Classic Van Halen Myth Explained

Eddie Van Halen tells how he accidentally blew up his fans' guitar amps, reveals his latest cancer scare, and announces brand new US tour dates.

Classic Van Halen Myth Explained
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Between stories of alcoholism, cancer and family, a classic rock myth has finally been put to rest. In 1980, Eddie Van Halen told Guitar Player magazine that he would rig a light-dimmer switch to his amps and "crank it up to 140 and watch the tubes melt." The result? Hundreds of guitar fans attempting the same hack, and blowing their circuits. Now Eddie has revealed the reality behind this legend in a fascinating interview with Esquire, explaining that the truth is quite the opposite. It started when he bought a 100-volt Marshall amp from England, but didn't initially realise it was set for British wall sockets at 220-volts: "So I plugged the thing in, but I'm going, 'F--king thing doesn't work. I got ripped off.' I just let it sit there. After about an hour, there's sound coming out, but it's really quiet, cause it's running on half voltage. So I go, 'Hey, wait a minute. It sounds exactly like it's supposed to all the way up, but it's really quiet.'" Eddie realised he could play the amp with its full drive and tone, but with the volume down so his band could still play in smaller clubs, while also prolonging the life of the tubes. So why did he tell Guitar Player the exact opposite? He says frontman David Lee Roth had encouraged him to embellish on his stories to help get more press - but the plan quickly backfired. For many fans, it literally backfired. "I told [Guitar Player] I raised it up 140 volts. I felt so bad. I felt so f--king horrible, man. They said, 'Please don't attempt what Eddie Van Halen said in the last interview, because everyone was blowing their amps.' Everyone fried their amps 'cause of me. "I felt so bad. I never lied again after that." Of course, Jim Marshall first introduced the same master volume concept in the mid-1970s, so it's not clear why Eddie didn't just go for this kind of model to solve his volume issues. If you can shed light on the matter, we'd love to hear more in the comments. In the same feature, Eddie revealed that his tongue cancer which was first diagnosed in 2000 had returned on two occasions last year. Doctors continue to check his progress, but he is now understood to be in good health. Other remarkable tidbits from the interview include his recovery from alcoholism, which resulted in an addiction to his medication ("I must have laid on the couch for a year, just watching 'Law & Order'"), and that his son who joined Van Halen on bass at the age of 15 is pretty much in charge of the band these days. What is is like to see a young Wolfgang Van Halen lead the band and pick all the songs for the new album? "I trip on it all. I'm just kind of watching it," Eddie said. "To have a brother that I've been playing with since day one, and now my son. I don't think anyone else in music can actually say that. "Wolfie, he just blows my mind. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, no drugs. Nothin'. I am just, I'm like in awe of him." Meanwhile, Van Halen have announced an extension to their US tour. Check out the dates right here: 07/07 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena 07/09 - Hampton, VA - Hampton Coliseum 07/11 - Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center 07/13 - E. Rutherford, NJ - IZOD Center 07/15 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena 07/17 - Rochester, NY - Blue Cross Arena 07/19 - Detroit, MI - Joe Louis Arena 07/21 - London, ON - John Labatt Centre 07/24 - Toledo, OH - Huntington Center 07/26 - Grand Rapids, MI - Van Andel Arena 07/28 - Cleveland, OH - Quicken Loans Arena 07/31 - Fort Wayne, IN - Allen County War Memorial Coliseum 08/02 - Columbus, OH - Schottenstein Center 08/04 - Knoxville, TN - Thompson Boling Arena 08/06 - Memphis, TN - FedExForum 08/08 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Arena 08/10 - Greenville, SC - BI-LO Center 08/12 - Cincinnati, OH - U.S. Bank Arena

54 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    mashizz
    "Wolfie, he just blows my mind. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, no drugs. Nothin'. I am just, I'm like in awe of him."
    Sends a good message
    Cheesepuff
    "Wolfie, he just blows my mind. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, no drugs. Nothin'. I am just, I'm like in awe of him."
    ...well he IS on tour with his friggin DAD
    Dave Frenzy
    old amps didn't have a master volume? so does that mean they were either on or off with nothing in between?
    the volume was the gain channel. by introducing another knob called the master volume it let you over drive the amp (add more gain) without having to turn the amp up all the way
    spyder52
    Lightning_Ray wrote: Still waiting for an European Tour...
    "a" European tour
    ne14t
    rhs5110 wrote: Who'd be dumb enough to try that
    Going to have to agree with this, I mean if you knew ANYTHING about your own equipment you would know that this would be fishy, but then again it exposes the true fanboys I guess.
    Dave_Mc
    a master volume doesn't lower the voltage. lowering the voltage is more like power scaling or something like that. i think
    jthm_guitarist
    After about an hour, there's sound coming out, but it's really quiet, cause it's running on half voltage. So I go, 'Hey, wait a minute. It sounds exactly like it's supposed to all the way up, but it's really quiet.'"
    So much bullshit.
    PussyPunk182
    No Jackie, its just that everyone that doesn't care didn't bother clicking the link, reading the text, scrolling to the bottom of the page and then commenting on how much they don't care.
    iommi600
    YOU ASSHOLE! I BLEW MY AMP BECAUSE OF YOUR LYING! Nah, I would never raise the voltage that much for shit, I'm not that retarded.
    GuitarManiac110
    con789 wrote: my roomate's aunt makes $83/hr on the laptop. She has been without work for 8 months but last month her pay was $8682 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site...Nuttyrich . com
    We dont care so shut the **** up. And this article made me smile.
    AeolianSeventh
    Doesn't mention that lowering the voltage actually SHORTENS the life of the tubes just as drastically as raising it...if the heater ain't running at pretty much exactly its rated voltage, you got a problem.
    i_am_metalhead
    BradTheBluefish wrote: To be fair, Wolfgang is still really young.
    To be fair, He's 21 now. Lots of people younger than him are out drinking, using drugs, and partying every chance they get.
    Purcell
    Lightning_Ray wrote: spyder52 wrote: "a" European tour Yep, my mistake.
    Class response. This was a very cool article, nothing but good vibes
    gkex
    Thats cool that Wolfgang is like that. I'm the same way, and I didn't know of many musicians that are my age and sober.
    Eruption1991
    Although I kinda miss Mike Anthony in the band, it's definitely good that Wolfgang brought back some life to Van Halen.
    88Reaper88
    Xenophy wrote: theres ****ing tongue cancer now??? jesus christ, soon theyll find friggin hair cancer
    Cancer is just a mutation of a cell, so in theory you can have hair cancer. In reality the hair is more likley to die and fall out, cancer of the scalp is quite common too.
    link no1
    Xenophy wrote: theres ****ing tongue cancer now??? jesus christ, soon theyll find friggin hair cancer
    You do know you can get cancer EVERYWHERE right? Just thought I would tell you about that scientific breakthrough since it was only discovered that you can get cancer anywhere 3 days ago.
    bass-fale47
    old amps didn't have a master volume? so does that mean they were either on or off with nothing in between?
    Xenophy
    theres ****ing tongue cancer now??? jesus christ, soon theyll find friggin hair cancer
    justinb904
    What EVH was talking about with his Marshall was supplying less power to the power amp changing the way it amplifies the sound. More distortion and less volume from the poweramp. A master volume reduces the guitar signal going into the power amp so you can turn the gain up without getting too loud. More distortion from the preamp and less volume. Different methods but similar effect.
    tom.scioscia
    "Of course, Jim Marshall first introduced the same master volume concept in the mid-1970s, so it's not clear why Eddie didn't just go for this kind of model to solve his volume issues. If you can shed light on the matter, we'd love to hear more in the comments." Why? Because he was overdriving the power tubes and overdriven power tubes (in Eddie's case, Sylvania 6CA7s, American tetrode tubes that were electrically compatible with the EL34 pentodes that normally came in Marshalls)distort differently than overdriven preamp tubes (generally 12AX7s). It's generally a smoother, less grainy/gritty sounding distortion than preamp tube distortion. Also, by lowering the voltage going into the amp (Eddie generally set the Variac to 90VAC) lowers the plate voltage on all the tubes, allowing them to distort more with a bit more of a midrange push than when the tubes were running at specified voltage.
    gregs1020
    saw them in chicago this time around, great show. it's good to see them adding dates to the tour.
    Bob_Rock
    In this case you could say "like son like father" cause young Wolfie gives his legendary dad a lesson how to be teetotal and still deliver some great music!
    99deadballons
    Jack2994 wrote: He looks like Neil Patrick Harris in that photo.
    KInda, also a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger too
    Lapidus
    Cheesepuff wrote: "Wolfie, he just blows my mind. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, no drugs. Nothin'. I am just, I'm like in awe of him." ...well he IS on tour with his friggin DAD
    not sure about who is the dad/adult in those 2
    Bezza27
    bass-fale47 wrote: old amps didn't have a master volume? so does that mean they were either on or off with nothing in between?
    They had a volume but that affects your tone. Master volume is used so you can set the volume at what sounds good, and then control the actual volume levels.
    ohhell
    oh ah the . Dummy Load makes the amp into one hell of a pre-amp as well