A while back I got in touch with Kenny Kerner. For those of you who do not know who that is, here is a brief (very) history lesson. I would guess Kennys biggest claim to fame that most people whould know about is that he produced the first two albums by KISS. He is also the man who had the idea for VIRGIN and what the man who assembled VIRGIN and brought them to Bill Aucoins attention. Kenny was kind enough to answer some questions for me and here they are. I agree with some of his answers and dis-agree with some. But here they are !
1) What gave you the idea to put VIRGIN together ?
1: I always studied the charts and was amazed at how many teen artists there were around like the DeFranco Family, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, Donny Osmond, Leif Garrett, Bo Donaldson and the Haywoods, Menudo, etc.
But I noticed there were no REAL teen bands that played their own instruments
I thought that if I could put one together we might have a chance.
2) What was it about the guys that ended up in VIRGIN, that made you choose them ? How long was the whole audition process until you found the 5 of them ?
2: I originally wanted only a four man group. The entire process took almost 2 years. What I was looking for was a band that looked good. I didnít care how good or bad they played. I wanted great looking teen kids. Period. Tommy Moody was the first one let into the band.
3.While I understand the image you were trying to put across with VIRGIN, due to the fact that teen-idols don't have a long shelf life, do you think they should have been marketed differently?
3. No. I think they were marketed perfectly except that we had no money to make a record or poster. They probably were the biggest, most photographed and most popular unsigned band in the world.
4) How much input did you have as far as their music went ? Did you chose the covers tunes for their tour and did you have a hand in their original music as well ?
4: At first I was totally in charge. When I brought Bill Aucoin in to co-manage the band with me, he asked producer Michael Lloyd to see them at a rehearsal and Michael was the one who put them on the Shaun Cassidy tour so he helped choose the music for the tour. Michael was playing keyboards for Shaunís tour so he was always there on the road. The band wrote the original music themselves but there wasnít much of it.
5) We all know that you brought Bill Aucoin to the table, what were your
feelings on Gene Simmons producing the band since you had a prior relationship with Gene & KISS ?
5: I knew all along that Gene was not a producer but he was famous so nobody stopped him. The record sucked big time. It was bloody awful. An embarassment. He spent close to $200,000 of his own money on it. He did the record because he knew the project could make money. He just didnít know how to make the right record!
(Here is where I disagree. I heard some cuts and really like them)***Kerry
6) What is the REAL reason the LP never got released ?
6: We listened to the playbacks in the studio with the band and me and Gene and Bill and after 2 songs Bill stopped the tape machines and told Gene how awful the record was. That was the end of it---mercifully.
7) Was there any talk of throwing them on tour with a band like KISS, that still appealed to a young audience but maybe not as young as Shaun Cassidy. Do you think that might have been a better move being more of a "Rock" type tour ?
7: No. I think everything was right except the album. Michael Lloyd recorded a single with them on Curb but then Mike Curb (owner of the label) decided to give up his label through Warner Bros. and get into politics so the record was never officially released. It was a Cat Stevens song originally a hit for the Easybeats called "Here Comes My Baby" and it was really a good record.
8) After the LP was shelved, did you try to keep them together or was it obvious that it was not working out ?
8: Not too long after, Billís company ran into some serious financial trouble and he gave control of some of his west coast bands to his west coast office partner. The band then threw out Steve Kramer and replaced him with an aging rocker and became a hard rock band for a few shows before breaking up.
9) I often compare VIRGIN to the Runaways, due to the fact that both bands were "assembled" by someone with an idea to form a group with young, good-looking, musicians. Although they were marketed & presented completly different. Did you think that if it somewhat worked for Kim Fowley, it would work better for you & VIRGIN ?
9: Kim actually tried to get involved with Virgin but ultimately never did. Never thought about the Runaways at all. Was focused on making Virgin one of the biggest bands in the world and did that for our 15 minutes!
10 ) If you could go back to 1977 what would you do different knowing what you know now about the outcome of VIRGIN ?
10: I would get some financial help to do our own CD and color poster. That would have made all the difference in the world and also given us some money to work with.
11 ) Do you keep in touch with any of the guys ?
11: Steveóall the time. Heís a great friend and incredibly talented. Tommy calls me when he gets drunk enough a few times a year but thatís it.
12) The fact that the Hollywood music scene erupted a couple years later, do you recall any other musicians that auditioned that later went on to achieve any success ?
12. sorry. Not one.
Please share a VIRGIN story of yours that you remember fondly....
13: there are all sorts of memories that come to mind: The very first show the band ever performed together as Virgin was in front of 13,000 people at the Salt Palace in Utah and when the lights went out the screaming was deafening. It sounded like a million bats screeching as they fley into the night. You couldnít hear anything. I would always stand at the foot of the steps at the side of the stage screaming the name of the city to the guys as they ran up---Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City. So they would get it right when the lights went on.
Then there was the time in Hollywood, Florida when the band went Jet skiing and Steve was hit in the face with a jet ski and I had to rush him to the emergency ward in the pouring rain in a strange city. We had plastic surgeons come in because the cut was under his chin on his face. Miracle was you canít even see it and he got back to the show at the exact moment the band was taking the stage.
There there are the usual stories about the people following the band everywhere and the security guards each member had to haveÖ It was a lot of fun.
***STEVE KRAMER POINTED OUT SOME CORRECTIONS TO BE MADE***
"Here Comes My Baby was a hit for "The Tremelos" in 1962"
"Michael Lloyd was a guitar player on Shaun's tour, not keyboards"
"Steve got whacked by the jet ski in Lakeland Florida, not Hollywood Florida"
Well, there you go........I disagree with his statement that the record was bad. But he is the man, and this is his memory of VIRGIN. Hopefully, I'll get some of the Guys to answer some questions soon........