A Different Kind Of Eruption: Edward Van Halen Speaks

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Pretty disappointing to read that Edward Van Halen, an iconic, gigantic influence on my guitar playing (and thousands of others'), has become a supremely bitter, old crank.

And not even understandably bitter, either: in this interview with Chuck Klosterman for Billboard, the guy who named his band after himself, is hailed as one of his instrument's true geniuses and innovators, and is praised far and wide for hours of riffs that thrill most rock music fans (while annoying the shit out of 21st century Guitar Center employees), somehow believes he isn't getting enough credit.

Here he is, redefining "begrudgingly" while acknowledging the brand-strengthening work of David Lee Roth:

I think it’s now built into people’s DNA, that it just won’t be Van Halen if it’s not Roth’s voice.

So it's not David Lee Roth's contribution to those 6 records, it's really just biology, right?

And from that concession, there's this 180 degree turn, where a guy who's universally credited with an advancement in musicianship and aesthetic can't stand for anyone else to be seen, heard, and/or recognized. Here's his take on the widely acclaimed contributions of Van Halen's original bassist/background vocalist, Michael Anthony:

Every note Mike ever played, I had to show him how to play. Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.

Mike’s voice is like a piccolo trumpet. But he’s not a singer. He just has a range from hell. Mike was just born with a very high voice. I have more soul as a singer than he does. And you know, people always talk about Mike’s voice on Van Halen songs, but that’s a blend of Mike’s voice and my voice. It’s not just him.

Okay. While the exact amount of credit due Anthony's vocals is sorta debatable, I guess (mostly because most live Van Halen footage does show EVH at a microphone at appropriate times, right along with Anthony), why has Van Halen never stood up or even metioned his vocal contributions before, or protested Anthony's lion's share of the kudos?

And as to Mike Anthony's bass prowess, or lack thereof? I call total and utter bullshit on this point, and if I'm siding with Sammy Hagar on anything related to Van Halen, I must be right in my convictions. I'm confident that EVH's jealousy and overwhelming bitterness is what's writing his revisionist history. I'm a musician (and one who's spent most of his small performing career as a bassist), not even a world-class one, and I can't accept this for one second. Van Halen got signed (i.e.got invested in), and got wildly famous and filthy rich in an age where a record label/industry conglomerate wouldn't hesitate to tell even the best band, "lose that bass player. He's already balding and can't even play his instrument." Given the ambitions of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, I can't imagine them keeping such a weak link once a major-label deal was dangled in front of them if Anthony was such a musical invalid.

I really think that Edward Van Halen, as distinguished among his peers as he is, has developed a profound ego complex in the last 10 years of Van Halen The Band's diminished presence in conversation about Rock Music. As much as I adore his body of work as a guitarist, I recognize that I am likely in a slight minority of All Van Halen Fans Ever that place his individual brilliance only just ahead of the other components of the band (even Hagar; hey, he had his moments.). And I think EVH can recognize that, too.

He just can't accept it now, like he clearly did accept it back in the salad days of '75-'95, when it was hot-and-cold running money, drugs, airplanes, and US Festivals.

(And not to malign the vocal stylings of either Edward Van Halen or Michael Anthony, neither of you ever had 10% of the soul David Lee Roth had on those records. You did probably keep pace with Sammy Hagar, though.)

C'mon, Edward. Isn't owning a giant percentage of the hearts of today's guitarists, along with that percentage of a music-appreciation society that doesn't necessarily know that there's six strings on a guitar, enough for you? Enough to recognize and not wildly diminish the contributions of a few gifted men?

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