The Beat It Solo
(17 May 02)
The "Beat It" Solo
The message by Eddie on the VH-Website, telling all of us that he is 100% healthy again and recovered from the cancer he was fighting got me thinking. And I figured it would be interesting for you guys if I´d write a bit about Eddie. Since there´s a lot of instructional stuff about his playing-style, I was trying to write about something that might not be covered a lot... so I picked Eddie´s awesome guitar-solo in the Michael Jackson-song "Beat It" (from the "Thriller"-album, 1982 EPIC EK 38-112).
Of course there are some TABs around, but since I had a TAB around that I had made at the GIT, plus had recorded some soundfiles of the solo, I figured I could write about it and go through it in a very detailed way...
About the song...
The song was featured on one of Michael´s most successful albums, the mega-seller "Thriller". "Beat It", which was one of the singles, was a decent hit and was one of the factors that lead to those huge sale figures.
While studio-player Steve Lukather was involved in many of Michael´s recordings, it was decided that they wanted to get the hottest player of those days to record a solo for the song. The guy who was considered the biggest guitar hero in those days was Eddie Van Halen, who wasn´t only extremely successful with his band, but also had managed to give rock-guitar-playing an all new twist and thereby influenced thousands of guitarist (an influence that is evident to this day).
There´s a funny story about Quincy Jones´ (producer) call to Eddie... Eddie thought it was a prank call, so he cussed at Quincy and slammed down the phone. It took two more attempts for Quincy to convince Eddie that it was really him... So Eddie went down to the studio with an amp and a guitar and recorded that solo.
A lot of players these days are convinced that Eddie edited the solo, added punch-ins etc. I don´t think that it really matters, cuz it is a great guitar solo full of style and attitude, and to me it doesn´t matter whether Eddie recorded it in one take or 20...
I don´t think I have to talk a lot about Eddie´s "brown sound" and the gear he used back then... a lot of people talked about that before. It´s a fact that the solo sounds extremely HOT and aggressive. Eddie most likely used one of his "Frankenstein"-Strats (Heavily modified Strats with one PAF-humbucker, volume-knob, Floyd Rose-vibrato and most likely an onboard-"Frog"- preamp to add some gain and volume to the sound). Amp-wise, he used modified Marshall "Plexis" back then. He ran those through a Variac, which is a device similar to a dimmer... it limits the voltage running into the amp, which makes the tubes clip easier. That leads to a different, sometimes hotter sound.