1983: A Day With Eddie Van Halen in Rio

From Playadelnacho.com:

This is an article originally conceived in Portuguese by Brazilian journalist LUIZ ANTONIO MELLO, translated by me [English is not my first language, so bear with me] for your entertainment. Basically, these are his memoirs from a day with EDDIE VAN HALEN back in 1983, during the infamous –and only  EVER-  Van Halen South American Tour. Photos posted here are courtesy of a dude named ‘Bolivia’, which somehow collected a lot of the Sao Paulo and Rio concerts, which explains why most photos have the ‘Bolivia’ print, despite displaying concerts in Brazil. A fun read.

I have had a fair share of experiences with rock’s finest. After all, I have been a journalist for 32 years now. I met Eddie Van Halen in Rio. At the day of the concert, I was wandering at the nearby the hotel Van Halen was and I saw Eddie leaving. Skinny, short, that drunken grin. It was about 4 pm. I came over, introduced myself and we started strolling around [night club/brothel-filled street] Duvivier and the streets that hold the main hot bed for sexual debauchery in the country. There was this joint named New Munique at which the girls danced and did each other on a small rounded stage the size of a ping pong table. With my lame English, I showed Eddie the low class whorehouse, which, obviously, was closed. I miss New Munique…well, let’s go. Next door, one of those bars, that sell lollipops dangled in the same shelf as cigarettes, banana candy, sugar peanut bars, and plenty, plenty of cachaça. Eddie was all over it. For starters, two shots. One with 51 [a famous and cheap brand of cachaça –a Brazilian variety of rum made of sugar cane] and the other with Praianinha [likewise]. He wanted to go through some sort of savoring session with all of them. I was distracted with a hot brunette who had stopped by, with an even hotter girlfriend, and Eddie kept on pounding, pounding, pounding, to the point some construction workers said ‘china man sure can slam them’.

I left the ladies [we could not reach a financial agreement] and got back. By the fifth or sixth cachaça shot Eddie bent, I started go worry. He had a concert later that night. What if he fell down? What if he went into an alcoholic coma? I signed at him like ‘take it easy’, and said ‘slow, Eddie, slow’. He laughed with even more Chinese eyes. By pure lack of what to say, I said ‘all greatest cowboys have Chinese eyes’, which is nothing less than Pete Townshend’s solo album, just arrived in Brazil.

Summing it up, after about tem [TEN, 10!!!] shots [not those small ones, more like coffee cup-sized], the guitar player left the bar stepping on the asphalt with the precision of a circus high wire artist. He looked like a mix between João Bosco and Aldir Blanc [two notorious Brazilian bossa nova musicians]. The bad thing was, the tab was mine.

Eddie walked straight, headed to Leme [a Rio hood – tourists, Leme lies to the left of those headed ocean-bound] and spoke little, about the Record he was planning on doing with Brian May, a great friend, of Queen fame. That record was released. Recorded like shit. ‘we’ll set up the guitars, the amps, crank it up and jam’, said Eddie, who showed mood swings, and eventually started blabbering incoherently, but keeping the lucidity of someone who drinks Atalaia Jurubeba [a sort or medicinal syrup] and not 10 glasses of assorted kinds of cachaça.

Actually, by 1984, I think an absolutely killer vinyl Record from Brian and Eddie was released. A hard blues jam, which name I forgot, for I lost that album. I noticed that Eddie was not doing so well and could no longer bear singer David Lee Roth’s ego, who spent the nights at the hotel hiring escorts [he had FIFTEEN go up to his room in one occasion], but all he did was stay on the phone and snort cocaine. Sexual marketing. The most sordid details are told in my book “A Onda Maldita” [www.aondamaldita.com.br].

I also felt that Eddie had bumped sideways with his brother Alex, a monumental drummer, and according to local security [gossipers as usual], Alex was picking hard on Eddie because of booze. ‘Playing is my business’, he said as we headed back to the hotel as he meant ‘I can’t’ stand this band leader shit, it’s a pain in the ass’. He got in the hotel and I only saw him again at the Maracanazinho stage.

Van Halen opened the first show with the orgasmic ‘Hear About It Later’. Right from the first chords, the attendants at the 18 first rows went down, all passed out with their eardrums ripped. Alex ‘Porco’ Valdez sent the production crew back in Los Angeles a map of the Maracana Stadium, and they rigged a P.A. designed for stadiums [120,000 capacity Maracana] to Maracanazinho [a 12,000 capacity indoor sports arena].

I remember the stacks: Marshall, Marshall, Marshall, Marshall, Marshall, at the bottom of the stage, aside from the completely Martian P.A., the kind I had never seen before. The glass windows at several apartment buildings at the Maracana Avenue were shattered. I saw people barfing due to the impact of the sound waves, I saw kids rolling on the floor, but the band wouldn’t cut anyone any slack.

Accidentally, I watched the shows from the upper bleachers, and I could hear ambulances in my head for Five days. But what amazed me the most was how a plastered Eddie could really, really, really play!!!!!

Absolute precision, nothing sloppy, all in compass. Of course, there was some loss of memory lyrics-wise, for all alcoholics are on their way to arteriosclerosis, but the sound was perfect. How could that be? When the show was over, the crowd left Maracanazinho howling, screaming, puking, shitting, and peeing in joy.

But of course, destiny sent a waiter with the tab. In 2000, it was announced that Eddie had cancer. Back then, I wrote for the Rocknet web site and read the news here [at Whiplash!].  Rocknet was produced at the El Sonoro Studio, owned by Filipe Melo, the greatest Jimi Hendrix interpreter I ever heard [filipemelo@infolink.com.br] and an extraordinary human being.

I read the article and left. I went for a walk, pissed, sad, thinking of Eddie. Or of Eddie’s demise. Another one to go up. My head spinned, I thought about the data supplied by a news agency which accounted more than 300 rockers deceased from 1954 to 2000. Causes:  1] car or bike crash; 2] cirrhosis, pancreatitis, multiple organ failure; 3] heroin and cocaine overdose. And so on. Would Eddie make the list?

I followed all related news here at Whiplash. When Eddie left the headlines [actually the headlines left him alone], I noticed something good had happened. Some miraculous cure no doctor could explain. And Duvivier street Eddie Will be back in July, rocking at 48 years of age. And the sickle carrying, white-faced lady in black didn’t take him. After all, the world needs its Eddies, its singled-faced, humble people, and music in its veins.”