How Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” Changed Rock n’ Roll
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Eddie Van Halen’s solo guitar tapping style that was not even meant to be recorded and released, revolutionized the guitar world and rock scene.
The iconic 1 minute and 42 seconds recording happened on Sept. 8, 1977 and it accidentally changed what a solo guitar can do. Looking back, it is when Van Halen were in the middle of working on their debut album. The late icon recalled in an interview:
“I showed up at the recording studio early one day and started to warm up because I had a gig on the weekend and I wanted to practice my solo guitar spot.”
He had been mixing his distinctive solo which would eventually become “Eruption.” Although he never considered recording it for their album he remembered that their producer, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked:
“What’s that? Let’s put it on tape!
“So I took one pass at it, and they put it on the record.”
Initially, Eddie thought he didn’t even play it right and that there is a mistake at the top end of it, but in just one minute and 42 seconds, Van Halen changed what a guitar solo could do. This revolutionary two-handed tapping technique produced sounds unlike what fans had ever heard before. This style is like “having a sixth finger on your left hand. Instead of picking, you’re hitting a note on the fretboard” he explained.
He also shared that he discovered this technique unintentionally. Eddie recalled:
“I was just sittin’ in my room at the pad at home, drinkin’ a beer, and I remembered seeing people stretching one note and hitting the note once.
“They popped the finger on there to hit one note. I said: well, fuck, nobody is really capitalizing on that. Nobody was really doing more than just one stretch and one note real quick. So I started dickin’ around, and said: fuck! This is a totally another technique that nobody really does. Which it is. I haven’t really seen anyone get into that as far as they could, because it is a totally different sound. A lot of people listen to that and they don’t even think it’s a guitar. ‘Is that a synthesizer? A piano? What is that?’”
After its monumental success, every rocker wanted to sound like him. And when Eddie was asked how does he feel about it, he explained:
“With me, [the tapping technique] was a form of expression – part of my style.”
He justified his work by saying:
“When I used the stuff I invented, I was telling a story, while I felt that the people who were imitating me were telling a joke. I felt other players tended to use tapping and false harmonics as a trick, instead of incorporating them into their vocabulary.”