Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Here comes one of those I really do hate to have to write.

The first birthday after they die is when I try to chime in... the days immediately following their passing are just too wrought and I feel like a vampire.

So I chill and let 'em get cold first, for lack of a less crass way to say it.

As you've likely surmised, this guy would have been 66 today, had he not succumbed to cancer, after a lengthy battle, just last October.

We're here to discuss what he did whilst breathing, which was, shall we say, not insubstantial.

I think everyone acknowledges that this person, almost singlehandedly and in a very short time, reinvented the vocabulary of the electric guitar.

The main innovation was nothing less than popularizing a technique which now is taken completely for granted as part of the guitar arsenal, but which back then, when he showed up, was the province of just a few players.

The legend goes that in December of 1973, our hero saw Genesis at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, and witnessed Steve Hackett do the tapping thing, on one string and with all the dramatic Prog Rock lights, during the guitar solo in the song Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.

There are other stories about him conceiving of it before then, and seeing it done by Harvey Mandel a bit later on, but it makes no difference. Once he extended the idea to all six strings at once and started to play whole passages with two hands on the fretboard, it wasn't too long before the birthday boy and his fledgling LA band were starting to get a whole lotta noticed.

Eventually labels came calling. Records were made. Tours were toured. Brown M+Ms were not allowed.

From this initial flurry of activity, the entirety of electric guitar playing was altered, permanently.

In this way, it could be said that although this guy was born on this day in 1955, and that he passed away on October 6, 2020, he accomplished things in this life that make him as close to an immortal as a human being could approach.

Bottom line: as long as there are guitars, and people to pick them up and try to play them, those people will strive, even unconsciously, to emulate Eddie Van Halen.

Can there be a greater achievement in life? To alter, fundamentally and for the better, your job and how it's done so that all who follow you have access to the areas you opened?

By extension, the Rosetta Stone of EVH has to be those first several Van Halen LPs, when he was loosed upon an unsuspecting world like a tsunami of shred.

In his honor, I have gotten my hands on the multitrack stems of those albums -- I think they come from the Guitar Hero video game -- and created stereo mixes of just the guitars, that we might discover the magic in its own right and hear just what Eddie did to make these tunes the timeless, forever classics they are.

Edward Van Halen
isolated guitar tracks

01 Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
02 And the Cradle Will Rock...
03 Atomic Punk
04 Beautiful Girls
05 Cathedral
06 Dance the Night Away
07 Eruption
08 Everybody Wants Some!!
09 Feel Your Love Tonight
10 Hang 'Em High
11 Hear About It Later
12 Hot for Teacher
13 Ice Cream Man
14 I'm the One
15 Intruder/(Oh) Pretty Woman
16 Jamie's Cryin'
17 Jump
18 Little Guitars
19 Loss of Control
20 Mean Street
21 Panama
22 Romeo Delight
23 Runnin' with the Devil
24 So This Is Love
25 Somebody Get Me a Doctor
26 Spanish Fly
27 Unchained
28 You Really Got Me

Total time: 1:35:51
disc break goes after Track 14

Edward Van Halen - guitars, keyboards & percussion
Alex Van Halen - percussion
David Lee Roth - off-mic vocals on Track 13, bleeding through EVH's acoustic guitar pickup

isolated guitar (and occasional keyboard & percussion) tracks of 28 Van Halen songs from their initial hit period
mixed in stereo from the lossless multitrack stems by EN, January 2021

I used only the iso'd tracks from the stems that had guitars in them; occasionally these same tracks would contain minimal percussion overdubs as well, and where I encountered those I left them intact, not least because I liked them and they made things more like functional, standalone versions of the songs.  
In the couple of keyboard-involved tunes, I left his (tremendously skillful) playing just as it was. The effort was made not to just make this a fetishistic collectors' piece, or a VH Karaoke voyage, but a sequence that can and should be listened to as music in and of itself, even if the listener has no prior knowledge or understanding of Van Halen the band or Eddie the guitar virtuoso. So, to that end, in the few instances where there were long periods of silence in the tracks where no guitars happened for an extended period of time, judicious and musically-minded editing was employed.
I left the tunes in alphabetical order because EVH had an alphabetical knowledge of tone/technique and a deceptively ordered precision to his playing, and I tried to structure this -- as a magnified representation of many of the songs in which his contributions and unprecedented skillset sparked a seismic shift in the language of his instrument -- to play as both a tribute to his lasting impact on guitar, and as a 96-minute suite of sorts in its own right. 
One that focuses him in the literal spotlight of what made him the deservedly revered figure he has been and will ever be. I think it succeeds at that goal, and I hope you'll agree. RIP & HBD EVH!--J.

1.26.1955 - 10.6.2020

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