It was exactly 40 years ago today that Eddie Van Halen recorded the wildly innovative instrumental, “Eruption.” The date of Sept. 8th, 1977 was uncovered by Van Halen biographer, Greg Renoff, during his extensive interviews with Van Halen producer Ted Templeman.
Here’s an exclusive excerpt about the day “Eruption” was recorded, from the pages of Renoff’s Van Halen Rising:
The next day, September 8, Templeman and Landee sat in the control room while Edward worked through his solo for an upcoming Whisky show. “When we were recording our first album,” Edward remembered, “our producer, Ted Templeman, heard me practicing it for an upcoming gig and asked, ‘What the hell is that?’ I said, ‘It’s a thing I do live — it’s my guitar solo.’ His immediate reaction was, ‘Shit, roll tape.’”
Templeman’s interest surprised Edward. As Edward explained to Steven Rosen, “I just didn’t think it was something we’d put on a record. He liked it, Donn liked it, and everyone else agreed that we should throw it on.”
The band’s three instrumentalists quickly cut the track. In Edward’s words, “I played it two or three times for the record, and we kept the one, which seemed to flow.”
What was captured on tape sounded apocalyptic. “Eruption” (first titled “Guitar Solo,” according to the song’s track sheet), takes flight after a quick drum fill and a power chord. Edward sends notes and harmonics soaring before diving down with some gravity-defying tremolo bar bends. Alex and Michael then fire off a flak burst of three chords. Edward maneuvers again, twisting and turning, strafing and bombing before turning on the jets and heading skyward with a flurry of notes. He recedes again, leaving only a descending low note in his wake. After another pause, he attacks again, faster than ever. He weaves and twists and then unleashes his secret weapon: his two-handed tapping technique that would astound and confound guitarists across the world. Finally, an atomic blast, courtesy of Edward’s Univox echo chamber, concludes this minute and forty-three seconds of open warfare on the guitar world.
Amazingly, Edward felt disappointed with the way the track turned out. He explained, “I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. Whenever I hear it, I always think, Man, I could have played it better.” Still, after years of dissecting guitar solos by every band from Aerosmith to ZZ Top, he knew what ended up on tape was unique. “I like the way it sounds; I’ve never heard a guitar sound like it. It’s not that my playing was so great, it just sounds like some classical instrument. Donn really made it sound like more than it is, in a way.”
Do you remember what you felt the first time you heard “Eruption”? Share your stories in the Comment section.