Monday, January 7, 2013

Great Guitar Solos, #4: Dweezil Zappa Slays "Eruption"

"He might as well have had the smoke machines following him, and the lights...'cuz that's all I saw...like a superhero walked in the house..."

-Dweezil Zappa, on meeting Eddie Van Halen


In the early '80s, every budding lead guitarist wanted to play "Eruption" by rock guitar's last major sonic innovator, Eddie Van Halen. 

The release of this 1:42-long instrumental in 1978 drove thousands of kids to their rooms for countless hours to master the weapons in Eddie's arsenal:  finger tapping, pinch harmonics, screaming pickslides, and whammy-bar dives/assorted whale sounds.  

One of those kids, Dweezil Zappa, was lucky enough to know Eddie Van Halen personally. Van Halen would produce Dweezil's first record (at right), help him with a talent show, and offer timely condolences at a very difficult moment.   

In the video below, Zappa relates his star-struck wonderment when he met Van Halen, who stopped over in his "bonafide superhero" jumpsuit (pictured above, from the back cover of "Women and Children First") to check out Frank Zappa's in-home studio. At the time, Van Halen's studio hours had been limited by the stingy suits at Warner Brotherswho expected the band to come in well-rehearsed and bang an album out in short order. Eddie wanted a home studio of his own to tinker around in to his heart's content and wrest creative control of the band away from David Lee Roth, a move that would ultimately produce "1984," Van Halen's biggest (if not best) album. 
 
After paying a debt of gratitude in his spoken introduction, Dweezil lets his fingers do the talking. Armed with a black-with-yellow-tape-striped guitar modeled on the axe Van Halen used early in his career - and later placed in Dimebag Darrell's casket - the Dweez opens "Eruption" at 5:14. 

Dweezil spent a couple years woodshedding to learn his father's complicated arrangements for the first Zappa Plays Zappa tour, and his studiousness shows in this interpretation too, as he nails both the technically demanding phrasing and the famous Van Halen "brown sound." 

This spot-on rendition is the closest live approximation to the original vinyl recording you're likely to find on video, as Van Halen has played only heavily-improvised versions for years. 

The second song, "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," is a raunchy rocker from "Van Halen II," the too often overlooked follow-up to the classic "Van Halen I." This version is also true to the original, down to the singer's blond mane, snug spandex, and Tarzan shrieks (courtesy of one of Zappa Plays Zappa's fun-loving roadies).


Other "Truth and Beauty" guitar hero essays:

          Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," a first-hand             account of Vaughan's final concert

here for "The heaviest New Year's Eve guitar jam ever: Hendrix does 'Machine Gun'"

 here for "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II"

here for "It was 70 years ago today:  an appreciation of Jimi Hendrix"
                       
  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'"          
                  
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"


and here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"


1 comment:

  1. A moving post, for many different reasons. I enjoyed Dweezil's early memories of Eddie Van Halen just as much as "Eruption."--Eddie seems to have been extraordinarily kind and thoughtful toward Frank's son. It's good to know that about him, just as I like knowing Dweezil was willing to put in the work to do a GREAT "Eruption" tribute.

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