“There is no one else that comes close to what he knows on guitar... Eddie breathed new life into my playing”: Pro-shot footage of Eddie Van Halen and Leslie West jamming emerges online

Leslie West (left) and Eddie Van Halen performing onstage
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A nine-minute clip of Eddie Van Halen jamming with Leslie West and Corky Laing at the House of Blues in West Hollywood has surfaced online.  

The clip sees Van Halen joining Mountain for an onstage rendition of Never In My Life – a track from the latter's 1970 debut album, Climbing! – in 2002. The video is professionally shot and opens with an interview with West. 

During the interview, West recalls the beginnings of what proved to be a fruitful friendship with Van Halen, saying: “I was going to rehab in Milwaukee. I stopped playing for six months. So I met Ed and I introduced myself. After I saw him it got me playing again. He was kicking me up a notch.” (Transcribed by Louder)  

That prompted West to call Randy Bachman, asking him: “How'd you like a rhythm guitar player for nothing?” 

“I just wanted to get on tour,” he explains. “He said ‘’Great,’ and I went out on the tour, and Eddie and I played every night in the room afterwards and we became friends.” 

Those jams proved Van Halen’s excellence once more, as West revealed he knew some of his own Mountain material better than West did himself, adding: “He knows how to play Never in My Life, one of my songs, the right way I'd forgotten how to play.

“So we went over it in the dressing room; guitars, no amps. There is no one else that comes close to what he knows on guitar. He's so talented.

“I just think the world of this guy, I can't explain it to you,” he extends. “Eric Clapton was my original influence, but when Eddie came along he breathed new life into my playing.  

“We play the same way. I play with two fingers, he plays with two or three fingers.”   

In a 2007 interview with Andy Aledort, West explained how West had invited Van Halen to jam with him at the House of Blues in light of the latter's cancer diagnosis.  

“At soundcheck, I invited people to come down and play, like American Idol, and I said if someone played well enough, they could come up and play on the show with us.

“So, on stage that night, I said, ‘The winner is…’ and I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket and said, ‘Edward… uh… Van Halen!’ Eddie came out and played Never In My Life with us.

“When he played the solo, I started laughing, because he is the best – there is nobody better than him. There are guys in that ballpark, but they’re not in Yankee Stadium, you know what I mean?”

West sadly passed away in December 2020 at the age of 75. He’ll perhaps be most lovingly remembered for Mississippi Queen, the barnstorming opening track on Climbing!. Talking to Guitar Player, he revealed the magic to his tone on the track was a 1956 single-cutaway and a slightly newer double-cutaway model, both of which had single P-90 pickups. 

“It always felt like the guitars were trying to jump out of my hands,” he says. “And the controls didn’t do much. Between about 1 and 6 the volume controls would give you a clean tone, then around 7 to 9 the sound got a little dirtier – but when you turned them up to 10 you’d get this extra blast of sound.” 

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.