Joe Satriani Reflects on Messing Up Van Halen Song at Recent Performance

Guitar legend Joe Satriani recently addressed playing Van Halen’s “Mean Street” with the new live project centered around Sammy Hagar. This new band, also featuring Michael Anthony on bass and Jason Bonham on the drums, will be touring under the “Best of All Worlds” banner next year, playing mostly Van Halen stuff. In honor of the tour, the newly formed lineup appeared on “The Howard Stern Show,” where they discussed the whole thing and played a few songs.

Joe Satriani Playing “Mean Street”

One of the things that got some attention was Joe Satriani’s somewhat flimsy performance of “Mean Street” from the “Fair Warning” record. He was pretty open about the matter, and in a recent chat with Rolling Stone, he spoke up about this “crash course in Van Halen,” as the magazine calls it.

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“When Sam called,” Joe recalled, “I was literally covered in paint, and I was trying to finish a bunch of canvases and guitars for the Wentworth Gallery. And I said, ‘Guys, I haven’t played guitar for a couple of weeks, and I’m not going to be able to practice until a week before. Maybe I’ll listen to some songs, so tell me what songs they are.”

But Hagar was fine with it, saying that they’d just play brief song snippets. He had no option but to trust his newly appointed band leader. As he explained:

“Sam kept saying, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re just going to play 30 seconds of this song, 30 seconds of that song, and Howard’s going to ask you about your artwork and all this other stuff.'”

Sammy Hagar “Best of Both Worlds” Live on the Stern Show

“None of that happened…”

But things went a different way. Unfortunately for Satch, these weren’t just 30-second snippets of songs:

“So, of course, none of that happened because, by the time we got there, it was all these other new songs. And I kept saying, ‘Guys, I don’t know these songs, so I’m going to be staring at you.’ If you’ve seen the clips, I’m not facing front. I’m facing sideways because I’m looking for any cue.”

“I didn’t have much time,” Joe added. “But it was purely a labor of love for me. I just thought, ‘I don’t care if I screwed this up. I’m just going to do it because Eddie’s playing was beautiful and people should know that. And if I can wake people up again about Eddie, that’d be great.”

Joe Was Transparent About It

Not long after this performance, Satch also addressed this issue in an interview with Guitar World by saying:

“I kept saying, ‘I’ve never played that one, or I don’t know it yet,’ and that’s what I explained to Howard Stern. After being a super-fan of Van Halen when they first came out, I realized that if I learned how to play this stuff, it would seep into my playing.”

Joe Satriani is not Eddie Van Halen...and that's a good thing (Howard Stern performance)

“So, around ’88, I consciously decided not to figure it out. I’d put it on and have a good time, but I never looked to figure out what Eddie was doing.”

“And then, I got the call from Alex [Van Halen] and Dave [Lee Roth] a couple of years ago, and I realized, ‘Wow, I don’t know how to play any of it.’ I explained that to them, and maybe every three or four weeks, I’d call them up, saying, ‘I’m not doing it. I’m sorry; I’m not your guy.’ So many guys were good at it, but they would talk me back into it, saying, ‘No, you’re the guy.'”

Nuno Bettencourt Also Addressed It

Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt also addressed this matter not long after the performance went live on YouTube. Reflecting on this new band playing these Van Halen classics and not being prepared at the moment, he offered:

“The one thing that I learned recently of seeing Joe or anybody — me, Joe, anybody — if we’re gonna take a risk and we’re gonna play an Edward anything, especially on Howard Stern or anything like that, where you know you can’t get it back, good luck. That’s all I’m saying is good luck. Why? Because you’re going now into hallowed ground.”

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So, instead of focusing on Satriani’s performance, Bettencourt pointed out that it’s kind of Hagar’s fault that this happened:

“So, look, you’ve gotta give Joe a bit of a pass on this one because it’s Joe doing Edward. I’m more pissed at Sammy [Hagar] for allowing him to do it. ‘Cause Sammy’s, like, ‘Man, that’s why I got Joe. Nobody can do this stuff.'”

“And I’m, like, look, you’re, you’re right there. You’re already putting him on the spot and doing those things and asking people to play those things. It’s really difficult. And if you’re gonna do it, man, and Joe probably knows this now, ’cause… Joe is untouchable as Joe Satriani. He’s the greatest Joe Satriani you’ll ever hear… Nobody can attack you when you’re doing you…”

Mean Street (2015 Remaster)

The guys still have a lot of time to prepare as “The Best of All Worlds” tour is set to commence in mid-July 2024.

Photos: JaflaumS05 (Joe Satriani in Muziekcentrum, Enschede op 13 april 2023), Carl Lender (Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum 2)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.