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They were the sounds of the 70s: clackers clacking furiously, Rolf Harris tapping away at his accursed stylophone, Noddy Holder belting out his anthems on Top of the Pops and the theme music to When The Boat Comes In.
And then there was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing.
For those too young to remember the sonic impact Van Halen made, perhaps a sporting analogy is required. Shane Warne’s stunning leg-break to dismiss Mike Gatting with his first-ever delivery in an Ashes Test match changed, in an instant, the way spin bowling was perceived.
On first listen, Eruption, from Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, had a similar reaction. No-one could quite believe this whirring blitzkrieg was the work of one man. It was fast, furious, frenzied, formative and changed the face of rock music forever.
Eddie Van Halen may have lacked the versatility of Jimmy Page, the feel of Eric Clapton or the depth of David Gilmour. He lacked the melody of Michael Schenker or the neo-classical influence of Richie Blackmore.
But ask any guitarist under 45-year-old who is into his rock and it’s a racing certainty, the Dutch-American will be cited as a major influence.
Van Halen spawned a galaxy of imitators, the best of whom was probably Randy Rhodes who played with Ozzy Osbourne on his first solo album only to be tragically killed in a plane crash just when his own genius was being acknowledged.
As a band, I like Van Halen without being obsessed with them. Their early releases with Dave Lee Roth as frontman are refreshing, catchy and showcase the extraordinary talents of their lead guitarist.
But early Van Halen were dogged by inconsistency in their albums. While they were still churning out classics like Panama and Jump in the latter days of the Lee Roth years, an annoying habit of going overboard on covers _ Diver Down, for example, included three of them _ suggested their creative juices were running dry.
Sammy Hagar replaced Lee Roth and while the VH sound was very different, his arrival re-energised the band whose albums conveyed the excitement, spark and raunchiness of their late-70s material.
Today, Van Halen, minus Michael Anthony, who is now playing alongside Hagar in the excellent Chickenfoot, are reunited with Lee Roth, with Eddie and brother Alex on drums, teaming up with the former’s son as bassist.
Their latest album is out in the spring but already the single Tattoo has split rock opinion right down the middle with detractors accusing the band of abandoning their roots for bubblegum pop.
Anthony claims his former band-mates are merely re-hashing songs which were deemed surplus to requirements two decades ago. If he is right, that would be a great pity, a wonderful opportunity spurned.
Haivng listened to Tattoo on three or four occasions, I would agree it is more pop than rock but the tune is undoubtedly a grower.
Van Halen’s comeback has the potential to be one of the biggest ever but if every track is like Tattoo, they’ll be dismissed as just another bunch of old-timers getting together for one last pay-day.
There’s room for two or three songs of that ilk but most of us want Van Halen 2012 to combine the good time romp which Lee Roth brings to the band with Eddie Van Halen’s trademark guitar licks transporting us back in time to the late-70s.
In other words, it’s time for an Eruption.