Slash names the guitarist that “nobody else came close to”

The rock scene was in desperate need of an overhaul at the end of the 1980s. While the Los Angeles hair metal movement began promisingly in the late 1970s, by the end of the next decade, bands like Winger were performing songs that were too obvious for listeners to take seriously, and the style had clearly outstayed its welcome. Slash wasn’t trying to play conventional rock guitar scales, even if Guns N’ Roses may have been grouped together in the same category.

In contrast to the virtuoso playing occurring at the same time, Slash explored the depths of rock history in order to uncover the essence of his passion. Much of the guitar playing on the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction, was entirely new for the time and featured Slash’s lightning-fast solos on songs like “Paradise City.” The band was influenced by everyone from Joe Walsh to Joe Perry to Eric Clapton.

However, Slash had to contend with some of the greatest stars in the local scene while honing his unique sound. Since the latter part of the 1970s, fans have continued to have reverence for musicians like Randy Rhoads, and they have been inspired to write songs that draw inspiration from his classical approach.

Slash was taken aback upon first hearing Van Halen’s debut album, even though he had never been fascinated by the classical side of the instrument. Before any of the hair metal mainstays had started, Eddie Van Halen was already rewriting the rules for what a guitar god was supposed, helping popularise the idea of tapping with one’s strumming hand on the fretboard to create insane runs of notes.

Slash said that he had to honor Eddie’s meticulous attention to detail in his profession, despite his never claiming to play in the same manner. Eddie Van Halen treated the guitar in a manner akin to Slash throughout the band’s growth, crafting catchy hooks rather than utilizing it as a stage for solos on songs like “Hot For Teacher” and “Eruption.”

When talking about the other guitar competition that the world had to offer, though, Slash thought no one could come close to what Eddie did, saying, “When I started getting into guitar playing, everybody was trying to emulate Eddie, and they were all sort of focusing on the obvious techniques and the f****** finger tapping and the harmonics and the tremolo bar stuff. But the way that he did it was such a part of his personality, and it was such a part of his melodic sensibility that it had this sort of musical fluidity that nobody after that really ever came close to playing that style of guitar playing.”

While Slash could have focused only on that kind of playing if he so desired, his bluesy approach made him stand out from the crowd in the early Guns N’ Roses days, almost more of an Eddie substitute than a response to Jimmy Page. No matter how many musicians have attempted to outshine the master, Slash continues to insist that Eddie Van Halen’s heart, not his technical prowess, is the source of all the magic.


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