Rhythm guitarists don’t get the respect they deserve. They’re often overshadowed by the flashy antics of a ripping lead guitarist, despite massive contributions to making a song work.
That problem went away for Van Halen, as one of the best rhythm guitarists ever was also one of the greatest lead guitarists ever.
In “I’m the One,” the fifth track off Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, we get superb examples of rhythm and lead playing from one of the band’s namesakes, Eddie Van Halen.
The song also shows how much influence jazz and blues had on the band, with David Lee Roth blowing their cover entirely with some scat vocal harmonies during an interlude.
But back to the amazing rhythm guitar work, and the pocket EVH creates with his playing, a groove so deep and comfortable the entire song takes up housekeeping and rocks in it. As Guitar World wrote of the song:
[“I’m the One” is t]he true inspiration for Joe Satriani’s “Satch Boogie” . . . Numerous shredders followed suit, but none were able to swing quite like Ed did here.
And swing the song does, with the rhythm guitar providing the pivot point for the song’s pendulum. Other hands could fumble the surgical scalpel used in this groove, but with Eddie V., his knife feels like justice.
Other great rhythm guitarists include Chuck Berry, Billie Joe Armstrong, Pete Townshend, and Joan Armatrading.
4 Non Blondes recorded a version of the song for the 1994 movie Airheads. It’s an interesting option if you like that group, especially as the lead singer does a good job covering male rock vocalists. (Their drummer learned to use the distinctive double-kick just three days before recording it.)
This performance is from later in the band’s career, and it sounds great. EVH’s son Wolfgang is on bass. He’d later take over on guitar after his father’s passing.