Anybody that grew up in the 70s or 80s and picked up a guitar tried to learn a Van Halen song. Eddie was THE guitarist to emulate. He introduced the now famous tapping technique first heard on Van Halen 1’s lead-in to The Kinks’ cover of “You Really Got Me.”
“Eruption” changed the game. No longer was the guitar an instrument for simply strumming and soloing. But it didn’t stop there. Van Halen put out album after album of solid, generation defining material that inspired young musicians everywhere to learn how to do what he did.
Just about every rock musician through the latter half of the 20th century and into the next has been inspired by Van Halen. The band’s care-free beach vibe resonated with just about everybody, and the musicians born in that era couldn’t help but be influenced by the band’s enormity.
We combed through YouTube to find some of the best and most stand-out performances of a Van Halen cover by a known artist. There are some songs repeated as many gravitated towards the hits, but each has its own unique spin. Check ’em out below (listed in alphabetical order), and let us know in the comments if we missed any gems.
Billy Idol "Jump" (1984)
Of the three versions of this song in our list, this one sticks closest to the original. Billy Idol and band pulled out this cover towards the end of their set at the Rock am Ring festival in Germany in 2005. This version shows guitarist Steve Stevens playing an EVH Ernie Ball axe to add to the song’s authenticity. Idol does a more than passable job duplicating Roth’s vocals…and the crowd clearly loves it!
(Side note: This performance also includes Brian Tichy on drums…one of the best in the biz.)
Bruce Springsteen "Jump" (1984)
When you think of Bruce, Van Halen never crosses your mind. In fact, if someone ever said that Bruce covered a Van Halen song, I’d be sure that they were lying. But I’d be wrong.
For his opening number at Jam Fest in Dallas, Texas on June 6, 2014, Springsteen surprised the crowd with this #1 VH hit from 1984. Although he takes some liberties with the melody, Bruce and the E Street Band do a respectful job at capturing the vibe of the song…and get the crowd riled up for what was to come.
Corey Taylor "Ice Cream Man" (Van Halen I)
During an Orlando, Florida stop on his acoustic tour in 2011, Stone Sour and Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor dedicated a VH1 classic to his good friend known only as “The Hawk” as one of his encore songs. Taylor’s version of “Ice Cream Man” is akin to when Roth would perform it solo on the big stage, and his rendition is just as spirited. (Warning: There are multiple F-bombs in this clip. NSFW)
Extreme "Mean Street" (Fair Warning)
Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone had a brief stint with Eddie and Co. on the band’s lackluster Van Halen III album, but that didn’t stop him from playing some of their tunes with his old band on subsequent tours. This clip is from a 2009 show in the band’s hometown of Boston, and shows just how much guitarist Nuno Bettencourt was influenced by Eddie.
Foo Fighters "Jump" (1984)
This is by far the most unique cover of “Jump” you’ll hear. During an extended mid-set medley at Madison Square Garden in 2018—which included Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” and The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop,”—Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters pull a fake-out with John Lennon’s “Imagine” as Grohl sings the lyrics of the Van Halen hit over the ex-Beatle song’s chord progression. Somehow, it works.
Heavy As Texas (w/ Tim "Ripper" Owens) "On Fire" (Van Halen I)
The band Heavy As Texas may not be well-known, but the singer at the time in this clip is Tim “Ripper” Owens…best known as the guy who temporarily replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest, and the inspiration for the movie Rock Star starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.
This is a cover you don’t hear a lot…mostly because it’s really hard to sing. But when you have a voice like Owens, it’s a piece of cake.
John Mayer "Panama" (1984)
It’s unclear when this clip was filmed…other than it was in the summer. Mayer is known mostly for his AC hits, but some don’t realize that he is a very accomplished guitarist. In this video, Mayer dons an Eddie “Frankenstein” guitar and rips through the entire version of “Panama” from Van Halen’s 1984. Watch below.
Metallica "Runnin' With the Devil" (Van Halen I)
Although reading lyrics from a teleprompter, Metallica’s James Hetfield does an admiral job covering the first minute of Van Halen I’s lead off track “Runnin’ With the Devil.” Hetfield bails just before the second verse, but you get the idea.
Pearl Jam "Eruption/Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" (Van Halen I)
Clutching a bottle of champagne, Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder slurs his way through an introduction of Van Halen’s “Eruption” during this clip from the band’s 2013 tour in Hartford, CT. PJ guitarist Mike McCready does a great job replicating the solo, and the band’s subsequent version of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” is equally satisfying.
Winger "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" (Van Halen I)
Notorious for including the crowd during his shows, singer Kip Winger and his namesake band cover the Van Halen I hit here live while Kip allows the audience members to sing the chorus. The guitar parts aren’t exactly perfect, but they’re all having fun, and that’s what matters, right?
Zappa Plays Zappa "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" (Van Halen II)
Of all of the covers listed here, perhaps nobody pulls off Eddie’s style of playing better than Dweezil Zappa. The offspring of music legend Frank Zappa, Dweezil spent years playing his father’s music on tour. In this rare clip, Dweezil shows that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with his note-for-note cover of Van Halen II’s “Somebody Get Me A Doctor.”
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