“Conversations” is no exaggeration. Most of this book is comprised of transcripts taken from over fifty hours of recorded interviews with Eddie and those closest to him. I enjoyed the fun and playful anecdotes, especially the story about how Eddie skirted neighborhood zoning laws to build 5150 Studios. There are conversations about the band’s early days in Pasadena, and we’re given a look inside the Hollywood nightclubs where Van Halen paid their dues. There’s also candid talk about the recording industry.
Eddie doesn’t shy away from the painful topics, including his difficult childhood and, of course, his lifelong battle with substance abuse. But always, the focus inevitably returns back to the guitar. That’s to be expected, as guitars are the center of Eddie’s world. He warms to the topic easily, talking about every possible aspect of the instrument he was so passionate about.
You’ll learn Eddie’s secrets for convincing his guitars to recreate the sounds he heard so clearly inside his head, and whether he used playing technique or instrument modification. And yes! Eddie tells us exactly how he did *that thing* that made us all sit up and take notice when Van Halen’s debut album first came out. Now I finally understand how his style of ‘tapping’ works. I’ll never be able to do it myself, but having the technique explained in his own words was a bit of a thrill. It reminded me of that scene in Young Frankenstein where the doctor’s grandson discovers the madman’s journal, aptly titled “HOW I DID IT”.
Authors Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill are guitar heroes in their own right, both being editors-in-chief of well-respected guitar magazines, and are knowledgeable in all aspects of the construction and use of the instruments. If you are a hopeful future guitar hero yourself, you’ll appreciate their spot-on questions to Eddie about his guitar modifications, his inventions and experiments (including some ‘shocking’ backfires), and his opinions on everything from tuning tricks to humbucking pickups. You’re going to gleefully soak up every word. No microscopic detail is overlooked!
A note: This book should not be confused with another upcoming release, “Eruption: The Eddie Van Halen Story” by Paul Brannigan. I have not read that book. Based on all the information I was able to glean, I am confident that I have read and enjoyed the better book.
My thanks to authors Brad Tolinski & Chris Gill, Hatchette and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.