Eddie Van Halen recently spoke to CNN about the guitar solo he contributed to Michael jackson’s”Beat It”, released 30 years ago.
Eddie and Michael have only performed the song together once. This historic event happened July 14, 1984 during The Jacksons ”Victory Tour” concert in Dallas, Texas. Here’s video of the unrehearsed performance (this video’s quality is so-so, but still is a big improvement over the crappy version most people have seen) and all the known photos from the concert.
Eddie reflected on his experience working with award-winning producer/songwriter Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, in the later half of 1982:
“I used to have this old phone system in the studio. Phone rang, I picked it up and there’s this voice saying, ‘Yo, Eddie? That Eddie?’ There was lots of crackling and stuff. And I said, ‘Yeah, who’s this?’ But he obviously couldn’t hear me. So I hung up, figuring it was a fan. Phone rings again, and the same voice says, ‘Hey, Eddie.’ So this time I shout ‘Asshole’ and hang up. Phone rings a third time. ‘Hey, Eddie, Eddie, it’s Quincy Jones.’ Have I ever felt small.
‘Certain people in the band at that time didn’t like me doing things outside the group. But Roth happened to be in the Amazon or somewhere, and Mike was at Disneyland and Al was up in Canada or something, and I was home alone. So I thought, well, they’ll never know. Seriously: who’s going to know that I played on a black guy’s record? Michael said ‘I love that high fast stuff you do.’ So I played two solos over it and said, ‘You guys pick the one you want.’ It was 20 minutes out of my day. I did it for free and later everybody was telling me, you could have got a royalty point out of that record. But it didn’t matter because Quincy wrote me a letter thanking me, and he signed it ‘The Asshole’. I framed it. Classic.’
“Beat It” hit the charts on 3/12/83, lasting 15 weeks and reaching #1 in the U.S. and #3 in the U.K.
Upon Michael jackson’s death, Eddie told TMZ, “I am really shocked; as I’m sure the world is, to hear the news. I had the pleasure of working with Michael on ‘Beat It’ — one of my fondest memories in my career. Michael will be missed and may he rest in peace.”