When Eddie Van Halen Jammed With His Hero Allan Holdsworth
Eddie Van Halen and his hero Allan Holdsworth never managed to work together on a full-scale project – and with the death of Holdsworth in April 2017, the concept will forever remain something guitar aficionados can only dream of.
They had planned to collaborate on Holdsworth’s 1983 release, Road Games, along with Van Halen producer Ted Templeman. But it never happened. Holdsworth later told The Straight, “Eddie’s always working, and Ted is a real pain to pin down. I would have been 100 years old before I’d have done the album. I said, ‘I’m not going to wait,’ and they (Warner Bros.) said, ‘Okay, go ahead.’ But they didn’t really want me to do that, and they harassed me the whole time.”
Years later, Holdsworth explained what went wrong in more detail to the Jerusalem Post. “On the one hand, it was Warner Brothers trying to mold me into something I’m not, but on the other hand, it was sonically awful. I had a run in with Ted Templeman, who was never around but still dictating to everyone what was going to be on it, where it was going to be recorded, how it was going to sound. And he made it an EP – there were only six songs on it and they sounded like shit. It was just screwed.”
Holdsworth still gave Van Halen a credit in the sleeve notes, however, declaring him “a fantastic guy, lovely, very generous,” and clarifying that “anything that went wrong was nothing to do with him, he was just trying to help.”
The sentiment matched Van Halen’s feelings about the man he’d called “the best in my books,” adding that Holdsworth “is so damned good that I can’t cop anything. I can’t understand what he’s doing.”
The pair did work together, even if it was all too briefly. Van Halen reported in 2013 that they’d found themselves sharing a stage by accident in 1982. “I was in the process of helping him get a record deal, and somehow he ended up spending the night at my house,” he said. “When we woke up, Allan said, ‘S—, I have to be at GTI [Guitar Institute of Technology] at noon to do a seminar.’ So I raced him down there just in time. Before I knew it, I was onstage with him and his band, and we were both answering questions and playing together. It was quite fun, actually, and very interesting, especially for the students.”
Then, on April 29, 1982, a general audience – and those who listened to the recording – got a hint at what could have been, when Van Halen joined Holdsworth’s band for the last song of their set at the Roxy in Hollywood.
Recalling his nerves at the GTI lecture, Van Halen said, “The song was a riff that Allan’s bass player and I came up with. So I was more comfortable because I was more familiar with what we played.”
“He came down to our first gig at the Roxy, and I was trembling in my shoes at the thought of all the people being out there,” Holdsworth said of the experience. “I was talking to him afterwards, and I said, ‘We’re coming down in the afternoon to do another soundcheck. Why don’t you bring your guitar?’
“We thought it would be a good idea to do a jam together at the end of the night, so we worked out one of Edward’s tunes,” he noted. “We finished our set, came back on and played this tune together. It was great. It was fun – kind of a nice contrast to the rest of the gig.”