Eddie Van Halen, the iconic guitarist known for his groundbreaking skills and contributions to rock music, had a unique approach to his craft. While he stood out as a guitar virtuoso during his time with Van Halen, he also found inspiration in the music of his contemporaries, including the legendary AC/DC.
Eddie’s musical taste was often shaped by his focus on original music rather than seeking out new talent.
He once mentioned that Peter Gabriel’s 1987 album “So” was among the last records he ever purchased. His guitar prowess, however, drew from rock’s foundational roots, and he proudly identified as a rock player, drawing inspiration from luminaries like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.
AC/DC, the Australian rock band, was also carving its path in the world of rock and roll. They didn’t aim to reinvent the genre but instead incorporated elements from rock and roll’s history, such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, into their music, as evident in songs like “Back In Black.”
When Van Halen ventured into new territory with their album “1984,” Eddie took a cue from AC/DC while working on the track “Panama.”
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In “Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen,” Eddie revealed that the song was his attempt to create a riff he thought would suit AC/DC.
“The guys asked me to write something with an AC/DC beat, and that ended up being ‘Panama.’ It really doesn’t sound that much like AC/DC, but that was my interpretation of it.”
While Eddie acknowledged that he didn’t quite capture the essence of AC/DC, elements of their signature sound are woven into the fabric of “Panama.” The song features a driving four-on-the-floor drum beat and chord stabs reminiscent of Malcolm Young’s style.
Beyond the central riff, “Panama” highlights Eddie’s often-overlooked rhythm guitar skills.
Instead of flashy solos, the power lies in the groove, with Eddie delivering a solid foundation while infusing syncopated elements throughout.
While “Panama” may not be an AC/DC song, it captures the spirit of tracks like “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Eddie’s intricate guitar work, even if it doesn’t precisely replicate AC/DC’s style, showcases his versatility and innovation in rock music, proving that he was always willing to push the boundaries of his craft.