Album: Van Halen
. . .
Like drum solos, I’m generally not in favor of those moments where the guitarist stops the band, or the band fades from under the guitarist, and they’re all alone, noodling on the stage. Those types of moments have defeated many a guitarist I love: Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Howe, to name a few.
This, is the exception.
I don’t think I’m a synesthesia guy in general, but I don’t hear “Eruption” so much as see it: spiraling pinwheels of light darting all around me. Or something. Or maybe it was the weed we were all smoking back in 1978.
What it really was, of course, was the sound of the world changing.
Basically just Eddie Van Halen all by his lonesome, with some drum fanfare to intro him (and to transition from “Runnin’ With The Devil“), “Eruption” was an Eddie Van Halen warm-up exercise that mad producer Ted Templeman asked him to record, and, smartly, they made it the second song on the album.
Had it been the opener, it would have been too much. But putting it second (and for the radio, pairing it with “You Really Got Me,”) it made the statement that “yeah, we know our guitar player can do this, but he’s just one dude out of four. Also, check out our shit-hot guitar player.”
And so “Eruption” is essentially 102 seconds of Eddie Van Halen either playing shit that really hadn’t occurred to any other guitarist to play, or total and utter silence. It’s pure genius, of course, and part of that genius lies in the fact that it’s short. Five minutes would have been too much. Instead, it’s just long enough for you to want more of those moments where it sounds like he’s got fifteen fingers playing at the same time.
“Eruption” freaked everybody the fuck out. You know that one part? Near the end, where it sounds like the universe is spinning off of its axis? Literally spinning off its axis. What even the fuck was that? I mean, when we got into arguments about who was the fastest guitarist (and of course we got into arguments about who was the fastest guitarist), it was always exhibit one, meaning tough luck Frank Marino or Michael Schenker or Ritchie Blackmore.
Of course, I’m sure nowadays, there’s a whole bunch of guitarists who could do “Eruption” in their sleep. Shit, that probably happened by 1980, especially as people figured out his hammer-on technique. (And, no, I’m not going to discuss his technique. That would take all of the fun out of it.) Which is fine, because it just means that “Eruption” has gone from a world-changer to a world foundation.
“Eruption” LIVE IN FRESNO September 22, 1978
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