Monday, May 12, 2008

FBO: 'Evaluating the Best Guitar Solos of All Time (#4)'


Why do we have guitar solos in the first place? Some of it is to prove the bravado of the lead guitarist, who wants to put himself ahead of the lead singer in the limelight for a sec. Others like solos to give the listener a little break FROM the singer -- so you don't have to listen to Accept's groany screams nonstop. Others go for less ball-buster melodies, ones that actually play off the song melody, for a tuneful twist. Eddie Van Halen had a fourth option: hatred for his fans.

The first single from Van Halen's 1984, which came out in late 1983, was the synth-dominated 'Jump.' The band likely feared it would be controversial -- that Van Halen, the playful hard rockers of SoCal/Holland would switch from the guitars -- but it quickly became the band's biggest-selling single.

In the video, famously made for something like $400 (a nod to the Stones' 'Start Me Up' in a sense), guitarist Eddie Van Halen 'plays possum' on his guitar, strumming along as his guitar-less song surrounds him (a bit of guitar comes in during the pre-chorus). Mid-way through (see the 2:15 mark) he holds up a finger, as if to say, 'Hold on, I'll throw something your way, kids,' then tears out the most cynical guitar solo of all time.

The solo to follow -- accompanied with Eddie's cheetah jacket and goofy-as-if-stoned grins that run along the whole video -- tries to fit as much crunch and 'tapping' finger-pulls as is possible in a mere 15 seconds. It's way too busy and fast for the simple pop song, and he's doing it only to get people pre-emptively 'off his back.'

--> 'Here's some guitar, as loud and fast as ever, so deal with the keys.'

What's more, expecting negative fall-out for the synths, he follows it with an actual keyboard solo -- the first time you see him playing the keyboards in the video -- as if to prove a point: this is music too.

This is cynicism and hatred. Not something easily accomplished by a 15-second guitar solo in a three-minute-plus #1 hit song. For that Eddie deserves credit.

What's funniest is there turned out to be little, or no, backlash for the 'sell out' move. The album was clearly Van Halen's most inspired album since their first in 1978, and it sold to equally rapturous fan bases on both sides of the gender line.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

1 comment:


Whoa now Rob - speak for yourself! There was quite a few unhappy people in my group about this crap song. We didn't organize album burnings (too "churchy" for us) but we did use terms like "sucky" and "sell-out" quite a bit in reference to that gem (as well as the entire Sammy Hagar era). And of all the Van Halen songs, this is the ONE SONG that sounds completely outdated. What I want to know is HOW did Eddie manage to grow a vagina. And WHAT did David do to that vagina to get kicked out of the band?

On a side note (but kind not really) - according to Wikipedia, Sammy Hagar was once in a band called "Manhole". Which probably went well with Eddie's vagina inspired writing.