I grew up loving Van Halen. When they released their debut album in 1978, I was four years old. “Runnin’ with the Devil” was playing on the radio in 1978, and fifteen years later it was on the warmup playlist for my high school hockey team.
I was too young to see Van Halen live with David Lee Roth his first time around. But I did get to see DLR live when he toured with Van Halen in 2007. The on-stage theatrics were a little too much to ask from a 54-year old, but he sounded okay.
Van Halen and MTV have a shared history, and each is very important to the other. It started rough in 1982 when MTV banned the video for Van Halen’s remake of Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman.” David Lee Roth directed the video that included enough inappropriate scenes to not get played on MTV—the ONLY place where music videos were being played. I’m sure Eddie and Alex were thrilled.
But the relationship between MTV and Van Halen soon blossomed. MTV was a really big deal, and Van Halen embraced the music video genre with “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher”—the one with child lookalikes for each of the band members. “Sit down, Waldo.”
During my middle school and high school years, MTV had Van Halen on “Heavy Rotation.” More great videos followed, and I watched them all way too many times when I wasn’t binging Saved By The Bell re-runs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. (Note: This is a big reason why I don’t judge what my kids watch on YouTube.)
When they released 1984 (aka MCMLXXXIV) and toured to promote it, I was only 10. Sammy Hagar took over in 1986 with the release of the album 5150, and a North American tour followed. This album was a big part of my middle school playlist, but I wasn’t going to concerts without my parents yet. Most of my friends liked Van Halen, although I do remember getting mocked a little bit for being a Van Halen fan. Especially by the Bruce Springsteen fans.
I finally saw Van Halen in concert on August 21, 1991. It was the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Tour,” and I saw them at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. To get tickets, I waited in line with a couple friends at The May Co. (gone) in The Euclid Square Mall (now an Amazon distribution center). Starting around 6:00 a.m. for a Ticketmaster (yep) sale that started at 10:00 a.m. We wanted tickets under the pavilion at Blossom, so we needed to be near the front of the line. I went to the show with a big group of high school friends. I remember being completely blown away seeing Eddie play live.
The last time I saw Van Halen was October 10, 2007 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Eddie was as amazing as ever, and I was really only there to see him.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced that the 2020 Induction Ceremony will include a tribute to Eddie Van Halen. The Rock Hall said that the tribute will feature “multiple rock gods paying homage.” It will be fun to see who steps up to that challenge.
You can find a bunch of Foo Fighters live covers of Van Halen songs (usually with three guitarists playing Eddie’s part). If you like tributes, you will probably enjoy Robb Flynn from Machine Head playing “Eruption.”
Though, very few famous musicians cover Eddie publicly on guitar, and for good reason. No one ever sounds as good as him.
Thanks Eddie. #goat