(Credits: Far Out / Rufus Publishing)
The late Eddie Van Halen inspired many musicians, ranging from those he named as influences to those who wouldn’t be born for decades after he first emerged in the 1970s. As a testament to his work, the contemporary instrument would be missing some of its most popular aspects without him.
Most famously, Van Halen popularised the two-handed string-tapping technique. Although he was not the first to utilise this approach, he took the formula on songs like ‘Eruption’ and ran off into the distance with it, making the instrument more searing than ever before. By doing so, he inspired generations of metal and rock players to make it part of their arsenal.
Furthermore, he was one of the first to use the whammy bar heavily. While earlier players such as Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore put their mark on the cultural map within a new pulsating rock context, Van Halen’s heavy, all-encompassing dive bombs were also groundbreaking. They would also become a familiar feature of contemporary metal, hardcore, rock and other adjacent forms.
It says all about the impact of Van Halen’s work that following his death in 2020, one of his heroes, Ritchie Blackmore, asserted that he “reinvented the guitar”.
“Eddie Van Halen was a brilliant guitarist who started a technique of guitar playing which was emulated by a whole generation of guitarists,” the former Deep Purple man wrote.
Despite Van Halen being one of the most lauded ever to pick up the guitar, many had reservations. According to metal icon Ozzy Osbourne, one man who particularly hated his work was his guitarist, Randy Rhoads, the late virtuoso who rose out of the same Los Angeles scene as Eddie Van Halen. While both might have had similar technical flare, according to the former Black Sabbath vocalist, Rhoads and Van Halen had no time for each other.
He called them “rivals” despite the persistent rumour that Van Halen taught Rhoads all he knew. Famously, this notion came from the mouth of Van Halen himself, who told Guitar Player in 1982: “He was one guitarist who was honest anyway because I read some interviews he did, and Randy said everything he did he learned from me. He was good.”
“I heard recently that Eddie [Van Halen] said he taught Randy all his licks … he never,” Osbourne told Rolling Stone in response to the matter in 2022. “To be honest, Randy didn’t have a nice thing to say about Eddie. Maybe they had a falling out or whatever, but they were rivals.”
Rhoads did have something positive to say about Eddie Van Halen’s work, though. “I have my own personality on the guitar, but as of yet, I don’t think I have my own style,” he explained to Guitar World in 1982. “For instance, I do a solo guitar thing in concert, and I do a lot of the same licks as Eddie Van Halen. Eddie is a great player, but it kills me that I do that.”
However, he caveated his point by saying: “For me, it’s just flash that impresses the kids. I’m trying to make a name for myself as fast as I can. I wish I could take time and come up with something that nobody else has done. But that’s gonna take a few years yet.”
Listen to Eddie Van Halen’s 1982 interview below.