Tag Archives: Bumblebee

Evolution of the Frankenstrat – Mark II

After going through the original Frankenstrat and the VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, Eddie became a little unsatisfied with both original guitars. The original Frankenstrat was continually becoming copied everywhere and Bumblebee sounded unsatisfactory to Eddie’s continual search for the perfect sound and tone for the guitar.

For Eddie Van Halen, good enough is never good enough. He always seeks out the best possible option for his sound.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMDHwYTeZd0

He went back to the drawing board inside his mind and instead realised that although the other guitars were brilliant in their own way, he needed a new one that could become potentially better than the others. So he decided to make a simple guitar so interesting that people could not copy it directly like the previous two guitars.

So he retired the VH2 guitar and set out to create a new one. He began with the same guitar the previous Frankenstrat with the Fender style guitar shape and neck.

This is the guitar that Eddie started to play around late 1979.

Picture courtesy http://forum.metroamp.com/viewtopic.php?p=203670

In any case Eddie began playing that new guitar in concerts during late 1979. It was initially only with a black and white stripe paint job, not in any way dissimilar to his original Frankenstrat paint job. This new guitar initially sported a Charvel style headstock as well which was later changed.

Charvel played a part in the Frankenstrat Mark II as the company was no longer on good terms with Eddie Van Halen.

Logo courtesy http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=1225972

Additionally, Ed whacked into the Frankenstrat one Mighty Mite single coil pickup in the neck position, initially in an attempt to use it on the guitar. However, since he had limited knowledge of hardwiring electronics he could not use this pickup. Belief is that he merely used it for decoration.

He also place a white pickguard on the guitar initially, later making various modifications to that pickguard, replacing it initially with a black piece of vinyl, then later replacing it with a torn up black pickguard, which came later.

The thing which made this particular guitar the most noticeable out of all Eddie Van Halen’s main guitars was the paint job. It was done in the same fashion as previously, yet with a red, white and black design. Needless to say, this drew attention to Eddie and his new guitar. He again used the Schwinn bicycle paint to do the paintjob on the guitar.

The paintjob on the Frankenstrat is so awesome and memorable that it is on The Best of Both Worlds compilation, proof that you can stare hours at it and not get sick of it.

Picture courtesy http://www.amazon.com/Best-Both-Worlds-Van-Halen/dp/B000286S8S

He also used a three way switch on the guitar, which was simply decorative, as well as the “Tone” knob on the volume pot, the latter a feature of  Eddie Van Halen’s guitars from the original Frankenstrat onwards.

The Frankenstrat sure is one beast.

Picture courtesy http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/220/EVH-Frankenstein-Replica/

Ed then placed truck reflectors on the back of his guitar to further confuse copycats and to create the guitar as a unique addition to his setup.

Shortly afterwards Eddie added a prototype Floyd Rose to the guitar. This was a recent addition of the time, but Ed made sure that all his main electric guitars from then on had a standard Floyd Rose tremolo, as well as a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. Despite using a number of different guitars over the years, Eddie has retained these basic principles to this day. Eddie later changed the prototype to a standard Floyd Rose when the upgrade came.

Ed and Floyd Rose changed the sound of the guitar with the unique Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Picture courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/parts6.htm

Eddie initially placed a white Gibson PAF, likely not dissimilar to the one on the original Frankenstrat which was from his Gibson ES-335. He also used the technique from his early days of dipping the pickup in hot paraffin wax using a certain dipping method and technique to prevent pickup feedback from being extreme. The bridge pickup was wired directly to the volume pot and all other electronic wiring was ignored, simply as Eddie did not know how to wire all things together. Although Eddie is arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever and a genius of sound, he found it more difficult on the technical aspects of making a guitar work.

Ed used PAFs made by Gibson for the Frankenstrat, although he did swap it out for other pickups later on.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarhq.com/paf.html

Interestingly, Eddie also added a 1971 quarter to the edge of the Floyd Rose tremolo system to prevent it from going out of whack when using it, with a hole drilled into it. There were also small dot holes all over the guitar. Additionally there were cigarette burns on the guitar after some time as Ed loves placing cigarettes in the headstock of the guitar while playing onstage. Later on one of the truck reflectors snapped, and also the pickup was changed to a black DiMarzio humbucker.

DiMarzio pickups are not to be underestimated in the creation of the Brown Sound.

Picture courtesy http://www.bestbassgear.com/bass-wiring-diagrams.htm

So by 1982, we had the Floyd Rose tremolo system updated and the Frankenstrat that everybody knew about. In fact this era of the Frankenstrat was modelled by Fender later on, but this will be followed up later in the article.

The 1982 Frankenstrat can never be truly imitated in terms of form.

Picture courtesy http://listverse.com/2011/05/06/11-iconic-guitar-combinations/

But Ed was not finished with his Frankenstrat yet. Eddie changed the tuning pegs to Schallers to differ from what he originally used. He then replaced the DiMarzio pickup with one manufactured by Seymour Duncan. He later placed a prototype Kramer Pacer neck on next, removing the original Boogie Bodies neck that he had. Still, even later he placed a Kramer Banana style neck onto the guitar, later on returning the guitar to its original 1982 era form.

From his beginnings with using a Gibson Les Paul to the constant process of tinkering around with his own guitar the Frankenstrat, Ed was an innovator, and still is.

Pictures courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/5150f

What is absolutely mind blowing about this particular guitar is that every single detail on it is carefully thought out. It is truly a unique icon, and blew everything out of the water before or since in relation to guitars. From the moment that this guitar was conceived in Ed’s mind, to the days where it was all the rage in rock circles, to the present and beyond, there is no doubt that this guitar is worth remembering.

If you are chasing this particular guitar to own, there are a few options to consider. Firstly there are a variety of very similar guitars under all various brands. As mentioned beforehand, you could easily pick out the EVH Gear Striped Series retailing at around $1,398.59 US RRP.

This particular Striped Series EVH Model by Fender is a winner.

EVH Striped Series Red with Black Stripes

Picture courtesy http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/gear/subpage/?partno=5107902503

Or, if you really are well off, and can afford this, then pay EVH Gear $25 000 US (not including shipping costs) and then a Frankenstein™ Replica Guitar is yours for that much. It is not the real thing, but is very close to being it.

Another option is to build your own. This, of course is very timely and a little expensive to construct, but it costs much less than a proper Frankenstein™ Replica guitar. A good place to start is this website: http://www.shredaholic.com/frankie.html

You may need your woodworking skills to create your own Frankenstrat of this era.

http://www.motorcyclesplanesandrevolution.com/?page_id=717

In any case, this is Eddie’s most famous guitar out of all of them. It is such an interesting, unique design that it is virtually inimitable. It is amazing and untouchable, but given that it is so original and unique, it still is often imitated to this day. For a long time this guitar will be forever remembered and cherished as an ultimate rock icon. Its place is well deserved for that reason in rock history.

The David Lee Roth era has a very distinctive sound, particularly in the guitar work of EVH.

Picture courtesy http://www.bellazon.com/main/uploads/monthly_07_2010/post-37737-1278950920.gif

Sources:

  1. http://www.evhgear.com/frankenstein/
  2. https://frankenstrat.wordpress.com/history-of-the-frankenstrat/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2mh7zGfFRM
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICXeYawQqFs
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9_ZDxoxhoc

Van Halen II

Van Halen II is an awesome listen, though perhaps not as consistent as the first Van Halen album.

Van Halen were on a roll by 1979 after the release of their phenomenal debut album.

Picture courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/418023493/

It contains a little more variety than the first Van Halen album, featuring some more interesting and more subtle guitar work with Eddie’s new Charvel created guitar. Incidentally this was the only album that Eddie played that particular guitar extensively on.

The album begins with a cover, “You’re No Good” which is an exciting listen in itself. It follows with two excellent songs, “Dance the Night Away” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”. Both are great listens.

The VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar is in full swing on Van Halen II.

Picture courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/5295455636/

Midway through the album there are a few good, but not great songs which largely suggest that this was the second round of helpings of songs that Van Halen had been working on earlier in their career and not exclusively their best. Still, “Bottoms Up!” is largely humorous and “Outta Love Again” and “Light Up The Sky” do feature interesting uses of effects although both seem somewhat weaker than the other songs on the album.

The most underrated piece in the Van Halen cannon comes next. “Spanish Fly” is a masterpiece of acoustic guitar work with Eddie’s signature style of playing persistent throughout. It is most definitely worth a listen.

Following this, there is “D.O.A.” which is a nice, catchy piece of work. “Women In Love…..” is not very consistent and drags on a little, despite some excellent guitar work from Ed. The last song “Beautiful Girls” however, doesn’t fail to please and is a good listen.

All in all, despite the fact that this album is somewhat weaker than the first album, it is still a joy to listen to today, and is a worthy addition to your collection.

VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, Floyd Rose and Charvel

Little is actually known about this particular guitar. When Eddie Van Halen was in the process of recording the second Van Halen album, Van Halen II, he wanted something that would be different to his original Frankenstrat. Since the release of the first Van Halen album, copycats began emerging trying to emulate not just Eddie’s playing but also his original Frankenstrat.

 

In an attempt to remedy this, he created the “Bumblebee”, more or less the same sort of guitar that the Frankenstrat was, including the same type of neck on the guitar, constructed at the Charvel factory. But there was one large difference. Initially a Fender Vintage Tremolo was installed. But Eddie made rock history when he became the first ever professional rock guitarist to use a Floyd Rose tremolo system on the guitar1.

The Floyd Rose tremolo system is very vital to the Van Halen sound. Picture courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Floyd_rose_original.jpg

Floyd Rose is an interesting addition to the Van Halen story, but one that is often overlooked. Floyd Rose began by playing a Fender Jazzmaster as his first guitar with a tremolo bar, but after experiencing severe problems using the tremolo bar and arm itself, he sought out a solution. He managed to develop a couple of crucial modifications to a standard tremolo system: inserting a ¼ inch steel bar in place of the whammy bar (which he tested and did not break); and changing some of the string arrangements on the tremolo. Although these were not the only modifications that he did, it did begin exploration of a device which could be a usable tremolo system. Over the years various improvements of the tremolo system emerged but Eddie Van Halen was the first notable guitarist to use it on the VH2 “Bumblebee” guitar, which made both become even more notable in rock history2. There was also the Charvel story. Eddie used to visit the Charvel guitar shop in Los Angeles to pick up parts and seek advice on building his own guitars. Wayne Charvel himself confirmed that he made the VH2 guitar for Eddie in his guitar factory. However Wayne Charvel later sold the business to Grover Jackson. A fallout ensued later between the new Charvel administration and Van Halen, with the matter being settled legally3.

Charvel and co. played an important part in the sound of early Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://imgarcade.com/1/fender-guitars-logo/

On a sadder note, when ‘Dimebag’ Darrel Abbott passed away, Eddie placed the guitar with him in his burial place, after hearing that Dimebag himself loved the guitar.

Dimebag loved the VH2 guitar, stating it was his all time favourite.

Picture courtesy http://www.dravensworld.net/2011/12/rip-dimebag-darrell-putain-7-ans.html

Nonetheless, it is still a guitar that fascinates many to this day. The materials used to create this particular guitar are more or less the same materials used to create the original Frankenstrat, with the exception of the paint job, which was yellow stripes on black respectively. It originally had a green headstock, but was later changed. Still if you are not up to building a VH2 lookalike, there is the option of picking up the EVH Gear Striped Series Bumblebee lookalike. Below are the specifications for this guitar, retailing at $1 199US4:

The EVH Striped Series is the best bet for a close copy of the VH2 guitar.

Picture courtesy http://images.evhgear.com/misc/new2013/stripe-yellow.png

Body: Body: Basswood Body

Finish: Gloss

Neck:

Number of Frets: 22

Fret Size: Jumbo

Position Inlays: Dot

Fretboard Radius: 12” to 16”

Compound Radius: (304.8mm to 406.4mm)

Fretboard: Maple

Neck Material: Maple Neck

Finish: Hand-Rubbed Oil

Nut Width: 1.6875” (42.8 mm)

Scale Length: 25.5” (648mm)

Headstock: Standard Stratocaster®

Neck Plate: EVH®-Branded

Electronics:

Pickup Configuration: H Bridge

Pickup: Direct Mount Wolfgang

Humbucking Controls: Master Volume

Hardware:

Hardware: Chrome

Bridge: EVH®-Branded Floyd Rose® Locking Tremolo with EVH D-Tuna®

String Nut: Floyd Rose® Locking

Miscellaneous: Strings included: EVH® Branded (.009-.042 Gauges)

Unique Features: EVH® Neckplate, Bar String Retainer, Thumb Wheel Truss Rod Adjustment, Vintage Strap Buttons, 1-Ply Black Pickguard (576 Only)

Accessories: Control Knobs: One White “Tone” Knob On Volume Pot

Once again, little information exists on this particular guitar as it is not as well-known as other Eddie Van Halen guitars such as the Frankenstrat or otherwise, but is still worth exploring the sound and tone of it on the Van Halen II album. For this reason, it is still relevant exploring today.

Van Halen 2 is a remarkable exploration in sound and tone, and the VH2 guitar reflects this. It is crucial in the Van Halen back catalogue.

Picture courtesy http://www.theaceblackblog.com/2011/04/cd-review-van-halen-ii-by-van-halen.html

References:

  1. Bonta, Mark Steven. 2010. Van Bonta’s Guitar Collection. http://vanbontasguitars.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/vhii-bumble-bee.html
  2. Unknown author. Unknown date. Floyd Rose – The Man. http://www.floydrose.com/about-floyd-rose/floyd-rose-the-man
  3. Steven Rosen. 2008. Rock Chronicles. 1980s – Wayne Charvel. http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/interviews/rock_chronicles/rock_chronicles_1980s_wayne_charvel.html?no_takeover
  4. Unknown author. Unknown date. EVH Striped Series at EVH Gear. http://www.evhgear.com/en-AU/gear/subpage/?partno=5107902528