Fuck this year. Everything about this year has just been crap and we’ve lost quite a few musical heroes during this time, but it is just devastating to lose another giant of the rock and metal world. Losing both Eddie Van Halen and Neil Peart in the same year is just not cool, universe. Not cool at all.
Eddie was one of the primary influences on my musical tastes as a burgeoning little headbanger. I still have a very weird memory of being in elementary school and there being a talent show. A group of older kids came out and did this air guitar/lip synch version of You Really Got Me from Van Halen I. Yeah, that was the level of “talent” at this show. Anyway, I believe that was the first time that I actually ever heard Van Halen and regardless of the ridiculous “rendition” the kids put on, the song just blew my impressionable mind. That guitar sound. So much crunch. So much sear. It is just indescribable what that guitar sound did to my insides. It just gave me goosebumps and made me feel electric. Van Halen I ended up being one of the very first metal albums that I ever bought (along with Screaming for Vengeance…yeah, I knocked it out of the park with those two). Many, many hours were spent air guitaring to those Roth-era Van Halen albums.
The influence of Eddie’s unique sound and style of play can never truly be measured. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that every hotshot guitarist that came out in the 1980s metal scene was solely inspired by Eddie. The stable of imitators is very long. However, nobody ever reached the crunch of his sound on those early Van Halen releases. Some of the sounds he was able to wring out of the guitar are just inhumane. Seriously, go listen to Eruption again. Some of those sounds are just so fucking sinister. Hell, I still maintain that the riff to Unchained is quite possibly the greatest riff in the history of mankind. Plus, in addition to the amazing playing, let’s give kudos to the pure joy of playing that he brought to his live performances. He always had this big goofy grin on stage and looked like playing before a crowd was just the greatest thing in the world. I’m sad to say goodbye, but I’m really happy we still have all these great albums to revisit. Hopefully his death will result in some youngsters today to go back and discover his playing for the first time.