Eddie Van Halen – Beat It Guitar Solo
Put this in the category of “this will never happen again in our lifetime,” but I was amazed to find that Eddie Van Halen recorded the guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” for free. The solo is a perfect example of the amazing nuance Van Halen can bring to a guitar part with what was, at that time, groundbreaking technique.
Steve Lukather (Toto, Boz Scaggs), a phenomenal guitarist in his own right, shared some great information about his and Van Halen’s contributions to “Beat It.”
Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen was interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine in 1984. In the interview, he explained why he didn’t ask for any royalties over the sales of Beat it, the song on which he plays a guitar solo. “I did it as a favor. I didn’t want anything. Maybe Michael will give me dance lessons someday. I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band [Van Halen], our manager and everybody else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing. I don’t do something unless I want to do it.”
Steve Lukather: “Quincy Jones and Michael took a skeleton version of Beat it up to Eddie Van Halen’s place as they wanted him to solo over the verse section. However, he played over a section that had more chord changes. So to fit his solo to where it went in the song, they had to cut the tape which took a lot of time to synchronise together.”
“After they had managed this, Jeff Porcaro and me were called in to bind Eddie’s solo and some haphazard percussion which was a major headache. Initially, we rocked it out as Eddie had played a good solo but Quincy thought it too tough. So I had to reduce the distorted guitar sound and this is what was released. It was a huge R&B/rock success for us all really and helped pave the way for the bands of today that fuse these styles.”
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John Denner – Eddie Van Halen Eruption Guitar Solo
“Eruption” is a guitar solo written and performed by Eddie Van Halen. Eruption often appears on many ‘greatest guitar solos’ lists. It is often played together with “You Really Got Me”, which follows the song on the album Van Halen.
“Eruption” starts with a short accompanied intro with Alex Van Halen on drums and Michael Anthony on bass. The highlight of the solo is the use of two-handed tapping. Eruption was played on the Frankenstrat, with a MXR Phase 90, an Echoplex, a Univox echo unit and a 1968 Marshall 1959 Super Lead tube amp. The Sunset Sound studio reverb room was also used to add reverb. The Frankenstrat was tuned down a half-step. “Eruption” begins in the key of A flat and ends on a E flat note that is a twelfth fret, 6th string harmonic processed through a Univox EC-80 echo unit.
The “Eruption” intro is based on “Let Me Swim” by Cactus. After the intro, an E-flat major quotation of the Etude No. 2 by Rodolphe Kreutzer is heard. The end section begins with a series of rapid two-handed tapping triads that have a classical like structure and eventually finishes with a repeated classical cadence followed by sound effects generated by a Univox EC-80 echo unit.
The piece that would later be named “Eruption” had existed as part of Van Halen’s stage act at least as far back as 1976, when it featured no tapping. “Eruption” popularized the tapping trend of the ’80s. Although one-handed tapping (hammer-ons and pull-offs) had been previously done by many guitarists, Eruption introduced two-handed tapping to the mainstream popular rock audience. Previously, Baroque-like tapping had been recorded by Steve Hackett of Genesis in 1971/1972.
Initially, “Eruption” was not considered as a song for the Van Halen album as it was just a guitar solo Eddie performed live in the clubs but Ted Templeman overheard it in the studio as Eddie was rehearsing it for a club date at the Whisky a Go Go and decided to include it on the album. Eddie recalled “I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. To this day, whenever I hear it, I always think, ‘Man, I could’ve played it better.’”
“Spanish Fly”, an acoustic guitar solo on Van Halen II, can be viewed as a nylon-string version of Eruption, expanding on similar techniques. Similarly, it was suggested by Templeman for inclusion on the album after he heard Eddie Van Halen playing a classical guitar. In March 2005, Q magazine placed “Eruption” at number 29 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. “Eruption” has been named the 2nd greatest guitar solo by Guitar World magazine.
Eruption is also featured in Guitar Hero: Van Halen and is considered as one of the most difficult songs in the game.