Eddie Van Halen’s opinion on AC/DC
Van Halen was formed in 1972 in Pasadena, California releasing their debut album a few years later in 1978, that started a huge revolution in Hard Rock, especially due to the praised technique and creativity of the guitarist Eddie Van Halen. After the band’s first records with David Lee Roth on vocals, their sound and playing style was copied by countless groups, being an influence to guitarists who tried to play more and more faster.
During his career, Eddie Van Halen talked about many other groups and one of them was AC/DC, another one that was extremely important for the evolution of Hard Rock.
What is Eddie Van Halen’s opinion on AC/DC
Even though Eddie Van Halen created a whole new playing style, he had been influenced by many guitarists that came before him. Some of them were the AC/DC brothers Angus Young and Malcolm Young.
He not only lucky enough to have seen them playing live multiple times over the decades, Van Halen had the chance to perform after them in a festival in 1978, that also had Pat Travers, Aerosmith and Foreigner. At the time the band was touring with Black Sabbath and left that tour when they received an offer to perform with those groups as Eddie recalled in an interview with Forbes in 2009. He also told how incredible it was to see AC/DC playing live.
“We left that tour because we had an offer to play Day on the Green, which was Bill Graham’s annual festival thing. I think that was Aerosmith and Foreigner playing. We played at high noon following AC/DC. I’m onstage watching AC/DC and 80,000 people in the crowd were just jumping up and down because they got that infectious sound.”
“I love ‘em and Angus [Young], they’re all good friends, and Brian [Johnson], and Angus’ brother. We went and saw them when they played L.A., they’re great guys. But I’m going, ‘Holy s**t, we gotta follow these guys.’ So we didn’t blow them away. I’m just saying we blew people’s minds because they are in a funny way very basic as I am. They’re no frills really, except that I do crazier things on my guitar maybe with the techniques.”
Eddie Van Halen continued:
“In a funny way when people started copying the pull out thing I do, the two-handed thing. I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or be embarrassed. I was like, ‘What did I start here?’ But I’d been doing it for years. In the club days my brother told me to turn around, show people how you’re doing that, so they’ll rip you off. When this first record came out people couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing until they saw us play live. Then everyone started doing it,” Eddie Van Halen said.
A few years later, in the early 80s the two bands were on the road together again when did a co-headlining tour.
The Van Halen song that was inspired by AC/DC’s “Back In Black”
Eddie Van Halen’s love for AC/DC didn’t changed when Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott on vocals after his tragic death. The title-track of “Back In Black”, the first AC/DC record with Johnson, even inspired the Van Halen song “Drop Dead Legs” from the band’s “1984”.
“That was inspired by AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’. I was grooving on that beat. Although I think that ‘Drop Dead Legs’ is slower. Whatever I listen to somehow is filtered through me and comes out differently. So ‘Drop Dead Legs’ is almost a jazz version of Back in Black. The descending progression is similar. But I put a lot more notes in there,” Eddie Van Halen told Guitar World in 2014.
His favorite songs of the band were with Bon Scott on vocals
Even though he also loved the band’s period with Brian Johnson, the songs he mentioned as his favorites from the grup over the decades, were especially two that had Bon Scott as the singer. AC/DC’s co-founder and guitarist Angus Young recalled during a conversation with Forbes in 2020, that “Down Payment Blues” and “Riff Raff” were two tracks that Eddie Van Halen loved. Both of them are from “Powerage” (1978), that is also his favorite record of the Australian band.
“I remember that time because Eddie liked hanging out with Mal and Brian and Cliff . They liked going out and having a drink in the bar and stuff. But Malcolm used to say, ‘Eddie keeps going to me all the time, ‘You gonna do ‘Down Payment Blues’?”
Angus Young continued:
“He loved that song. In fact the last time I saw him was when we were touring. Brian said, ‘Come down to the shows.’ And that is the first thing he said, ‘You gotta do ‘Down Payment Blues?” He liked a lot of, ‘Riff Raff’ and tracks like that,” Angus Young said.
Eddie even mentioned “Down Payment Blues” as one of his favorite guitar riffs of all time when he made a list to Billboard in 2015. “One of my all-time favorite AC/DC songs of an album called ‘Powerage’. Just the power. The sheer… it’s just engulf you. You just feel it. It makes you vibrate,” Eddie Van Halen said.
He had also praised the track in an interview with Spinner back in 2009 (Via VNHD), saying: “My favorite record by AC/DC is ‘Powerage’. ‘Down The Payment Blues’ of that record is my favorite song by them.”
“They never played it live. We did a co-headlining tour with them back in 1983 or 1984. So I kept asking ‘Angus, you plan on playing ‘Down Payment Blues’? And ‘Riff Raff’? All that stuff is great on that record.”
“Powerage” was the first AC/DC album Eddie showed to his son Wolfgang
The Van Halen guitarist even influenced his son Wolfgang Van Halen to like the Hard Rock group since he was young. Wolfgang recalled in an interview with Classic Rock in 2022 that his later father introduced him to AC/DC’s and “Powerage” was the first album of the group he heard.
“The band that I was probably first obsessed with was AC/DC. My father introduced me to them with Powerage. I was thinking of picking that one because it was his favourite album. But a little bit more than that, ‘Highway To Hell’ is probably my favourite album of theirs.”
Angus Young lamented the death of Eddie Van Halen in 2020
The legendary AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Angus Young was a good friend of Eddie. In 2020, when the Dutch musician died at the age of 65, he posted an statement on the internet. He praised the musician’s skills and said that his playing was “pure wizardry”.
“Eddie was a guitar wonder, his playing pure wizardry. To the world of music he was a special gift. To those of us fortunate enough to have met him, a very special person. He leaves a big hole in a lot of hearts. To the Van Halen family my heartfelt sympathies,” Angus Young said.
— AC/DC (@acdc) October 7, 2020