Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sombody 'splain it to'em...

I used to occasionally blog for this critical site a couple of years ago that has since moved to Facebook. Lot's of interesting characters, lot's of amazing talent, and lot's of very smart people. I am the odd man out naturally and sometimes the highbrow, fine china, and pinkies sticking out while tea is being sipped just gets the best of me and I can't control myself. The topic of the week over there is sounds you fell in love with the first time it hit your ears. The Bob Dylan fan boi's offered up the usual classics from his amazing cannon of work, so I tossed out Van Halen's 'Eruption' and it elicited the below exchange. Thought it was worth sharing. Read on...

My original post:

"Love at First Sound"... There are a million guys who can play something like this now, but in 1978 there was only one and Eddie was it. NOBODY had EVER heard ANYTHING like this before, and my Dogtownist skate punk friends and I listened to nothing else that whole summer.

Eddie Van Halen - Eruption


Newcritics Dude: I have to confess, I never got EVH. I mean, no doubt his was an original sound, and the way he worked the Floyd Rose changed the lexicon of the guitar. But I never liked that weird tone on the records with the dummy load and the cranked amp... driving another amp. Always sounded shrill and buzzy to me. And all that hammer-on twiddling seemed almost self-parodic from the start...coulda been Nigel Tufnel's bastard son! I like some of the Van Halen records, especially the poppier stuff. And I appreciate Eddie's role in the development of the guitar. But I never much liked his guitar playing or tone and time hasn't made it any more appealing to me. High gain, cascading preamp stage guitar tone and fast hammer-on arpeggios up there with early midi drums, Ronald Regan, and Flock of Seagull hair as one of the many reasons I'm glad it's not still the 80s.

Patrick Phillips: Newcritics Dude, I almost feel sorry for you if you don't get the overall significance and majesty of this record and what a game changer it was. That tone, that overdrive, but more importantly those songs. The first four VH albums are certain classics front to back, but the first one with 'Runnin' with the Devil, 'Jamie's Cryin', 'Atomic Punk', and what is the master piece 'I'm the One'. Nigel's searing parody was a result of woefully inadequate imitators who eventually took over the scene, but before all that there was Eddie and the boys introducing skate punks to the Kink's 'You Really Got Me' in a way that changed everything forever. Out in front of it all was 'Eruption', a moment caught on tape by accident when the engineer forgot to hit the stop button. It pretty much encapsulated EXACTLY who we were.

Newcritics Dude: Intellectually I get the significance. That is, I understand the impact. I just don't enjoy the sound of it at all, and I'm not crazy about the playing either; those twiddling, hammer-on arpeggios at best sound funny to me at worst grate on my nerves. It's music that just doesn't touch me much. I like Running with the Devil, I guess, that's okay. I'm a song guy, not a playing guy. Gimme a great song and I don't care much about the playing. Gimme great playing in service of a mediocre song and I'm outta there. I never much care about virtuosity and EVH to my taste equals a lot of unpleasant sounding empty virtuosity...kinda the guitar equivalent of singers like Mariah Carey loading up every note with all that melissma. It was unique and fresh and influential. I get that. I just never liked it very much.

Patrick Phillips: It's SO much more than Eddie's virtuosity. If it was only that, me and a million others back then would have been skating swimming pools to Andre Segovia. Those first four VH records are chock full of great songs. The drums are real, the guitar is real, nothing between the vocal other than a microphone and analog tape it was recorded on. The fucking POWER! The pick slide to the A chord alone in Eruption gets my heart pumping nitro. It's youth, it's power, it's sex, you can smell it it's so nasty.

Ronald Reagan? Mariah Carey? Really?

Eruption for me is the feeling that washes over you just after easing out the door after dinner on a Friday night with the all F's report card you got that day safely in your pocket hidden from your folks who will eventually ask for it and ground you for a month, but not tonight. NOT tonight.

It ain't Hawthorne, it's rock and roll...

Newcritics Dude: Well, I admit, I never got all Fs on my report card...but I dunno, I know a lot of people responded to VH the way you did and I DO like some of the band's material..but I never had the visceral response to it that the band's fans have, I'm not much touched by it, and, as I said, if I had any visceral response at all it was to the the guitar tone which I disliked from the start and still do....I know there are a lot of people for whom "where were you when you first heard VH 1" is a big deal...I hear about it from guitar players of a certain sort and a certain age all the time. I get the impact it had on other folks. Just never did anything for me.

Patrick Phillips: Well, I admit, I DID get all F's on my report card. School was an evil institution devised and constructed by the man to keep me inside on a perfectly good day when I could be bombing Stoney Lonesome Mountain on my skateboard. I grew up as most did, but all this music that you seem to "not get" from Aerosmith to Van Halen is what got me and legions of others through it all. It was everything really.

I know, you can't feel what you don't feel I get that. Perhaps you’re simply older and missed it. Perhaps you were more of a cerebral dude in HS, hell, we all seek more from the music we listen to as we mature emotionally, I did too. Some completely abandon what they once enjoyed musically. I don’t get that at all, because the guy that got the F’s and whose life was skateboarding and girls is still there. It ain’t a nostalgia trip either, it's a small part of who I am today. I like and listen to it all from the innocuous early 70’s top 40 pop to Elvis Costello and everything I picked up along the way.

I’m not beefin’ or attempting to change your mind just hoping to enlighten you a bit to the 'other' eighties that was happening. The other eighties that was 180 degrees from The Flock of Seagulls.