The Van Halen song that was ripped off from AC/DC

Van Halen’s voice was always distinctive among the hair metal bands that emerged in the 1980s. Nobody could contest Eddie Van Halen’s fretboard strength in comparison to the sounds of Ratt or Poison that were taking over the radio. Few could equal his ability to produce a kaleidoscope of distinct sounds. For many metal fans, the band may have recorded the soundtrack of the decade, but Eddie was just as likely to borrow lines from his favorite performers.

However, Eddie freely acknowledged that when he was a member of Van Halen, he stopped listening to most new music. Purchasing just Peter Gabriel’s music, the guitarist was content to revert to the sounds of his favorite performers from his youth, whether it was Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton.

By the time Eddie began recording the band’s first album under David Lee Roth’s direction, he had already begun collecting his signature guitar licks, which completely changed the sound of the instrument. Eddie was renowned for playing with both hands on the fretboard, which defied the conventional lead guitarist method and allowed millions of aspiring musicians to try to emulate his passion.

For the following few years, Eddie would lead the band into darker territory, even though they kept their party vibe for their first two recordings. Eddie played parts of the songs that resembled Black Sabbath’s sound, helping to establish the band’s metal credentials throughout albums like Women and Children First and Fair Warning.

Although Eddie’s obsession with the piano on the album 1984 would take precedence in the mid-1980s, he acknowledged stealing one of his favorite licks from another rock legend. Even though Van Halen was regarded as an American rock and roll classic, they faced fierce competition from Australia’s AC/DC.

Making the most of the fundamentals and crafting songs that prioritized groove over technical flair, Angus Young was renowned for taking the sounds of bluesy rock and pushing it up to eleven. Eddie felt that it would be intriguing to work in the style of AC/DC for the song “Drop Dead Legs,” even though he had plenty of flash to spare.

Eddie acknowledged using the entire song to plagiarize AC/DC while discussing the tune, telling Guitar World, “That was inspired by AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’. I was grooving on that beat. Although I think that ‘Drop Dead Legs’ is slower. Whatever I listen to somehow is filtered through me and comes out differently. So ‘Drop Dead Legs’ is almost a jazz version of ‘Back in Black’. The descending progression is similar. But I put a lot more notes in there.”

The Van Halen song is what the Australian band would sound like if they had been given a lot of musical steroids. It takes the fundamentals of rock and turns it into one of the most underappreciated deep cuts that Van Halen would ever produce. Most AC/DC songs benefit from having the same groove as “Drop Dead Legs.” After this album, the band’s relationship with Roth was about to come to an abrupt end, but “Drop Dead Legs” showed that Van Halen was still capable of kicking ass even on an album heavy on keyboards.

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