Whenever Eddie Van Halen gave advice, guitarists always listened.
Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen recently talked to MusicRadar about how his first meeting with Eddie Van Halen would later influence the sound of Def Leppard’s 1987 album Hysteria.
“When I first met Eddie, it was on Van Halen’s first British headline tour at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, London,” said Collen. “He was so humble, considering he was such a monster player. We were talking about guitars and I had this Strat that my mum had gotten me for my 21st birthday. It was the main guitar I used later on the Hysteria stuff – whenever you hear anything on that record, it’s probably that. When I told him I had this beautiful Strat that I loved, he actually said, ‘You know, you won’t be happy until you’ve taken that pickup out and carved out space for a humbucker!’”
Collen took Eddie’s advice and tore out the single-coil, carved out space for a humbucker and inserted a DiMarzio pickup.
“I thought, ‘Fuck!’” continued Collen. “But I did it because Eddie told me to do it! We put a DiMarzio in there and yeah, whenever you hear “Animal” or any of those tracks on the radio, that’s what you’re hearing!”
Collen, who added that he spoke with Eddie just one more time after that first meeting, said Eddie’s impact on the way guitar has been played have a permanent place in music history.
“I have to say he was the most important rock player after Jimi Hendrix, who was the first real guitarist,” said Collen. “Everyone at the time had this sound in their head but they couldn’t really do it. Jimi could, and very naturally. I still don’t think anyone’s come close to Hendrix ever since. But Eddie has to come next, he changed guitar in a similar way. It was the purity of his style. Sure, the shredding was great and the tapping was unique – I’d never heard it before – but the vibrato was truly amazing. He could make his guitar sing. It was all very natural. The main difference between them was that Hendrix was a singer and that meant he had a different approach to it.”
Watch Def Leppard “Hysteria” Live 2020