Tolinski, Brad, & Gill Chris-Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Eddie Van Halen - Eruption

Reviewed:  April 2022
Published:  Hachette, 2021
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

It is a natural state of affairs that when a popular and/or admired politician, author, actor, athlete or musician passes away there is a desire to document the life of the deceased. I think by discussing the past life of the individual it helps us cope with grief of a future that will never be. It comes as no shock that as soon as someone famous dies, books, articles, and documentaries about that person appear quite rapidly. The critic and cynic might suggest that many of these endeavours (books etc) are intended to capitalize on the situation or monetize it. I prefer to think of these things as tributes to the deceased. Again, it comes as no surprise that with less than a year of death of Edward Van Halen at least two books about the guitarist were published. In an interesting exercise I choose to read and review them both back-to-back.

In an extremely unfortunate and entirely avoidable scenario, both books are called ERUPTION. One was written by Paul Brannigan and published in 2021 by Faber. The other is written by Brad Tolinski and Brad Gill and was published by Hachette in 2021.

Aside from being an uninspired and far too predictable choice for a title, the fact that two major books coming out at the same time is just perplexing since there is already a book about Van Halen called ERUPTION so now we have three Van Halen books with the same title.

In all fairness, Faber, in charge of Brannigan book called ERUPTION, recognized this conflict and renamed the book UNCHAINED for the North American pressing. This is a good move except there is already a Van Halen book called UNCHAINED! Doesn’t anyone use the internet anymore to name check titles BEFORE deciding on a name?

Regardless, I have reviewed both and feel free to enjoy both reviews.

Gill and Tolinski, both long standing members of the guitar community, have interviewed Eddie Van Halen numerous times for various magazines such as Guitar Player and Guitar For The Practicing Musician.

Apparently, they had over 50 hours of archived interview material and the time was right to pay tribute to the guitar hero. Hence the sub-title, ‘Conversations with Eddie Van Halen’. Some of this material seems very familiar so I’m not sure what percentage of the interview material is new and unreleased, but regardless they have pulled it all together into one cohesive whole.

The book itself is well presented. The hard cover comes with a nice dust jacket and dozens of full colour photos on glossy plates in the middle. There are several sub-sections that enhance the story; interviews and spotlights on some of the rare and odd guitars in Van Halen’s collection. In ‘Eddies Oddities’ each unique guitar gets a photo and page with a brief history. In terms of interviews, there are seven bonus interviews with people who knew Eddie best; his colleagues Tony Iommi and Steve Vai, his band mates Michael Anthony and Gary Cherone, his life-long friend Steve Lukather, his manager, Ray Daniels and his own son, Wolfgang. These perspectives on Eddie from his inner circle alone are worth the price of admission.

Tolinski and Gill, start at the beginning and provide the briefest of overviews before diving straight into the interviews. Following a chronological timeline, the authors commentary and overview set the stage nicely for each interview, re-printed in full.

The interview style is simple, Tolinski or Gill ask a simple question and Eddie goes to town! I really appreciate this technique because so many interviewers try to insert their opinion, ask leading or loaded questions or worst yet get political. Naturally there is a heavy emphasis on the guitar and song. I think that is why Eddie opened up to these guys, who didn’t ask the predictable questions about Roth Vs.Hagar.  They asked questions about songs, song-writing and guitars and Eddie being the delicate genius responded well to this line of questioning.

Back in 2010 Guitar world magazine published a collection of interviews with Eddie called Van Halen: Eddie Van Halen In His Own Words. There is a little bit of cross-over between those two books, meaning the same interviews appear in both books, but thankfully it is limited. I suppose if you are a die-hard collector of guitar magazines, it is plausible that you could have read the vast majority of these interviews already. However, I would still recommend this book for the extra features, bonus interviews and all-important bridge sections that pull the whole story together.

Musical prodigies/geniuses like Eddie Van Halen have always been a source of fascination and he probably will continue to be. ERUPTION goes straight to the source and the result is a very important and accurate look at the life of one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.