TESLA’s FRANK HANNON On EDDIE VAN HALEN’s Legacy: “He’ll Go Down In History As The MOZART Of Rock N’ Roll Guitar”

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Remember that feeling of pure sonic awe the first time you heard “Eruption”? The way Eddie Van Halen‘s fingers danced across the fretboard, conjuring sounds that seemed to defy the very laws of physics? If you do, you’re not alone. In a recent interview with Cassius Morris (transcribed by Blabbermouth), Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon perfectly captured why Eddie‘s death hit rock fans so hard: “he wasn’t just a guitar hero, he was a rock and roll Mozart.”

Hannon eloquently highlights Eddie‘s magic: the infectious charisma, the mind-melting innovation, and the sheer joy he poured into every note.

“Eddie Van Halen was very charismatic. His personality, his smile, his energy, his personality, his approach to the guitar, and his innovativeness were very unique. And on the one hand, he seemed like a very friendly guy. And on the other hand, he played this amazing guitar, an innovative groundbreaking guitar that was like from another planet. So, yeah, I think people really gravitated towards those things. And he’ll go down in history as the Mozart of rock and roll guitar. And the same with Jimi Hendrix. I mean, Jimi Hendrix was so photogenic and had such a personality and a vibe that you can walk into Target and see a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt with his face on it and instantly recognize, ‘Oh, there’s Jimmy.'” Hannon explained.

But Eddie‘s impact wasn’t just about flash and personality. Hannon recalls the seismic shift that “Van Halen I” triggered, how that opening siren in “Runnin’ With The Devil” ripped the rulebook to shreds and ushered in a new era of guitar dominance.

“It is not possible to overstate the impact he had in the ’80s and the late ’70s when I remember coming home from Tower Records with “Van Halen I” and putting it on my Kmart turntable and hearing the intro of the album, ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’ with the sirens coming down and then that guitar, and then out of that straight into ‘Eruption’ and then into ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’. The sound of the guitar, was just mindblowing. And then everything he did after that, on the second album with ‘Spanish Fly’ and ‘Somebody Get Me A Doctor’, for those first four albums that Van Halen put out, you can’t understate the impact that he had on the guitar player and people that were going to music stores and buying guitars. All of a sudden, Gibson guitars weren’t popular anymore and it was guitars with stripes on them that were popular.”

Even after all these years, the sonic alchemy of those early Van Halen albums remains potent. Hannon attributes their enduring power to their raw, unadulterated energy. These weren’t meticulously overproduced studio creations; they were live in the studio, capturing the band’s electrifying essence in all its unbridled glory.

“Basically, those records are live in the studio. And then they colored them up with a couple of little colors here and there, but the energy that they captured live on those first Van Halen albums is so real and powerful and high energy that’ll last forever… Plus they had great songs and songwriting. That’s the difference between any band, is the songs, really. And ‘Little Dreamer’ and ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ on that first album. And then on the next album, ‘Dance The Night Away’ is a great, well-written song, all the way to ‘Unchained’ and ‘And The Cradle Will Rock…’. The list goes on and on — the songwriting. And then even when they had Sammy Hagar in the band — ‘Right Now’, ‘Hot Summer Nights’, ‘Why Can’t This Be Love?’. The songwriting really sets them apart.”

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