This year’s ShipRocked cruise paid special tribute to late guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Setting sail from Galveston, Texas, earlier this month, ShipRocked is a special five-day cruise ship vacation package which offers music fans loads of live shows as the on-board entertainment.
Playing with the house band The Stowaways, a handful of formerly famous musicians like Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns’N’Roses), Michael Starr (Steel Panther), and many others played private shows all week for heavy metal fans. The ship ported in Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, before returning to Texas after five days of hard-rockin’ hits, many of which were performed in Van Halen’s memory.
Thal spoke at length about the influence Eddie Van Halen and his virtuoso playing style had on him as a budding musician.
“I remember I was at a band practice, and there was a kid hanging out there who asked me if I heard Van Halen. I hadn’t heard them before, so he played me a recording of the intro to ‘Mean Street’ on the just-released ‘Fair Warning’ album. And just like anybody that heard Van Halen for the first time, it blew my mind. I never heard that kind of guitar playing before. Still, to this day, I’ve never heard that kind of guitar playing ever again.”
Hearing Van Halen changed the lives of young musicians at the time
Thal said that one exposure opened the door to an entire life of learning the guitar and making music.
“It opened my eyes, my ears, my mind, my spirit, my entire being. It just changed the course of everything and how I looked at playing guitar and making music and the role that guitar has in a song and in music. And from there, I became a different kind of player. I started really experimenting and digging deep to find who I was. It will always be one of my favorite albums. And I am so grateful that I got to be on earth at the same time Van Halen was.”
Thal also said that one song, in particular, caused him to dedicate endless hours to learning the sound and intonation of heavy metal music. Van Halen fans can probably guess which song he’s referring to:
“I heard ‘Eruption‘ and I was just blown away immediately. It changed my life — it really changed my life, that moment, and I remember it vividly. I got a cassette of ‘Eruption’ and I went home and I spent months learning it. Just little by little and just hearing a couple of notes on a cassette, I would find ’em on the guitar, and a few more, and a few more, until I had the whole thing. Then I opened up the cassette, I unscrewed the four little screws on it, and I opened it up and I flipped the reel the other direction and I put it back together, so now everything was backwards, and then I learned it backwards.”
Eddie Van Halen died in October 2020 after a long battle with cancer. He was just 65 years old.