Musical Chairs: Eddie Van Halen
Last week I mentioned that I joined a consortium of music bloggers who will blog each Wednesday about music gods- We're calling it Musical Chairs. How it works is, we all pick a music god to write about and then the others can add their own thoughts to yours.
The musical chair particpants for this week (and their subjects) are:
Stay tuned for permalinks for when they get their posts up; I think I'm the early riser among the group.
My subject: The one, the only EDDIE VAN HALEN.
It seems like every time I talk about Eddie Van Halen, someone has to bring up Yngwie Malmsteen. Let's get this out of the way: Yes, I know that Malmsteen did this whole show-offy thing where he played "Eruption" blindfolded, using just his two front teeth, while juggling chainsaws with one hand and wacking off to pictures of himself with the other. Or something like that. I just want to head off any ensuing discussion that will involve Mr. Malmsteen, and let you know that all mentions of him will be ignored. Let's talk about Eddie.
Eddie is a rock LEGEND
As written by Nerf Herder:
I bought Van Halen I
It was the best damn record I ever owned
Two hand tapping guitar technique really got me off
Eruption yeah, ain't talkin' 'bout love, I'm on fire
He certainly didn't invent the two hand tapping technique, but he brought it to the forefront of rock and roll. He took that technique, toyed with it, made modifications and adjustments and variations, and turned it into his, and the band's, trademark sound. What you hear when you listen to the-guitar-solo-as-song Eruption> is a meaty, full, percussive wall of sound that you feel in your gut and heart as well as your ears.
When you put on a Van Halen song (and we're talking David Lee Roth era Van Halen here; once Eddie got it in his head that he should be playing keyboards over Sammy Hagar's schmaltzy, orchestrated, pop music love ballad crooning, Van Halen lost the plot. They do not exist outside the realm of David Lee Roth for me and, as such, when I say "Van Halen song" it applies only to those albums) everyone knows it's Van Halen. It's not Dave's voice, not Alex's drumming, not whatever the other guy in the band did. It's the guitar. It's the sound of Eddie Van Halen rocking with his cock out, Eddie manipulating that guitar like nobody's business, Eddie making your heart pound and your fist pump in the air, Eddie making you whip out your air guitar and wail away, just go crazy right there in your living room until you realize your entire family is standing there, staring at you, but then you put on Runnin' With the Devil and they all join in.
Eddie made it all look easy, too. When he played, it was like second nature to him, like it's what his hands were born to do; an effortless, smooth, precision like banging out of notes and rhythms that came across not just as screechy guitar solos, but as music - real, tuneful music. As my friend and guitarist Solonor (who points to EVH's solo in Michael Jackson's Beat It as one of his best) says:
"The thing about Eddie's solos is that they were lyrical. In my opinion, all the best guitar solos can be sung in your head after the record stops."
EVH contributed so much to rock and roll, musically and technically (but I bow out of the technical aspects of this discussion. Perhaps I'll let my son - who hero worships EVH - write about that some time).
Van Halen I was THE VH record of my youth. I never owned it, but I listened to it over and over again at my friend Jesse's apartment. I think I memorized every note of Eddie Van Halen's guitar -- from the wicked, metallurgical resonance of "Runnin' With the Devil" to the choppy tones of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and everything else on that record -- or at least on side 1. I was fixated on side 1. The brilliance of "Eruption" and how it segued into Van Halen's more traditional, steady-rockin' cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" is permanently programmed into my auditory memory. David Lee Roth's vocals on "You Really Got Me" were tougher, sexier than Ray Davies's of the Kinks, and this is one of the few cover tunes that improve upon the original, but Eddie's devastating licks and the way they punctuate, accentuate and somehow amplify DLR's vocals -- those licks are what convert this tune from just another cover into a true Van Halen classic.
Andrew makes a good point about the Eruption segue. It's like listening to Zeppelin's Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid. And YRGM is probably one of the finest reworkings of a classic song I've ever heard.
First, Yngwie, wacking off to pictures of himself? Priceless.
Also, Van Halen's lineup will ALWAYS BE: Michael Anthony, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, and David Lee Roth. End of discussion. Ahh, ahh, zip it. Diamond Dave rules.
Now, onto Eddie. Yes, the song that immediately pops into my head when I think of Van Halen is "Running with the Devil", and you're right. It's all about that guitar. Sure, he could play fast, and sure, that two-finger thing was badass, but even when he wasn't being "Eddie Van Halen", the guitar sound of Van Halen defined a generation. I love to listen to those old riffs; they epitomize what rock and roll guitar should be. They weren't overblown, they weren't buzzy power chords at lightning speed, they were good, arpeggio-ridden, whah-whah lovely rock riffs. EVERYONE loves those riffs, admit it.So now, reach down, in between my legs, and ease the seat back...
Courtney obviously shares my affection for old school VH. And funny thing about those words to Panama she quotes - I can't listen to that song when DJ is in the car because not only the words, but the way Dave says them - it's like listening to porn-on-tape in front of your 12 year old.
And Tesco's thoughts on EVH:
Eddie Van Halen is one of the masters. As you said, he didn't create the tapping sound but he certainly perfected it. The feel of early Van Halen can't be denied by anyone - There is definately at LEAST one VH tune that you will be nuts for whether you want to admit it or not. I'll never forget when Howard Stern
had a contest inviting his listeners to play the intro for Hot For Teacher... no one could touch it. I know one dude that can play Eddie's riffs with precision and the same feel... one... and even he'll never own up to it!
Which begs the question? What's your favorite VH song? (Anyone who says Dreams gets a bitchslap).
[Also, be sure to check back on this post later for permalinks to the other ring members' posts. ]
Update: Links fixed. I'm a moron.