In all the bombast surrounding the feud between former Van Halen bandmates lately, there have been a few curious details that have slipped through the cracks.
The big story has been that Eddie Van Halen gave an interview in Billboard magazine in which he characteristically talked smack about Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and even his current frontman David Lee Roth.
Sammy Hagar famously responded to Eddie’s remarks about Mikey, calling Van Halen a “liar” in a very unveiled, direct way.
But something else happened between the two exchanges that should be noted. In that Billboard interview, Eddie Van Halen was noted as saying that he doesn’t listen to music. That statement is stunning.
“I don’t listen to anything.”
Van Halen even went on to say that, not only has he not bought an album since 1986, when he bought Peter Gabriel’s So album, but he prefers not to have the radio on in the car when he drives.
“I prefer the sound of the motor.”
“It’s an odd thing, but I’ve been this way my whole life,” Van Halen said. “I couldn’t make a contemporary record if I wanted to, because I don’t know what contemporary music sounds like.”
Things got particularly odd when Van Halen mused about the songs he has written, including famous pieces like “Panama” and “Jump.”
“I have no memory of coming up with any of those riffs,” Eddie said. “Even the stuff I wrote for the last record, I don’t remember. It just comes to me. I never sit down and decide to write a song. I’ve never done that.”
One thing that Eddie does claim to remember was that former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony could not play, or so Eddie says.
“Every note Mike ever played, I had to show him how to play,” Van Halen claims. “Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.”
It was this statement that brought the ire of Sammy Hagar, who contradicted Eddie vehemently.
“For Eddie to say he had to show [Michael] what to play and had to teach him all those songs, that is the biggest line of b******t I’ve ever heard in my life. I was in that band for eleven years, and there was never a video camera involved of Eddie showing him what to play.”
But then Sammy Hagar said something that sounds almost unbelievable.
“Eddie would tell him what to play once in a while, and say, ‘No, Mike, don’t play with that many notes. Just stay on one note — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom — so that I can f*** up and nobody will know it.’ It was that kind of sh**. And I am telling you straight up, especially on the ’04 reunion tour, if Mike would have played any more than one note, it would have been showing that Eddie wasn’t playing the right chords again and again and again; I couldn’t sing to ’em, you couldn’t play bass to ’em.”
Sammy Hagar was saying that Eddie Van Halen couldn’t play his own songs properly live. And Eddie says he doesn’t even remember writing them.
Eddie Van Halen has had a long and very public battle against alcoholism. He has said that drinking was not even a matter of partying, but of functioning.
Could it be that Eddie Van Halen, music genius and guitar god that he is, has difficulty remembering his songs, or even being interested in any others? And might that be because of his alcohol problems in the past?
As if in answer, here is Eddie Van Halen’s spot-on Jimmy Kimmel Live performance of his signature tune “Eruption.”
[Image via Jimmy Kimmel Live / ABC]