In a recent conversation with Robert Cavuoto of Myglobalmind, the legendary guitarist Joe Satriani shared a humorous anecdote about his attempt to play Eddie Van Halen’s iconic intro to “Mean Street” on “The Howard Stern Show.”
Reflecting on the experience, Satriani revealed, “It was my own naïveté. I had no idea. When we were gonna do that show, I remember saying to Sam, ‘Do we really wanna show people what we sound like at six in the morning?’ Plus, we’ve never rehearsed. And I’ve avoided learning any of these songs for, like, three decades ’cause I never wanted to sound like Eddie.”
Despite his reservations, Satriani was encouraged by Sammy Hagar’s positive attitude towards the performance. He continued, “Sam, he has such a positive attitude towards life. He’s, like, ‘No, it’ll be great. We’ll just get together. We’ll have fun.’ And Howard’s going to ask you about your artwork and about this and all this. And I said, ‘Okay, yeah, fine.’ So, silly me. Obviously, it’s not turning out like that.”
During the show, Howard Stern asked Satriani about his guitar skills, leading to an unexpected impromptu attempt at playing Eddie Van Halen’s intricate intro. Satriani recalled, “And Howard asked me that question. And I should have just laughed and not played anything, but I was just being totally honest maybe ’cause I was so sleepy ’cause it was so early, and I just thought, ‘Oh, yeah, sure.’ I just felt like I was among friends, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll show you what I’ve been trying to play.’ But, yeah, technically, I’ve gotta work on that a little bit.”
Despite the humorous nature of the moment, Satriani found a deeper appreciation for Eddie Van Halen’s genius. He emphasized, “In the end, I thought, well, this is a really endearing moment because it really does show how amazing Eddie was because… What I’ve noticed about it is that even when people rehearse it and they get it down, it just doesn’t even come close to the magic that he put into every note. And it’s a mental thing that you have to get used to.”
Satriani concluded by offering advice to those attempting to emulate Van Halen’s style, acknowledging the challenge of capturing the magic, “You have to tell yourself, ‘I’m never gonna get there. So, relax and just learn the parts and then put your own thing into it.’ Because that’s the only thing you can do. But yeah, that was a pretty funny moment.” The story not only highlights Satriani’s humility but also underscores the unique brilliance of Eddie Van Halen’s musical artistry.