Legendary Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen looked back on hearing Van Halen for the first time around the time when their debut album came out. And, according to what he said, it wasn’t the widely-praised “Eruption” that impressed him that much but something else instead.
While appearing in a new interview with Rick Beato, Malmsteen obviously admitted that the Van Halen self-titled record left a huge impression on him. But interestingly enough, this was around the time when he was “a bit of a snob” musically-wise. Yeah, he admitted it. But it was Van Halen that changed his mind.
“I actually became a bit of a snob,” said Yngwie (transcript via Ultimate Guitar), “and [had] gotten to that point where it was really like, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll?”
And this was an absolute no-go zone for him at that point.
“Nope,” added Yngwie. “I listen to Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Niccolo Paganini…’ For one exception.”
Recalling how Van Halen came into the picture, he explained:
“My drummer brought a record to the studio, ‘Oh, this new band, you’ve got to hear this!’ I was like, ‘Not interested.'”
However, there was something that attracted him about it. He looked at the cover and there was Eddie Van Halen holding a Stratocaster:
“I look at it: ‘This guy’s playing a new Strat; it’s got a black pickguard…'”
So he was a snob, listening to Bach, Paganini, and Vivaldi. But there’s no doubt that the whole thing completely changed his world. And he admitted it by saying:
“We listened to the album, ‘Van Halen I’, it was like somebody dropped the fucking bomb. It was so good. That really knocked me out.”
But what’s interesting is that most people will mention “Eruption” as that mind-blowing part that changed their perspective of what an electric guitar can do. For Yngwie, it was actually something else — the band’s overall attitude.
“But, the funny thing is,” he continued, “it wasn’t the ‘Eruption’ solo, it wasn’t the amazing guitar playing that really knocked me out. It was their attitude.”
The album, which came out back in 1978, was helmed by producer Ted Templeman. One of the most interesting things was that the record was done live. Wildly enough, the well-established band that they opened for after the record’s release, Black Sabbath, wasn’t able to bring the good stuff even with the best studio practices available to them.
So Eddie, David, Michael, and Alex just did it live. And Malmsteen was particularly impressed by that aspect of their self-titled debut:
“It was like, ‘We’re going in the studio; we’re recording live.’ That, to me, it was such an inspiration. I liked that a lot. So, basically, I decided I’ll also record everything live from now on.”
Van Halen’s debut record eventually went multi-platinum and, most importantly inspired generations of new guitar players. Essentially, it changed the game in the world of guitar, pushing the boundaries to an instrument that was — admittedly — starting to get a little stale at that point.
However, as it turns out, the band members weren’t actually happy about this album. They didn’t voice their opinions while the record was being done, as engineer Donn Landee revealed in a recent interview. They only mentioned it after the record came out in the stores.
Despite the incredible hype around the album, with Donn and his colleague, engineer Kent Nebergall, decorating the studio with “Star Wars” toys. (Remember, these were the late 1970s.)
“We were comfortable at Sunset [Studios],” Donn recalled.” We’d been working there off and on for three or four years. It seemed like we worked at Sunset every day.”
However, the guys in the band were more or less keeping to themelves. As he added:
“They were extremely quiet. We didn’t hear anything about [the sound of the album] until well after ‘Van Halen’ was out.”
And, eventually, they admitted that they were not at all happy with how it turned out.
“They were disappointed,” he continued. “It’s not what they had in their mind when they came in to do the record.”
However, as Donn added, it wasn’t until their sixth record “1984” that Alex Van Halen was happy about the results:
“But Al [Alex Van Halen, the band’s drummer] told me we got it [right] later on. What we got on tape for ‘1984’ [the band’s 5th album] was much more to his liking.”