Lou Barlow on Eddie Van Halen

A lo-fi musician shares his photos—and deep appreciation—for a gifted technician

Close up of the single-coil neck pickup of Eddie Van Halen’s famed ‘FrankenStrat’ guitar. Taken at the ‘Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Lou Barlow)

When Lou Barlow (Dinosaur, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Sentridoh, The Folk Implosion) visited the “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, he made a special point to visit Eddie Van Halen’s “FrankenStrat.” The 1975 cobbled-together instrument was listed in the Met’s catalog as being created from “ash, maple, nickel, chrome, plastic, spray paint.”

Barlow took several loving, close-up photos and is sharing them below, along with some words he penned yesterday upon hearing of the guitar great’s sad and too-early demise.

Close up of Eddie Van Halen’s bridge and whammy bar on his famed ‘FrankenStrat’ guitar. Note the drilled 1971 quarter used as a shim. Taken at the ‘Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Lou Barlow)

“Seeing this made me appreciate him in a way that came rushing back to me upon hearing of his passing: check out his pedal board circa Van Halen’s peak, the duct tape etc., then details from his FrankenStrat … a guitar he covered in tape, spray painted and modified himself.

Close up of the back of Eddie Van Halen’s famed ‘FrankenStrat’ guitar and its Floyd Rose tremelo system. Taken at the ‘Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Lou Barlow)

I couldn’t stop looking at it.

A quarter near the bridge as a shim, the overall f-ed up homemade look of a guitar that he used to change musical history. I was a punk rocker during their peak, but VH always resonated.

Close up of Eddie Van Halen’s famed ‘FrankenStrat’ guitar. Taken at the ‘Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Lou Barlow)

To see, up close, how he was just another kid trying to use whatever he could get his hands on to recreate the sound in his head was very very cool. To think that this was the set-up behind some of the most confident, texturally generous, fun-loving and weirdly glamorous music that has ever been made was kind of a revelation.

Eddie Van Halen’s pedal rig from the ‘Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Lou Barlow)

In the end, it comes down to doing it yourself … DIY … RIP EVH.

Lou Barlow is supporting his family during the pandemic by playing some truly excellent home gigs on Facebook. Do yourself a favor and enjoy them, and tip generously at his Venmo: @Louis-Barlow3

 

 

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Lou Barlow

Lou Barlow is a writer and musician living in Greenfield. MA.

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