Eddie Van Halen and the unforgettable 20-second guitar break on Michael Jackson’s 'Beat It'


By AGENCY

For his cameo on 'Beat It', Eddie Van Halen worked for free, was not credited on the album and didn’t appear in the video. Photo: AP

Before Eddie Van Halen agreed to add a guitar break to Michael Jackson’s Beat It, one of the most famous cameos in rock history, he had to be sure the phone call from producer Quincy Jones wasn’t a practical joke.

“I went off on him. I went, ‘What do you want, you f-ing so-and-so!',” Van Halen told CNN in 2012, 30 years after he worked on the song. “And he goes, ‘Is this Eddie?’ I said, ‘Yeah, what the hell do you want?’ ‘This is Quincy.’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know anyone named Quincy.’ He goes, ‘Quincy Jones, man.’ I went, ‘Ohhh, sorry!’”

Van Halen, who died Tuesday (Oct 6) at age 65, needed less than an hour in the studio and 20 scorching seconds on record to join white heavy metal to Black pop at a time when they seemed in entirely different worlds, when the young MTV channel rarely aired videos by Black artistes. Beat It became one of the signature tracks on Jackson’s mega-selling Thriller album, won Grammys in 1984 for record of the year and male rock vocal performance and helped open up MTV’s programming.

Van Halen himself would admit he was initially skeptical of contributing to Jackson’s album, wondering how much he had in common with a singer he remembered for chanting “A-B-C, easy as 1-2-3.” But Jackson had written Beat It as a rock song, anchored by a hard and funky ruff by guitarist Steve Lukather. When Van Halen arrived at the studio in Los Angeles, Jones told him he could improvise. Van Halen listened to Beat It, asked if he could rearrange the song and added a pair of solos during which, engineers would long swear, a speaker caught on fire.

As he was finishing, Jackson walked in.

“I didn’t know how he would react to what I was doing. So I warned him before he listened. I said, ‘Look, I changed the middle section of your song',” Van Halen told CNN. “Now in my mind, he’s either going to have his bodyguards kick me out for butchering his song, or he’s going to like it. And so he gave it a listen, and he turned to me and went, ‘Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better'.”

Van Halen worked for free, was not credited on the album and didn’t appear in the video. But his touch was undisguisable. After the record’s release, Van Halen would remember shopping in a Tower Records while Beat It was playing on the sound system.

“The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen',” he said. “I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That IS me!’ That was hilarious.” – AP

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
   

Next In Entertainment

‘Running Man’ Kim Jong-kook gains 250K subscribers in less than 24 hours after launching YouTube channel
WATCH: Artistes who've overcome adversity join forces to inspire in new music video
EXCLUSIVE: 'That thing is tiny', says Rose Byrne on aerobics outfit she wore for 'Physical' Premium
Michael Jackson's daughter says paparazzi caused her long-term trauma
Legendary singer Diana Ross, 77, makes a comeback after 15 years
Tough guy Zul Ariffin had 'WiFi Sebelah Rumah' crew in stitches with his comedy acting, says co-star Ruhainies
'Fast And Furious' saga coming to an end says actor Vin Diesel
Hit K-drama 'Hospital Playlist' returns with more relationship issues in Season 2
James Corden accused of promoting anti-Asian hate on his talk show
Blackpink makes movie to mark 5th anniversary

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers