Every fan has their story to tell. We know you’ve got yours. We certainly have ours. It’s the story of the very first time you witnessed Van Halen perform live.
The YouTube channel Final Resonance TV has recently launched a series titled “Van Halen Stories”. For the debut episode guest Mike Simmons of Blackbird Rentals in Nashville, Tennessee recalled his first-ever Van Halen concert. It was on November 9th, 1978 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Van Halen was supposed to open for Black Sabbath that night but Black Sabbath never showed up due to the fact that Ozzy Osbourne went missing! Osbourne partied a little too hard with David Lee Roth the night before and returned to the wrong hotel. You can read all about that crazy story via VHND‘s 2018 article HERE. Long story short, Black Sabbath cancelled but Van Halen played anyway and as far as Simmons was concerned, that was just fine with him. He had just witnessed a performance that was simply impossible to follow.
Heading into that night’s concert Simmons had no idea what Van Halen looked like. He didn’t have their debut album yet, never saw them perform live before and MTV was still a few years away. Imagine his surprise when Van Halen hit the stage.
“There was no warning! I’m literally gettin’ the goosebumps right now – ‘cuz that’s what happened then – thinkin’ about it,” said Simmons, who went on to tell the story. “The very first note of the guitar I was like, ‘What?!’ It was SUPER loud…Immediately they start into ‘On Fire’…GRAH! GRAH! GRAH! GRAH! GRAAAH! and I’m’ like ‘Holy sh–!’ I’m immediately drawn to Edward ‘cuz his energy on stage was just – I’m a guitar player, I love guitar playin’ – he hadn’t even played the lead yet and I’m already goin, ‘Who is this guy?’ Then he does that little harmonic thing…CHU-TUCK-EH-DACK-UH-DUCK-UH-DECK-UH-DUCK-UH-DECK! and I’m like, ‘What the f— is that?!’ Immediately, I’m just riveted.”
Listen To Van Halen “On Fire” Live 1978
As if what Simmons had seen wasn’t already enough to convert him, Eddie eventually took center stage to perform his legendary solo “Eruption”. Simmons…was…HOOKED.
“His speed picking, the finger tapping, his sound, the way that he incorporated the effects in his sound and just the way he looked and the absolute joy that you could see on his face as he was playing. Man, I was sooo grateful I got to be there,” said Simmons.
Listen To Eddie Van Halen “Eruption” Live 1978
When Van Halen’s set was over, the announcement came soon after that Black Sabbath was not going to perform.
“This guy comes out. This poor guy comes out and makes the announcement that, ‘I’m sorry, Black Sabbath is not gonna be able to play tonight,’” said Simmons. “As soon as those words came out of his mouth, he was just showered with cups….Man, I don’t know where people got all this stuff they were throwin’ at him. He went right off the stage, people started raisin’ hell. Not me. I was just like, ‘Ya know what? I don’t even care.’ I walked back to the back part – back behind the soundboard – and I just stood there for a second, freakin’ out on what I had just seen. And my wheels were spinnin’. I’m like, ‘I gotta get this [band’s] record.’ That was my next mission, to get this record and then – the few things that I saw [Eddie do] – start figurin’ out what he was doin’…if there was any way you could figure it out. So inspired man.”
Watch Simmons tell the whole story of that night plus the next time he had the chance to see Van Halen in 1980 in the video below.
Now we wanna hear your story! When did you first see Van Halen? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!