It is hard to argue that anyone did as much for both music and the guitar as Eddie Van Halen did. From never being satisfied in his sound to always pushing the limits in his songwriting EVH kept everyone on their toes. Now, gone too soon, we are left to look back on one of the most prolific musical careers of any individual. Here are 6 times Eddie Van Halen blew everyone’s minds!
6. Van Halen: Van Halen
The year was 1978 and a new rock group, Van Halen, releases their debut self-titled album. People across the world put the record on their turntables and are immediately introduced to the insane world of Van Halen. Debuting at number 19 on the billboard top 200 album chart, Van Halen quickly became a household name thanks mostly to the 23-year-old guitarist who was doing things no one had done before on a rock album.
Same year, same album, but 2nd track...Eruption. One minute and forty-two seconds is all Eddie needed to set himself apart from everyone else playing the guitar in the late ’70s. Interestingly Eddie nor the band planned on having the song on the album, until their producer Ted Templeman heard him playing it in the studio while preparing for a show at the Whisky a Go-Go. Eruption introduced the popular music world to the guitar technique called “tapping”, different from hammer-ons and pull-offs, which were already widely used. Eddie used both hands to hammer-on the strings up on the neck of the guitar and the results were pure magic!
4. Spanish Fly
Fast forward one year to 1979 and Van Halen has released their 2nd album, Van Halen II. The album debuts at number 6 on the album charts and had two hit singles in Dance the Night Away and Beautiful Girls. However, its a one minute song in the middle of the album where Eddie really left his mark, Spanish Fly. An acoustic song once again showcasing Eddie’s tapping skills, however, it’s his use of harmonics that steal the show. It was like he needed to remind everyone who the real guitar king was on every album his band released.
3. The Frankenstrat
At first glance Eddie's guitar just looks like any other Fender Stratocaster, until you hear it, or look closer. The Frankenstrat was his attempt at trying to get a Gibson sound with a fender tremolo bar functionality. There have been many many changes to this guitar over the years, too long of a list to write out here, but look it up sometime. There is even a copy of the guitar at the Smithsonian Museum. Tone was everything to Eddie and he was in constant search of his perfect sound, I think he found it.
As we all know the 80s had two major genres of music, Arena rock (hair metal) whatever you want to call it, and synth-heavy pop music. Van Halen could do both and Eddie being a classically trained pianist could definitely play both guitar and keys. Enter the year 1984 and Van Halen released an album by the same name. The second track Jump would become the bands only number 1 hit song, thanks mostly to Eddie’s catchy synth playing along with killer guitar.
1. Beat It
In 1984 Michael Jackson released what would be his best selling album in Thriller, which ironically is the album that kept Van Halen's 1984 from reaching No. 1 on the album charts. The song Beat It from the album famously has an incredible guitar solo. Surprise, it’s Eddie on guitar. Michael and producer Quincy Jones were looking for someone to play the guitar on the song when they asked Eddie Van Halen. He went to record and ended up changing the song without Michaels permission but, Michael loved the changes and is quoted saying “Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better”. Oh, and Eddie did it for free too!
2020 continues to absolutely suck, and now we have lost one of the greatest to ever grace the musical stage. Lucky for us we have songs that will be remembered forever to listen to. If you enjoy rock music now, then you can most likely thank Eddie Van Halen for influencing your favorite artist in some way or another. RIP to a true legend.