Eddie Van Halen agreed to perform a guitar solo for one of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits back in 1982.
His asking price? A case of beer and to remain anonymous.
The legendary Van Halen guitarist, who died Tuesday aged 65 after a long battle with throat cancer, recalled being contacted by music producer Quincy Jones who wanted him to help out on Jackson’s upcoming album, Thriller.
Hanging at his LA home when he received the call from Jones, Eddie said in an interview with CNN in 2012 he thought it was a prank call and hung up several times.
“I went off on him. I went, ‘What do you want, you f**king so-and-so!’,” Eddie said.
“And he goes, ‘Is this Eddie?’ I said, ‘Yeah, what the hell do you want?’ ‘This is Quincy.’ I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know anyone named Quincy. He goes, ‘Quincy Jones, man.’ I went, ‘Oh, sorry! What can I do for you?’”
Jones invited Eddie to visit the Westlake Audio studio in West Hollywood the next day where they were recording Beat It, which features a blazing 20 second guitar solo toward the end of the song.
That was all Eddie’s magic hands – though nobody knew upon its release.
“The funniest thing of all was I actually rearranged the song,” Eddie said.
“The section they wanted me to solo over was just … There were no chord changes underneath, so I had to rearrange the song.
“Then Michael came in and I said, ‘Oh, I hope you don’t mind but I changed your song.’
“And he listens and he goes, ‘No, I really like that high-fast stuff you do.’”
Those who have seen Van Halen’s high energy live performances will not find this hard to believe, but as Eddie was rocking out his solo in the studio the monitor speaker exploded into flames.
One of the engineers reportedly said, “This must be really good”.
Beat It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for three weeks and was certified five-times platinum with more than seven million copies sold worldwide – making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Eddie’s solo was also considered one of the greatest guitar solos ever.
Despite this, he remained uncredited so as not to upset his Van Halen bandmates.
But the cat was let out of the bag not too long after, with Thriller thwarting Van Halen’s album 1984 from making number one.
When asked how he explained to his bandmates why he did the sneaky solo project, Eddie said, “I just said, ‘You know, busted! Dave, you were out of the country! Al, you weren’t around!’ I couldn’t call anyone and ask for permission.”
Eddie also told a funny story about how he first told people it was him recording the solo, when he was at the iconic music store Tower Records in Los Angeles.
“I was buying something, and Beat It was playing over the store sound system,” he said.
“The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen.’ I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That is me!’
“That was hilarious.”
The legendary guitarist and co-founder of Van Halen lost his lengthy battle with the illness on Tuesday at St John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
TMZ reports his wife of 11 years, Janie, was by his side, as well as his brother and Van Halen drummer Alex, and son, Wolfgang.
Doctors reportedly discovered his throat cancer had moved to his brain and other organs in the last week.
Wolfgang, 29, who is the bassist for Van Halen, announced the news on social media, saying Eddie was the “best father I could ever ask for”.