As any fan of the Scottish power-pop group Teenage Fanclub knows, the band’s label, Geffen, had to send a check to Simmons because the cover of the alternative rock band’s Bandwagonesque (which is a stellar album) featured a sack of money with a dollar sign on it—an image that Gene Simmons has long owned the trademark for, as it was the logo of his label, Simmons Records. It was just one revelation highlighted in Simmons’ autobiography, Sex Money Kiss.
So it only makes sense that the Kiss frontman has filed a trademark request for the most common non-guitar visual image in all of rock and roll. Yes, that’s right, Simmons has filed a trademark request for the devil horns—a friggin’ hand gesture!
“The mark consists of a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular,” the still-pending trademark request explains.
Now, there are some obvious problems with this state of affairs—the prior art on this one is strong (as The Hollywood Reporter notes, even The Beatles have used it—on a cover that notably features Paul McCartney making what we now know as a pseudo-hate-symbol).
While Simmons is quick to trademark the gesture, which is also used in American Friggin’ Sign Language as a way of saying “I love you,” late rocker Ronnie James Dio, who famously popularized the version of the gesture with the thumb over the two fingers, was quick to take as little credit as possible for inventing the gesture.
In fact, the onetime Black Sabbath singer credited his Italian grandmother for the gesture in a 2001 interview with Metal Rules:
I doubt very much if I would be the first one who ever did that. That's like saying I invented the wheel, I'm sure someone did that at some other point. I think you'd have to say that I made it fashionable. I used it so much and all the time and it had become my trademark until the Brittany Spears audience decided to do it as well. So it kind of lost it's meaning with that. But it was … I was in Sabbath at the time. It was symbol that I thought was reflective of what that band was supposed to be all about. It's NOT the devil's sign like we're here with the devil. It's an Italian thing I got from my Grandmother called the "Malocchio". It's to ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye, depending on which way you do it. It's just a symbol but it had magical incantations and attitudes to it and I felt it worked very well with Sabbath. So I became very noted for it and then everybody else started to pick up on it and away it went. But I would never say I take credit for being the first to do it. I say because I did it so much that it became the symbol of rock and roll of some kind.
In the case of Simmons and the devil horns, talk about bandwagonesque.
(photo by heymans/Flickr)