“To me, he really is an alternative guitar player”: Watch Billy Corgan pay tribute to his hero Eddie Van Halen by joining Sammy Hagar for a knockout cover of Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

Sammy Hagar and Billy Corgan on stage in Hammond, Indiana
(Image credit: zztopeurope/YouTube)

Billy Corgan joined Sammy Hagar & The Circle for an impromptu onstage jam last Friday (October 20) during the latter’s show at Hammond, Indiana.

For the occasion, Corgan and co elected to play a track from the Van Halen catalog – the 1978 classic Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – which saw the Smashing Pumpkins frontman pay homage to his hero Eddie Van Halen and trade off with Hagar’s all-star band.

Said band comprises Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vic Johnson, the latter of whom (after a brief intro interlude) kicked off with the main hook while Corgan followed suit with the track’s progression.

Corgan, who swapped his own Reverend signature guitar for Hagar's Gibson Les Paul for the occasion, remained firmly rooted in the rhythm pocket while Johnson and his Peavey Wolfgang took care of lead duties.

“What a surprise to meet/jam with @BillyCorgan last night,” Hagar wrote on social media after the gig. “One talented due brought even more fun than we were already having.”

“What a great night we had last night!” added Bonham, who after the rendition announced on stage, “That was for you, Eddie.”

That Corgan was present to help Hagar perform a Van Halen track is made even more significant when the Smashing Pumpkin founder’s admiration for Eddie Van Halen is taken into consideration.

In fact, Corgan admired Van Halen so much that back in the mid ‘90s he asked Guitar World if he could interview him for the magazine – an interview that featured in the April 1996 issue – in order to introduce him to “a generation of alternative guitars”.

Not too long ago, the Reverend signature artist reflected on his conversation with the late guitar hero, calling it “a religious experience”.

“I was lucky because, around 1997/’98 [the April 1996 issue of GW], there was a guitar magazine in America, and I went to them, and I said, ‘I'd really like to interview Eddie Van Halen,’” Corgan recalled to BBC Radio 6 Music. “They said, ‘Why do you wanna interview Eddie Van Halen?’ 

“I said, ‘Because I'd really like to introduce him to a generation of alternative guitar players.’ To me, he really is an alternative guitar player; I know he gets kind of lumped in the other way.”

“I got to sit two feet away from Eddie and watch him play, and I'm telling you, it was like a religious experience. I mean, the man was so gifted, so kind.”

The extent of Corgan’s admiration for Van Halen is further highlighted in his tribute to Eddie, first posted following the guitar hero’s passing in 2020.

“What a musician, what a legacy, what power and mastery,” the Smashing Pumpkins frontman wrote on social media at the time. “I don’t think it’s possible to sum up what his inspiration did for me as a musician. No man made his playing so effortless that I endeavored to make mine sound the same.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.