Earlier this week, rare footage that showed Eddie Van Halen playing an early configuration of his legendary white-and-black-striped Frankenstein guitar emerged online thanks to a YouTube user named Speedy, who caught Van Halen’s gig from September 8, 1978, on camera.
Unfortunately, the original footage was filmed on Super8 reels, meaning that not only was the picture quality rather questionable, there was also no audio whatsoever.
Seeing the Frankenstein – and, indeed, Van Halen himself – in action in some newly unearthed footage was a gift in itself, and though the film gave us a never-before-seen glimpse of both the guitar and its legendary master, the lack of audio seemed like a missed opportunity.
Well, lucky for us, an intrepid audio expert by the name of Tanner Yordan has tracked down audio from the gig in question and has synced it to Speedy’s original footage, giving us an almost-complete 11-minute picture of the event.
As per The Mighty Van Halen (opens in new tab), the setlist for the band’s show at the Niagara Falls Convention Center on that date in 1978 included songs such as Runnin’ With The Devil, Atomic Punk, Little Dreamer, Feel Your Love Tonight, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Eruption, You Really Got Me and Bottoms Up!
“I had to cut You Really Got Me and Bottoms Up! off of the video because the bootleg audio was terrible, and also nonexistent in some parts,” Yordan explained. “It’s a shame, but if someone wanted to align another date’s bootleg to those tracks it would probably work. This was harder than expected…”
From a guitarist’s perspective, seeing Van Halen wield his young Frankenstein for a snippet of Eruption is a particular highlight, though the bootleg audio unfortunately misses much of the tapping magic.
As for the guitar itself, it’s likely the six-string seen and heard is just over a year old in its given condition. After acquiring an unfinished Charvel body sometime around 1976, Van Halen first turned it into a black-finished, white pickguard-equipped Strat-style six-string, before treating it to the white-and-black striped aesthetic that became so famous.
The first pictures of Van Halen wielding that particular model are dated around July 15, 1977 – around 14 months before the Niagara Falls Convention Center concert.
Not long after the gig in question, Van Halen made one final major aesthetic mod to the Frankenstein: he created a new stripe pattern with gaffer tape and sprayed the whole guitar red.
Whether Speedy has more footage of early years Van Halen remains to be seen, but since he operated as a photographer in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it’s not entirely implausible that more rare footage will arrive in the future.