There was nobody who epitomised 1980s rock guitar icons the way Eddie Van Halen did. With his iconic custom paint jobs, wild fretboard fireworks, voluminous mane, and wry smile, Van Halen was perhaps the single most important figure to bringing glam-inspired hard rock into the mainstream. Thankfully, Van Halen never truly venture into the “hair metal” abyss, but Van Halen’s fingerprints are all over the Sunset Strip explosion of the ’80s.
So who were the main fans of Van Halen? Kuckleheaded 16 year old boys who loved to shred on air guitar and used words like “radical” and “gnarly” in everyday discussions, of course. Script writer Ed Solomon saw these hordes of headbangers around and began to hatch an idea for a wild comedy adventure involving two of these kids being sent through time and space. How would Beethoven adapt to the wild keyboard styles that Eddie embraced in the ’80s?
As you can probably guess, that film was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. When Van Halen passed away back in 2020, Solomon took to Twitter to pay his respects and mention just how influential Van Halen was on the characters eventually played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. “Super sad to hear about the passing of Eddie Van Halen,” Solomon tweeted. “He was a big influence on Chris [Metheson] & me as we were writing Bill & Ted. In fact, when director Stephen Herek was reading the script he got three pages in, stopped, put on 1984 & resumed. We wanted the movie to be a cinematic ‘Jump.’”
The film even pays direct homage to Van Halen, as the two central characters discuss trying to get Eddie into Wyld Stallions. Later on, while attempting to bust Ted out of jail, Bill adopts the moniker of ‘Deputy Van Halen’ to complete the ruse.
Solomon also mentions how the writers and producers were doing everything they could to try and get Van Halen himself into the series’ third film, Bill & Ted Face the Music. “We tried to get him to do something — anything — in Face the Music, but they said he was unavailable and wouldn’t tell us why,” Solomon wrote. “Sadly, I think I know now”.
Although that opportunity didn’t happen, Van Halen’s legacy is easy to spot in all of the culture he inspired, most hilariously the Bill & Ted series. Party on, dudes.