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The amazing Eddie Van Halen

ALLEZ - JV Araneta - The Freeman

Anyone with a bit of rock and roll DNA knows Van Halen.

For someone growing up in the last half of the 70’s, it was just the best of times for music. Disco, punk, rock, heavy metal- you name it, it all exploded in this short era.

Eddie Van Halen was the founder and played the lead guitar of the eponymous band and first time you hear him, you can immediately tell that he was a wizard. I first heard of Van Halen when they recorded a Tay Davies’s song, “You Really Got me”.  Weirdly, I wasn’t attracted initially to Eddie’s solos, but the  sound of the heavy, edgy rough, riffs. I was listening to Deep Purple at that time and I could hear the Ritchie Blackmore’s clean and aseptic riffs and compared to the jagged, buzz-saw sound of  Eddie’s.

When I finally got hold of the their first album in cassette simply titled, “Van Halen”, the intro of the first song, “Running with the Devil”, just blew me away. The synthesizer sounded post apocalyptic, followed by a very low sound of Michael Anthony’s bass thudding like it would compress your lung to breathlessness, then the explosion of Eddie’s guitar and finally the recognizable sound of Alex Van Halens snare drums.

Eddie’s sound was so radical from the other bands before and during his era. That’s because he was experimenting with his sound by putting one part this guitar and another part from another guitar just to get the sound he want. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Robert Cray are also great guitar players but they more or less sound the same. When all was said and done, Eddie named his guitar, “Frankenstrat”, a combination of the tow words, Frankenstein and the Stratocaster. 

However, I was little bit more of a fan of David Lee Roth, Van Halen’s vocalist, at that time than Eddie and when Roth walked away from the band, I went with Roth and listened to his gigolo songs. Sammy Hagar, already an established rock star with an established hit (I can’t drive 55), took over the vocals. But I didn’t like the high pitch of Hagar blending with the newer Van Halen sound. Their last album before the break-up, 1984, was so infected with a heavy does of synthesizers and I didn’t like it anymore but still, I bought the cassette out of loyalty. However, I didn’t know that Eddie was constantly trying to evolve his music, and that was the reason why Roth walked away and the synthesizer sound.

Eddie so secretive of his guitar playin that he would give false account of his technique to throw wannabe’s off. Luckily for me, my taste for that genre, synth’s and electric guitar, had evolved thanks to Jon Anderson and YES who opened my eyes and ears to that sound.

And by the way, did you know that Eddie played lead guitar for the Michael Jackson song, “Beat it” and arranged it for free and on the condition that no one should know about it?

Unfortunately, Eddie’s gone now, to place where they are going to crown him as the best guitarist heaven has ever had. Eddie has been suffering from cancer for the past two years and his body finally gave up. Ten years of war with the awful disease.

But his legacy will live forever.


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