52 guitarists, week 2—Eddie Van Halen

I’ve decided to stick with a timeline approach to my blogging for this series of 52 guitarists. For now, that will be the approach. Next week, who knows?! I’ve also decided that today’s post will have some profanity in it. You have been warned.

You may wonder what the two have in common. A timeline approach and profanity. Well, when you’re a fifteen year old boy and someone introduces you to the sound of Eddie Van Halen, there’s not much you can do but swear. Well, if you’re anything like me at least.

When I first heard the 1984 album by Van Halen, I was blown away. Mind you, I didn’t hear the album until 1985—I could only hear my favourite style of music through friends back then. Up until hearing Van Halen, I had been enjoying music like Tooth and Nail by Dokken, Animalize by KISS and Condition Critical by Quiet Riot. So I was clearly doing alright.

Van Halen however, well that was a game changer. Eddie’s look, approach to guitar playing and showmanship—nobody was really smiling and enjoying themselves in music videos like he was—made me want to play guitar like nothing else. Then of course you add the Kramer Frankenstrat to the equation.

There was simply nothing else like him.

Then I discovered the Van Halen back catalogue. It was also around this time that my profanity started. Because I heard the Van Halen debut album with this track on it.

Holy. Fuck.

That was my initial reaction. I’ll be honest, I hear the track Eruption today some thirty years latest and still think the same thing.

Holy. Fuck.

After hearing Van Halen’s debut album I of course had to track down their other work. Fair Warning, Women and Children First and Diver Down were all simply amazing albums. Diver Down is actually one of my favourite Van Halen albums. For me, Eddie Van Halen truly showed his diversity on that album. This was the first guitarist who made me realise that there are more styles out there than straight-up rock. Eddie Van Halen essentially opened me up to the true world of guitar.

I never would have thought of listening to Spanish style guitar before playing before hearing the track Little Guitars. Hearing how that intro piece leads so brilliantly into a rock song blew my mind.

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, Eddie Van Halen blew my mind. Or as the youth of today say … Mind. Blown.

I have no doubt that every guitarist I’ve discovered since 1985 is a guitarist I discovered because of Eddie Van Halen. Some of my favourite guitarists pre-date Eddie Van Halen, but I doubt I’d have gone looking for them if I hadn’t been influenced so heavily by what Eddie Van Halen was doing.

He’s the second guitarist in my list, but he is without a doubt one of the most important guitarists I’ll write about this year.

This is not a top guitarists list and there is no significance in the order the guitarists are placed in the list. This is simply a collection of guitarists that have been influential to me.

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