Steve Lukather Clarifies A Common Misunderstanding About Eddie Van Halen’s Solo On Michael Jackson Song
In an interview with Joe Bonamassa’s Live From Nerdville, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather talked about the time he and late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen worked together on the late pop icon Michael Jackson’s album, ‘Thriller,’ and clarified an ongoing misunderstanding about the recording process.
As you may recall, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson released his famous song ‘Beat It‘ within his sixth studio album ‘Thriller’ back in 1982. The song was widely known for the participation of late icon Eddie Van Halen with his guitar solo which he recorded free of charge.
Here’s what Eddie Van Halen previously stated about his part in Jackson’s song:
“I did it as a favor. I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager, and everyone else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing—I don’t do something unless I want to do it.”
In a recent interview, Toto’s Steve Lukather recalled his participation in the project along with Eddie Van Halen. During the conversation, Lukather clarified whether they first recorded the riff with him, and then he recommended Eddie for the part. Steve stated that unlike the popular opinion, they actually recorded Eddie, and then they made a version of him playing the part.
Additionally, Lukather mentioned that he played his part in the song without hearing Eddie’s solo since the company was afraid that the record might be stolen. Steve revealed that the final version of the song wasn’t actually recorded at the same time in a studio.
Here is what Steve Lukather stated about the time he worked with Eddie Van Halen:
“No, that’s not what happened. They had already recorded Eddie, and Michael quintupled his lead vocal and played 2-and-4 on a drum kit. And when Ed did the solo, he cut the tape, which means the master tape wouldn’t match up with the slave, so they had done a version before I played on it and Jeff played on it.
Quincy called me and Jeff and the engineer said, ‘Go to Sunset Sound and remake this record for me, I’m working on some other stuff with Michael. I got to keep this because it’s first-generation, both lead vocal and Eddie’s solo.’
Because back then when you copied things, you’d lose sonic quality. So we did it backward; Jeff went out and listened to the bleed-through Michael’s headphones – and Jeff’s time was so good, he made his own little click-track with a pair of drum sticks and he went out to play the take.”
“The second take was it, and then I overdubbed all the guitar parts. At first, I did the whole fucking thing with the Marshalls, made it huge, and then I did the bass part on it, and then we sent it. And he said, ‘It’s great, but it’s too heavy. I got to get this on R&B radio, you got to use one of those small amps and turn down the distortion a little bit. It’s got to be a crossover to all formats.’ I said, ‘OK.’
So I got the Fender Deluxe and backed off the gain, and gave you what you hear there. And then I went to the studio with Michael and Quincy and did the other stuff… We did all this stuff, and I didn’t even hear Ed’s solo yet – they didn’t let us hear it, they just said, ‘Eddie’s playing on it, we got to have it back.’
For whatever reason, they thought we’re gonna copy it or something – like we would do that – but you know, whatever it was, the record came out, and what you hear didn’t happen in the room at the same time.”
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