When Johnny Beane sat down with The Police’s Andy Summers recently, the conversation inevitably turned towards guitar legends, and Eddie Van Halen’s name was front and center. Summers, known for his unique approach and atmospheric style, had some distinct insights into Van Halen’s playing.
Reflecting on Eddie Van Halen’s musical prowess, Summers said, “Eddie was truly a standout. His playing was exceptional, blending musicality with sheer raw talent. While I never had the privilege of seeing Van Halen live, there’s no denying the seismic impact Eddie had on the guitar landscape when they first emerged.”
Summers pointed out that many tried to emulate Eddie’s style, but few, if any, came close. “Eddie was unparalleled in his innovation. There was something magical, almost otherworldly, about his style. While many have tried to mirror his technique, becoming disciples of the ‘Van Halen school,’ Eddie remains unrivaled in my eyes.”
But what truly captivated Summers was Eddie’s innate ability to meld different techniques effortlessly. “Beyond the flashy tapping and whammy bar dives, Eddie had soul. There was a bluesy undertone to his playing that resonated with listeners. He wasn’t just about technical wizardry. He brought heart and feel to those iconic riffs and solos.”
While Eddie’s contribution to guitar tonality has been widely acknowledged and celebrated, he had previously shared his views about Summers in a 1982 Guitar Player interview.
Summers’ guitar sound, according to Eddie, had a consistent signature. But, in a show of mutual respect between two maestros, Eddie noted, “My observation on Andy’s predominant use of phaser and flanger might be viewed similarly by others when they listen to my music. Perhaps they feel I have a repetitive tonal quality. But in the end, isn’t it all about enjoying the process and the music we create? I’m sure Andy feels the same.”
This exchange between two guitar legends underscores the vast world of guitar playing. Each player, with their idiosyncratic style, has added a unique chapter to the annals of rock history.
While Andy Summers painted ethereal soundscapes with his chords and effects, Eddie Van Halen brought a revolutionary approach that redefined guitar solos for generations to come.
In the grand tapestry of guitar legends, both Eddie and Andy stand tall with their distinct contributions. What remains evident is that while styles and techniques may differ, the passion for music and the instrument binds all great guitarists together. The respect they hold for each other’s craft is a testament to the unity and camaraderie in the world of music. It reminds us that while individual notes may vary, together they create a harmonious symphony.