Eddie Van Halen is one of the greatest and most influential guitarists to ever play a note – and he remains an absolute shredder. Where were you when you heard “Eruption” for the first time? Celebrate his career with the top 10 solos he ever played.
10. “Spanish Fly”
Eddie proved himself a bona fide shredder with the first Van Halen album, but critics questioned whether he could sound as good on an acoustic guitar. Safe to say he did so with the furious finger-tapping and unimaginably clean chops he shows on “Spanish Fly.” Have you ever heard an acoustic guitar played so fast?
9. “Hot for Teacher”
Well of course one of the fastest, wildest Van Halen songs is going to feature an Eddie shred-fest! More effortless chops abound for the blues-driven “Hot for Teacher” solo – and don’t forget the shreds at the very end!
This quick but solid solo incorporates mostly EVH’s signature finger-tapping, and also showed how he can make even that style sound unique with the way he slightly bends the strings before releasing them, leading into that distinctive breakdown riff.
7. “Top Jimmy”
A notable aspect of this song is Eddie’s awesome use of natural harmonics in the riffs leading up to the solo. Then he adds some pinch harmonics, or “squeals,” as he makes his guitar sound like a siren going haywire. Hear any guitarist noodling around making his axe scream, and you know where that sound came from.
6. “Little Dreamer”
Like lots of early Van Halen songs, Eddie’s work is Randy Rhoads-esque here, with several other nice riffs interspersed throughout the verses and choruses. But the actual solo begins at about 1:48 and features some flawless fast hammered-on licks, providing some speed to compliment the song’s mid-tempo rhythm.
Eddie took some crap for playing a lot of keyboard on 1984, and for good reason – why would he ever put the guitar down!? But in all fairness, he did a pretty good job, as the keyboard hook to “Jump” would indicate. And he also threw in a shredding guitar solo pretty much just to prove he can still do it.
4. “Runnin’ With the Devil”
Since this song, not “Eruption,” opened Van Halen’s debut album, Eddie didn’t want to give too much away in terms of his ability. So the solo lick for “Runnin’ With The Devil” is fairly straightforward and not too fast, and even appears twice on the track. If nothing else, the solo shows Eddie’s tremendous melodic talents as a guitar player. In other words, he doesn’t just know how to shred.
3. “Beat It” (Michael Jackson)
Need more evidence that Eddie is one of the very best guitarists that ever lived? He landed a guest spot on one of the biggest albums of all-time. The main riffs and solo of Michael Jackson’s classic hit “Beat It” just has EVH written all over it. As you’ll see in the video, the solo does its best to make a choreographed knife fight in a Michael Jackson video look as bad-ass as possible.
Perhaps lesser known than some of Eddie’s other solos is “Cathedral,” which is named after his unique playing style meant to mimic a cathedral organ. Watch how he does it in the below video, rapidly turning his volume knob up and down while finger-tapping. It remains one of the most distinctive solo performances in rock & roll history.
You can exhale now: “Eruption” made the top-10, and it’s in its rightful place as the #1 Eddie Van Halen solo of all time. He wrote and performed many other solos, some faster and some more unique. But no solo captured listeners’ imaginations like “Eruption” did on Van Halen’s debut album.
Eddie’s work on “Eruption” sums up his playing style, with its unbelievable picking chops, whammy-bar dives, and finger-tapping that took the style to a completely new level. Every fast tapping solo you hear happened because of Eddie.
Did we leave one of your favorite Eddie Van Halen solos out of the top-10? Let us know in the comments!