Picking the most essential songs in the Van Halen catalogue is no easy task. For starters, they’re a band that continuously put out recorded music for 30 years. In that time, they’ve had massive hits, beloved albums, and underrated gems that fans could list in the hundreds. There’s no easy place to start with Van Halen because there are so many paths you could take.
Secondly, there are three different singers to account for. Do you start chronologically with David Lee Roth or visit Van Halen at the peak of their popularity with Sammy Hagar (or maybe even get the worst out of the way with the Gary Cherone era)? Van Halen’s history is a robust pick your own adventure kind of tale, but when Eddie Van Halen sat down with spinner.com in 2009, he gave his own set of recommendations on where to start with the band’s music.
Since this is Eddie talking, it’s no surprise that some of the first songs he picks are two of his most legendary guitar solos. Van Halen immediately established himself as a guitar god with ‘Eruption’ from the band’s debut and went on to play off the same form, this time with a nylon string acoustic, on Van Halen II‘s ‘Spanish Fly’.
“I think ‘Eruption’ is one. ‘Spanish Fly’, just because it’s the same thing except it sounds like Segovia doing something, it’s on a Flamenco guitar,” Van Halen explained.” I wish somebody would take that technique and do something with it. I had no idea it would trip people out to the point that it did.”
From there, Eddie has a harder time narrowing things down. Being the major entertainer that he was, Eddie fed off the crowd’s energy at every single Van Halen show. The cheers, the shouts, and the sing-alongs were infectious, so that’s what Eddie highlighted next.
“To pick songs, I can only go by what the audience response is, like say ‘Runnin’ with the Devil’,” Van Halen observed. “To the day I die, we’ll have to play that because that’s what people want to hear, and ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’, ‘Unchained’, and ‘Jump’. There’s all kinds of stuff.”
It wasn’t just the hits that Eddie gravitated towards, however. There were a few deeper cuts that held a special place in his heart as well. Although there were a handful of songs that will continue to outlive the late Van Halen because of the chart success and mainstream appeal, these days it’s often more fun to remember Eddie’s hidden gems.
“I love ‘Girl Gone Bad’. One of my favourite songs of ours is ‘Drop Dead Legs’,” Van Halen threw out as well. “Whether it’s a hit or not, I love that song. Probably the more obscure stuff, like Wolfie [Van Halen, Eddie’s son] loves ‘Romeo Delight’. I do too.”
Check out a playlist of Eddie Van Halen’s top recommendations on where to start with his music down below.
Eddie Van Halen’s favourite Van Halen songs:
- ‘Spanish Fly’
- ‘Runnin with the Devil’
- ‘Ain’t Talin’ Bout Love’
- ‘Girl Gone Bad’
- ‘Drop Dead Legs’