Watch Dweezil Zappa Show Off Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Rasta Guitar’

Dweezil Zappa recently stopped by famed guitar shop Norman’s Rare Guitars in Tarzana, California with a  special instrument: Eddie Van Halen’s “Rasta Guitar.” The instrument was painted by Van Halen in a signature red-white-yellow-green-black striped pattern back on the tour for the band’s 1981 album Fair Warning.

As Zappa explains, this is the guitar Ed can be seen playing in the “Unchained” video from Oakland Coliseum on June 12, 1981. At the time, the instrument had the famous black-and-white “circles” design. But, Zappa says, “It got repainted on that tour by Ed and he called it the Rasta guitar.”

Other touches on the instrument include a neck “rumored to be from [Eddie’s] black-and-yellow ‘Bumblebee’ guitar,” and, on the back of the body, “some rock ‘n’ roll vomit,” Zappa says. “We don’t know whose. It looks like dog food remnants.”

Zappa goes on to point out additional unique features, including the fact that the Rasta weighs “14 or 15 pounds maybe. Imagine jumping off the Marshall stacks and doing all the stuff that Ed was doing.”

As for how Zappa ended up with the guitar, he recalls being a kid and seeing a photo of it in a Life magazine feature on Van Halen. “It stood out to me because it was the only guitar he had that had green in it.”

A decade later, Zappa was recording at Eddie’s 5150 studio and saw it sitting in a corner. After expressing interest in the instrument, Eddie, informing him that he didn’t like it because it was too heavy, offered it to Dweezil.

“It’s got some dings and nicks and all kinds of stuff. But the neck is pretty well preserved considering the body is all beat up.”

To that end, Zappa points out some lettering on the back where, he says, “It used to say ‘See You Later. Bye.’ ‘Cause at the end of the show Ed would flip the guitar over and it would just be a little note to the audience.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.