Eric Clapton Opens Up About Time Eddie Van Halen ‘Insulted’ Him

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Brian Rasic/WireImage

Eddie Van Halen was a huge fan of Eric Clapton’s work growing up. But we are finding out that Clapton wasn’t exactly a huge fan of Van Halen in return.

You would think that two guitar-playing legends like Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton would get along. But Clapton felt slighted by Van Halen and Queen guitarist Brian May after they sent him a copy of two tracks dedicated to him. Clapton says they were “horrible.”The entire project, called the Star Fleet Project, was led by May.

“I think we’d all got to the point where we’d worked hard in the studio with our respective bands and it had almost become a job,” May told Ultimate Classic Rock in 2020. “But this was different — we’re all friends, and whatever happens here is a bonus. So it was full of joy.mAnd there was no pressure, but boy, was there adrenaline! It was just so exhilarating, like setting off down a big ski slope at [100] miles an hour. It was an amazing feeling. I looked around and just smiled and smiled.”

Van Halen and May thought Clapton would enjoy their work as much as they did. But they could not have been more wrong. Clapton explained as much in a 1986 interview with Musician magazine.

“One side was a kind of a fusion thing — really very interesting, great to listen to — and the other side was a blues jam. It was so horrible. And they dedicated it to me. They sent me a copy, and I put it on, expecting something, and, you know, I was almost insulted that they should send this to me. Because they both… they can’t play! They took turns to play solos, and just went head-at-it, with everything they knew. And there was no dynamics, no build-up, no sensitivity. I was very disappointed.”

However, Brian May had a different view of how things went down.

“When we were trading solos… we were feeding off each other. We’d never played together before, and yet the chemistry is there. It was as spontaneous as anything could be.”

You can listen to Brian May and Eddie Van Halen perform ‘Blues Breaker’ down below:

Eddie Van Halen Wasn’t a Big Eric Clapton Fan Either

For as much as Eric Clapton felt insulted by the gesture from Eddie Van Halen and Brian May, it turns out that Van Halen was let down when he saw Clapton play live. He told Guitar World the story back in 1992.

“To be honest with you, I was expecting something more powerful,” Van Halen said. “If I would’ve seen Cream, I probably would’ve been blown away, because that’s the entire era of Clapton that I really loved. The show was more of a Doobi Brothers kind of thing — there was like this tambourine and bongo player. The power wasn’t there… I tried to get backstage; unfortunately, Eric had already left, but we did get to meet the tambourine player!”