In 1978, when Van Halen‘s debut album was released, the band secured an opening slot for Black Sabbath and it was the start of a lasting friendship between guitar figureheads Tony Iommi and Eddie Van Halen. Nearly two decades later, Van Halen co-wrote the Sabbath song “Evil Eye” with Iommi, who recently told Rolling Stone how it all happened while also reflecting on the guitarist’s death.
Sabbath were in the studio working on what would come to be 1994′ Cross Purposes, their 17th overall album and fourth with singer Tony Martin. During this time, Van Halen were on tour and played in Birmingham, England and Iommi went to meet up with the band.
“You ought to come down to rehearsal if you want,” Iommi told Eddie, who replied, “Oh, can I?”
Iommi continued, “I said, ‘I’ll pick you up from the hotel.’ I said, ‘Let’s go and get a guitar.’ We went down to the music shop in Birmingham. I said, ‘Can you lend us a guitar for Eddie?’ And of course, they went, ‘Oh, oh, wha’?’ [Laughs] So Eddie came in with me, and we got one of his guitars, his own model. And he came to rehearsal.”
“We played some of the Sabbath stuff for him. One of his favorites was ‘Into The Void’, strangely enough,” the Sabbath legend went on. “We played that and we went back to writing. I think it was ‘Evil Eye’, and I said, ‘Go on, you play the solo on this.’ He did and it was really great. When we recorded it, of course, I tried to duplicate that, but I couldn’t. [Laughs]”
The Sabbath guitarist also confirmed he has the tape recording of Eddie’s solo. “I don’t know where it is amongst my lot, but there is one,” he said. “I know I’ve got one. It was a real gem.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Iommi praised the Van Halen icon as a humble man and a “genuinely great person” who would “throw his arms around you and really show his affection” every time you met. Iommi also said the two had remained in touch often and would meet up for dinner whenever he was in Los Angeles.
In an effort to summarize Eddie Van Halen’s impact on music, the Sabbath co-founder gushed, “He’s had probably one of the biggest influences that you could have on people, from his generation onwards. He came up with something completely different. How hard is that, to come up with something different guitar-wise? I think he’s inspired so many people. There’s millions of people out there all trying to do that tapping stuff and play like Eddie and play Eddie’s solos. I think he’s had a huge impression on millions and millions of guitar players.”
Eddie Van Halen died earlier this week (Oct. 6) at the age of 65 after spending years battling throat cancer. The influential guitarist was remembered fondly by his family and bandmates and received an outpouring of love from his peers, many of whom cite him as a crucial influence and the reason they wanted to start playing guitar.
Black Sabbath, “Evil Eye”
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