AC/DC’s Angus Young: “I’d Put Eddie Van Halen in That Category of Being an Innovator Like Hendrix”

Angus Young from AC/DC has some nice words to say about Eddie Van Halen

“AC/DC played on a bill with Van Halen back in 1978 or 1979 for a Bill Graham Day on the Green show. I didn’t know much about Van Halen then except that I remember seeing film clips of them, especially the one of Eddie playing the solo piece, ‘Eruption,’ and I was very impressed. I didn’t meet Eddie until years later when there was a Monsters of Rock open-air festival in England. I was shocked to hear he liked my playing, because I’ve never rated myself as a guitarist.

“Eddie is an innovator. When I grew up we had a lot of guys from England who were great players, like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. And then, of course, when Jimi Hendrix came along, he changed the game. I’d put Eddie in that category of being an innovator like Hendrix. He changed the game for his style of playing. When Eddie came along he spawned so many imitators. Like Hendrix, suddenly you started to see people wanting to buy the same guitars he played and also play his licks. He turned the rule book upside down in terms of his approach. There was a lot of experimentation to his playing. Eddie also crosses into that avant-garde thing, which puts him in the same category as Hendrix.

“‘Eruption‘ is a favorite track. He’s got everything characteristic of his playing in that song–there’s a bit of everything.

“When Jimi Hendrix came along it was like, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ and I think that was the same feeling with Eddie. When Eddie appeared on the scene, every guitarist I ran into said, ‘You’ve gotta hear this guy!'”

—Angus Young

From the hardcover photo book, Eddie Van Halen, by Neil Zlozower. For more info on the book, visit Van Halen Store.

View ALL Van Halen books.

  • Johnny the Boy

    That shot of Ed is classic! I was just imagining, I wish Zloz was a cinemtographer/videographer instead of a photographer. Could you imagine a pro shot version of the show in the photo? hmmm. . .

    (phone ringing in Hell)
    Devil – “Hello?
    Me – “Hello, Devil?
    Devil – “Yes?”
    Me – “Hi there, soul calling. . .want to make a deal?”

  • echoplexi

    I remember reading that Eddie was a big fan of “down payment blues”. I think he really liked Bon-scott to.

  • G-G-G-Get Out And Push!

    I saw the Black Ice tour as well and it was the best concert I’ve ever been to in my life. They know how to put on a rock and roll show thats for sure!

  • freddiegirl

    Didn’t Eddie say Panama was an AC/DC riff played backwards? I did it and it sounded a lot like Dirty Deeds. I think that’s awesome that Ed admitted that and awesome for Angus to give Ed some much-deserved props. Yeah, a lot of guys bagged on Ed when VH1 came out; can you blame them? They were scared.. 😉

  • Robert

    I remember seenig VH in concert in Oakland in 1980 on Roth’s birthday. During his solo, Ed played Catherdral (yes, two years before it came out on vinyl). I turned to my friend and said “How the fuck does he do that?” My friend said, “Fuck if I know! He comes up with new shit that no one’s ever thought up.” I think those two sentences sum up VH’s influence on rock music.

    I was lucky enough to interview Les Paul in NYC a couple of years before his death. The interview focused solely on other guitar players. Les also put EVH in the same category as Hendrix. “A true innovator, that’s what that kid is,” he said of Eddie. He went on to say that Ed invented new sounds on the electric guitar, adding that Ed “taught the electric guitar a new language.” That quote always stuck with me because it is spot on.

  • Michael C.

    All I’m saying is that when it’s time to own up and eat a little crow, you should just do it and do it with dignity and as much grace as possible. Angus and many others talked smack with no problems… now they need to say, “well, maybe I was wrong about that”. Easy enough, I would think. He wouldn’t be viewed as a jealous guitarist back in the day, then.

  • Rig

    Greg…please remember that Hendrix was left handed, played a right handed guitar upside down with the strings still strung and tuned for a righty……end of discussion.

  • Wilkster5150

    Yeah, Ed once said in a Guitar World interview Bon Scott was his favorite rock singer.

    I remember Ed sayin he wrote Panama as a tribute to ACDC and the power they brought to their songwriting style. That’s cool and interesting that it sounds like Dirty Deeds backwards.

  • Atomic Pete

    echoplexi says:
    I remember reading that Eddie was a big fan of “down payment blues”.”

    You’re right it was “Down Payment Blues”. I mistakenly said it was “Ride On” which is also really cool.

    @Ken A
    I never appreciated players like Angus or Jimmy Page when
    I was younger.It’s only now that I realize their brilliance.
    The greats make it sound easy but when you try to emulate…

  • Johnh

    Eddie was an innovator for sure…. I think Angus nailed it on the head…. here are a list of things I think Eddie Innovated:
    * the tapping thing – sure other people had done it before, but not like he did it (eruption)
    * The whammy bar theatrics (think dives and bombs)
    * The squealing pinched harmonics
    * the tapped harmonics (women in love start)
    * THe scapping pick noises and pinging the strings above the nut
    * The volume swells with echo (cathedral)
    * the slapping of harmonics like a bass player slaps the strings (start of mean street)
    * the controlled use of feedback
    the list goes on … and on…..

    what most of the imitators missed was Ed’s tone and sense of swing and timing. what many failed to grasp was that Ed is also a formidable rhythm player.. one of the best going in my books…

  • Top Timmy

    @ Rig..That really means squat. They just didnt make many left handed guitars then. Still strung the same(maybe upsidedown) and tuned the same. anybody can string a fender that way still today. The only thing is, can they play it as Hendrix did? Probably not. Anybody who picks up Eddies Frankin Strat through Eds Rig says the same….”man I thought I would sound like Eddie” Why do you think he came out and made amps and guitars for everyone to buy and play? He figured out that its both his fingers/feel/approach/equip that makes the sound. He has it, nobody else can get it or ever find it.Nuff said.

  • wooten

    I remember an interview where Eddie said they were nervous about playing after AC/DC. He said something about people always saying AC/DC pretty much have just one song. He said that it was a great one! (something like that)

  • Top Timmy

    @Greg. Just read your post again. You could not be any more wrong. Jimi used a right handed Fender Stratocaster with the neck reversed so Yes, the strings were backwards but the correct way. It was strung correctly as far as the order of the strings but as it was on a backwards neck. It was strung backwards to make it the correct order.

  • Robert

    Rig: That’s only partially correct. Hendrix played a right-handed Strat that was upside down, but it was still strung correctly for a lefty, with the low E on top (just like a regular right-handed guitar). Dick Dale, by the way, plays his “Beast” Strat upside down and strung in reverse (low E on the bottom).


    @ Michael C. – you’re right. Same goes for Joe Perry.

  • evhua

    Angus and Eddie … the Kings !

  • ftgjr

    I think it’s cool that Angus gave Eddie his props. So what if he said something different, 30 years ago. My opinion of things has changed over the years. I don’t hate things as much as I used to. You have to remember that in the 80’s, both VH and AC-DC were the top selling hard rock acts of that time. Back in Black is the top selling hard rock album of all time. Back in Black, Highway to Hell and For Those About to Rock shared equal time with WACF, Fair Warning and 1984 on my turntable.

    As far as comparing EVH to Hendrix, they were both amazing innovators. You have to remember that no one did anything like Hendrix, before him. He forever changed the way the guitar was played. EVH took it a few steps further.

  • motorscooter

    I get people have different tastes in music. And may even be less open to the opinion of Hendrix being top due to being overplayed on classic rock radio.

    Listen to Machine Gun from the Band Of Gypsys album. That has some of the greatest guitar playing ever. You can tell had Hendrix lived, Eddie would have been strong compeitition but not over him.

    That’s a bs argument by many that Hendrix always used all those guitar accessories for his sounds. Not true. He played without pedals and all that stuff as well. That cat didnt need those to get his sounds. Hendrix was also more musically experimentive and wrote lyrics.

    So as good as Eddie was, that’s why Hendrix gets top billing over him. He’s the consumate musician.

    Although Jeff Beck ties Hendrix in my book for being top guitar player ever, since he came out before him and is still innovative guitar wise.

  • Bradford

    Again, I appreciate VHND beyound comprehension. That said, I would rather read a post about new music than the 700th retrospective. But…VHND keeps it as fresh as the material they are or not dealt.

  • 5152

    Angus is one of the few rock guitarists who embroiders his songs with richly textured rhythms. His songs aren’t simply about few repeating power chords and a solo played towards the end. Kind of a Dave Brubeck on guitar. (Perhaps Billy Gibbons comes close?) . Now, Eddie has all that quality plus the kind of melodies that must’ve come from outerspace. Been listening to “Dream is Over”, “Drop Dead Legs,” and “Hear About It Later” lately, to be amazed over, and, over, and over again. That stuff is beyond the rock genre. It is superb music played by a rock band. Also, unlike “experimental” players, Eddie does it “naturally.” It is not engineering when he does it. It is music. It delights the body and mind.

  • PeteP

    AC/DC are two bands that generally appeal to the same set of fans. If you like one, then usually you’ll like the other, that’s what I’ve seen anyway and both bands do have a healthy respect of one another. And EVH has always been a fan of AC/DC. The Panama riff sounds like it was inspired by Dog Eat Dog and Drop Dead Legs may have been inspired by Black In Black. Both great bands.

  • John

    Freddie Girl-The riffs in Rock and Roll aint Noise Pollution and Black and Blue are very similar as well. Both are great.

  • Denny

    Eddie’s great playing did not end after “1984”. Sam gets blamed for a lot of things (hey Sam it’s your fault my investments are sucking, and it’s your fault the Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl since the ’90s) but Sam didn’t make Eddie any worse of a guitar player.
    1. EVH
    2. David Gilmour
    3. Slash

  • 5152

    @Sparks…eventually…I hope
    You mentioned “Billy Gibbons, Robin Trower and a small handful of others were clearly from the school of Hendrix in the early 70?s.” It think there are few guitarists who got the point from Hendrix. Aside from Eddie, Billy Gibbons and Angus are my favorites in rock guitar, not because of the solos but the rhythms. Eddie’s followers simply got the solos. Or they just overdid the riffs. There aren’t many memorable rhythm tracks from the period, but a repeating-riff and lots of fast soloing. When Eddie does rhythm it comes from a delta blues type of constant embroidery of chords, and slides up and down the neck and stuff. It happened more so after Fair Warning, continued with Diver Down and 1984 and culminated in 5150. Even a song like When Its Love has that continuos rhythm track. The same for Eddie’s keyboard songs. Aside from Jump, none of the others repeat a few chords, but evolve throughout the song. I’ll Wait, Feels So Good and Right Now are favorites. Now with players like Schon the song emerges from a blend of repetitive rhythm and keyboard chords. The high point is the solo. Eddie does it all with his two hands.

  • pete2

    @Rig…who cares…alot of us on here still prefer eddies style and although hendrix was great i think he was alittle overrated….end of discussion.

  • pete2

    i think the younger angus prob said alot of that stuff out of the heat of that they are all older now there isnt any need for all of that.

  • 5152

    Well, also all throughout the late 80s and the 1990s it was Eddie-bashing time! Among the jealous bashers were Steven Tyler when Pump was coming out, Angus around the release of Razor’s Edge, Ritchie Blackmore during Slave’s and Masters time. Then they were followed by the entire music press who castigated Eddie as the guy who does that two-handed tapping thing – in a way to make room for grunge — the “musical valium pil” that they prepared to shove down American throats. Too bad, cause Eddie really didn’t know what to do after the release of F.U.C.K. and his talents were wasted for two decades on unsuccessful attempts at being relevant in the new music scene. A textbook example of how America wastes its national treasures.

  • Roth_Leaps_83

    Very cool words from Angus — although I agree with many of you that he seems two-faced sinced he bagged on Eddie a lot back in the early 80’s (as did Clapton and Joe Perry and Ted Nugent).

    There is video on YouTube from the ’84 Donnington Festival in England where Angus is calling Van Halen a “pop band”. Just because “Jump” was mainstream at the time doesnt make CVH a pop band. Angus was quite the hypocrite because “You Shook Me All Night Long” was about as pop as you can get! Fuck you, Angus!

    That photo of Eddie is way cool — seems like he’s saying to himself “Hey fretboard, I own you bitch — let’s party!”

    Can’t wait to see the new Zloz photo book on Ed….should be an instant classic like the first book.

  • John

    I remember Eddie ripping Ace Frehley pretty bad in a couple of interviews, which I did not agree with. Ace may not be technically a great guitar player, but he has a certain feel,style and substance to his playing that I liked.

  • Pardo

    I’ve read a few Ed quotes where he shows huge respect for Angus. Its nice to see Angus do the same (finally).

    For me, to make a player great, you need 1 of 2 things. Cleverness or conviction. Angus has conviction out his rear end. Ed has both! 🙂

    Not a dis on Angus cause he’s untouchable at what he does.

  • dirtywaterdog

    Eddie wins hands down…..

  • Ryan

    I see four major milestones in lead guitar playing:
    (1) Chuck Berry
    (2) Jimi Hendrix
    (3) Eddie Van Halen
    (4) Yngwie Malmsteen

  • Beth

    Eddie likes Angus more than he leads on. Listen to Panama, then listen to Dog Eat Dog by AC DC.

  • kappdogg

    My 4 greatest

    1. Edward wins ! Sorry jimi was great but…
    2. HEndrix
    3 stevie ray vaughn
    4 vai is cool
    5 yngwie
    6 satch

  • Michael C.

    Ryan, I agreed with you until Yngwie. While I do think he’s an extraordinary talent, he never did anything to take the instrument to another level like the others on your list. He didn’t create a style people wanted to emulate or invent new styles all together. I love his work, but in my opinion he doesn’t reach the status of the others.

  • Let’s Rock

    I can’t separate Angus from AC/DC. It does not compute.

    Angus and Malcolm made a good sound. Those early albums with Bon Scott were gifts from god. Brian Johnson was a good fit for the first two albums after Scott left but AC/DC just wasn’t the same. (Insert your Sammy BS right here Roth’s Army)

    Bon Scott brought a real raw feeling to AC/DC. Call it the drunkeness, whatever.

    I was thinking back as many have done on the past: Boston, Nazareth, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, Frampton, ZZ Top, BTO, Kansas, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, Foreigner, Styx, Grand Funk, Santana, Journey, The Guess Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Queen, Rush, Steve Miller, Ted Nugent, Triumph, Traffic, The Who, Aerosmith…..etc. The 70’s!! How the fuck did we lose this???????

    In retrospect, I guess we lost it in the same fashion as we lost VH; We just took it for granted that it would always be there.

    Greatest guitarist, how does one pick? I’m a VH fan so it’s Eddie. An AC/DC fan would be Angus. Others would pick Carlos, Eric, Jimi, Brian May, Jimmy Page, BB King, Robert Johnson, Kirk Hammett, John Frusciante, The Edge, Alex Lifeson, Pete Townshend, Joe Perry, David Gilmore, Steve Howe, Edgar Winter, George Thorogood, Billy Gibbons, Neal Schon, etc, etc… pick your favorite

    And music today, no wonder all the young kids are listening to their parents music!!

    Please VH, hurry the fuck up!!!

    Forever and a day

  • freddiegirl

    John-Wow..that’s so obvious now that you said it! The riffs from Rock and Roll ain’t Noise Pollution and Black and Blue are almost identical! No wonder they’re my two favorite bands.. 😉

  • SCAR

    Have a fucking drink on me party people!!!! Cheers!!!

  • Shayne

    I still laugh when ppl put Ying-v and Satri on the same list as Eddie,Jimmy,Angus,Page…

    all they ever did was play elvevator music on steroids I grew up as an aspiring guitar player back when they were all the rave and even so could never stand either’s musical flavour.
    You must be able to write timeless music no matter how fast or tricky you are,Ike Turner the wife beater is a better guitarist than both of these guys if looked at from the ability to write a good timeless song on the guitar.

    MY top 10 list of Classic all time best guitarists

    Must of had an album out pre 80’s was my parameter

  • Dirty Skirty

    My band comparisions past 25 years

    AC/DC original albums after 1984 = 5. Blow Up Your 1988 Video (6/10), Razor’s Edge 1991 (8.5/10), Ballbreaker 1995(7/10), Stiff Upper Lip 2000(7.5/10) Black Ice 2008 (8.5/10)

    7.2 album avg rating

    Van Halen albums original albums after 1984 = 5. 5150 1986 Video (7/10), ou812 1988 (6.5/10), F.U.C.K. 1991(9/10), Balance 1995(6/10) III 1998 (3/10)

    6.3 avg album rating

    AC/DC takes time tween each album and aside from Ballbreaker they have steadily gotten better with age. With exception of F.U.C.K. Van Halen has gotten worse.

  • Steve K

    I love VH but Eddie has wasted alot of years doing nothing for us fans or his talent.At least AC/DC still tour hard and still rock and Roth Leaps give it up if you thing Angus isn’t in Eddies league.Styles are opinions but Angus is a great player no doubt about it.My favorite Angus guitar tone on albums were Powerage/Let there be Rock sounds like guitar and amp only no effects.

  • Grindstonem

    Here’s how really it went.
    (Guitarists who changed music)
    1. Les Paul
    2. Hendrix

    and then after these 3 had their moment, mainstream music forgot about all the innovations these 3 gave introduced, Tapping, the floyd rose tremolo… the list continues.

  • Lucic

    Im surprised Young said this about Eddie, since he’s always been jealous, and angry at the fact that eddie is light years ahead of him in creativity, style, and tone. And where is Guitar God, Kendall Barne’s comment??? LOL

  • Dirty Skirty

    lucic….ur a lunatic…Angus and AC/DC don’t play poltics and don’t get jealous of anyone. They do their thing and guess what? It’s payed off. No other band has come through for their mega fan base more so than AC/DC. Perhaps The Stones can measure up but thats about it. When your members are in their 20s you should be touring non stop and churning out full length albums every 1-2 years. When you hit your 30s and you refine your craft and start familes give a tour and album every 3 years. When you hit your 40s every 4-5 years, and your 50s and 60s an album and tour every 6-8 years is what fans shoudl expect. Oh and don’t call it a career after less than 15 years. Bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, GNR, Nirvana did a lot, but they shouldn’t be in the same conversation as AC/DC, Van Halen, The Stones, or even Motley Crue for that matter. I also think touring more than once for not promoting an album, releasing a live album every 3rd album, and a greatest hits more than once for every decade you are a band makes you a douchey band (see Aerosmith, Skynyrd, Motley Crue, Van Halen). You wanna see a blue print for being a band that does what they need to do see AC/DC.

  • Keith

    I’d like to hear what Eddie thinks all the famous players. Be nice if he fessed up to taking alot from Blackmore, Page , Hendrix, etc., but he won’t. Truth Hurts.

  • ringostore

    I think Eddie always gave a honest opinion of other guitar players with worthy critique. He talked negative about them because they just didn’t cut it either with their sloppy playing, Sound, or just not showing their full ability. They only wanted to be rock stars, not giving their full on for the fans or being a musician. It was the older and newer guitar players that were not fair or just envious of Ed. If there were such as thing as aliens from another planet and wanted to know what a rock and roll guitar player image was, Eddie would be the perfect example. He had the look, the smile and style, the movement and swagger, and most importantly, a musician blending acrobatic guitar work. He did everything you could possibly do with an electric guitar. What did Hendrix do? Light a match to one? Without alot of effects and just raw finger playing he toyed with all the elements of the physical guitar. Tinkering with both hands, harmonics, whammy bar, tricky and unorthodox scales, cordless drill, springs from the whammy bar, volume knob, etc etc. What other guitar players did that much? Better yet, what other guitar players ripped apart nice guitars and built exactly what they wanted for sound without worrying what their axe would look like? I think the older guitar players such as Angus and Joe Perry were just jealous at the time. The new ones that came along trying to play faster and memorizing endless scales such as Vai and Malmsteen became jealous also, all because they could could achieve the status of Eddie.

  • freddiegirl

    Keith-are you even a VH fan? Your response on the CF thread was negative as well.

  • andy

    @Ken A Your comment that “So many young musicians think they have AC/DC all figured out, but…” reveals a level of insight that I rarely come across; on the internet or amongst other musicians. Thank you for making alot of sense.

  • Ken A

    I love Satriani. People who think his playing is emotionless probably heard 30 seconds of one song or something, because he’s dedicated quite a bit of his life to making the instrument emote like the human voice. Yeah, some of his stuff is fast and crazy for the sake of fast and crazy, but so what? Sometimes, fast and crazy is just what the doctor ordered.

    Same goes for Vai, whose harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities are so far out there that he really does seem like an alien from another planet. I would put him in the same category as EVH and Hendrix for pursuing his love of strange sounds and throwing out the rulebook.

    Frank Zappa, too. Another guy who just plain did not give a damn about doing what everybody else was doing, and instead chose to pursue his own unique qualities in whatever direction they went.

  • 5152

    @ringostore :
    “The new ones that came along trying to play faster and memorizing endless scales such as Vai and Malmsteen became jealous also, all because they could could achieve the status of Eddie.”

    But, only until recently did they begin to give credit to Eddie. Perhaps, there is nothing to compete for anymore (the industry is gone), or maybe cause people mature with time. Among his contemporaries, I know two players who weren’t intimidated by Eddie and gave him credit. One is Eddie’s Steve Lukather — himself written off as a pop player— and the other is Steve Morse who was always revered by the more serious musical circles. Morse was honest enough to admit he wished he could be as technically proficient and at the same time be “off the hip” like Eddie. By this account he put all the music press to shame.

    To me Eddie is loose like Keith Richards or Elmore James but refines his music with the dexterity of an Oscar Peterson, the control and economy of a Dave Brubeck and enriches it with the compositional depth of an Aaron Copland. Eddie is a true American treasure! No wonder the Smithsonian honored this living legend by placing his Frankenstrat on display! With all due respect to Hendrix, I think Eddie is beyond guitar and should be admitted to the pantheon of American musical greats. The heck with Rolling Stone and the likes who have chosen to promote “personality cult” over musical artistry.