Guitar legend Nuno Bettencourt was recently at Henson Studios to do some writing and mixing. Unbeknownst to him, his favorite rock band from his youth were secretly using the very same studios to record their upcoming album. Inspired by his chance encounter with Eddie Van Halen that day, Nuno wrote a story about it, which he contributed to the upcoming hardcover photo book, Eddie Van Halen, by Neil Zlozower.
The Van Halen News Desk has the exclusive on Nuno Bettencourt’s contribution in the book, below:
I’m writing this on January 19, 2011, some thirty-three years after the Shock Heard Around the World. I’m referring of course to Van Halen.
Earlier today I was at Henson Studios—the old Charlie Chaplin movie lot—to do a writing session in the mixing room. As I was about to enter the room, my ears demanded that my feet stop in their tracks. What caused me to stop was a familiar sound from the room across the hall. This sound was desperately trying to break through the double-thick walls of the studio.
It was faint, but even so, there was no mistaking the power of the sound that was seeping through those walls, because there can only be one Edward.
I looked around to make sure no one was around, and then walked over and put my ear to the wall. I closed my eyes and listened intensely, and between the vibration and what I actually heard—poof!—I was transformed from forty-four to fourteen years old. Then, for the next three minutes, like a burst of electricity running through me, I saw and heard the soundtrack of my life flash before me. Back to the minute I walked into my brother’s room and heard “Running with the Devil” for the first time and I froze, staring at the record player with my mouth open like I was seeing porn for the first time, trying to comprehend what I was hearing. If that wasn’t scary enough, my brother then played another track, which opened with the thunder of the greatest, most individual and under-celebrated drummer in the world, King Alex Van Halen: PaDaLaBum PaDaLaBum . . . “Eruption!” At that point I looked at my brother and asked if we were being invaded by aliens, and what planet Edward Van Halen was from.
We’ve only had a handful of legendary guitarists whose styles were influential from the moment they hit the scene. Eddie not only had a groundbreaking style and sound, but as Van Halen’s discography shows, he and the band went on to make great and important music throughout their career.
Edward is a not only a great guitarist, he is a true genius and innovator. Like the legendary guitarists before him, he brought guitar to a new level, but unlike them, he reinvented the guitar one album after the other. It was fucking mind-boggling to listen to each new record. How could this be? We figured, Okay, Ed, you did it! “Atomic Punk,” “I’m the One,” et cetera, on Van Halen were improbable enough. Then what? He fucking did it again with Van Halen II! “Spanish Fly,” “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” and “Outta Love Again.” Then on Women and Children First there’s “Everybody Wants Some,” “Take Your Whiskey Home,” “Loss of Control,” . . . and then came my favorite VH album, Fair Warning! I thought, It’s four albums in, he’s definitely gonna start repeating himself. Drop the needle . . . and . . . wait for it . . . it’s fading in . . . no fucking way . . . “Mean Streets”! This guy is not human. Then “Unchained”?! I was convinced now that he really was an alien from another planet. And the list goes on: “Cathedral,” “Little Guitars,” “Hot for Teacher,” “Top Jimmy.” The reinvention and innovation was relentless, and goes on till today.
What’s even more incredible is that he did this without ever doing a long-winded, “look at me” instrumental solo record; he did it while being one of the tastiest rhythm players around, and while still serving the most important part, the Song.
I ran into Edward an hour later in the hallway, and after receiving a hello and a warm hug from the man who changed the world, I asked, “How’s it coming along in there?” And Ed said, “It’s cool. . . . I’m a little nervous, though.” I said, “Nervous? You!? Eddie Van? The Master? Do you have any idea what you have done? The gifts you have given us for over thirty years? You single-handedly changed the history of how we play guitar!” And with that grin that we have been seeing on Eddie’s face for as long as we can remember, he looked me in the eye and said, “I know . . . why do you think I’m nervous?” Then he walked off like John Wayne, straight back into the studio.