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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:

Andrew (Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame): Post here
Tesco (Tim Alexander of Primus): Post here
Courtney (Richard Thompson): Post here
Mr. Nimbus (George Martin): Post here

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.

TheManIt 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
TG&Y 1978
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).

Essential listening:

Eruption (download)
Runnin' with the Devil
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love (download)
Atomic Punk
You Really Got Me (download)

Andrew responds:

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.

Courtney responds:

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.


Running with the Devil. God I love that song. I think Eddie went downhill when he got rid of his Kramer.

Andrew? Nothing personal, but me--and probably Michele's kid--can bury, and I mean bury, Steve Jones in a ditch. When it comes to chops, the dip flops.

Am I the only one who made this mistake.

The lyric in Panama, where he goes, reach down between my legs, ease the seat back.

I always thought he was saying ease the "seed" back. I thought he was masturbating in the car.

PS. I like Dreams.

I know it's tacky but it's "Jump."

The organ, the guitar, the drums, and DLH screaming that crowing scream that he stole from The Clash and made his own, there was a reason it was popular.

Hot for Teacher: My friend Tim and I used to drive around during the summer blaring that song.

The tape deck in my Cutlass didn't have rewind so we used to flip the tape over and fast foward the tape then flip it back over so we could listen to it again, and again, and again.

Love both the drum and guitar intro's in that song.

If I had to pick ONE VH song as a favorite, I'd have to pick "Runnin' with the Devil."

It's one of the only songs that I remember the very first time I heard it. I was at a friend's house, he handed me some headphones (big, clunky ones, it was the 70's, ya know) and said "ya gotta hear this."

But I can't pick just one song.

I've commented before that I alternate between "Women and Children First" and "Fair Warning" as favorite VH albums.

Cmon! "Why Can't This Be Love?" is a classic!

Har har.

Actually, my favorite would be 'Mean Streats' or 'Ain't Talkin Bout Love.'

your links are broken...

being a child of the '80's, not the 70's, I started out believing that EVH was the "one and only" guitar God. Then along came Alex Skolnick, George Lynch, Zakk Wylde and a host of others who quickly improved on what EVH started...

Still, nobody tops some of the songwriting he did... who else could have written Running with the Devil, Hot For Teacher or indeed, ANYTHING from the first 6 VH albums?

oh.. and favorite VH song?

"I like the way the lines run up the back of the stocking...
I've always liked that kind of high-heel, too!"

Everybody Wants Some! that song is just PURE SEX.

it's so true, too!

"Running With the Devil," then "Ain't Talking 'bout Love."

Hell, just play the first album and to hell with the rest.

And I can't drive 55 if Sammy's standing there in front of me. Gotta put the pedal to the metal.

Eddie's tapping solos blew my mind when I was 18, but I quickly tired of them. His enduring legacy, in my mind, is his underrated rhythm playing and song writing. And intensity.

Eddie's rhythm playing is amazing. Take away the bass and drums, and the song almost always remains intact.

Even when he's playing laid back passages, he's playing his ass off. Remember, it's just one guitar providing all that sound.

Michael Anthony does very little to help out with his pedestrian bass playing, and Alex's steady 4/4 thrashing is no more rhythmic than a loud metronome. They help fill in the wall of sound, but they usually add nothing to the melody or rhythm. That's a sad statement for a rhythm section.

"Running With the Devil" and "Panama". I FRIGGIN' LOVE THOSE SONGS.

Hard to decide my favourite VH song: it's a toss up between Little Guitars and Ice Cream Man with an honourable mention for Runnin' With The Devil.

Irrelevant side-note:

What about Randy Rhodes on Ozzy's Tribute album?

Every non-cover tune on the first album, and Beautiful Girls.

1) Unchained
2) Running With the Devil
3) Ice Cream Man

Beautiful Girls
Jamie's Cryin'


Last concert I ever attended was VH (w/Dave), in Spokane, Wa. Open seating, no chairs on the main floor area. The warm up band (don't remember who it was) was playing fairly far back on the stage, and I thought I was a ways back in the crowd.

When VH came out, Dave just starts bouncing down towards the edge of the stage. And he kept getting closer, and closer, and closer. Turns out, I was standing just about three rows of people back, stage center.

Really nice place to be for the 15-20 or so minute solo guitar session Eddie put on later in the show.

Absolutely fucking awesome.

Best rock? "Runnin' With the Devil".

Bets blues? "Ice Cream Man".

Best ballad? "In a Simple Rhyme".

Best fun song? "Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now".

Best ending of a song ever? "Take Your Whiskey Home", no question. That's one of the things I love about VH: they actually put endings on their songs rather than just coda to fade.

Drop Dead Legs. Thats my favorite. I can listen to that song for hours!

what the hell is going on with van halen we need DLR back

what the hell is going on with van halen we need DLR back

what is going on with van halen we need DLR back