The Gift of Eddie Van Halen — What He Gave To Every Child of the 1980’s, and Now You Can Give, Too
Eddie’s Legacy — Guitar Legend, Rock Icon, Music Virtuoso, Creative Genius, Friend, Fighter, Father
It’s been a few days now since the passing of Eddie Van Halen, the legendary and innovative guitarist from the band, Van Halen. If you did not know that already, I guess you would not have clicked to view this. But, hey, if you didn’t know, welcome anyways. I bet Eddie would be glad you are here. I’ve seen all sorts of memorializing of him, but I figured I would share mine. And not just about Eddie, but Van Halen the band, which he obviously had a profound impact on their sound.
If you were like many kids of the 80’s, you probably remember dancing to Michael Jackson or Mickey Mouse’s Mousercise record. They were great and all, but suddenly in 1984 this record comes out by the same name from Van Halen that flipped a lot of kids minds and what they wanted to listen to. Then a few videos make there way onto the Mtv rotation, and we catch the greatest children’s song ever, “Jump”. You suddenly see these wild guys wearing a mix of bright clothes, tattered clothes, spandex, and fishnet like they robbed the closet of their mom’s , the local coke dealer, and Rick James’ closets. They are running around doing splits and goofy dance moves, smiling and laughing with each other. Then there was Michael Anthony who looked like his mom dressed him to go to their Yacht club and was pulled off the street and handed a bass. But, his style added to the lure. He made Van Halen’s style accessible to more people. The dancing makes you forget how basic the video really was. But, that’s what makes it great, it allows you to focus on the crazy energy of the band.
Who wasn’t now running around screaming Jump? What kid wasn’t jumping around trying to do mid-air splits? I didn’t even get to the incredible keyboards from Eddie. But, my favorite characteristic of any Van Halen song is the clear chemistry between Eddie and his brother Alex on drums. Eddie is shredding away, and Alex throws in these solid, heavy hitting, odd-timed drum licks that throw you off trying to follow him. As a drummer myself, this was one of the most fun songs I ever played live, especially during the guitar/keyboard solo.
Man, how do they ever top that song and video? Simple! Just throw them on some cables and let them fly around stage. And, use another one word chorus kids can scream over and over. But, the video starts with Roth flying across the stage in a pink, sparkling, tiger print suit. You get more shredded clothes, animal prints, spandex, but now we get more neon colors, and Roth wearing women’s underwear over his spandex. And, Michael Anthony has grown up, clipped in and flying across the stage himself with a Jack Daniels bass, but still in his plain red chinos. Now he seems like their drunk uncle they brought in to play bass. But, Panama is like a circus going on with how much they are running, jumping, sliding, and flying around. This is a band that knows how to have fun! Dave changes outfits so many times, I think I caught him wearing a shirt with his own caricature on it. The only people who didn’t clip in and fly across the stage was the audience. Is that Alex flying across drinking a beer? And then Eddie clipped in upside down by his ankle flying across. If a band ever came close to being a real circus act without being a joke, it was Van Halen! They are by far one of the most talented bands ever with music making you jump out of your pants.
But yet again, how do they top that song and video? I guess do something different. Ditch all of the live videos, add in some awkward acting, synchronized dance moves, let David Lee Roth drive a bus and dance on a stripper pole, and let these guys turn the knobs from a 10 to a 12. We were growing up with these guys through these few videos, and Hot For Teacher shaped every boy before he ever stepped foot in a school. The intense energy put into this song is probably what inspired crossfit. The drum intro is absolutely insane and intense. The guitars come in equally as intense and blazing, and it carries on throughout the entire song. If you are a band having fun, this is the video you make for the ultimate fun song. And Michael Anthony finally changed out of his red pants. He now has the facial hair to fit the bill of your favorite drunk uncle. How many kids in school tried to run across the table in the library like Eddie playing his guitar solo? Then they finish with the where is everyone now ending. Haha. Eddie got the straight jacket. But, that ending to Hot For Teacher shaped big time how I always ended songs in my rock bands. I’m sure they didn’t always enjoy that influence, but they can write their own article. I took the counting I saw Tommy Lee do for Motley Crue for how many hits to end a song, and added it to the HFT formula, the energy and flair for how Alex led on drums to bring that masterpiece to a close. I’ve heard this song described as ZZ Top on steroids, and that’s how I wanted to end every song. Even ballads and acoustic sets.
So, there you have it. A mix of a video and song review, me reliving my past of how Van Halen helped shaped my childhood and music style, and a tip of the hat for how Eddie and the boys shaped a lot of kid’s lives in the 80’s. Heck, my first pair of drum sticks when I started playing the drum set, I got the Alex Van Halen signature sticks from Regal Tip. I still have them, now a bit warped. But, they are by far the longest drumsticks anyone has ever played with. But, they made me feel connected to Van Halen the band. And, that band brought us the privilege of experiencing one of the greatest guitar legends and overall musicians of all time. He was also a father to Wolfgang who probably felt great joy getting to tour and play music with his son. And lastly, he was a fighter who spent a few years trying to get healthy. But, the music he provided us beyond 1984, his legacy as a musician, legend, father, fighter, and a friend, he won his battle.
To sum this up, if you are a dad now, or even a mom, an uncle, or have any ability to impact a child’s life legally, and no one has introduced these kids around you to Van Halen, do yourself a favor and get on it this weekend. Wake them up right now! Do it now! What are you waiting for?
Rest In Piece, Eddie! Thanks for sharing your talent and songs with us.