The Van Halen Solo That Started It All

Eddie Van Halen
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

From nearly the beginning of Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, one epic, 110-second track put its guitarist on the map as one of the greatest of his generation - and, indeed, one of the greatest of all time.

Although technically credited to all four members of Van Halen, as was the democratic thing to do, “Eruption," which sits snugly between album opener “Runnin’ with the Devil” and the band’s cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” is so unabashedly an Eddie effort that pretending it’s a full-fledged band effort is kind of ridiculous. That’s not to say that Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony don’t do their thing on drums and bass, of course, but the solo on this song... Well, it’s just a thing of beauty, isn’t it?

WATCH: Wolfgang Van Halen Plays "Eruption" on Bass

Well, not if you’d asked Eddie himself about it.

"While we were recording the album, I showed up at the studio early one day and started to warm up because I had a gig on the weekend and I wanted to practice my solo guitar spot,” Eddie told Guitar World, explaining the origins of the song. “Our producer, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked, 'What’s that? Let’s put it on tape!' I played it two or three times for the record, and we kept the one that seemed to flow. Ted and Donn [Landee, engineer] liked it, and everyone else agreed that we should throw it on. I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. Whenever I hear it, I always think, ‘Man, I could have played that better.’”

That last thought could easily be featured in a Jeopardy! category called Things No Van Halen Fan Has Ever Thought, and you won’t find many rock critics thinking it, either: in 2005, Q ranked “Eruption” in the upper third of its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and Guitar World called it the second greatest guitar solo of all time.

We won’t even tell you what the greatest was. We’ll just let you argue about it amongst yourselves.

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