It wasn’t too often that Eddie Van Halen was less than perfect on electric guitar. Which is why, for Van Halen fans, the infamous 2007 Greensboro, North Carolina show-closing performance of Jump – when Ed’s guitar was completely out-of-tune with the keyboard track – remains such a memorable moment.
Over the years, the screwup has largely been blamed on a tech, with many fans positing that the synth track was played back at the wrong sample rate. But now Eddie’s guitar tech at the time, Tom Weber, has cleared up the story.
Weber, along with Van Halen keyboard tech Greg Rule, appeared on Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon and The Jeremy White Podcast, and was asked about the Jump performance. Said White, “Were you there when that whole screwup with the keyboard happened? With the sample rate?”
Answered Weber, “It’s not the keyboard sample rate. It had nothing to do with the keyboards. I haven’t been able to address this because it’s a sore spot for Ed. During the guitar solo, which was a couple of songs before the infamous incident, Ed loves to make noises with the guitar, we all know that. Anybody that’s been to a Van Halen show and been there for the guitar solo knows that you’re liable to hear any unearthly sound that Ed can make with a guitar.
“So at one point he took the guitar and literally jammed the headstock of the neck into the stage several times. Normally if there was a situation where the guitar was out of tune, obviously my job is to be ready for him with another guitar, which I was. Ed’s right-hand guy, Matt Bruck, and I were in ‘guitar world’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, crap – he’s knocked the guitar out of tune.’”
Weber continued, “Well, he fine-tunes it some and gets back into playing and I’m holding another guitar over my head so that he can see it and he’s waving it off. He’s still playing the solo, he’s fine-tuned, it’s passable. Well, they go right from that into Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love, that’s the next song on the set list. Wolfgang starts playing and realizes that he’s not in tune with the guitar so he retunes a little bit so they’re in tune.
"So they’re in tune – you have guitar and bass in tune. So they play Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love and Panama and then typically the band, at the end of the show, they come offstage for a minute, I switch guitars with Ed, and they go back on for the encore, which is Jump."
That particular night, however, "they didn’t come offstage," Weber said. "They went around the corner… we had what we call the ‘phone booth’ on stage left, the big ego ramp that went up around to this big cabinet that nobody ever used for anything. But they went around the side of that and Ed didn’t come off the stage to get another guitar.
“So now you have Wolfgang on his bass and Ed with his out-of-tune guitar on a keyboard song that is in tune. Ed didn’t have keyboards in his monitor mix so he didn’t hear that he was out of tune. So that’s where all that went."
As for what happened next?
"The funniest part about it was, he didn’t know that that had happened until a couple of weeks later when somebody was at the venue and showed him the video of it," Weber said.
"So I got called to the dressing room full of people and he said, ‘You handed me an out-of-tune guitar.’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ I said, ‘If you’ll recall, you banged the headstock of the guitar into the stage that night several times and then you didn’t come off the stage to get the guitar at the end of the show for the encore. He said, ‘Ah, that wouldn’t make any difference.’"
According to Weber, Eddie, who had a guitar around his neck at the time, "proceeded to jam it into the dressing room floor, and in front of a room full of people it comes back up and it’s way out of tune. And I said, ‘Just sayin’…’ And that’s the last I ever heard about it.”
Despite the incident, Weber maintained a close working and personal relationship with Van Halen up until the guitar legend’s passing in October. In a recent interview with Cincinnati.com, Weber said, “The last conversation I had with him, we were discussing when we would potentially go out again, and he said, 'Whatever happens, you’ll be my first phone call because I’m not leaving the house without you.’ "
Over the past year, Weber, like many music industry professionals and crew, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 shutdown. In the same interview he talked about the busy year of work he had lined up in 2020, including tours with Reba McEntire and Poison, that were all cancelled when the pandemic hit.
“It was going to be one of those years where my family wasn’t going to see me, but it was going to be a $200,000 year,” he said. “And I thought, 'This will allow me to pay off my house. It’s going to be amazing.' And of course it went from a banner year to zero income overnight.”
He continued, “The music industry, we’re not just out of work. We’re washed off the face of the planet at this point.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up in Weber’s name to assist him in saving his home. You can donate here.