Undoubtedly the most innovative guitarist since Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen changed hard rock and heavy metal forever when he and the band - Van Halen - that bore his name burst on the scene in the late 1970s. The so-called “Brown sound” Eddie coaxed out of his instrument for Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled debut album has been worshipped by guitar aficionados for decades, and his hammer-ons, pull-offs and the two-handed tapping technique he taught himself simply blew everybody’s minds. And the pounding drums of Alex Van Halen, the howitzer bass artillery of Michael Anthony, and of course, the outlandish showmanship of David Lee Roth helped propel Van Halen to the top of the American rock heap. The brothers Van Halen, sons of a Dutch bandleader, moved to Pasadena, California from the Netherlands in 1962. They started a band called Mammoth in the early ‘70s, initially gigging around Pasadena. A child of wealth, Roth was singing with Redball Jet when he first heard them. Knocked out by their talent, Roth joined forces with the two siblings, and soon after, Anthony came aboard. Changing their name to Van Halen, they honed their sound playing the Los Angeles area club circuit for three years, drawing big crowds. KISS bassist Gene Simmons paid for a demo recording session after seeing them perform at the Starwood, and with Simmons in their corner, they signed with Warner Bros. Their first record was a smash, as songs like “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “You Really Got Me” and “Jamie’s Cryin’” became AOR staples. The follow-up, Van Halen II, was released a year later and yielded “Dance the Night Away,” their first Top 20 single. 1980’s Women and Children First and 1981’s Fair Warning were not as successful, but 1982’s Diver Down was a massive success, setting the stage for the album that made them superstars, 1984. Tensions between Roth and Eddie, however, led to Roth’s exit. Enter Sammy Hagar, who helped Van Halen score a No. 1 LP with 1986’s 5150. OU812 was another massive hit, and Van Halen recorded three more LPs with Hagar before they parted ways. Occasional reunions with Roth and Hagar have taken place since then, with the current incarnation featuring Roth and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass instead of Anthony. Guitars signed by Eddie Van Halen are, as expected, worth thousands, while backstage passes are fairly inexpensive collectibles for Van Halen fans, as are old concert tickets and vintage pins. They can be had for less than $50. Fine art print photos of Roth, Hagar and Eddie Van Halen often go for $125 to $ 400, while promo photos related to Van Halen less costly. Van Halen memorabilia will continue to be highly sought after years.
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