Steve Vai’s For the Love of God, which first appeared on his 1990 solo album, Passion and Warfare, is a defining moment in his career – as is the “burned” Ibanez Universe seven-string (opens in new tab) the electric guitar master plays in the accompanying video.
Now that iconic video has been re-released in an “upscaled” version by Vai himself, which you can check out above.
Regarding the epic instrumental, which features a number of techniques, including whammy-bar tricks, harmonics, fast legato runs and sweep picking, Vai told Guitar World not long after the song was released that it was “about how far people will go for the love of their god. When you discipline yourself to quit smoking, to run faster or to play better, you have to reach deep down into a part of you. That is a profoundly spiritual event. That’s when you come into contact with that little piece of God within you. That’s what I was trying to achieve with For the Love of God – I was trying to find that spot.”
In a more recent interview with Guitar World, Vai discussed recording For the Love of God after a reported four straight days of meditating, fasting and non-stop practicing.
“I was trying to push myself to the limit,” he said. “When it came time to record For the Love of God, my fingers were totally gone. I had pictures of my fingers taken after that session, and they were bleeding under the skin.”
Regarding the song itself, he continued, “The melody dictated the intention of the song, meaning the melody just arose. I picked up a guitar and I started playing chords and I started singing the melody. Very, very simple. A melody with certain chords evokes emotional states. It just does. It brings you places. If something’s very aggressive, you can find yourself getting into it that way. If something’s very beautiful…”
As for that burned Ibanez Universe? Ibanez representative Scot Schwestska recounted its origins in the April 1991 issue of Guitar World:
“Steve asked if we could create a finish that would make one of his Jem Universe guitars look like the Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix burned at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. We knew that Frank Zappa owned the actual Monterey Strat, so we hunted down a picture of Frank with the legendary instrument.
"The next thing we did was sprinkle mineral spirits on the body of a standard Jem Universe, and carefully started burning it to emulate the look of the Hendrix guitar. It was like a family barbeque! We had a group of people around to cook it in just the right places.”