Tag Archives: Electric Guitar

EVH/Fender Frankenstrat

Once Eddie Van Halen and crew pulled their act together and a new contract with Fender was signed, Fender became a reliable and productive ally for Eddie Van Halen. Historically Eddie had fallouts with each company that he had been with after a period of generally five to ten years. Since being with Fender, Eddie has not wavered in his faith with that company for the service that has been provided to him.

Fender granted Eddie Van Halen his right to market their products under his outlet called EVH Gear. The first fruit of this collaboration came in 2006, when Fender began a limited edition run of custom made Frankenstrats with specifications to be the exact same as the final incarnation of the original Frankenstrat that he had built and modified over a time frame of many years. This is truly a collector’s piece, provided that you are able to afford it.

The principle man to deal with EVH on his gear needs was a younger but clever man named Chip Ellis. Chip is the main guy that Eddie deals with for his gear via Fender.

The idea that the Frankenstrat could be replicated entirely and made in a limited edition run of 500 guitars was conceived and has been on the market since 2006. It is virtually the same guitar as the original Frankenstrat in every detail: from the striped paintwork and a custom wound Seymour Duncan humbucker in the bridge position to the more intricate elements of the guitar, such as the cigarette burns and the 1971 quarter near the Floyd Rose tremolo system. It also comes with some wonderful accessories, a hard case and booklet and certificate of authenticity.

Eddie Van Halen and Chip Ellis are two very clever men indeed who wore together well on the EVH Gear based products.

Picture courtesy http://www.jameslimborg.com/music-and-guitar-pedals/van-halen-news-desk/

In a video recorded at the 5150 studios, Eddie revealed the history and some his input into the guitar itself. Noted in the video to avoid confusion with the near identical replicas, Eddie Van Halen wrote in capital letters: “THIS IS THE SHIT – THANKS CHIPS” on the original Frankenstrat.

The only real downside, apart from the limited availability of this replica, is the price tag. The replica Frankenstrat goes for around $25,000.00 US and is virtually unaffordable in that respect. A good alternative is the EVH/Fender Striped Series, which was the next collaboration project that EVH and Fender worked together on.

In short, if you have a spare ten grand or two lying about, this is a definite must for any Eddie Van Halen fan to purchase. For more information, visit http://evhgear.com/frankenstein/.

 

 

References:

  1. EVH Gear. 2016. The Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein Replica Guitar. http://www.evhgear.com/frankenstein/
  2. Dan from Ground Guitar. 2016. Eddie Van Halen Guitars and Gear. http://www.groundguitar.com/eddie-van-halen-guitars-and-gear/
  3. Guitar World. 2008. “Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein Replica Guitar (part 1)”. YouTube video, 6:02, Jun 11. https://www.youtube.com/xwatch?v=i2mh7zGfFRM
  4. Guitar World. 2008. “Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein Replica Guitar (part 2)”. YouTube video, 5:47, Jun 11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICXeYawQqFs
  5. Guitar World. 2008. “Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein Replica Guitar (part 3)”. YouTube video, 6:18, Jun 11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9_ZDxoxhoc

Van Halen III

Often considered to be the worst album by the group, Van Halen 3 could have avoided by many means to be that. It was an ill thought idea at the time and represented a turn of the worst for the band.

Were Van Halen thinking straight around this time?

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2009/03/17/van-halen-iii-released-11-years-ago-today/

Before I even begin to review this, there are some main flaws with this album. For starters, the group had a lack of focus after the exit of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar from the group. There was an air of uncertainty about the future of Van Halen and led to apathy in terms of the effort from the group.

Secondly, Eddie Van Halen himself was on a downward spiral personally and musically. His drinking was becoming uncontrollable, a battle that lasted for another decade or so. Also Eddie was assertive in a bad way creative control over all band members, with bad results. Michael Anthony in particular was hurt by some of the creative measures that Eddie Van Halen used on this album. His backing vocals were not used on any song on this album.

Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen were primarily to blame for this poor recording.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWCHt8-Pc0

Another reason is the production and mixing. Mike Post was assigned to do the production on this album, and although it sounds more variable and somewhat more interesting than your typical Van Halen album, it sounds really like a mockery of what Van Halen represented to fans. Also, the mix sounds lo-fi and there are no separation between the instruments at all, making it sound very scratchy in general. More effort could have been used to remedy this problem.

And lastly, Gary Cherone is not suited to Van Halen per se. Indeed, if time had permitted, Van Halen could have selected a better singer for the group to fit them musically. Although Gary was no doubt the most decently behaved of the Van Halen singers, his singing is not the greatest.

Even the single, ‘Without You’ barely charted.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT8RdKN8u9w

So that aside, let’s have a look at the record…

The record starts off with ‘Neworld’ a nice but unimpressive composition. It has some nice harmonics and that is about it. From this point, you realise that the recording is ill thought out.

It leads into ‘Without You’. This is probably the best song off the recording, but still, pales in comparison to what Van Halen were even a few years before. The guitars could have sounded better with some proper mixing, but then again, it is not that good regardless. Not a good start to the recording. Is it Eddie Van Halen progressing or regressing musically? Who knows?

A similar song follows with a poor attempt at social conscience style lyrics, ‘One I Want’. It is neither catchy nor very listenable and makes the stomach churn. Many people would have turned off the recording by this point. The solo is okay though.

In the past Eddie Van Halen would had made his instrument speak. Van Halen III does not do justice to the wonderful Peavey Wolfgang.

Picture courtesy http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/15493/1998-Peavey-EVH-Wolfgang-USA-Electric-Guitar-Transparent-Blue—Used-/

The next song begins with a U2 like guitar part that persists with annoyance throughout the song. The song itself is a drag, and Gary Cherone does fall into the abyss of unsuitable singing for the song. ‘From Afar’ sounds nothing like it should. Disappointing.

Another throwaway track, ‘Dirty Water Dog’ is next. It does not make sense to add this to an already ordinary recording, and just seems like filler. The lyrics don’t make sense either.

Gary Cherone, although a nice guy in relation to Van Halen, struggles on this recording to sound like a Van Halen singer.

Picture courtesy http://www.hollywood.com/celebrities/these-bands-shouldnt-have-kept-going-60232889/

‘Once’ is depressingly bad. There is no joy in this Van Halen song like there was in Van Halen songs of the past. Worth skipping if you listen to this recording.

The next song, ‘Fire In The Hole’, is marginally better. It seems semi-catchy but the mix does not hold the song up well. A good riff and interesting solo for this record but otherwise not really impressive.

‘Josephina’ is a fairly ordinary attempt at a ballad by Van Halen. It does not seem normal for a group like Van Halen to do this sort of thing, and Gary Cherone’s attempt at emotional singing falls flat. Still, a better effort than otherwise expected.

The tour to support this album failed in America, although was successful internationally.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/history/bio_gary.htm

The overly long, ‘Year To The Day’ is too long and too depressing for any Van Halen fan to really enjoy. Some editing and rewriting would have helped this song, along with the rest of the album itself.

‘Primary’ follows, a coral sitar instrumental. Although unnecessary, it does sound different to the record, a poor attempt at injecting freshness into Van Halen. Okay, but nothing more.

‘Ballot Or The Bullet’ would be listenable, but it sounds terrible. Politics and Van Halen do not mix, and this song is proof of it.

Van Halen were aware that they were running out of breath musically, and disbanded for a long time after this album was released.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Van_Halen_1998_Gary_Cherone.jpg

The last song on the recording is by far the worst Van Halen song ever recorded. ‘How Many Say I’ is Eddie Van Halen’s plea to the world to understand his alcoholic mess of a mind. In particular, it seems like a plea to his wife Valerie Bertinelli, who he divorced with three years later. Eddie taking lead vocals is not a good idea, considering he is not a gifted singer. And it has no guitars and is very depressing. A truly bad finish to this record.

The worst part about this record, technically speaking, is that it lacks the power, consistency and innovation of the Brown Sound that resounded so well in previous times. The Peavey Wolfgang could have been better represented on this recording.

Eddie Van Halen was on the decline for a long period of time from the release of this album onwards. It was their last proper album for 14 years.

Picture courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/5296953525

But the whole album itself needed a desperate rethink. Van Halen were about to experience a series of losses and personal troubles for nearly a decade. This album, unless you really wish to complete the Brown Sound in your head, must be avoided at all costs. A disaster. None of the songs were placed on the Best Of Both Worlds compilation, proving the need to forget this album.

Van Halen: Best Of Volume One

As previously discussed, the first Van Halen compilation came along with the rotation of singers. Yet, despite this, how does it sound?

It was a shame that for this particular compilation only one disc was released. Van Halen had more than enough material to fill up two discs of songs, but regrettably only chose one instead. There are many tracks that could have made it onto another disc which would have been amazing.

The two new songs with David Lee Roth were amazing.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2014/09/04/van-halens-original-lineup-presents-mtv-award/

Still, there is a fairly good selection here of music by Van Halen. It begins with ‘Eruption’, leading all the way to ‘Panama’ (or ‘Hot For Teacher’ if you had the Japanese copy of this album) for the first David Lee Roth era. Once that is over, very much the hit singles from the Sammy Hagar era are here. And yes, many fans were aware of these songs yet for a one disc compilation it strikingly sounds well chosen.

Then we have the new tracks. ‘Humans Being’ is very much of one the worst “Van Hagar” tracks you will hear. It is a dirge like song, only redeemed by the loud, prolonged scream at the end of the song. A poor effort indeed.

It is really hard to know what Van Halen and Eddie Van Halen himself were really thinking around this time.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarplayer.com/news/1024/eddie-van-halen-performs-jimi-hendrixs-fire-and-little-wing–video/52965

Then we get two brand new David Lee Roth songs, ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’ is very cool indeed. “Got a date with a supermodel, I know I can make it…” begins Dave on the first new song. It sounds wonderful and fresh, something that Balance seems to lack. Not bad.

More catchy though is ‘Me Wise Magic’. A full on, rhythmic tune with style, it is an underrated gem out of the Van Halen cannon. Eddie Van Halen uses some cool licks on his new Peavey Wolfgang here, and it does justice indeed.

Eddie Van Halen really does show his Brown Sound progression on this particular album.

Picture courtesy http://atlasicons.photoshelter.com/gallery/EDDIE-VAN-HALEN-1996/G0000wb.BUOeMwgk/C0000YdNgrVtpTBs

The good thing about this compilation, regardless of it needing to be more inclusive, is that we can clearly hear for the first time Eddie Van Halen’s Brown Sound transition throughout the years. From the first Frankenstrat on ‘Eruption’ to his Peavey gear on ‘Me Wise Magic’, somehow upon listening one gets the feeling that this is exactly what Eddie desired to show listeners. He seemed very content with showing the difference in sound and tone over the years.

The bad thing about this compilation though is that it does fall short of a truly amazing listen by being too selective of some songs and also needs more of them. After the fade out of the last track, you may sit there and feel left out of what could have been much more.

There could have and should have been another disc of Van Halen material. Yet, despite this, this album is absolutely essential to understanding the Brown Sound progression over the years.

Picture courtesy http://www.covershut.com/cover-tags/Van-Halen-Best-Of-Volume-1-1996.html

It is the better of the two compilations though, and is a must for those who wish to understand the Brown Sound in a logical progression. A photo of Eddie’s Peavey Wolfgang is in the booklet. Unfortunately, nobody saw the future at the time, which is exactly what this compilation was for.

Peavey Wolfgang

Due to some of the limitations of Eddie Van Halen’s Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model and the contract ending with Ernie Ball, Eddie decided to pursue Peavey further in his ultimate quest for the perfect sound and tone.

In 1995 Eddie Van Halen and Hartley Peavey worked together placing the finishing touches on a brand new line of guitars for Edward and the result was both unique and amazing simultaneously. The guitar itself was made commercially available in 1996, along with a licenced production of Peavey EVH Wolfgang guitar strings as well. The name was the same name as Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen.

Eddie Van Halen was eager to move on with guitar design and refinement.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/gear/evh_peavey-guitars.htm

This new guitar was similar in some respects to the previous guitar that Eddie Van Halen had used, yet there were some subtle differences that had made this guitar more unique than the previous one that Eddie had used.

The basic idea of the design was almost identical to the Ernie Ball guitars that Ed had used for some time. Basswood was used for the body, with maple used for the neck and for the body design, a licensed Floyd Rose tremolo and two custom designed and wound EVH/Peavey humbucking pickups, as well as Schaller M6 mini tuners.

Some of the design differences in comparison to the previous Ernie Ball guitars were the addition of maple top and a unique three-way switch placed at the top of the body which was reversed in comparison to regular three way switches typically placed at the same position. Additionally the new Peavey line-up also included, for the first time, a D-Tuner added to the Floyd Rose tremolo system which was not included on the previous line of guitars. A tone adjuster with knob was also added, along with a new uniquely shaped headstock.

In a sadly ironic way Eddie Van Halen endorsed and played the Peavey Wolfgang throughout the worst period of his musical career.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/news/2005-01-10_evh-parts-with-peavey.htm

The first commercially produced Peavey guitars that were created in 1996 were limited only to the Peavey Wolfgang Standard, which came in six different finishes. The quality of these guitars varied widely due to the difference in quality of the flame maple tops, which later was changed to curly maple tops in a way of remedying the problem of quality of sound output.

A variety of different models were offered over the years. From 1997 to 2004, there were models such as: Wolfgang Standard; Wolfgang Standard Deluxe; Wolfgang Special; Wolfgang Special Deluxe; Wolfgang Special EXP and also Peavey provided a custom shop for those who preferred that sort of service.

The Peavey Wolfgang guitar is an underrated lost piece of history.

Picture courtesy http://johnnyolsa.com/Guitars/

Eddie himself primarily played during this time a Wolfgang Standard with a Tobacco Sunburst style finish. He did play this through both Van Halen tours respectively after production commenced, yet apparently destroyed this guitar on the last show of the 2004 tour.

All Peavey Wolfgang guitars came with a special handbook with a personal statement from Eddie himself about this unique brand of guitar, along with tips for care. Below are some stats of the Peavey Wolfgang:

 

Body:

  • Figured maple top/basswood back or solid basswood construction.
  • Unique offset cutaway design with carved top.
  • Cream or black top-edge-binding.

Neck:

  • Birdseye maple neck and fingerboard, oil-finished.
  • Dual graphite reinforcements and adjustable torsion rod.
  • 25 ½ inch scale length, 22 jumbo frets.
  • 15 inch fingerboard radius.
  • 10 degree tilt-back headstock with 3+3 tuning machine configuration.
  • Bolt-on construction with contoured neck heel.

Electronics:

  • Two custom-wound Peavey/EVH humbucking pickups.
  • Volume and tone controls.
  • Switchcraft® 3-way toggle switch and output jack.

Hardware:

  • Schaller® tuning machines with pearloid or cream buttons.
  • Peavey/Floyd Rose® licensed, double-locking tremolo assembly or tune-o-matic/stop tailpiece fixed bridge assembly.
  • D-Tuner™ (available on tremolo model only).
  • Chrome-plated hardware finish.

In a strangely repressed way and under huge pressure, Eddie Van Halen’s Peavey Wolfgang was one of the most forward thinking designs of guitar yet.

Picture courtesy http://www.rocknrollweekend.com/index2.html

Although Ed ended his contract with Peavey in 2004, if you are seeking this guitar, be sure to look at eBay for various models of this guitar, although it can be rather pricey to purchase a second hand one. Sadly this guitar was strictly produced by Peavey and there are no other real alternatives to finding a guitar quite like it. Once Eddie ceased relations with Peavey, he took his ideas elsewhere and left Peavey with little memory of his involvement with them and Peavey now only produce the 5150 amplifiers (now branded as the 6505 amplifier range) and the guitar strings he used to use. Regardless of this, this guitar is part of the history of the Brown Sound and if you have one today, you are very lucky indeed.

Eddie named the guitar after his son Wolfgang. This clearly meant that the Peavey Wolfgang indeed was special to Eddie Van Halen at the time.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Van_Halen

 

References:

  1. 2015. Eddie Van Halen Guitars and Gear. http://www.groundguitar.com/eddie-van-halen-guitars-and-gear/
  2. Knapp, Geoff. 2006. Wolfgang Guitars – The Unofficial Site of the Wolfgang and HP Special Guitar. http://www.wolfgangguitars.com/
  3. Peavey. 1998. EVH Wolfgang Operating Guide. http://peavey.com/media/pdf/manuals/80301829.pdf

Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model

Once the Ernie Ball strings were being manufactured, it soon became apparent that Kramer and co. did not enjoy the idea that another company was creating strings for their client. In an odd stroke of fate as Kramer were in rapid decline financially, Eddie Van Halen and Ernie Ball fell out with Kramer due to accounting misconduct by Kramer. Allegedly Kramer and Ernie Ball did not see eye to eye on financial accounting issues and shortly after Eddie found out, ceased the working relationship that Eddie Van Halen once had with Kramer.

In the interim, Eddie Van Halen had come up with a design for a new guitar, possibly foreseeing the future. The guitar itself was further refined when Eddie Van Halen began working more closely with Ernie Ball Music Man. As a result, he had designed his first guitar, an important step in his musical journey.

Ernie Ball’s Music Man department and Eddie Van Halen worked together on the EVH Model.

Picture courtesy http://icmp.co.uk/events/tunnel-tunnel-festival 

The model itself was produced for around five years, although Eddie famously used this guitar during the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance era, as well as on tour. The reason for changing company was due to the fact that supposedly Eddie Van Halen was upset by the inability of the company to satisfy demand with the production of these guitars. The truth is probably closer to the fact that Eddie was unhappy with some of the limitations of this particular guitar, as he was already secretly designing the Peavey Wolfgang for Peavey at the end of the association with Ernie Ball.

Nonetheless, once the association had ceased to be, Ernie Ball continued to produce this particular guitar under the name Ernie Ball Music Man Axis, with some slight modifications. These were: removal of Eddie Van Halen’s signature; toggle switch moved more towards centre of body; body contour added; widening of neck to prevent string slippage; “tone” knob renamed “volume”; and saddles changed from offset to non-offset on tremolo system.

Eddie Van Halen was very happy with his Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model.

Picture courtesy https://www.tumblr.com/search/ernie%20ball%20musicman

Eddie was known particularly to favour an Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model that came in an Amber Orange colour, which was equipped with the first of Eddie Van Halen’s patented D-Tunas, a device that enabled the playing to Drop D tuning without extensive time spent fiddling around with the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system. This simply operated by pulling a knob attached to the bottom string of the guitar, instantly changing to the note from E to D. Additionally, the guitar itself had a neck electronically mapped to be exactly the same as the one on his previous main guitar, the Kramer 5150. It also had a black 5150 sticker on the body towards the end of usage by Eddie Van Halen on his #1 EVH Model.

The guitar itself is a great bit of history. Although you could possibly find genuine Ernie Ball Music Man EVH models on EBay, it is most likely easier to find an Ernie Ball Music Man Axis from Ernie Ball Music Man’s website. These retail for around $3 000 AUS or so, but is worth every dollar and is a great playing guitar, coming in a variety of colours. For those who desire the specifications, they are listed below, courtesy of the Ernie Ball Music Man website:

This guitar is still available commercially from Ernie Ball Music Man under the name Axis, although with some slight modifications.

Picture courtesy http://www.music-man.com/instruments/guitars/axis.html

Model: Axis

Size: 12-5/8” wide, 1-3/4” thick, 36-1/4” long (32.1 cm wide, 4.5cm thick, 92.0 cm long)

Weight: 7 lbs, 4 oz (3.29 kg) – weight varies slightly

Body Wood: Basswood with bookmatched figured maple top

Body Finish: High gloss polyester

Body Colours: Back and sides – Opaque Black

Body Bindings: Binding – Cream

Bridge: Music Man® locking tremolo with fine tuners; lowers pitch only

Scale Length: 25-1/2” (64.8cm)

Neck Radius: 10” (25.4cm)

Headstock Size: 1-5/8” (41.3mm) at nut, 2-3/16” (55.6mm) at last fret

Frets: 22 – High profile, medium width

Neck Width: 1-5/8” (41.3mm)

Neck Wood: Select maple neck

Fingerboard: Select maple or rosewood

Neck Finish: Gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend

Neck Colours: Standard – Natural; Optional – Matching Painted Headstock

Tuning Machines: Schaller M6LA with Pearl Buttons

Truss Rod: Adjustable – no component or string removal

Neck Attachment: 5 bolts – perfect alignment with no shifting; Sculpted neck joint allows smooth access to higher frets

Electronic Shielding: Graphite acrylic resin coated body cavity and aluminium lined control cover

Controls: 500kohm volume pot

Switching: 3-way toggle pickup selector

Pickups: HH – 2 DiMarzio Custom Humbucking

Left-handed: No

Strings: Ernie Ball Slinky 9s-42s

 

For those looking for a slightly different alternative, there is also the Ernie Ball Music Man Axis Super Sport. Specifications are not listed here, yet you can go to the Ernie Ball Music Man website and have a browse if you wish.

This guitar truly is a piece of good history, and will make a fine addition to your collection.

Ernie Ball Music Man also made a double-neck baritone guitar for Eddie specifically for live performances of the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge song “Spanked”.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/pin/177751516517126418/

References:

  1. Ball, Sterling. 2008. I guess I have to talk about EVH… Ernie Ball Music Man Forums. http://www.music-man.com/blog/sterling/i-guess-i-have-to-talk-about-evh.html
  2. Ernie Ball. 2007. Ernie Ball Forums. http://forums.ernieball.com/music-man-guitars/21007-ernie-ball-axis-history.html

OU812

As the eighties drew to a close, the time had come for yet another album by the now commercially successful Van Halen. This time, the album called OU812 was packed full of tunes ready for Van Halen and Sammy Hagar fans alike.

This album, like its predecessor, was a commercial success, reaching #1 in the U.S. Critically however, it was seen as weaker than 5150 in general by critics. Sonically as well, it was the end of Eddie’s traditional setup with his Marshall Superlead amplifier, prompting him to entirely rethink his setup over the next few years.

The “Van Hagar” era was well and truly underway with OU812.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/

But, the question is, are the songs there? Of course! There were several hit singles from the album. To begin with, let’s look at a track by track in depth analysis of the album.

The first track, “Mine All Mine” is a dark, deep song about questioning one’s faith within oneself. The line, “You’ve got Allah in the east, you’ve got Jesus in the west, Christ! What’s a man to do?” creates a feeling that one is soul searching, or at least in Sammy Hagar’s case. With a funky synth line, this track is very catchy.

The first song of the album that was worked on, “When It’s Love” is a catchy pop tune that may leave David Lee Roth fans asking, “What?!”. Indeed, it is light years away from anything done with the former lead singer. Still, it is a great song, and well worth listening to. A classic single indeed.

“When It’s Love” is a great Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song.

Picture courtesy http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=519286

Following up is “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”. This song has some well-structured and interesting sections to it. It has some well varied and interesting work from Eddie and Alex Van Halen whilst Sammy Hagar has some wonderful vocal work on top of it. This is a very underrated piece from “Van Hagar”.

“Cabo Wabo” is a slow, jam like song which probably goes on far too long. Although some sections of it are indeed, catchy, it is a poor effort. It just goes on a bit, which makes it difficult to listen to after the first time.

The following number, “Source Of Infection” is rather throwaway fun. Still, it is rather catchy nonetheless. Enjoyable listening.

Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen got along so well at this point they lived next door to each other, proof of their stable relationship at the time.

Picture courtesy http://www.weissguygallery.com/images/galleries/VAN%20HALEN/

“Feels So Good” follows and is a good piece about finding love lost. Still, compared to some of the other numbers on the album, it seems very much weaker. But this is the strength of OU812. Even the weaker cuts are listenable, not a bad thing in itself.

Next up is, “Finish What Ya Started” is a more interesting touch from Van Halen. Nonetheless, it is humourous enough to engage listeners in its “we have all been there” type story. A good variety of instrumentation exists on this track, with Sammy Hagar playing acoustic guitar.

This is the last traditional “Brown Sound” album that Van Halen created.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/fmpackerfan/van-halen/

“Black And Blue” follows, a rather bland piece of work. Funnily enough, it was a hit single for the group, but still seems weaker than other Van Halen songs. It seemed that the quality of Van Halen mark II was not as strong as Van Halen mark I, a shame in itself in some ways.

On the other hand, “Sucker In A 3 Piece” is based on a Sammy Hagar real life story, humourous and interesting nonetheless. Obviously referring to jealousy, it captures a side of male sexual desire often unseen in real life. Well worth listening to.

Van Halen were still creating great songs, and were very popular at this point.

Picture courtesy http://www.rockmusictimeline.com/1988gallery.html

The last track is a throwaway cover suggested by recording engineer Donn Landee. “A Apolitical Blues” is just that and seems humourous in retrospect. Admittedly, it is filler, but good filler at that. Humourous.

So, in retrospect, how does OU812 fare? Fairly well. Although some songs on the album are fairly weak, it delivered more or less the same outcome as 5150. Still, some of the sonic output by Eddie Van Halen is less powerful than before. Was it the end of the Brown Sound? Some agree so…

This is the last Van Halen album to feature Eddie’s Marshall Superlead, which was wearing out after years of use in the studio and onstage.

Picture courtesy http://guitarvillage.uk.com/product/9857-279/Marshall-JMP-1959-Super-Lead-Head-Pre-Owned-1972-VG-100-Watts.aspx

References:

1. Popoff, Martin. The Recording of OU812 in Sammy Hagar’s Words. http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/

Steinberger 5150

Perhaps one of the lesser known guitars that Eddie Van Halen used, the Steinberger is a fascinating, interesting instrument with a great deal of history behind it in relation to the design and construction of it. Steinberger became a big name in the music industry, particularly after Eddie Van Halen used the instrument extensively on “Get Up” and “Summer Nights” on the 5150 album. This ensured that both men would be in the books of history for developing and using an instrument that was unusual, yet useful.

For a short period of time, Eddie Van Halen used his Steinberger 5150, which he loved.

Picture courtesy http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=106322

The Steinberger story began many years before the two men had any association with one another. Ned Steinberger designed furniture as an industrial designer. Apparently Steinberger worked with Stuart Spector, a bass luthier at one point in New York. Spector requested assistance from Steinberger on design for a bass guitar. Ned Steinberger agreed, and the initial result was the Spector NS. This was a new bass guitar design, of which was later adopted and expanded upon by Warwick.

Inspired by this initial move into the music world, Steinberger persisted with a new take on the traditional bass guitar design. He thought extensively about some of the problems that existed with the traditional Fender Precision Bass style design that had very much dominated the market to the day.

Ned Steinberger is one true genius, not in a way dissimilar to Eddie Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://www.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Firebird/Gibson-USA/Firebird-X/The-Revolutionaries.aspx

Looking at the main part of the design of the bass guitar, Ned Steinberger found that overall, the design was not very ergonomically ideal in approach. He found that the body of the bass guitar was too heavy, large and above all, subject to issues with tuning and portability. He decided to break with his own past and the past of the music industry and do something that many others were afraid at the time (except perhaps for Eddie Van Halen): innovate.

A prototype Steinberger bass was designed and first manufactured in 1979. This did include body based tuners that required a coin or a screwdriver to turn them, and was heavily based on piano style design. This resulted by Ned Steinberger taking the design of the bass guitar one step further and asking himself: “Why don’t I place the tuning heads on the headstock onto the body?”

The prototype Steinberger bass guitar was extensively rejected by all major music corporations upon presentation.

Picture courtesy http://www.laster.it/musica-ed-altro-storia/ned-steinberger-un-uomo-pieno-di-idee.html

He did just that. Next, he further redesigned the body of the bass guitar, using fibreglass and graphite (aerospace industry materials), he managed to create a smaller, more compact and lighter body available for the bass guitar player. He further used polyurethane or nitrocellulose to finish the body, along with several other key methods of development and redesign that result in a very unique and radical approach from the traditional bass guitar design.

Getting proper support and attention from major guitar manufacturers for his radical and new design was much more difficult. He took it to numerous major musical manufacturers (including Fender and Gibson) only to be turned down by all, including those who liked the idea, but not the design of the instrument. Eventually Steinberger himself decided to take matters into his own hands and began manufacturing the first line of Steinberger bass guitars, whilst making a few sacrifices financially along the way.

He relocated to the state of New York after building on borrowed money, a brand new factory. Eventually after designing the then hugely popular Steinberger bass guitar, Ned Steinberger rethought his design for the electric guitar. He already had a prototype for this in the early 1980s upon relocating to Brooklyn, yet it was not introduced into the market until 1984, the same year that the TransTrem system for his line of electric guitars was introduced.

The TransTrem system is one innovation that was way ahead of its time.

Picture courtesy http://www.steinbergerworld.com/mktng.htm

The TransTrem will go down in the technical rock books as a piece of underrated genius, which it is. By using a locking system, one could play chord sequences in different keys, thus generally eliminating the need for alternate guitars with different tunings, or even capos. It even allowed playing the guitar after string breakage by shifting the TransTrem to the centre position, thus enabling the ability to complete the song. This surely would have been impossible, even on a Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Eddie began playing some more varied and interesting music on the 5150 album. After endorsers, such as Sting and David Bowie, played Steinberger instruments, Eddie obviously became inspired by the use of this new and ground-breaking line of instruments. He then requested a GL-2T to be painted in graphics not dissimilar to the Kramer 5150.

The result was the Steinberger GL-2T 5150. This guitar, and its counterpart, the Steinberger GL-2T OU812, were used during this era. Apart from the paint job and the pickups, which were EMG pickups, it is very much guessed that the guitar is stock.

The Steinberger 5150 and OU812 were also used extensively onstage, as well as on the 5150 album.

Picture courtesy https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/98/9d/30/989d3032838086c1ab06fdd624ea6c67.jpg

Steinberger is now owned by Gibson. After Ned Steinberger sold the operation of his company in 1987, Steinberger instruments went through a bad period prior to ownership being acquired by Gibson, due to shifting trends more so than any other reason. Steinberger has not maintained the popularity that it has in previous times, yet is still running today.

Unlike the Frankenstrat or other Eddie Van Halen guitars, there is not much difficulty in recreating this particular guitar. From the Steinberger website www.steinberger.com below are some stats for one of the models of the Steinberger guitars, the GT-PRO Deluxe:

The Steinberger GT-PRO Deluxe is well worth checking out if you are interested in Steinberger guitars.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitariste.com/achat/magasin,guitare,star-s-music,catalogue,steinberg,1.html

Neck Material: 3-Piece Hard Maple

Neck Joint: Thru-Neck

Fingerboard: Rosewood

Fingerboard Radius: 14”

Frets: 24, Medium-Jumbo

Scale Length: 25.5”

Body Wings: Maple

Body Top: Maple

Pickups: Steinberger Humbucker, Single, Humbucker

External Controls: Master Tone, Master Volume, 5-Way Pickup Selector

Bridge: R-Trem Locking Tremolo with Patented DoubleBall Bridge with 40:1 ratio direct-pull tuners

Saddle Material: Steel

Weight: 7.0lb

Length: 30.25”

Zero Nut Width: 1.625”

12-Fret Width: 2.04”

Bridge Spacing: 0.42”

Note that some specifications on this current model are indeed, different to the original Steinberger GL-2T. Mostly aside from that, it is more or less the same guitar.

It is however, unfortunate that Eddie lost interest in using this guitar after some time. Although very much nowadays seen as a 1980s fad, the Steinberger line of guitars, including the GL-2T that Eddie Van Halen used, are original and interesting guitars indeed. Post 5150 album, the guitar was not really used extensively and eventually was retired by Ed in favour of his Kramer 5150. Still, it is an amazing guitar, and one that can be easily replicated today.

Steinberger are still around and still sell guitars not dissimilar to the 5150 and OU812.

Picture courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/5150f.htm

References:

1.  2015. Eddie Van Halen’s Guitars and Gear. http://www.groundguitar.com/eddie-van-halen-guitars-and-gear/

2. Steinberger World. http://www.steinbergerworld.com/

3. Winterborne, Alex. Steinberger: Eighties Guitars. http://www.retrojunk.com/article/show/373/steinberger-eighties-guitars