10. February 2024
Music , Guitar
Today marks the 46-year anniversary from Van Halen's multi-platinum debut album. To celebrate this occasion, I thought I'd share the following story from my youth.
In the fall of 1978, I was starting out in Middle School, and I made friends with another student, Gene, who was just beginning to play guitar like I was. We met because Gene was carrying a notebook emblazoned with the KISS logo, and at the time I was a big KISS fan. (Hey, no judgment.) Gene and I eventually played together in several bands throughout our Middle School and High School years, and we've remained in touch over the years. I visited Gene and his wife recently, and Gene recounted the story of when I came up to him during our 7th grade year to say, "Dude - you've got to hear this new album I just bought!!!" The album in question was Van Halen's debut offering, which had been released earlier that year.
When Gene came by my house after school, the track I immediately dropped the record needle on was - of course - "Eruption." Gene's mind was completely blown, as mine had been when I first listened to the album end to end. I had a reel-to-reel deck at the time, and we recorded "Eruption" on tape so we could slow it down, and yet it was still so @#$% fast. Neither of us had seen Eddie's signature two-handed tapping yet, so we had no idea what EVH was doing to play at such a mind-numbing tempo.
By my Freshman year of High School I would play "Eruption" at the backyard parties and other gigs that typical High School bands would get, though never as cleanly as EVH. (And these days I probably couldn't pull off playing the bulk of "Eruption" without some serious practice.)
Nevertheless, EVH turned my world upside down - but in a good way. To this day I phrase a bunch of chords on the guitar in ways I learned from playing Van Halen's assorted catalog of songs, and my efforts to learn what EVH was doing on each of Van Halen's albums made me a much better guitar player. There are few albums that I can literally say altered the course of my life, and if you read my blog from a few years ago titled My List of 20 Most Influential Albums, you'll see that I listed Van Halen's debut album at #3.