1. He Partied in His Heyday, But Not Exactly Like a Rock Star
Like the rest of Van Halen, Eddie indulged in drugs and alcohol, but not while partying. Drug and alcohol-free since 2008, he told Billboard about how he would get drunk and snort cocaine alone at night in hotel rooms, just to experiment with the guitar: "The blow keeps you awake and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions," Van Halen says. "I'm sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state."
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2. He Doesn't Listen to Any New Music
Not only does he not listen to old Van Halen records, but the guitarist hasn't purchased new music since 1986. That special album was Peter Gabriel's So. And new music? Don't even think about it. "I couldn't make a contemporary record if I wanted to, because I don't know what contemporary music sounds like," he admitted to Billboard. He does occasionally listen to Yo-Yo Ma (because he love the sound of the cello), so there's that.
3. He Dresses Normcore
Okay, so there are punk and indie musicians who rock the regular Joe look, but few rock stars from Van Halen's era will say, "I'm a T-shirt and jeans guy." And he definitely didn't bond with former Van Halen singer Gary Cherone over clothing choices: "We were getting ready to go on tour, and all of a sudden I see this John Travolta outfit -- these big lapels and a crazy jacket. He's like, 'This is my stage outfit.' That's when I realized it wasn't going to work," says
4. He Played on Michael Jackson's Iconic 'Beat It' -- But Doesn't Think It's a Big Deal
When asked about playing the guitar solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It," Van Halen simply refers to it as "20 minutes of my life," and figures he probably should have gotten songwriting credit, but doesn't seem to care much for not making any money off it:
"I literally thought to myself, 'Who is possibly going to know if I play on this kid's record?' So I went to the studio and listened to the song twice, and I didn't like the section they wanted me to solo over. They wanted me to solo over the breakdown. I asked [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones to edit the chords underneath the solo," he recalls. "Then I could play the solo in the key of E, but it was the chords underneath that made the solo interesting. So I guess I did rearrange it."
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5. He Doesn't Remember His Own Band's Lyrics
Aside from not being able to read music, Eddie admits he's also forgotten many of the lyrics to Van Halen's songs. And though he barely has a relationship with David Lee Roth, he soldiers on for the fans: "I think it's now built into people's DNA, that it just won't be Van Halen if it's not Roth's voice," he explains. "You make music for people. Otherwise, just play in your closet. And how do you reach the most people? By giving them the band that they know. To do it any other way would be selfish.”
Read Eddie Van Halen's Billboard cover story when it's out Friday, June 19.