Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Eddie Van Halen: 1955-2020

For some reason, Van Halen never did anything for me growing up. It should have, in theory it should have ticked all the right boxes. But I never got them. Sure, I did enjoy some of their classics and hits the same way I enjoy Don't Stop Believin' or Too Shy. But I never went beyond that until a few years ago. 

Van Halen didn't mean anything to me growing up but they mean a lot to some of my friends and I've come to understand what the band represents: fun, teenage years, guitar, cars, movies, coming of age... The equivalent of a Chuck Berry song for the Californian surfer crowd. 

So in the past few years I started listening to Van Halen through that prism and re-evaluating their catalog. It turns out, I don't hate Van Halen, I hate their offsprings. No, I'm not talking about Wolfgang, I'm talking about all the shitty bands they spawned. But I realize now Van Halen were great. I still don't like their covers (they really never got the essence of what made You Really Got Me, Pretty Woman and Big Bad Bill such great songs) but I have completely changed my mind on the band. Holy shit, maybe I'll end up enjoying Dokken one day too?

Thankfully, the Van Halen legacy will be bigger than guitar magazines and the shitty bands they inspired. And Eddie's contributions to the soundtrack of our lives is undeniably bigger than a synth riff and guitar pyrotechnics.

I read a lot of articles and eulogies comparing Eddie Van Halen to Jimi Hendrix.Was he the Jimi Hendrix of his time? That title means nothing. Both were hugely influential, both were astoundingly innovative and both were massively successful. But there was only one Jimi Hendrix and there was only one Eddie Van Halen.

Van Halen was unique in the Hard Rock canon in many ways, but one aspect that strikes me is the fun they injected in everything. Which isn't to say they didn't have to work for their success. And which isn't to say that there wasn't tension, bitterness and misery in the band. There was probably more bad vibes in Van Halen than in Oasis, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Eagles combined. Yet when they took the stage, it all went away. They made it fun. Eddie's trademark was not just his precision and velocity on the guitar: it was his smile.

And that's hard to reconcile with the news we got today. It's hard to associate the vibrant, care-free galvanizing sounds of Dance the Night Away, Hot for Teacher or Everybody Wants Some with notions of illness and death. Yet here we are. This is 2020, after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on this post: