Eddie van Halen: rock’s wild and wacky inventor

One of rock’s greatest guitarists, who died this week, was also one of its greatest tinkerers

08 October 2020 - 19:16 By Ed Power

The story begins with a drunken dad trying to move a trailer and losing a finger for his troubles. Sometime in the 1960s, when legendary guitar shredder Eddie Van Halen was just a poor kid in Pasadena, his jazz musician father, Jan, drove woozily home from a gig. He was five sheets to the wind and a dark mood was blowing in. 

“We lived in a house in Pasadena that had no driveway,” Eddie Van Halen would tell DIY magazine Popular Mechanics in 2015. “You used an alley that ran through the middle of the block, behind all the houses, to get to your backyard or the garage. Well, the neighbour behind us had a U-Haul trailer up on car jacks and loaded with cinder block.”..

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