Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1955, Eddie Van Halen moved to the United States in 1962 with his family, choosing Pasadena, California as their new home. It was there that 11 years later the legendary Hard Rock band Van Halen was formed by Eddie and his brother Alex.
Active until Eddie’s death in 2020, the band became one of the most influential groups of all time with an estimated amount of more than 80 million records sold worldwide. Even though Eddie was a unique guitar player, that many musicians say that could not be copied, he was influenced by many bands that appeared in the 60s and 70s. One of them is the successful British group Deep Purple and Eddie even revealed which were two of his favorite songs from the group.
The 2 Deep Purple songs that Eddie Van Halen said he liked
When Deep Purple released their first studio album “Shades of Deep Purple” in 1968, Eddie Van Halen was only 13 years-old and had the chance to see the British band evolving in the late 60s and early 70s when he was still a teenager. He always was a fan of the group and in the early days of Van Halen, when they were still playing at the bar circuit, they used to play a lot of Purple tracks. Some of them were “Maybe I’m A Leo” and “Might Just Take Your Life”.
But, as Eddie revealed in an interview with Billboard (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) in 2015, where he revealed which were some of his favorite guitar riffs of all time, he mentioned the classic Deep Purple song “Burn” as one of his favorites. “There are millions of riffs that I can kind of crack my brain trying to think. And obviously I can’t mention any of my own, right? (Laughs)”. He continued explaning what makes a good guitar riff, saying: “Just the power. The sheer… it just engolfs you, it makes you vibrate.”
“Burn” was released on the album of the same released in 1974. It was the first album of the so called “Mark III” line-up that featured David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on vocals and bass. The two musicians replaced Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. The album reached number 3 on the United Kingdom Charts and number 9 on the United States Billboard 200.
The first time Eddie met Ritchie Blackmore face-to-face
That guitar Riff was composed by the legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and Eddie had the chance to meet him over the years. But their first encounter wasn’t perfect as the keyboardist Don Airey recalled. According to him, in an interview with Mulatschag TV in 2020 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Eddie and Gary Moore went to see Rainbow one night but Blackmore wasn’t so polite. “There was once when Gary Moore first came to L.A he befriended with Eddie. Because for the first time in his life he had someone that seriously frightened him. They came to a Rainbow gig at Long Beach and they both looked so young, especially Eddie.”
“Eddie wanted to meet Richie. I suddenly saw Richie coming and I said ‘Hey Richie! I want you to meet two people. This is Gary Moore and this is Eddie Van Halen’. Richie kind of stormed off (laughs). I don’t know what he thought. (Maybe that) I was trying to set him up or something,” Don Airey said.
“Smoke On The Water”
Another Deep Purple song that Eddie Van Halen liked was the huge hit “Smoke On The Water” from the 1972 album “Machine Head”. It was Purple’s most commercially successful album topping the charts on several countries.
Talking with Rolling Stone in 2011, Van Halen revealed some guitarists who had inspired him. In the conversation he mentioned Blackmore and used the track as an example. “Ritchie Blackmore I liked because of his vibrato bar use on ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ (1970). Also, they come out with great riffs. I mean, come on, ‘Smoke on the Water’ is one for the history books.”
The respect was mutual between the two guitarists and Blackmore had praised Eddie many times over the years. The British guitar player even called him the ultimate guitar hero in an official statement released after Eddie’s passing.
“Eddie Van Halen was a brilliant guitarist who started a technique of guitar playing which was emulated by a whole generation of guitarists. He was one of the nicest musicians I ever met in the music business. Very shy and not at all conceited about his ability as a guitar player. Frank Zappa said he reinvented the guitar. I agree. He will be sadly missed. But his brilliant legacy will always be remembered. The ultimate guitar hero,” Ritchie Blackmore said.