Cosmic Slop #110: The History of the Devil Horns

By Shaun Ponsonby
Thu 15 June, 2017

As KISS’ Gene Simmons tries to patent the devil horns hand gesture, Shaun Ponsonby looks back at the history of it’s usage. Spoiler: Gene didn’t invent it.  

You know who is a dick?

Yeah, that’s right – Gene Simmons. How did you guess?

This won’t be news to you. Every time he opens his great big fat gob he says something stupid, from the time he labelled PrincePathetic” for an addiction to prescription medication, to telling people with depression to “kill themselves”, and the time he said “I know, let’s sell Kiss Kaskets”. Oh, yeah. You can actually get buried in a Kiss Kasket.

Now, the guy who barely even plays bass on his own records has attempted to patent the devil horns sign.

According to the Demon/dinosaur’s application, this hand gesture was first used in commerce 14th November 1974 on KISSHotter Than Hell tour, and therefore he is claiming the gesture for “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.”

This is, of course, Gene Simmons’ alternate history of the devil horns, which is based as much in truth as his claim that KISS were the biggest band in the world. Because Simmons only popularised it if you ignore all of the other times people used it before him.

People like Marlon Brando whilst singing Luck Be a Lady in the 1955 movie adaption of Guys and Dolls. Like all the Disney movies it was in, such as 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Is he just talking about music? Because George Clinton has been using it, referring to it as the P. Funk sign, since the very early 70s. Check out John Lennon doing it on the cover of the Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby single.

Maybe he means just metal. But if there is one person in metal with whom the horn sign is most associated, it is Ronnie James Dio. His Italian grandmother used it to ward off malocchio – essentially protection against the devil.

Dio had already been in Elf and Rainbow when he began using the sign after he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. Ozzy used to throw the peace sign on stage. In an attempt to connect with Sabbath fans, Dio began flashing the horns more often. But Dio wasn’t arrogant enough to claim he invented it, telling 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 Britney Spears audience decided to do it as well. So it kind of lost its meaning with that.”

Funnily enough, there is at least one picture of Geezer Butler from Sabbath making the sign in 1971, long before Dio’s tenure. But if there is one band who popularised it, it was likely Coven.

Coven were formed in 1967, playing gigs with the likes of Vanilla Fudge and most notably Alice Cooper. Their debut album was released two years later, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls – which sounds like it could have been a protest placard outside one of their own gigs.

Although they weren’t strictly metal so much as what Jefferson Airplane would have sounded like if they were into sacrificing cats, they were certainly a precursor to metal. In fact the first track on that album was called Black Sabbath, and their bass player was even called Oz Osborne.

Unlike Sabbath though, they went all in on the Satanism spiel. Frontwoman Jinx Dawson was raised in the occult. The devil horns were her society’s secret sign, which she would flash at the start and end of all of Coven gigs.

So, there you have it, Gene. You didn’t invent the devil horns, and this is just another case of you trying squeeze every last dime out of people, because you apparently don’t have enough money, you arrogant, lowlife, overrated, smug cockwomble.

What are you gonna try to patent next? Tongues?


Ozzy Osbourne and Shaun Ryder doing announcements on the tram? How is anyone going to know what the hell they’re saying?

I remember Charlie Brooker saying when ITV broadcast Tom Daley’s Splash! that it felt like they probably just wanted to broadcast Celebrity Stripping. Nice to see they have finally realised that dream with The Real Full Monty. Featuring Dominic Littlewood. Yeah. Littlewood. Nice name for a stripper that.

Steve Earle has called Noel GallagherThe most overrated songwriter in the whole history of pop music”. Yup. Although there were some good tunes on those first two Oasis albums that his entire reputation is dependent on.