Is Van Halen a metal band or just a very heavy hard rock band? It’s a debate that’s been raging amongst metalheads ever since the band’s eponymous 1978 debut album, Van Halen, took the rock world by storm. But no one, then or now, could dispute that the band’s then-23-year-old virtuoso guitarist and namesake had turned the world of rock and metal guitar playing on its ear with his beefy tone, flashy and innovative right-hand tapping technique, and unbelievably fast and fluid legato runs.
Nowhere was this more evident than on “Eruption,” the blistering second track of the debut album. Very few instances can be found in modern music where a single moment changed the entire landscape around it. Even fewer can boast of forever altering the way an instrument is played. “Eruption” was a clarion call that would herald the arrival of the new sheriff in town. Eddie Van Halen‘s signature instrumental stands as the centerpiece of every Van Halen performance to this day.
And speaking of this day, it just so happens that today, January 26, 2015, is King Edward’s 60th birthday. So crank up the video clip here below of the man himself performing “Eruption” (along with a portion of “316” and other assorted tastiness) live from Van Halen’s legendary 1986 concert film Live Without A Net.
So, while Van Halen may or may not be a metal band (the same debate can apply to Rush, Led Zeppelin etc….), but they are probably responsible for launching a million other metal bands with the guitar tone that is often imitated but never replicated.
Happy 60th Birthday, EVH! Here’s to many, many more.
When I was growing up in rural Indiana in the early ’80s, there was very limited access to heavy music. These were the days before MTV blew up with the whole hair metal, Headbangers Ball phenomenon. But on Sunday nights, there was a two-hour radio show that came from WOXY, just across the state line in Oxford, Ohio (home of Miami University of Ohio). It was called Massive Metal for the Masses and I would wait all week for it to air. It was through this show that I was introduced to bands like Venom, Bathory, WASP, Michael Schenker Group, Slayer, and countless others. This Monday weekly column is my tip of the hat to that show. I call it Massive Metal Monday. Every week, I will pay tribute to defining moments by the artists that laid the groundwork for heavy metal to become the worldwide cultural bond for all of us metal heads.