Sunday, February 22, 2009

Van Hagar and the stringless phenomenon

OK, I might as well squeeze one more post out of my Five Guys experience. (If you haven't done so already, see my previous post in Empoprise-MU, as well as the more relevant post in Empoprise-BI.)

While we FriendFeeders (and the neighboring yo-yoers) were sitting outside at Five Guys in Cerritos, music was playing either from the Five Guys itself, or from the shopping center in general. A song started with a heavy keyboard intro and some high-singing singer, and Adrian stated that it was Van Halen. I was sure that it wasn't.

If I may quote Jim Bakker, I was wrong. It was Van Halen, with their song "Love Walks In":

The interesting part of this video is that Eddie Van Halen, who is known to acolytes everywhere as the greatest guitar god of all time (though I have a lower estimation of him), is the keyboard player in this song as Sammy Hagar takes the lead on the guitar for this one.

However, Eddie's keyboard dabblings didn't begin when singer/guitarist Hagar joined the band. You'll recall that Eddie played both lead guitar and keyboards on the David Lee Roth-era hit "Jump." Eddie talked about this, and the controversy it caused within the band:

I had the idea for “Jump” around the time of Fair Warning [1981]. When Michael, Alex, and Dave first heard it, they didn’t like it too much. They either weren’t ready for it or probably me playing the keyboards had something to do with it. We [Eddie and then engineer, Donn Landee] put it down on tape and it was, “Here it is guys, if you don’t like it, write something yourself.” So they had to like it.

After "Jump" was well-received, Eddie Van Halen felt more free to do new things in his music.

I just knew that everyone from my father to the guy who works on my cars loved it [keyboards]. It had a universal appeal to it. If people didn’t like it, that’s fine, too; I knew what it was. Donn and I liked it so much, we didn’t care what anybody else thought about it, I guess....

It’s almost like I play more keyboards now than I do guitar! I enjoy playing keyboards. It means you don’t have to jump around on-stage and have something hanging ’round your neck. No, I’m joking....

[The success of the album 1984] gave me the freedom to play keyboards comfortably. Now I don’t have to worry about what the rest of the guys think other people will think. I never worried about what anyone thinks except it makes you feel kind of uncertain when the guys worry.

But some fans were still disappointed, especially when Hagar showed up:

["Love Walks In"] was a huge hit on the airwaves, but it's really sad to see Eddie Van Halen playing the keyboard rather than guitar. It's like watching Hank Aaron pitch rather than hit.

Now my personal opinion is that Eddie Van Halen's keyboard work is just like his guitar work - fast, furious, and utterly soulless. But I realize that others have differing opinions, and I have to acknowledge that Eddie's skills are not limited to the guitar alone.
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