Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen

I remember several life-changing musical moments from my youth. Moments when something quite profound happened that changed my view of music, musicianship, and what was possible.

I remember bringing home a copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and when the intro breaks into the opening chord of Breathe. Well, things were never quite the same again. That moment still gives me goosebumps to this day.

After losing my heart to AC/DC when I bought their live album If you Want Blood, then the wonderful Highway to Hell, I was heartbroken at the loss of Bon Scott. Then in 1980 I walked back from Mastersound in Haywards Heath with a copy of Back in Black, popped it onto the turntable, carefully placed the needle, and those bells began… and that riff… and I knew everything would be ok.

There were others. The first time I heard Metallica in an old Triumph car being driven to the Hungry Years Rock Club in Brighton by my buddy, and in goes this cassette, and out comes the opening bars of Fight Fire with Fire. Man, I’d never heard metal like that before. And thus my love of Thrash Metal was born.

Going on to folk music, sitting in a Bed and Breakfast on the Isle of Skye and hearing the music of Dougie Maclean as me and Cerri ate our breakfast. I went straight out that day and bought his album Roif, and probably, no definitely, drove Cerri mad playing it constantly in the car from them on as we drove around the Hebrides.

Why am I writing this?

Because yesterday I saw that Eddie Van Halen had passed away after a 5 year battle with throat cancer. It’s hit me pretty hard. I may play acoustic guitar, but there cannot be a guitar player in the world who didn’t fall in love with Eddie. His guitar playing changed everything when it came to rock guitar. He inspired an entire generation of players and Van Halen really opened the door for the 80s ‘good time rock n roll’ boom.

So there I was. It was 1979. I was 14 years old and had already discovered my love of rock. I read in Sounds about this band from the USA called Van Halen. So after school, I headed off to Mastersound and exchanged some cash for their debut, self-titled, album. Took it home. Placed the needle in the groove. The opening song was Running with the Devil, a great song and riff – definite potential.

But… then…

It went into the next track, Eruption.

A guitar solo as an album track?

Who did this player think he was?

Then he let loose into the solo and all became clear… here was a virtuoso, a master. I was open-mouthed, in shock, it left me wondering, how did he do that??? I’d never heard anything like it. The guitar sang in a waterfall of notes that seemed to fall effortlessly from the instrument.

The hammer-on technique he created was soon being copied and he inspired hundreds of guitar players, including the guitarists I drummed with in my future heavy metal bands.

So thank you Eddie, for all of the joy and inspiration you gave me as a fledgling guitarist. It’s hard to see your heroes die, and although I got to see you at Monsters of Rock in 1984, I would have loved to have seen you play live one more time.

Travel well.

9 responses to “Eddie Van Halen”

  1. Well said and heart felt, we all grew up with bands like theses.Their music always brings back memories,we grew up with them and us children of our generation really have grown up through the best times.

  2. He was truly one of the greatest. I still remember bothe VH shows of my youth. First with David Lee, then again with Sammy Hagar. Though the memory may be a bit…ahem…hazy, they were both two of the best concerts I have ever to. The best still being Eric Clapton with Robert Cray opening and the dual solo at the end. WOW! Eddie dominated the stage like the master he was. You will always be the rock legend to us Eddie! RIP good sir! May the rock gods bow to you as you enter guitar legend Valhalla!

  3. Another sad loos from the rock world, been so many this year, Peter Green, Paul Chapman and Paul Raymond from UFO among others, Neil Peart of Rush . . . EVH was unique.
    On a lighter note, I spent so many happy evenings/nights at the Hungry Years, nowhere quite like it – Wednesday nights for free admission, then getting up and going to school! I remember Mastersound in HH too, but it was the Virgin store by the Clock Topwer in Brighton for me!

  4. Well said. An absolutely brilliant musician that I had the privilege of seeing live. Thanks for the enjoyment and the pleasure of introducing your music to my son. Travel well.

  5. Seen Van Halen support the mighty Sabbath at Glasgow Apollo, They only had 10 songs, they could have played them on a loop, Eruption live was electrifying

  6. Wow, that was a powerful clip! Thanks for sharing it. I recently heard the sad news. Yes, he Was an amazing gutarist. I still love Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” It was my ‘Meditiation Music,’ Back in the day..:-)

  7. I had exactly the same moments when I was introduced to both Van Halen and Metallica – VH’s self-titled album was my introduction to them, and I bought it because of seeing the trick Marty plays on his then-teenage Dad in Back to the Future, and been blown-away by how amazing it sounded! I also remember hearing “you really got me” and being both impressed and really happy that it was pretty sympathetic to the Kinks’ version – I think it’s exactly how the Davies brothers would have done it if they’d have been born a decade later.

    Ride the Lightning was also my introduction to Metallica too. I still think it was the very best of their albums, and the guitar solo on track 2, Ride the Lightning itself, is to me the best I have ever heard by any musician on a lead guitar (although I think the most toe-curling, hair-standing guitar solo of all time is actually a bass solo – specifically the one Andy Fraser plays in Free’s “Mr Big”).

    Unfortunately nothing stays static, things change, and our idols and heroes eventually get old and die. It’s very sad, so we owe it to them to support and see as many as we can while we still have these treasures left. My favourite albums of all time (Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick”, Family’s “Fearless” and Van Der Graaf Generator’s “Pawn Hearts”) were already teenage by the time I was born, so over the past decade or so I’ve been desperately scrabbling to see these bands as often as possible, before they retire or rock n roll simply catches up with them. I’m exceptionally thankful I managed to see both Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker before they passed on. Ginger Baker’s drumming style is instantly recognisable, and I think Jack Bruce must surely share the top spot of best bassist of all time with Andy Fraser. That riff from Sunshine of your Love appeals to everyone young and old, even people who don’t like rock music.

    I’m also a proud owner of one of the late Vinnie Paul’s drumsticks, which is a small consolation for the fact I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the actual Pantera gig where it was played… That’s one slight regret I have, as very shortly after, Pantera split and Dimebag was shot by a crazed fan, and of course fairly recently VP himself died of heart failure.

    I’m very-much going to take advantage when gigs eventually return again after this current situation!

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