Eddie Van Halen Opens Up in his First Guitar World Interview From 1981, Part 1
Eddie Van Halen made his first Guitar World cover appearance with the January 1981 issue. The cover asked readers if the young EVH was the world's greatest guitarist, while the original headline dubbed him The New King of Heavy Metal Guitar. Here's part one of the interview.
Just give me some of that rock 'n' roll music
Any old way you choose it
It's got a back beat, you can't lose it
Any old time you use it
Gotta be rock 'n' roll music
If you want to dance with me.
Chuck Berry wrote those words over twenty years ago. Edward Van Halen, guitarist for the group sporting his last name, couldn't agree more.
At 24, you might just say he's respecting his elders. Along with brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and lead vocalist David Lee Roth, the group Van Halen pumps out hard-rockin' music that was born in the basement, fused in the bars, and explodes on stage.
Describing himself as a kid "living his rock-and-roll dreams," Eddie Van Halen has been heading there since the fourth grade. He was born in Amsterdam, Holland, where his father, a professional musician, got both brothers to the piano at an early age. His musical knowhow was born in the classics, but his spirit was in rock-and-roll.
"Who wants to sit at the piano!" he exclaimed. "I want to go crazy. Everybody turned me on. I grew up on a lot of early Beatles, DC5, Cream, Clapton, Page, Beck and Hendrix."
He was 10 when the family moved to Los Angeles, "land of opportunity." After the high school dances and diploma, he graduated to the bars and the start of the band that bears his name. "We were all in various bands in the L.A. area, and when we got to the college age everyone started flaking off; wanting to be doctors. We got stuck with each other. There was nobody left that was into it."
They played all the bars and all the oldies, including a version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," which Eddie calls "a hot tune we turned into a jet plane." The crowds got bigger and Van Halen were able to draw 3,000 people to a gig they threw themselves. Kiss' Gene Simmons paid for their original demo sessions, and Mo Ostin, chairman of the board at Warner, and Ted Templemen, V.P. of A&R, caught their act at the Starwood Club. They were signed the next day. Three years ago they played the bar scene, today they headline arenas.