beatles, Gene Simmons, Studio Two