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
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.”
The trailer was an eyesore. On the night in question, it also presented an impediment to Jan’s route to bed. He decided to do something about it. “He had a little heat going, he’d had a few drinks, so he says: ‘This thing is blocking me from getting in again.’ So he got out of the car and tried to move it. As soon as he lifted the trailer, the jack fell over, and it chopped his finger off.” ..