Whether it was hanging out in high school listening to Van Halen II and memories of “Women In Love” blaring from someone’s boom box, or if it was in a college bar, watching the MTV’s debut of “Hot For Teacher” and being in awe of the way Eddie Van Halen sauntered across a library table while effortlessly shredding his guitar, or if it was the live concerts: Hide Your Sheep Tour, 1984 Tour, or the 5150 Tour when they turned Van Hagar—and I was hanging out backstage at the Los Angeles Forum, knocking back drinks with wanna-be red rockers—Van Halen was omnipresent and their music and lyrics spoke to my generation. At the heart of that band, was Eddie Van Halen, the perfect rock icon—raucous and rebellious, yet always smiling, making it look like it was so easy and he was having the best time of his life.
Memories of my youth are vividly infused with Van Halen songs and Eddie’s guitar riffs. Their music was so potent and so different. They weren’t like the other “serious” hard rock bands of the era—Van Halen added a waggish sense of humor to their performances. They didn’t take themselves too seriously and we loved them for that. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing was like a breath of happiness, compared to the dour riffs of his contemporaries. It was that impish mischievousness that Eddie brought to the table that made him so vastly different than all the metal rock icons that came before him. His music was upbeat and fun and it’s so very hard to think of him as being gone. It’s harder even still because his passing is also about my generation getting older and it’s a little kick in the pants that this life goes by so quickly.
I had the great pleasure of meeting him a number of times, when I worked at Guitar Center—and have included an excerpt from my book Cocaine To Bain: Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Inside Story of the Hollywood Guitar Center. I remember one day he was walking up the stairwell at the store, and he was carrying a Corona (not the virus, mind you, but the beer). He was on his way to hang out with one of the managers—and he stopped to chat briefly. He was always very pleasant. Very low key, and slightly shy. Nothing like you’d expect.
A part of my youth died today. Rest In Peace Eddie Van Halen, and thanks for the amazing memories.