The shock heard around the guitar world came on October 6, 2020, when Wolfgang Van Halen heartbreakingly announced on Twitter, “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning…”
For many, it’s hard to imagine a musical landscape without the likes of legendary musician and pioneering guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
There are not enough words on this page to encapsulate how Van Halen categorically pushed the limits of electric guitar-based rock with his uniquely fiery approach, let alone his incessant resourcefulness in tinkering with his guitars and amps to suit his trailblazing style of playing.
Almost everything Eddie creatively unveiled led to vast imitations and innovations among a guitar community that tried to capture the very essence of his distinctive tone, style and flair for design.
It’s safe to say “Frankenstein,” his most recognizable and iconic guitar, is the progenitor of the Superstrat (or “Frankenstrat”) and essentially, a parts guitar slapped together for less than $150 at the time he built it.
Maybe it was the ennui of late-'70s music and the glut of lackluster instruments that inspired Van Halen to create this perfect beast, propelling him to emerge as the G.O.A.T., but no other guitar clearly evokes the player more than “Frankenstein.”
It is inherently unmistakable and original, like the man himself. Here for review, and introduced at the 2020 Winter NAMM Show, is the EVH Striped Series Frankie, which is markedly different from the other EVH Striped Series guitars, and a closer likeness to EVH’s “Frankenstein.”
It’s not an exact replica or a tribute (because the Frankie is a production model built by a specialized team), but you – like me – will still be completely floored by its staggering attention to detail, worn-in feel, fast playability and out-of-the-box EVH tone.
From afar, the EVH Striped Series Frankie certainly makes you do a double take. It looks like Eddie’s hallowed six-string – until you notice the shiny EVH-branded Floyd Rose double locking tremolo with EVH D-Tuna (for drop-D tuning), EVH-branded headstock and the lack of reflectors on the back, among other minor details.
But more noteworthy, the spirit and feel of Eddie’s original guitar is astonishingly captured in this relic’d model.
For instance, you can feel the tape lines from its lacquer top coat that’s been barely buffed between paint coats. The black stripes underneath the red paint further reveal Eddie’s intention of changing its stripes (pun intended) from the original black and white guitar seen on the cover of Van Halen’s eponymous album.
Other features that contribute to its visual charm and sonic firepower are a basswood body coupled with a bolt-on quartersawn maple neck, graphite-reinforced truss rod with thumbwheel adjustment at neck joint, oiled finish neck with Eddie’s modified “C” neck carve, 12- to 16-inch compound radius on its maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets, 25.5–inch scale length, white skirted Strat-style single volume control knob (labeled “Tone”), custom-partial black pickguard, aged hardware, EVH neck plate, EVH-branded Gotoh tuners and, most importantly, a direct-mount EVH Wolfgang humbucker with Alnico 2 magnets that measures approximately 14.6k ohm resistance.
I’d also be remiss not to point out Eddie’s mischievous “Easter egg” inclusion of a dummy Strat neck pickup and dummy five-way blade switch exposed in the routed middle position (just like on “Frankenstein” and incidentally, the pickup is functional – but it’s a DIY job).
He might not have been the first, but no one before Eddie monopolized the fretboard better in ringing out harmonics and tapping, diving a tremolo and playing as fast and as furiously as he did.
So I’ll just flat out tell you: no other guitar I’ve come across can exploit and enhance those techniques more fluently than the EVH Frankie.
For starters, the oiled finish neck is spectacular, and you may never return to a glossy or satin-finished neck after playing the Frankie. Its natural wood-feel encourages endless wanderlust as you glide across the neck and fretboard, and the comfortably slim neck carve emboldens wide interval finger stretches (in order to nail the Ice Cream Man solo).
The solitary EVH Wolfgang pickup is also voiced perfectly. Using a friend’s ’78 Marshall JMP cranked, with the tone (volume) rolled down, the Frankie coaxes the snappy cleans of a Tele – with piano-like ring and woody midrange knock – and turning it up unleashes the most cutting musical midrange, where the guitar sounds massive.
Whether you play with tilted overdrive or roaring distortion, the Frankie possesses a raw, unfiltered sound that delivers all you put into it with palpable definition. Any fleet-fingered pyro-techniques will make harmonics and notes pop loudly like fireworks.
Of course, I can’t stop shredding Van Halen songs on this guitar (and I’m sure that’ll be the case for most who play it), but that aside, the EVH Striped Series Frankie is so blisteringly responsive, I just can’t put it down.
With guitars having sleeker lines, hotter pickups and various locking tremolo systems, the Frankie is a beautifully stark, stripped-down reminder of where it all started.
Eddie once stated “I hate store-bought, off-the-rack guitars. They don’t do what I want them to do, which is kick ass and scream.” Well, Eddie, I think you accomplished the impossible with the Frankie.
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- BODY: Basswood
- NECK: Quartersawn maple, bolt-on, oil-finished with graphite reinforcement
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Floyd Rose R3 Locking/42.86mm
- FINGERBOARD: Maple with black dot inlays, 305-406mm (12-16”) radius
- FRETS: 22, jumbo
- HARDWARE: EVH-branded Gotoh tuners, EVH-branded Floyd Rose locking tremolo with D-Tuna
- ELECTRICS: Direct-mount EVH Wolfgang Humbucker (bridge), Dummy Strat single-coil (neck, unwired) dummy five-position blade switch, 500K EVH Bourns Low Friction volume pot with treble bleed circuit
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Burgundy w/ Silver Stripes
- CONTACT: EVH Gear