Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1955 and moved to the United States in 1962 with his family to live in Pasadena, California near other family members who were already there. Eddie and his brother Alex grew up with music at home since their father was a multi-instrumentalist who played the piano, clarinette and saxophone.
11 years after they arrived in the USA, the two brothers formed Van Halen, the band that would become one of the most influential of all time. Their first album was released in 1978 and in the late 70s and 80s they became one of the most successful bands in history. They have sold an estimated amount of more than 80 million records worldwide.
In 1980, with only a few albums recorded, Eddie was already one of the most praised guitarists in the world. But in an interview during that year he revealed at the time who he tought it was the best guitar player around at that time.
The guitar player that Eddie Van Halen said was the best in the 80s
The 70s produced countless guitar heroes that were very important figures for the evolution of Rock and Roll music. Names like Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page are some of the most remembered musicians from that era. However, as Eddie Van Halen said in an interview with Jas Obrecht (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), there was another player in the early 80s who was the best.
“Allan Holdsworth, that motherfucker is fantastic, I love him. He’s got a Rock sound. On U.K (Band) first (self-titled) album (The song) “In The Dead of Night”, I love the solo on that. I love him, he is the best in my book. I mean, I can kind of play like him but it doesn’t fit our style of music. But he is a real artist.”
“You know, I once saw (Bill) Bruford at the Roxy hoping that Allan would be with him. I asked Bruce and he said: ‘You know Allan, he just like to play, he doesn’t like to tour, he doesn’t like the whole business bullshit. He just enjoys playing’.
“(They opened up for Van Halen one time) and they bombed. (They started the first song) it’s off beat, I love the stuff to listen to myself. But even the rest of the guys in the band, they hate it. But I get off on it, just because to me it’s music. I mean, I get so sick of the (usual Rock beat and rhythm), anyone can do that.”
“What’s the use? It’s been done a million times over and still they’re cranking it out. It just doesn’t get me off. The only thing I can get off is that type of stuff. But Holdsworth, I’ve listened to all other kind of Jazz guitarists too, who are very competent, very good but they don’t have the feel. They just don’t get me off.”
He was then asked if he listened to a lot of old Blues players and he praised Allan once more. “I haven’t anymore, because it’s kind of like too basic now. (So) I still listen to it now and still get that feel but it’s like ‘That’s what I’ve learned from’ and listening to it again, it’s just like ‘Yeah, that’s what I learned from’ as opposed to ‘Wow, this is something that makes me get off’.”
“I still get off on it, but what I’m trying to say it’s that it doesn’t really make me go ‘Wow!’. Holdsworth makes me go ‘Wow! You should see the guy, he plays guitar exactly like mine (…) He is so fucking good,” Eddie Van Halen said.
Allan inspired the guitar solo from a Van Halen song
Eddie was a huge fan of Holdsworth and even said the guitarist inspired one of his solos in Van Halen track. He said that in an interview with Guitar World magazine in 1981 when talking about the song “And The Cradle Will Rock” from the 1980 album Women and Children First”.
“The solo on Cradle Will Rock is different. One guitar player who I respect and think is the baddest, is Allan Holdsworth. I do one short lick on Cradle which is very spontaneous. That came out because I’ve been listening to this guy. On the second album I expanded a little more on harmonics,” Eddie Van Halen said.
That track was released as a single after the album was released. It reached number 55 position on the Billboard Hot 100 and the position number 81 on Canada (RPM) Singles.
He helped Allan to get a record deal later on
Allan and Eddie had the chance to play together live many times over the years. The first time was when Eddie was trying to help him to get a record deal with Warner Brothers. The British musician slept at Van Halen’s house. The next day, Allan had a seminar scheduled and Eddie gave him a ride. But both of them ended up playing together and answering questions there.
Another jam session they had was at the Roxy in Hollywood when Eddie went on the stage and played the last song of the show with Allan.
As the late Van Halen c0-founder and guitarist recalled in an interview in 1982, made available by SimpsonMusic Productions (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he helped Allan to get a record deal. At the time Holdsworth was selling his own gear to support his family in England.
“I called Ted (Templeman), our producer, and I said ‘God damn it. Check this guy out, he is hot! He might be a little out there, he might be a little spaced out.’”
“Anyway, I got him signed with Warner Brothers. I just had to help him, he was the only one that I get off on. I love the way he plays. He’s got feeling, he’s got a fucking ear that is unbelievable. You could play any chord change once and he could improvised over it,” Eddie Van Halen said.