After that first Van Halen album owned the radio for the summer and fall of 78, I have to admit I gotten a bit tired of hearing some of the "hits" too much. With everything else they excelled at as an ensemble, they had a gift for hooks. But in those days you could reasonably expect an album a year from successful bands, so as we flipped the calendar into 1979, I was among the millions eager to hear new music from them. As an artist, I understand the inherent challenges in a second album very well. You have your whole life to write and perfect that first batch of songs, and now people will judge you by their interpretation of what direction that 2nd album takes, primarily on work that has been recently created and maybe hasn't been road-tested much.
So when that VHII record dropped, it exploded in my ears with one of my favorite covers ever - their take on the huge Linda Ronstadt hit "You're No Good". Otherworldly, dark, and a massive creative departure to me. I was playing cover tunes in band playing bars and weddings, and aiming to get as close as possible to the original. Here was something so radically different sounding it was like a new song. I was hooked. And Eddie's solo on that record was "Spanish Fly", 58 seconds of dizzying nylon-string guitar like I had never heard or even imagined possible. The book on rock guitar was wide open now, and I was living in an era where new chapters would be written at a fevered pace. And Eddie Van Halen's pen seemed to have a continuum of fluorescent colors the likes of which we'd never seen.
I wanted that book.
(2nd of 3)