‘Gave you chills’: Aussie rockers pay tribute to Van Halen


Australian musicians have hailed guitar hero Eddie Van Halen as a rock game-changer.

Van Halen passed away on Wednesday at the age 65 after a long battle with tongue cancer.

His guitar work was the backbone of Van Halen, who formed in 1972 and scored global hits with Jump, Panama, Why Can't This Be Love, Hot For Teacher and Dreams.

Dave Leslie befriended Van Halen when his band Baby Animals opened for the US band on a large American tour in 1992.

"That whole Van Halen tour we did was a dream come true," Leslie said. "As a modern rock guitar player you can't not be influenced by Eddie. He was my guitar hero."

Van Halen would spend most showdays in the Baby Animals' dressing room, jamming with Leslie on AC/DC songs.


Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen. Pic: Fin Costello/Redferns
Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen. Pic: Fin Costello/Redferns


"Ed loved Angus, knew all the solos note for note, he always wanted to play AC/DC. He'd spend hours in our dressing room, hanging out, we'd have to say 'OK, we have to actually go on stage' and sometimes he'd still be in there when we got back," Leslie said.

"One night, at the end of the first leg, he came in with a guitar, a beautiful red EVH guitar. I said 'Is that your new guitar?' and he said 'No, it's your new guitar'. And I played the shit out of that thing for the next five years.

"It was formidable to watch them night after night, there's a reason why he's Eddie Van Halen, he was that f***ing good. He's renowned for his face melting solos, but he was also a monster rhythm player, the knowledge of music he had was incredible. Their music gave you chills."

Promoter Michael Gudinski scored Van Halen's only full Australian tour, in 1998, with Gary Cherone on vocals after the departure of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. The band played a Sydney only show, with Roth, in 2013.

"They definitely underplayed Australia," Gudinski said. "I'd been trying to get them to come to Australia for years. Eddie was a true musician. He was so adventurous, not only with Van Halen but that incredible solo on Michael Jackson's Beat It. They were one of the most iconic rock bands, Eddie was rock royalty, like a Jimmy Page or a Jimi Hendrix."


Eddie Van Halen from Van Halen poses backstage at Lewisham Odeon in London on 27th May 1978. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
Eddie Van Halen from Van Halen poses backstage at Lewisham Odeon in London on 27th May 1978. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)


Gudinski was managing Jimmy Barnes in 1985 when the Australian rocker was propositioned by Van Halen.

"We were recording Working Class Man in America," Gudinski said. "Eddie came and asked Jimmy to join Van Halen. Jimmy wasn't prepared to go and live in America away from his family but it was a huge compliment."

Barnes' Cold Chisel bandmate Ian Moss said Eddie Van Halen changed rock music when their first album dropped in 1978.

"In the late 70s the world might have been getting a little bit tired of guitar players," Moss said. "Eddie stood out as an innovator - really fresh and exciting. Every note he played counted. He'd jump in and do these amazing solos and jump out quickly, while in the early 70s guitar playing had got really self indulgent, solos went on forever. Van Halen salvaged rock, they reinvigorated it and reinvented it and reignited it."

Musician Phil Ceberano was front row for the band's 1998 Sydney show. As a kid, hearing Van Halen's cover of the Kinks' You Really Got Me inspired Ceberano to become a guitarist.

"It's a given he was a guitar innovator. But he took it to another place. Eddie Van Halen did stuff that was beyond. And he had this swagger, that constant smile. They say musicians tread that fine line between confidence and arrogance. He could back it up because he'd done the work. He made it look effortless and gave so much possibility. There'll never be anyone like him."

Eddie Van Halen has been hailed a guitar hero. Pic: Ebet Roberts/Redferns
Eddie Van Halen has been hailed a guitar hero. Pic: Ebet Roberts/Redferns


Australian guitarist Nathan Cavaleri was also inspired by Van Halen's work.

"He showed me and many other guitarists you could be an innovative player and still appeal to a popular audience. He also inspired many of us by showing you can front a band without being a singer. So much of the focus was on him.

"He wasn't a shredder for the sake of it, he had great melodies, he told a story through his playing."

Paulee Roth fronts Melbourne Van Halen tribute X-Halen and said fans were concerned about the guitarist's health.

"There hadn't been any news for a little while, so we feared the worst with rumours that his health was declining."

Roth met the band on the 1998 tour but despite their multiple singers, he believes Van Halen cannot continue without their guitarist.

"It feels like that's it with no Eddie Van Halen in Van Halen. He made the band, he was the star of the band, it was his guitar playing that revolutionised the band. A lot of people hated David Lee Roth but loved Eddie Van Halen, because of his guitar playing. You can't replace him."



Eddie Van Halen in January 2012. Pic: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Eddie Van Halen in January 2012. Pic: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images





Wolf Van Halen: "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on and off stage was a gift. I love you so much, Pop."

David Lee Roth: "What a long great trip it's been."

Sammy Hagar: "Heartbroken and speechless. My love to the family."

Angus Young: "Eddie was a guitar wonder, his playing pure wizardry. To the world of music he was a special gift. To those of us fortunate enough to have met him, a very special person."

Brian May: "What a talent, what a legacy - probably the most original and dazzling rock guitarist in history."

Orianthi: "He was a monster player and will be very missed."

Keith Urban: "There are lots of great guitar players in the world, but very VERY few innovators. Players who seem to have arrived from a far distant planet, and who bring a completely new colour to the rainbow. Eddie Van Halen was this and so much more. Even without the finger tapping, you had a player with extraordinary touch, tone, and a rhythmic pocket and bounce that floated like Ali in the ring. He was a master of complex solos that spoke to non musicians - that is hard to do."

Gene Simmons: "My heart is broken. Eddie was not only a Guitar God, but a genuinely beautiful soul."

Paul Stanley: "Eddie was a trailblazer and someone who always gave everything to his music. A good soul."

John Mayer: "Eddie was a stunningly good musician and composer. Looking up to him as a young kid was one of the driving forces in my needing to pick up a guitar. I was so blown away watching him exert such control and expression over his instrument."

Dweezil Zappa: "He was a supreme badass on the guitar and for those who knew him could be the sweetest and most generous person."

Tom Morello: "An unparalleled titan in the annals of rock and roll. One of the greatest musicians in the history of mankind."

Nikki Sixx: "You changed our world. You were the Mozart of rock guitar."











Originally published as 'Gave you chills': Aussie rockers pay tribute to Van Halen

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