Eddie Van Halen,
Rock Guitar Innovation, and
The Loss of A Legend
The past few weeks have sucked given, COVID, dealing with the political insanity out there, and then this, the passing of a l legendary guitarist, during a chaotic year.
It matters more than we can say, here at Tru Rock Revival. Our whole reason for this magazine was to promote music, find the original sound out there, and light a fire with Rock, and increase that ten-fold or as much as we can thru the stories of legends and up-and-coming bands, or finding those unique bands (which we have been lucky enough to promote, and now watch their numbers go through the roof, because they were being unique and real, and didn't give up).
The passing of Eddie Van Halen brings up memories for a bunch of us here. Some of us are older and were there during the Van Halen hey day of the 80's and 90's. We can honestly say, we watched Ed from his beginning fame, to this difficult, too-early ending.
How I relate to any of this? I write music, guitar is a tricky instrument (if you've ever tried it) and I was there in the 80's, watching Eddie solo on Eruption, fingers sliding and tapping, while he slid across the stage in real time, to kick a towering rack of Marshall amps, as they swayed afterwards. Two thoughts in all of this were, "Those might fall and we'd lose a legend, whoa." The other thought, "This is an exciting fucking show, how the hell does he play while doing that, this guy is a genius, his sound, his showmanship, and innovation, this is phenomenal Rock 'n Roll, I can't believe I'm lucky to be here right now, Holy....!?!" I'll never forget him, it's been over thirty years and those memories are branded in my Rock 'n Roll memories.
The other thing I'm struck by is Wolfgang and what he is going through. How would I know anything about this? While my dad was not a rock legend, he was a top notch, well-liked and respected guy; a no b.s. attitude, and charm. He also had cancer and died from it. I was only 31 at the time. There are no ways to describe how it feels when you lose a best friend, and it is your parent, and it is because of cancer and you have to watch that main person in your life, dwindle into a scrawny physical form of who they have always been. I can't even begin to know how he feels as a musician who can't perform with the number one musician he loved playing with. He will need time, it won't ever heal, not trying to bring anyone down. I feel for him on a personal level, as a musician, and fan.
As much as you fans are hurting at his passing and all he has meant to you in music, guitar playing, songwriting and more, these are the thoughts I can't help thinking. We must remember the innovation, as we have with Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Bonham, and so many more in Rock music. Edward gave his life to Rock 'n Roll.
Why this matters immensely in today's world. Rock 'n Roll (as when Van Halen began as a band) is not currently paid attention to in the same way as Hip Hop or Alternative or other styles of music these days. There is also a saturation of music styles, and people seem to use music much more these days as additions to their schedules, rather than, "I want to go see this live, this is innovative as hell, the t-shirt is secondary, get me to the musician's live show now!" (Yet this may change once COVID has passed and we are all free to move about).
Once we finally do hear new songs....having to conform or make money for artists out there (when the industry isn't like it was) can cause major overproduction on the songs; bands squeezing themselves into the crevice of Pop, only to abandon the beauty that was their immensely original sound, yet maybe it didn't sell as much.
I really don't care what audiences want out there anymore. We love you guys, yet I'm talking about people who aren't into Rock right now, or have forgotten the legends. They can enjoy their styles that they like, fine by me. Yet, their styles are from Rock or Blues and blues and soul, is Rock, so, to me, it all goes back to Classical Music, or Rock. Go look it up, not joking, please do the research.
We have seen how random and fickle the other styles can be. That is why in writing this piece, today, right now, I call on you and myself to be innovative. To stretch the limits. That is the ONLY WAY Rock music will make it again and in a huge wave, by being different and real, and honest, and not selling out. Van Halen didn't sell out in the beginning and they are still a legendary name today. Go listen to Elvis (yes, the innovator, hip shaking, guitar player that shocked them way back when, and who wasn't allowed to perform in certain social settings, ha). There are many more, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Steely Dan, AC/DC, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Bob Dylan, The Who, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Santana, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, RUSH, Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers (is that guy talking? singing? he's like, what is the word, RAP, or, what do I call that?) Metallica, and I'm sure I've missed greats you respect. I apologize for that, and, there are just too many to listen to. (Which should show you how possible it is to be different and go for it).
Then go listen to Alternative music or anything else out there today, and tell me what you feel. Admit it or not, but you will see it came from Rock music. Our foundations out there are ....Classical music, Blues Music and Rock music. Just go back and listen to these groups, and you will hear it, and, you will feel the soul of it.
Van Halen kicked us hard in the 80's. Eddie's guitar chops, how much fun he was having while he played on stage, his expression was always, "I will meet you halfway, guitar, but what are we going to create now, let's go for it!!" David Lee Roth screaming, shirts off, sweat, working for Rock 'n Roll, and being on the wave of it, while giving it to the crowds. They went crazy for it all. The band was on fire. That is what a legendary band is all about. The excitement goes beyond, "Hey, that band is pretty good." It is more like "What are they doing, how are they doing it, that is insanely good, I'll never forget this show and their songs are epic!!"
You can still put on an album from legendary bands, and love it. It will still stand up as original, and not layers of production. Listeners have gotten sedentary or hyper vigilant in hearing power without feel. The point is: Rock 'n Roll is about SOUL. rhythm and feeling, which is what makes it exciting. It's also wild to see legendary bands because you are thinking, it looks so easy for them, they are having a blast, yet they seem to be making History here.
As followers and promoters with our magazine, we have been to tons of concerts, we have literally sifted through hundreds of thousands of bands over the years. When we need breaks, to make sure we aren't going soft, we pause and hang out, have lunch or talk music, and we deliberately put on Rock legends. We nod at each other like, "Yes, this is why they are great, it was all their own sound." While we are fair about it all, I mean, not everyone will become legendary and that is still OK as long as the message and music is delivered without total copying of sound or without feeling, we just want the integrity to shine. To this day the ones who are gaining in followers and fans and more, are those bands who stay true to their own sound, and their real feel. There is something to this, trust us, there just is.
On our home page, hear him for yourself: videos, life images, you've already seen a lot, yet we picked out some choice things that maybe you hadn't seen before. Didn't it seem like a quick blip on a screen weeks ago, yet it was such a significant thing when Edward passed. Everyone seemed to show up in droves, the media went crazy and the outpouring of gratitude. He influenced the world with his unique guitar sound, and what he has meant to Rock 'n Roll. Please look it all over. Van Halen could have sold out anytime and they did not.
In memory of Edward Van Halen, in the name of Rock 'n Roll, find your own sound. Work at it, play all of the time, pull your uniqueness out of you, and keep Rock music alive. That is what being a legend is about. Love the music, be the music, be yourself, find yourself, pass it on. Condolences to Wolfgang, the family, the friends, the bands, and to all of you out there. Our condolences to Rock music.
Tru Rock Revival Magazine