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How Eddie Van Halen’s Uncredited Guitar Solo on Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ Came to Be

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

(via ET) By Meredith B. Kile‍

Following Eddie Van Halen’s death on Tuesday from a lengthy battle with cancer, the late rocker’s friends and fellow musicians took to social media to remember the legendary musician and Van Halen founder.

Van Halen, who founded his iconic eponymous rock group with brother Alex in 1972, is widely regarded as one of the most talented guitarists in rock history and was a consistent presence in the group through several hiatuses and lineup shifts.

However, something casual fans might not know is that one of Van Halen’s most memorable contributions to music history didn’t have his name on it at all. The guitarist played an unpaid, initially uncredited solo on one of the biggest pop songs of all time: Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

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Van Halen 1976 Demo

From Wikipedia: “According to a January 4, 1977, L.A. Times article entitled HOMEGROWN PUNK by Robert Hilburn,[12] Rodney Bingenheimer saw Van Halen at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, so he took Gene Simmons of Kiss to see Van Halen. Gene Simmons then produced a Van Halen demo tape with recording beginning at the Village Recorder studios in Los Angeles and finished with overdubs at the Electric Lady Studios in New York.[8] Simmons wanted to change the band’s name to “Daddy Longlegs”, but the band stuck with Van Halen. Simmons then opted out of further involvement after he took the demo to Kiss management and was told that “they had no chance of making it” and that they wouldn’t take them.”

van halen

10 Albums That Almost Killed Careers

career kill

(Reprinted from Ultimate Classic Rock)

by Matthew Wilkening

Rock musicians, much like professional athletes and romantic partners, are constantly in danger of being asked, “But what have you done for me lately?” Even the biggest bands and solo stars can find themselves suddenly out of favor and plummeting down the charts if their latest album doesn’t live up to either their own legacies or fan expectations.

From Van Halen‘s ill-fated attempt to prove lightning can strike not just twice, but with three different lead singers, Kiss‘s mind-boggling attempt at creating a critic-pleasing concept album, the mighty Rolling Stones wandering too far from their strengths and many more, Ultimate Classic Rock and take a look at the 10 albums that almost killed the careers of some of rock’s biggest stars.

As you’ll see, luckily in nearly every case the “offending” artists were able to regroup, learn from their mistakes, re-connect with the magic that made us fall in love with them in the first place and resurrect their careers. Now let’s see exactly how and where they went wrong in the first place…

van halen

Van Halen: ‘III’

As far as selecting lead singers goes, the third time was definitely NOT the charm for Van Halen.

After racing straight to the top of the rock mountain with original frontman David Lee Roth, and miraculously managing to stay there for another decade after he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, Van Halen chose Extreme singer Gary Cherone as the group’s third vocalist. Their first (and only) album together, 1998′s ‘III,’ was a shapeless mess that was panned by critics and avoided by fans. It would be 14 years before the group returned — with Roth on the mic — with the triumphant ‘A Different Kind of Truth.’


Kiss: ‘Music from the Elder’

After watching their reign atop the late-’70s arena rock scene disappear in a puff of disco smoke, Kiss knew they had to do something big and bold to get back in the game. Unfortunately, 1981′s ‘Music from the Elder’ was an even bigger misstep.

Producer Bob Ezrin, fresh off the success of Pink Floyd‘s ambitious concept album ‘The Wall,’ decided that the facepainted marvels, whose lyrical depth typically topped out with tracks like ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Christine Sixteen,’ should tackle an album-length suite of songs about a young medieval warrior’s epic quest to save the world… or something. The end product, while admirably daring, is one of the most universally panned and mocked records in rock history. To their credit, they righted their creative ship the next year.


Rolling Stones: ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’

OK, here’s where we stretch the boundaries of this list’s title right up to the breaking point. After all, it’s not likely that any one album could kill the Rolling Stones‘ career, even one as odd, out of character and poorly received as 1967′s ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request.’

But it definitely sent them back to the drawing board. Clearly influenced by the psychedelic music of the era — and some would say, overly focused on keeping up with the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ — the Stones delivered an ambitious but ultimately unfocused effort that made them look like followers instead of leaders — at least, until they kicked off perhaps rock’s most impressive four-album run ever with ‘Beggars Banquet’ the next year.


Neil Young: ‘Trans’

If ever a rocker has valued chasing the constantly changing sounds in his head over making commercially safe career choices, it’s Neil Young.

Young, who followed up his warm, lush commercial breakthrough LP ‘Harvest’ with the abrasively dark ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ dabbles in genres like rockabilly, country and R&B as quickly as others change shirts. Even by those standards, 1982′s ‘Trans’ stands out as his most risky move; a synth-heavy semi-concept album featuring heavily processed vocals that confused many fans. Together with 1983′s ‘Everybody’s Rockin’,’ ‘Trans’ led Geffen Records to sue Young for making “unrepresentative” albums. He won, and has continued marching to his own drum regardless of the chart results to this day.


Bob Dylan: ‘Under the Red Sky’

Much like Neil Young, the creatively restless Bob Dylan has often — and seemingly willfully — tried to shake his fans loose from time to time.

Whether he was embracing electric guitars on 1965′s ‘Bringing it All Back Home,’ country and Americana on 1967′s ‘John Wesley Harding,’ or Christianity on 1979′s ‘Slow Train Coming,’ there have been plenty of times where Dylan risked alienating his listeners. But 1990′s ‘Under the Red Sky,’ filled with nursery-rhyme level lyrics and overly slick production, was the point where many wondered if the former visionary had simply lost the trail — or worse, given up. Luckily, the singer launched another (still going) winning streak with 1997′s ‘Time Out of Mind.’


Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Machina/The Machines of God’

According to Billy Corgan, there are numerous reasons that Smashing Pumpkins‘ 2000 would-be swan song sold fewer copies than ‘Adore,’ the divisive electronic-tinged album that came two years earlier. First, it’s a concept album whose storyline went way over people’s heads. And then there was the timing. The band was in the midst of breaking up, and the alt-rock scene was then ruled by the loud and dumb likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.

“So the combination of those elements was a career-killer,” Corgan said in a 2006 interview. “‘Adore didn’t alienate the audience, they were just sort of like, ‘Oh, it’s not the record I want.’ [‘Machina’] alienated people.”

Corgan waited seven years to revive the Pumpkins and issue a proper follow-up, ‘Zeitgeist.’ The album divided critics, but it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Last year’s ‘Oceana’ seemed to fare better, at least critically, and many hailed the disc as Corgan’s finest since the early ’90s.


Weezer: ‘Pinkerton’

After the success of Weezer‘s debut, 1994′s so-called ‘Blue Album,’ Geffen execs no doubt wanted more nerdy power-pop nuggets like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘The Sweater Song.’ Instead, mastermind Rivers Cuomo gave them a brutally honest, emotionally fraught song cycle based on the opera ‘Madame Butterfly.’ The tunes were catchy, but Cuomo’s sexual hangups and struggles with fame weren’t exactly the stuff of Top 40 singalongs. Critics balked, the disc peaked at No. 19 and Weezer went on hiatus.

When Weezer returned in 2001, it was with another self-titled effort, this one all about pop hooks. The ‘Green Album’ kicked off an unlikely second act that continues to this day. Interestingly, Weezer’s comeback was largely due to ‘Pinkerton,’ which had grown in stature throughout the ’90s. Whether better than ‘Blue,’ it trumps anything Cuomo has released since, though the middling likes of the ‘Red Album’ and ‘Raditude’ have done little to hurt the band’s standing.


R.E.M.: ‘Around the Sun’

R.E.M.‘s unlucky 13th album missed the U.S. Top 10 and failed to yield a hit single. For the first time since the mid-’80s, the Athens alt-rock heroes found themselves outside of the mainstream, only this time, it wasn’t because they were a cutting-edge cult act awaiting a commercial break. As guitarist Peter Buck admitted, they were tired old superstars who’d lost the plot.

“[‘Around the Sun’] just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is, a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore,” Buck said in 2008, the same year the band dropped ‘Accelerate,’ the first of two back-to-basics albums that reaffirmed R.E.M.’s relevance and ended their career on a relative high note. History was always going to look kindly on the group, but ‘Around the Sun’ would have been a dim end to the story.


U2: ‘Pop’

In the late ’90s, no flop was really going to kill U2‘s career, but ‘Pop’ was cause for concern. Following ‘Zooropa’ (1993) and ‘Achtung Baby’ (1991), the album capped a trilogy that saw these venerable stadium gods reinvent themselves as electro-rock experimentalists. The songs are built around loops, samples and the like, and while the band had made successful use of such techniques, ‘Pop’ suggested that Bono and the boys had run out of ideas and reached the end of a particular phase of their career. The public more or less agreed, and ‘Pop’ became U2′s lowest-selling disc since 1981′s ‘October.’

Having perhaps learned their lesson, U2 returned three years later with the more guitar-centric ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ The album spawned four smash singles and won seven Grammys, and to date, it’s sold more than 12 million copies.


The Clash: ‘Sandinista!’

No record better encapsulates the Clash‘s story than ‘Sandinista!’ Brilliant, infuriating, bursting with ambition yet bogged down with bad ideas, this 36-track triple LP perplexed fans and angered execs at CBS, who were strong-armed by the band into selling it for the price of a single album.

‘Sandinista!’ may have been a bargain, but it hardly flew off shelves. At a time when Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon might have become punk’s Fab Four, they went ‘White Album’ times 10, experimenting with soul, hip-hop, funk, disco, dub and even gospel, virtually ensuring there’d be no hits.

The Clash were already starting to splinter, and sessions for the follow-up, ‘Combat Rock’ (1982), proved extremely contentious. Remarkably, that album proved the band’s commercial breakthrough, and thanks to the singles ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ and ‘Rock the Casbah,’ the “Only Band That Matters” found itself on the pop charts, if only briefly.

A History Of Short-Lived Band Reunions


(Reprinted from Rolling Stone)

Not all band reunions last – Here’s a look at some that seemed to be over before  they began

By Andy Greene

Earlier this month, Neil Young confirmed widespread suspicion that last year’s Buffalo Springfield reunion was over after a mere seven-show tour. “I have to be able to  move forward,” he said.  “I can’t be relegated. I did enough of it for right then.” But they aren’t the first band to reform with great fanfare, only to collapse again pretty quickly. Here’s a look at some others.

Led Zeppelin

Break-Up: 1980. The group dissolved immediately after the death of drummer Jon Bonham.

Reunion: The surviving members reformed for the rare special  occasion in the 1980s and 1990s, but in December of 2007 they did their first  full concert since the break-up at London’s 02 Arena.

Duration: One night. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were  extremely interested in a reunion, but Robert Plant had absolutely no interest.  In 2008 the group rehearsed with Steven Tyler and Myler Kennedy and even began  putting venues on hold for a tour, but ultimately came to their  senses.

Journey with Steve Perry

Break-Up: The group dissolved after their tour in support of  1986’s Raised On Radio. Frontman Steve Perry was exhausted and wanted  to take a long break.

Reunion: They played a couple of songs in 1991 at a Bill  Graham memorial show, but Perry shocked the band in 1996 when he agreed to  reform the group. They recorded the new album Trial By Fire and a  reunion tour was in the works. Their single “When You Love A Woman” even became  a big hit.

Duration: One album. Perry injured his hip while hiking  in Hawaii and required hip replacement surgery. He refused to set a date for the  procedure, delaying any shows. This caused tremendous tension within the band,  and in 1998 they hit the road with a replacement singer. Perry hasn’t sung a  note in public with Journey in over twenty years.

The Fugees

Break-Up: The Fugees spent five years struggling to  break big, only to implode almost immediately after becoming superstars. Looking  back, it was pretty inevitable. Wyclef Jean was dating Lauryn Hill, but he was  also seriously involved with another woman while they were together. At the same  time, Hill felt that she wasn’t getting enough credit for her contributions to  the band. Pras felt the same way. They split in 1997, about a year after The  Score hit shelves.

Reunion: Much to the surprise of pretty much everybody,  the group reformed in September 2004 to play Dave Chapelle’s Block Party in  Brooklyn. The following year they launched a European tour, and even released  the new single “Take It Easy.”

Duration: A little over a year, with large gaps of  inactivity within that. Everyone hated the new single, and Lauryn caused  tremendous tension by pulling an Axl on the tour and repeatedly coming out late.  To the surprise of nobody, they pulled the plug in early 2006.


Van Halen (With Sammy Hagar)

Break-Up: Believe it or not, tension surrounding the  soundtrack to Twister caused Sammy Hagar to leave Van Halen in 1995.  The group had just finished a long world tour, and a worn out Hagar was  unwilling to fly right back to the studio and continue work on a song for the  disaster movie. When all was said and done, Hagar left the band.

Reunion: An ill-fated LP and tour with Gary Cherone  convinced the Van Halen brothers that they needed their old singer back. Both  sides had talked a lot of shit over the years, but they put that aside to record  some new songs for a compilation and launch a tour in 2004.

Duration: A little under a year. The tour coincided  with the peak of Eddie Van Halen’s alcoholism. Hagar and Eddie had  horrific clashes on tour (detailed in Sammy Hagar’s amazing autobiography) and  neither party has spoken with each otter since the final show in November of  2004. That’s also the last time Eddie spoke with original bassist Michael  Anthony.

Electric Light Orchestra

Break-Up: In the summer of 1986, the group (now reduced to a  trio) toured in support of their new disc Balance of Power, and then  called it a day. Members of the group carried on in ELO Part II, but the group’s  leader Jeff Lynne was done. (Even later, The Orchestra rose from the ashes of  ELO Part II, but they were an offshoot of an offshoot and barely worth  mentioning.)

Reunion: Lynne always saw himself as the Trent Reznor of  ELO, and when he reformed the group in 2000 for the new album Zoom he  didn’t invite any of the original guys back – though keyboardist Richard Tandy  did wind up playing on one song. For some reason, Lynne was under the impression  the group could still fill arenas and a massive tour was announced.

Duration: One album and one TV concert. This was like  one of those 1950s rockets that crashed a few moments after takeoff. The group  did a single show for PBS, but the tour sold horribly and the entire thing was  called off before it even started. Lynne’s done a pretty good job of staying out  of the spotlight ever since, though he remains a busy producer.

The Supremes

Break-Up: Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1970, but  they carried on with new singer Jean Terrell and continued to score hits  and tour for a few years. By 1977 things had slowed down considerably and they  called it quits.

Reunion: Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong briefly put  aside their differences with Diana Ross at the 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary  Concert. (Founding member Florence Ballard died in 1976.) They performed  “Someday We’ll Be Together.” Three years later, Wilson released her memoir and  it was sharply critical of Ross, driving the two even further apart. In 1999  Ross reached out to Wilson and Birdsong about a reunion tour for the following  year, exactly 30 years after they had last played a full show together.

Duration: This one went really, really poorly.  According to multiple reports, Ross was offered around $15 million, Wilson was  offered $2 million and Birdsong $1 million. They asked for more, but were  ultimately replaced by two latter-day Supremes who had no history with Ross.  This resulted in a flood of negative press, and ticket buyers seemed to have  little interest in this “reunion.” The tour forged ahead, but was canceled after  less than a month.


Break-Up: Cream crammed a lot of music into their two-year  career. According to legend, Eric Clapton decided to break up in the band in  1968 when he first heard the Band’s debut LP Music From Big Pink, and  when he read a scathing review of the group’s music in Rolling Stone by  Jon Landau. In November of 1968 they played a farewell show at Madison Square  Garden.

Reunion: The group played in 1993 at their induction into  the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that didn’t lead to any other activity until  2005. At the time Jack Bruce was recovering from liver cancer, and Ginger Baker  was struggling with arthritis.  To Clapton, it seemed like it was  now or never. They played four shows at the Royal Albert Hall in May of 2005,  followed by three shows at Madison Square Garden that October.

Duration: Five months. The reunion fizzled out during  the three-night stand in New York. “In many ways, I wish we had left it at the  Royal Albert Hall,” Clapton wrote in his memoir. “But the offer was too good to  refuse … My heart had gone out of it, and also a certain amount of animosity  had crept back in.” They haven’t played together since.


Break-Up: In 1997 Genesis made the ill-fated decision to  carry on without Phil Collins. Former Stiltskin singer Ray Wilson was brought  into the band, and they released the new LP Calling All Stations. The  disc sold extremely poorly, as did their tour. Ticket sales were so bad in  America that the entire tour was called off. The tour ended in May of 1998 in  Germany, and the group quietly ended afterwards.

Reunion: In November of 2005 Phil Collins came to Glasgow on  his First Final Farewell tour. Backstage he met up with his former bandmates  Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford to discuss a  reunion tour. The plan was to perform their 1975 rock opera The Lamb Lies  Down On Broadway straight through. Gabriel only wanted to do a tiny number  of dates, and when he felt pressure to commit to a longer tour he bowed out of  the whole thing. With him out of the picture, the 1980s line-up of Collins,  Banks and Rutherford decided to tour instead. In 2007 they did 47 dates across  Europe and North America.

Duration: Four months. The tour ended at the Hollywood Bowl  in October of 2007. On the tour Collins dislocated some vertebrae  in his  neck. It caused nerve damage in his hands, making it nearly impossible for him  to play drums. Collins is now completely retired from music, and any sort of  Genesis reunion seems incredibly unlikely.

Songs You May Have Missed #19


Van Halen: “Blood and Fire” (2012)

“Told you I was coming back. Say you missed me. Say it like you mean it.”

There’s only one David Lee Roth. And I did miss him. Rock n Roll, if there is still such a thing, will always need someone with its elemental cock-sure swagger to step out and remind us what its pure strain looked like. And so few are left who can still deliver that. (Wouldn’t you love to go see a Thin Lizzy show today?)

Van Halen’s new album, A Different Kind of Truth, has somewhat confounded critics who were ready to pan it and fans who were prepared to hate it. It’s not one of their absolute best, but it’s much better than we probably had any right to expect.

If you like Van Halen, you like “Blood and Fire”. If you don’t, you don’t.

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