Top Ten Guitar Solos by Eddie Van Halen


Eddie Van Halen was exactly what the rock ‘n roll doctor ordered to cure the Saturday Night Fever sweeping the nation during the late Seventies. When Van Halen was unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses in 1978, rock guitar playing was changed overnight.  The threat that rock would become an afterthought in the face of a changing mainstream was temporarily thwarted.   The only downside was the creation of a pool of guitar players who, throughout the Eighties, used Eddie’s techniques as tricks rather than as a natural method to create music.  Even the incredibly gifted Randy Rhoads, who along with Ozzy Osbourne kept rock relevant despite the advent of disco and dance music, admitted that it pained him to incorporate Eddie Van Halen’s licks into his live solos just because ‘it impresses the kids.’

It’s nearly impossible to narrow down a list ten guitar solos by a rock legend with an extensive catalog of material.  It’s naturally a subjective endeavor; the only advantage I claim is the insight provided by my 23 years of playing experience and countless hours spent fruitlessly trying to imitate The Master before giving up and establishing my own style.

Eddie took two approaches to soloing during his career.  One was to try first, second, third (or even more) takes for solos on the studio albums.  Later, he told Bud Scoppa during a lengthy interview for Guitar World prior to the release of OU812 that different takes would sometimes be spliced together to form one solo.  “Sometimes I’ll do three solos,” said Van Halen, “and I’ll go, ‘I like the beginning of that one, I like the end of that one, I like the middle of that one.’  Whatever sounds good.  Ain’t no fuckin’ rules.  And I ain’t proud.  I don’t give a fuck if it’s in one take or not.  Whatever gets me off!”

I have no problem with the splicing method.  After all, Eddie played all the solos himself.  And nothing can hold-up the recording process like a guitar player who is anal retentive over his solos.   It’s sometimes easy for a guitar player to tell when Eddie appeared to do something off-the-cuff, like on ‘Sinner’s Swing!’  Other times, it’s impossible to tell unless Eddie could recall himself during an interview.  Like many guitar players, Eddie would often forget how to play some of his own songs after they would lie dormant for a while.  He once admitted to having to go to a store to buy his own albums prior to a tour so that he could re-learn the material.  He also admitted that he couldn’t play covers to save his life.  What was a detriment in his early days, though, brought him great success when the band finally broke through, in large part, because Eddie Van Halen only knew how to be himself.

1.  ‘Eruption’ (1978):  Eddie Van Halen could have thrown his guitar into a dumpster after recording this one minute and forty-two seconds of guitar wizardry and still been a guitar hero for life.  Though most well-known as the track on which Eddie unveiled his patented two-handed tapping technique to the world, to focus on that aspect alone is an oversimplification.  Everything about the track- the tone, the use of the tremolo bar, the blinding speed and precision- set EVH apart from his late-Seventies contemporaries.  The distortion coming out of the amplifiers makes the guitar work scream, which became known to guitar gurus as the infamous ‘brown sound.’  Although Eddie himself toyed with his amplifiers and guitars despite having no formal training in electronics, anyone who has studied guitar for a number of years knows that 99% of a guitarist’s tone comes from one thing and one thing alone: your own hands.  (Eddie once relayed a story about how a suspicious Ted Nugent once plugged into Eddie’s rig before a show and, to Mr. Nugent’s surprise, he discovered that his tone still sounded exactly like Ted Nugent.)  Eddie was never one who relied much on effects.  This track was probably recorded with a classic MXR phase 90 pedal and an Echoplex for delay.  The ultimate triumph of ‘Eruption,’ however, is simply how musical it sounds.  Try grabbing an acoustic guitar and playing the blinding licks in the upper register down an octave at half speed- you’ll realize that Eddie wasn’t using his ability to play at unheard-of speeds to cover-up a lack of musical vocabulary.

2.  ‘Beat It’ (1982): Eddie’s reputation was so well known even before the release of Van Halen’s 1984 that legendary producer Quincy Jones called upon him to provide a guitar solo for the opening track of what would become the best-selling album of all time worldwide, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. With the rhythm tracks already laid down by studio session veteran and Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Eddie walked into the studio and winged two solos in front of The Gloved One himself.  He estimated during an interview with Joe Bosso in the February 1990 issue of Guitar World that the entire project took 20 minutes.  Ironically, it is this solo more than any other provides the best example of Eddie’s downright nasty distorted guitar tone.  The artificial harmonics generated at 2:52- and at 3:06 especially- howl as if the amplifiers were possessed by demons.  To an untrained ear, it sounds ‘cool.’  To the trained ear, there comes a realization that such tones are not possible in lesser hands during this time period- or even now.  (An artificial harmonic is generated by shifting the pick attack to pinch the guitar string with the pick and thumbnail simultaneously, and they aren’t always easy to generate properly.  Eddie’s use of them seems to be innate and is uncanny.)  The use of wide intervals and two-handed tapping gives the solo a sense of urgency that the track demands.  The ‘thank you’ letter that Quincy Jones wrote to Eddie afterward was signed, ‘The Fucking Asshole’ because Eddie began cursing at Jones during his initial phone call, thinking it was a prank because of a bad connection.

3.  ‘Spanish Fly’ (1979): If anyone had attributed Eddie’s guitar pyrotechnics on the first album to studio effects rather than raw talent, these critics were silenced by this solo acoustic guitar track on Van Halen’s sophomore effort, Van Halen II.  Eddie picks furiously and precisely on a much less forgiving

  • A-dub

    Where’s ‘Push Comes To Shove’? My favorite EVH solo.

  • JoePhishVH

    These lists are so lame, we all have our faves, I agree with some, not most of these choices….lets have some new music already!!!

  • Xavier MAiA

    even if we all have our 10 favorites i will add Dreams, the live solo on Only One Way to Rock when you hear the tone and brown sound of Eddie blowing up Mr Sammy tentatives riffs/soloing.
    Anyway my best remains; Bea it, Take your Wiskey home, I’m the One and even it”s a cover song the feel and slow pace of You’re No Good.
    Me Wise Magic and Humans Being make me hope he will put out some great music in the forthcoming album
    we’ll see

  • Jeremy

    Every song Eddie played on was pure magic and a top 10 list doesn’t do any justice! You noticed Van Halen because of Eruption and the sound of that guitar!

    End of story period!

    Roth_Leaps_83, I can’t believe you actually for once admitted you like a Eddie solo with Sammy! My heart skipped a beat while reading your post!

    5150’s solo proved to me Eddie was getting more technical and it showed on LWAN because he wanted to distance himself from all those who were copying him on a nightly basis!

    Aftershock is a great solo I like alot as well!

    As I said before, every solo is genius!

  • wiredog

    come on lanny jr…god knows i LOVE randy rhoads. i have read his 1981 interview where he says he does EVH style solos because the kids love it and it kills him to do that. far as RR being years ahead? wrong again. quiet riot was ALWAYS in VH’s shadows on the sunset strip. RR and QR guys have admitted that repeatedly. by the time blizzard came out, VH already had numerous albums and millions sold. i cannot emphasize enough how much i love RR, but you are simply in denial of the truth my friend. having said that. RR had that classical approach that EVH never had, so to me it’s comparing apples and oranges.

  • Fernando

    What about “Big trouble”?
    The most “beat it like” solo.
    Can’t get tired of listening to it

  • buffalobill

    Missed a great one… The solo in Thomas Dolby’s “Europa and the Pirate Twins” off the Golden Age of Wireless

  • pete

    just last night i was thinking “we need another top 10 to fill in the time” and here it is.;^)

  • http://claroweb wilfredvh

    Year to the date….Don’t tell me…Black and Blue…Feelin….Pleasure Dome…..5150…all those were after Dave era,but those solos are classic Eddie

  • dan slaughter

    like steve and kapp….PUSH COMES TO SHOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and HEAR ABOUT IT LATER, PLEASURE DOME, GOOD ENOUGH, LIGHT UP THE SKY, AND SUCKER IN A 3 PIECE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These should all be on there…no excuses!!!..

  • SCAR

    How can you pick just one, they all fucking kick ass!!! Fuck all list’s!!! The music speaks for itself!!! Fast Eddie fucking rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Light up the fucking sky and continue with your weekend buzz folks!!!!

  • Ryan Nagel

    Push comes to shove

  • Musicalmike

    Every Van Halen solo is in my top 1!! 1a – 1b – 1c etc….. David Lee Roth could burp the alphabet and Eddie could come in farting around LMNOP and I`d dig it!!! And like everything in life, it`s all subjective! LONG LIVE VAN HALEN!!!!

  • Russ

    Top 10 EVH seriously inspired by and sound alike clones:
    #1 Vito Bratta

  • Coopster

    Am I wrong or isn’t 5150 widely considered one of his best solos? Ever? By just about anyone?

  • JoeZ

    This is stupid. If you want a top ten Eddie list it should be done by studio albums. Which would only leave out one. Ha ha ha ha.

  • Vuelto Loco!

    Here´s my list, in no particular order…

    I´m The One
    On Fire
    Mean Street
    Push Comes To Shove
    Hot For Teacher
    Hang ´em High
    Girl Gone Bad
    Romeo Delight
    Outta Love Again

  • Foot

    Would be more realistic to do a top 25 with Ed’s chops. Van Halen 1, with all respects, could have about every tune’s solo in the top 10.

    I still listen to Ice Cream Man and I’m the One and think, “Wow, we haven’t heard anything like that since VH1 came on the scene.”

    Ed began to incorporate keys, country, power ballads, and a whole bunch of cool techniques (power drills, steinberger guitars, etc.).

    The list is okay…but how about 25 next time?

  • ron

    heres my top 20 songs. (1) hangem high (2)atomic punk (3)seventh seal (4) house of pain(original version) (5)light up the sky (6) pleasure dome (7) poundcake (8) inside (9) summer nights (10) loss of control (11) romeo delight (12) feelin (13) ballot or the bullet (14) year to the day (15) somebody get me a doctor (16) one foot out the door (17) mean streets (18) sunday afternoon in the park (19) drop dead legs (20) bottoms up

  • TearItUp

    This guy blew it right off the bat when Hot for Teacher wasn’t on the list. Honorable mentions my ass!!

    I’m the One
    Push Comes to Shove
    Romeo Delight
    Ice Cream man
    Light Up the Sky
    One Foot Out the Door
    Girl Gone Bad
    Right Now


    It’s a matter of opinion! Myself,I have always loved the Sinners Swing solo.Eddie is shredding on that one!!!!!!!!!! The Beat It solo,one of my all time favs.

  • dosch

    Push Comes to Shove is pure genius. Sorely missed here.

  • dudensht

    This list wasnt made anyone that knows and understands Eds work!

  • Flying Ed

    It’s good to see kind of list as it makes you realise just how bloody amazing Eddie is. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Pleasure Dome – now that is a hell of an improvised solo !!

  • vanhalendlrband

    Me Wise Magic

  • Diamond Dean


  • DiamondInTheBuff

    I wonder if Ed, himself, would list “3:16″… bet he would.

  • Tim

    I think this guy’s on drugs… “I’ll Wait”???? “Running with the Devil”??? Yikes….I’ll offer my “alternate” list:

    1. Eruption
    2. Mean Streets (Intro only)
    3. Drop Dead Legs
    4. Push Comes to Shove
    5. So This is Love?
    6. Cathedral
    7. Outta Love Again
    8. Beat It
    9. Secrets
    10. Ice Cream Man

  • walkciman

    My favourites are Aftershock, Sucker In A Three Piece and Pleasure Dome

  • Lars

    How is “One Foot Out The Door” not mentioned???

  • PJ

    Ummm, Pleasuredome!!?? Don’t tell me??

  • alexandre

    Beat it, despite the fact it’s a great solo, turned Eddie Van Halen in to “National Treasure”, according to Guitar World (feb,1990), because that time he was one the first white rock stars to work with a black artist!

  • ba

    yep, 2 that don’t get enough mention are 5150 and Me Wise Magic. The version on youtube from the live show in Japan, 1988 or ’89 I think, is the best 5150 recording. It’s intersting how Ed will play them for a few years, then figure out how he really wants them to sound. Did the same with Love Walks In for the RHRN Video. Turned that into a burner with the guitar much more up front over the keys.

  • Ted

    Can’t Get This Stuff No More is cold, the solo, the intro, everything! In A Simple Rhyme is one of my favorite CVH songs, fell in love with it the first time I heard it. Pleasure Dome rocks! Eddies on fire and so the rest of band 🙂

  • dosch

    Hey ba….you are right. That solo from Japan is record-worthy. Thanks for the post.

  • js

    mine all mine….good choice.

    but I agree with many others

    PUSH COMES TO SHOVE & Top Jimmy….Hello??????

  • kennermcquaid

    1. I’ll be the first person to tell you that any list like this is subjective. I was asked by a buddy who runs a very successful music blog to put together a Top Ten. I could have done a Top 25, but I blog mostly to promote my book that’s coming out and some causes that are important to me. To do 25 would have been a major time investment. There’s probably 40 different songs mentioned in these comments alone. I have a stack of magazines with EVH interviews dating back to ’87 and even earlier. I re-read all of them twice before I put together a list like this, look at transcriptions to figure out exactly what was being played, then you have to listen to 100+ songs even though you’ve already been listening to them for 25 years as it is. So is it my personal Top Ten? Yup. But ‘Top Ten’ sounds a lot stronger than ‘My Favorite Ten Solos.’ And I believe in my opinions.

    2. I re-listened to Push Comes to Shove. The solo is great, but I wanted to cut across a range of styles, albums and eras. Otherwise I would have taken 4 from I, 4 from 1984, Push & Mean Streets and called it a day.

    3. Hot for Teacher has some of Eddie’s best riffs, but I considered only the solo sections. Is the solo great? Yeah. Is it better than any on the list? Not necessarily. The intro is the best part of the piece. If I considered entire songs or individual riffs, and not just solo sections, Hot for Teacher and Source of Infection would have been on the list. Stylistically, they are same with a two-handed tapping intro.

    4. “I have my own personality on the guitar but, as of yet, I don’t think I have my own style. For instance, I do a solo guitar thing in concert, and I do a lot of the same licks as Eddie Van Halen. Eddie is a great player, but it kills me that I do that; it’s just flash that impresses the kids. I’m trying to make a name for myself as fast as I can. I wish I could take time and come up with something nobody else has done, but that’s gonna take a few years.”
    -Randy Rhoads, Guitar World, May 1982

  • Greg

    Think about these. In no particular order.

    1. Feels So Good
    2. Dance the Night Away
    3. Push Comes to Shove
    4. One Foot out the Door
    5. Right Now
    6. And the Cradle Will Rock
    7. When It’s Love
    8. Mine All Mine
    9. Fire In the Hole
    10. Spanish Fly

  • In A Simple Rhyme

    House of Pain, Drop Dead Legs, Jamie’s Cryin’, Mean Street, In A Simple Rhyme, Push Comes To Shove, Top Jimmy, Little Dreamer, The Full Bug, there is so many good solos Eddie have done, hopefully will hear some more stuff from the man himself soon. 🙂

  • Deionte

    Umm hello DOA! and of course push comes to shove! Top Jimmy! ICE CREAM MAN! not beat it!

  • Strung Out

    Where’s the two songs from Twister?! Humans Being and Respect The Wind deserve lots of credit, both manage to be highly intricate pieces of musicianship while remaining melodic and stunning. Humans Being is Eddie’s heaviest riffing/soloing ever up until that point if you ask me, man that song would’ve cozied up nice beside Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) or ended Balance alongside Feelin’ or Crossing Over – another needlessly underpromoted track – just perfectly. An instant classic and the best way for Van Hagar to go out with a bang. Respect The Wind delivers enigmatic beauty and features more creativity and skill than several songs on the Top Ten list, all the while snaking its course like a river, never overindulgent but ceaselessly finesse. They should have been honorable mentions.

  • dude

    138 + comments on the subject Ed’s greatest solos – a subject which is pretty much entirely subjective? Wow. I think we have a lot of fans who are just chomping at the bit for some 2011 VH! Bring it!

  • right-here-i-say

    Nice list. I agree with some/most of these.
    Would remove
    – Spanish Fly – (I love it and all, it would make top 20)
    – Mean Street (I agree great into with the tapping)
    – I’ll Wait (great solo indeed, but one of the worst VH songs)
    – Jump – (definitely not top 10, but definitely killer)

    Would definitely add:
    – Feel Your Love Tonight
    – Light Up the Sky
    – Hang ‘Em High
    – Aftershock (outro)

  • chris

    The only way to make a list would be to ask eddie what his favorites are.He would probably give you a from and say “all of them” or something We’ve never heard.He has always said he does What the song calls for,there’s no real way to compare all of them when They are all great. Now let’s hear some new stuff,it’s been too long

  • Guiloenator

    What about Eddies Intros? The most magical intros I’ve ever heard!

  • Towers McQuestion

    I’m kind of shocked at the arguing on here. If you’re going to do a top 10 of Ed solos, you’re bound to leave stuff out that will piss others off, because there’s just so much to choose from that it all comes down to personal preference. Mine will no doubt piss some people off, too, because I am going to include Van Hagar in a dual list covering both eras. There’s just no way to span every VH album and pick just 10 solos… they were all epic.

    As long as you have Eruption and Spanish Fly at numbers 1 and 2, you are a VH fan of quality. 😉

    My list goes something like this:

    Classic Van Halen

    1 – Eruption

    2 – Spanish Fly

    3 – Sinner’s Swing (what a mind blowing flurry of madness!)

    4 – I’m The One (Dual solos that almost BURN you!)

    5 – Romeo Delight (Jesus! Did a human play that?)

    6 – Hot For Teacher (This is what being a guitar hero is all about!)

    7 – Push Comes To Shove (It has literally everything!)

    8 – So This Is Love (Fly by your pants yet tight as hell happy bluesy playing!)

    9 – Somebody Get Me A Doctor (From those volume swells right on through, it’s awesome!)

    10 – Drop Dead Legs (The entire end of the song is just one amazing solo piece!)

    And now, because no one asked… the Van Hagar list… because I believe Van Hagar was more than just Journey-esque power ballads.

    1 – Judgement Day (On a pair with ANYTHING from Fair Warning IMHO!)

    2 – Pleasure Dome (It just blows my mind! Some of Ed’s best playing… bar none!)

    3 – Good Enough (Now THAT is some awesome slippery blues soloing!)

    4 – Aftershock (Both the mini melodic solo at 2:45 and the balls out note flurry afterward that lead up to those major chord hits (3:44) with the rest of the band, it raises the hair on my arms!)

    5 – Amsterdam (Everybody hates the lyrics, but listen to that guitar solo! It’s one to be proud of, slippery and nasty!)

    6 – Cabo Wabo (Melodic and yet rocking and breathtaking!)

    7 – Sucker In A 3 Piece (Are the lyrics cheesy at times? Yes! Is the guitar solo amazing! YES!)

    8 – Right Now (A melodic and amazing piece of work!)

    9 – A.F.U. (Saying the same thing over and over again… stunning technique and slippery bluesy fret burning!)

    10 – Mine All Mine (A dark horse entry and really only one of two VH keyboard songs that are rocking, this and Jump!)

    Extra points for: Me Wise Magic – This song is crazy good and it’ll be a crime if it’s not performed live on a new tour (Hopefully there’ll be one if this new release sees the light of day).


  • sherri 4 van hagar

    To say that they were “boring” with Sammy clearly shows that you do NOT know your history with VH. Dave wanted to be a solo artist and movie star. He dumped VH and Sammy helped recreate them (should have been VanHagar). They became sophisticated, technical and more creative than ever. The energy,tightness and affect they had on the crowd was amazing. I am grateful for the incredible music and concerts they made.Even though they will never be together again. What they did create will never be able to be replicated EVER!They were the best, for the time they lasted! I blame drugs and alcohol.