July 20, 2024

Technical proficiency is, of course, an important facet for any musician, but it’s not why we listen to music. With AC/DC, Angus Young has wheeled out a rather simple formula from the very start.

However, it is laden with so much attitude and energy that people can recognise it and identify it in an instant. With only a handful of chords, tricks and tones, Young has invented a beloved sound and style that is entirely his own.

The same can be said of Jimi Hendrix. Of all the reasons to marvel at the ‘Purple Haze’ musician, one pivotal factor seems to be how he was so imaginative we almost take his ability in a technical sense for granted.

If he were an athlete, running a four-minute mile would be something he didn’t even think about; his only question would be whether he could do it while juggling.

There aren’t many people who have mastered the art of technical proficiency to the extent that they can just focus on invention. In fact, according to Young, there is only one guitarist who matches Hendrix on that front.

“Eddie [Van Halen] is an innovator,” he told Neil Zlozower. “When I grew up we had a lot of guys from England who were great players, like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck.

And then, of course, when Jimi Hendrix came along, he changed the game. I’d put Eddie in that category of being an innovator like Hendrix.”

In a manner akin to the psychedelic revolution that Hendrix kickstarted, the advent of Van Halen suddenly meant that most guitarists were obsessed with hammer-ons and fast tapping.

“He changed the game for his style of playing,” Young added. “When Eddie came along he spawned so many imitators.”

Alas, none of the copycats that Eddie Van Halen even recognised himself had the necessary combination of chops and vision to create something new.

“Like Hendrix, suddenly you started to see people wanting to buy the same guitars he played and also play his licks,” Young continued in his lofty appraisal of the ‘Mean Street’ guitarist.

“He turned the rule book upside down in terms of his approach. There was a lot of experimentation to his playing. Eddie also crosses into that avant-garde thing, which puts him in the same category as Hendrix.” In fact, their avant-kinship is evidenced by the amount that both borrowed from new-classical.

Young first crossed paths with Van Halen in a live setting when they found themselves on the same Day on the Green bill back in 1978, alongside Aerosmith, Foreigner and Pat Travers.

But it was certainly Eddie who impressed Young most. The feeling was mutual. As Young adds, “I was shocked to hear he liked my playing because I’ve never rated myself as a guitarist.”

After that concert, Young was always a firm fan of Eddie and the band, holding them in the highest musical regard. “‘Eruption’ is a favourite track,” he continued.

“He’s got everything characteristic of his playing in that song—there’s a bit of everything. When Jimi Hendrix came along it was like, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ and I think that was the same feeling with Eddie. When Eddie appeared on the scene, every guitarist I ran into said, ‘You’ve gotta hear this guy!’”

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