Wow. 65 years old. Glad I stopped smoking.
My guitarist, nihilist father will never forget the day he heard Running with the Devil on FM radio, he knew immediately that disco was over. I was supposed to be thankful for that really smiley guy who was so good at guitar that he made me want to quit. That's the guy who saved you from disco, that guy is the reason you don't have to stand in a crowded room wearing platform shoes while the DJ plays the worst music ever created and girls go nuts for it.
Eddie Van Halen is a fucking legend.
I have always hawked Jimi Hendrix as my #1 rock guitarist of all time but Eddie is 100% #2, and some days, he takes the cake. I just listened to Eruption Live and holy shit, there is nothing on a guitar this man couldn't do. People often look at a Picasso painting and remark "I could draw that." The difference is Pablo Picasso was painting photorealism and classical Renaissance-style when he was 14 years old. He became a cubist because he could, because he had mastered the replication of reality and wanted to do something beyond. Eddie Van Halen is like Picasso, he was so good at traditional guitar, he created a whole new genre. He is very well known for his tapping style and playing tap solos that are so fast, they sound like synthesizers using computers to make arpeggios. Maybe he didn't exactly invent tapping but it is indisputable that he revolutionized it, did it better than anyone, and owned it. I know what you're saying. So what? Tapping is lame, everyone did it to death and even though I don't play guitar, or maybe I do, I think it's easy, even though I can't do it very well.
You need to listen deeper.
The solo in Hot For Teacher? He flat picks that whole thing. There is not one tap in that solo outside the repetition of the riff from the end of the intro. He is SMOKING through that thing, doing hammer-ons and speed picking like a maniac. It's hard as hell to play that solo, let alone write that solo - let alone write that fucking riff, damn man, so many riffs. There are guitarists I classify as riff-meisters. Keith Richards is one, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Tom Morello. All of those guys can just shit out an all-time rock and roll guitar riff while they're eating their Cheerios. Eddie Van Halen is a Master Riff-meister: Hot for Teacher, Panama, Running with the Devil, Beautiful Girls, MEAN STREET. The list goes on and on, and none of those other guys can play both sides of the ball like him. Riffs, rhythm, solos, songwriting, Eddie Van Halen was a 360 degree guitar master, there was no category of guitar that he didn't dominate.
Listen to Dance the Night Away, that riff comes in over the cowbell and it's soooo groovy. The breakdown is awesome, when he's teasin' the riff and making it all chunky and fat by adding harmonics. Best part, there is not a guitar solo on this song. That's song craft from a guy who slayed 24/7, the guy who played the solo on Beat It, the guy who Marty McFly looked up to, the guy who saved us from mother fucking disco.
You know why Van Halen could play like that? He loved it. You can see that shit-eating grin right now if you close your eyes and concentrate. He never put that guitar down, he was a perfectionist in an obsessive way. He did interviews playing guitar, took the guitar in the bathroom when he had to shit. When you watch him play, it's effortless, the guitar is an extension of his body, his fifth limb, there is no filter between his musical stream of consciousness and the amplifier - it flows through. I love a lot of guitar players and I always figure out how to replicate them, it can take a long time depending on the guy but eventually, I get it. I can do Clapton, Page, Richards, Harrison, Townsend, Frusciante, Morello, Hendrix, Gilmour, Garcia, I can play so you hear the influence and in the same style, I can replicate their solos and know the musical choices they would make in different situations, I studied the masters. Now, I can FAKE Van Halen, but I can't play that shit as clean as him, nowhere near. It's unreal the way this man surgically operated a guitar. I have played the guitar millions of hours over the last 25 years and I am nowhere near close to that level of precision and speed. The only other guitarist I put in this Eddie Van Halen category of being unplayable is Prince, those two guys make me put my guitar down for a few days and rethink my life.
No one can play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen. You can mimic him all day but that mother fucker invented it AND played the notes. Truly a musician for the ages, a talent and dedication unmatched. History will show that he truly changed the instrument for all time after him.
Sad day on Mean Street,
Currently Listening to: Mean Street by Van Halen