I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to be Eddie Van Halen. That’s the honest truth, and it has nothing to do with my unhealthy infatuation with One Day at a Time (I’m really more of a Bonnie Franklin man).
Like a lot of people, I started playing guitar because of Eddie. I remember in the early ‘80s buying a cassette tape of Van Halen I prior to a long drive to visit family in Ohio. The simplest and most accurate way to explain my reaction is to say it blew my f**king mind. A few years later, I picked up Fair Warning – the greatest guitar album of all time – and that’s when I decided I was going to be a Guitar God.
Eddie’s status as a guitarist is unparalleled and beyond argument. I’ll toss Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page into the discussion regarding who is the greatest ever (that faint cry you hear is a gaggle of white guys with their shirts tucked in wailing about easy listening icon Eric Clapton, who incidentally, was one of EVH’s idols).
Ed Van Halen was about more than technical proficiency – his was a cutthroat style, full of well earned attitude and bravado. And he did it all with that million-f**king-dollar smile on his face, making what he did look so easy. Actually, I don’t think he was smiling. I think he was laughing at all of us.
His patented “brown sound” power chords were heavier than everyone not named Angus Young, and his solos often sounded like somebody tossed a sh*t ton of random notes into the air, then picked them up off the floor and Frankensteined them back together (for a great example of this, check out the solos in “So This Is Love?”).
Eddie once compared Van Halen’s sound to “Godzilla waking up,” which might be the most awesomely true description ever. If that doesn’t make sense to you, go toss on “And the Cradle Will Rock” or “Unchained” as loud as you can, and you’ll quickly figure it out.
The concept of “Godzilla waking up” has always intrigued me, and for a period of my life, it was something I aspired to. As a guitarist, I wanted to be nothing short of destructive. Have you ever stood close to a really loud amplifier and noticed what felt like a slight breeze? I wanted to be that breeze, amplified a thousand times over, mussing up your finely moussed mullet and knocking the buttons off your girlfriend’s blouse.