By Terry Miller
The legendary rock band Van Halen — composed of brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony — was formed in 1974 in Pasadena on Las Lunas Street. On Tuesday, Eddie Van Halen died in Santa Monica after a decade of battling throat cancer.
Initially rehearsing at the family garage on Las Lunas and playing local gigs, one local rock historian and music aficionado, Ted Jorgensen, remembers the band well and the wild atmosphere at “kegger parties” where they played.
“Being from the Netherlands, our families knew one another, and I witnessed some of their very early and unique talent. The Van Halen brothers played out some incredible jams, much to the neighbors’ chagrin … [They] were always calling the cops. The brothers were always creating new and exciting sounds with various electronic components no one ever thought of before – truly innovative,” Jorgensen told Pasadena Independent.
Memorials appeared on the sidewalk of his childhood home in Pasadena on Tuesday night. People have left flowers and candles. Another memorial popped up on Allen Avenue where the Van Halen brothers scratched the bands name into wet cement on the sidewalk.
Van Halen was a “relentless experimenter who would solder different parts from different guitar-makers, including Gibson and Fender. He created his own graphic design for his guitars by adding tape to the instruments and then spray-painting them. He said his influences were Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix,” according to the Associated Press.
In addition to all the massive hits the band had, Van Halen also played guitar on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” His solo lasted only 20 seconds and took half an hour to record, allegedly. He did it as a favor to producer Quincy Jones, while his bandmates were out of town, according to Billboard Magazine.
For much of his career, Van Halen wrote and experimented with sounds while drinking or experimenting with drugs, as was the style of the time, especially for musicians.
“I didn’t drink to party,” Van Halen told Billboard in 2015. “Alcohol and cocaine were private things to me. I would use them for work. The blow keeps you awake and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I’m sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state.”