The incident took place in 1983. Bello – who was around 18 years old at the time – said he was coerced into following his friend into the New York premises where Kiss were recording Lick It Up.
“I go with Tommy, we get to the front of the studio… and Tommy wants to go in,” he told Pure Grain Audio in a recent interview. “I said, ‘Tommy, you can’t go in. We’ll wait here for them to come out or come in.’ He goes, ‘No, I want to go in.’ He rings the bell. I was scared shitless. I couldn’t believe he actually rang the bell… I’m scared Kiss is going to hate us if we do this.”
When a voice came on the intercom, Tommy said: “We’re here to see Gene Simmons,” and the door was opened for them. “My heart dropped… my feet were walking in molasses, walking to the elevator up to this place. I was like, ‘Tommy, I can’t go in.’ He goes, ‘Come on…’ So the elevator door opens, we get in, two flights up, the door opens, I would not come out of the elevator.”
Tommy persisted, and Bello finally stepped out of the elevator. From his viewpoint he could see someone’s booted legs resting on a table, but the person’s identity was hidden by a wall until the friends moved further into the room. “It’s Gene Simmons,” Bello said. “He’s watching TV, and he has a plate of cookies, he has a cookie in his hand, and he looks over… and his face goes [down] in complete bewilderment… Tommy goes, ‘Hey, Gene, how you doing?’ And Gene just straight out goes, ‘What are you doing here?’ straight out with a cookie in his hand. I still envision his face.”
When Tommy said he’d come to listen to the new album, Simmons responded: “Don’t you see I’m working? How would you like it if I come into your house and sit down in your living room while you’re doing something?” But Tommy wouldn’t be stopped. “Gene, at this point, gave up, and I couldn’t get the elevator going, so Gene just goes, ‘Would you like to hear a song?’”
He arranged for a studio tech to let the pair hear “Young and Wasted,” which was under production at the time. “It was just a great song,” Bello remembered. “We went in there, the happiest guys in the world …floating on cloud nine at this point. We come out of there, Gene’s still sitting on the couch, ‘Did you like it?’ We loved it, we couldn’t say enough praises, it was awesome and it sounded great, his voice was killer on it. He goes, ‘Now, can I get back to work?’ It was one of those moments in life where your hero doesn’t disappoint.”
Bello’s recently-published memoir Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax includes a foreword written by Simmons. “That’s it for me, man,” the thrash bassist said, “and it’s really heartfelt… Gene doesn’t really talk about the subject that he’s talking about [there], abandonment, about his dad and stuff, so it’s really heartfelt, and I thank him for it almost every day.”
Kiss Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
An in-depth guide to all of the personnel changes undergone by the “hottest band in the land,” Kiss.