In 2007, Van Halen was performing in Greensboro, North Carolina. They had planned to close the show out with "Jump," as they often do ('cause that song bops), but something went … horribly wrong. As heard in the early viral video seen above, the synth riff sounded like it was coming from an entirely different universe than the guitar, and Eddie Van Halen didn't seem to notice or mind.
This embarrassing performance has since become the stuff of rock and roll legend. But on a recent episode of Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon and The Jeremy White Podcast, former Van Halen guitar tech Tom Weber and keyboard tech Greg Rule finally had a chance to explain what happened. Said Weber:
At one point [Eddie] took the guitar and literally jammed the headstock of the neck into the stage several times. Normally if there was a situation where the guitar was out of tune, obviously my job is to be ready for him with another guitar, which I was. Ed's right-hand guy, Matt Bruck, and I were in 'guitar world' and it's like, 'Oh, crap – he's knocked the guitar out of tune.'
Well, he fine-tunes it some and gets back into playing and I'm holding another guitar over my head so that he can see it and he's waving it off. He's still playing the solo, he's fine-tuned, it's passable. Well, they go right from that into 'Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love,' that's the next song on the set list. Wolfgang starts playing and realizes that he's not in tune with the guitar so he retunes a little bit so they're in tune.
So they're in tune – you have guitar and bass in tune. So they play 'Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love' and 'Panama' and then typically the band, at the end of the show, they come offstage for a minute, I switch guitars with Ed, and they go back on for the encore, which is 'Jump.'
Unfortunately, the band didn't go offstage this time, like they normally would. Which meant that the techs didn't have a chance to make sure everything was properly tuned before the band launched into "Jump." So Eddie kept playing with the same guitar … which was in tune to itself, and to Wolfgang Van Halen's bass, but not to the pre-recorded synthesizer sample. Oops.
Weirder still: apparently Eddie didn't realize what had happened until someone brought it up to him several weeks later, which he of course blamed on his guitar tech.
The true story behind Van Halen's infamous out-of-tune Jump performance has finally been revealed [Richard Bienstock / Guitar World]
Image: Anirudh Koul / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)