main sponsor

Eddie Van Halen's 'Frankenstein'

Van Halen are back with an actually-not-that-bad new record, which gives us an excuse to remember a guitar that has been as much a band member as any of the flesh and blood musicians

Thursday, 15. November 2012  -  by  Russ Thorne
Van Halen on tour 1984 (Photo by Richard E. Aaron - GettyImages)

"With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet."

So Frankenstein recalls the moment of his creature's birth in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. 160 years later a young Eddie Van Halen crafted his own creature; “I tricked it out,” he would later say in interviews. Well, he's a guitar player, not a Gothic novelist, after all.

Old Victor would have recognised his methods, though. He bolted factory reject parts together. Took a chisel – a chisel – to the body. Potted his own humbucker pickups (scavenged from a dead Gibson) in surf wax and set them at angle to match the Fender bridge. At one point he fitted a fake pickup and three-way switch.

If the thing had sounded like a dead horse being dropped into jelly rock history would probably have overlooked it, but as he put it, “it took on a life of its own.” His creature (dubbed 'Frankenstein' by the fans – like his fictional co-creator, EVH never named his monster) had a warm tone and deep sustain that allowed young Eddie to fully express his musical ideas. A legend was born: suddenly, thiswas the sound all aspiring rockers needed. Copies popped up everywhere, prompting the guitarist to re-jig the paint job and make further modifications.

The fictional Frankenstein toys with forces he doesn't understand for the sake of vanity and unleashes devastation. EVH was no tech-head and his trials and errors were in pursuit of the perfect tone, but the effects were as shattering as a beast in your bedroom when they came out of the speakers - just listen to 'Van Halen' if you're in any doubt. And then if you want to get close to the real thing? Fender will sell you a tribute version so detailed that they even jam a 1971 quarter onto the body, just like the original.

Yours for just $25,000. Now that's scary.

Follow Us

In The Magazine

20.04.2015 22:02The Who Hits 50: But Where Do They Go From Here?

The Who Hits 50: But Where Do They Go From Here?

Hampered by ill health, but never ones to retire shyly, The Who continue celebrating their 50th anniversary as they contemplate retirement.

Cat: Features
06.04.2015 23:14Don’t Call It A Comeback: Muse, Blur & Faith No More

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Muse, Blur & Faith No More

Guitar Planet grades the creative comebacks from three iconic artists who are attempting to give 2015 a much-needed injection of impetus.

Cat: Features
19.02.2015 22:10Album Round-up: Blackberry Smoke, Papa Roach & Venom

Album Round-up: Blackberry Smoke, Papa Roach & Venom

Guitar Planet takes on new albums by southern stars Blackberry Smoke, nu-metal icons Papa Roach and the legendary Venom.

Cat: Features
15.02.2015 19:345 Things We Learned From The Grammys

5 Things We Learned From The Grammys

The music industry’s glamorous state of the union address was delivered this weekend, but what did the Grammys have to say about guitar music?

Cat: Features
22.01.2015 21:33Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep

Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep

Enter Shikari renew their archly political assault while expanding their sonic horizons on The Mindsweep.

Cat: Album Review
go to Archive ->