I was lucky enough to have seen him in his prime, on April 11, 1980 (pre-MTV, "Panama" & "Jump"). (I found the exact date on an online concert database (!)... believe it or not, I still have ALL my calendars/datebooks from the time I started keeping them, and I was able to pull out my 1980 calendar and verify that yep, that was the date!) I was 19 years old, just finishing my first year of university, living in residence, and one of my high school girlfriends (whose family had moved to the city before we graduated) called me up and said, "Van Halen is in town and I think I'd like to see them, wanna go?" I said, "Sure!" I wouldn't say they were my favourite band -- I wasn't dying to see them (or I'd have purchased tickets myself) -- but they were certainly part of the soundtrack of my life at that time. I was in the middle of writing exams, and I'm sure the promise of a night out with my friend was was a welcome distraction. ;)
Our seats, purchased so close to the concert day, were in the nosebleed section at the other end of the arena from the stage -- but hey, we were there -- we saw them and we mostly definitely HEARD them, lol -- they were LOUD. The entire back wall of the stage was speakers, and there were speakers piled high in pyramids on both sides of the stage too. At one point, Eddie, wearing a white fringed outfit, climbed up the pyramid of speakers at the side of the stage like it was a staircase, and stood at the top, playing down to a group of kids in some really lousy seats with a partly obscured view at the side of the stage. They were clearly thrilled, and I've never forgotten that moment. David Lee Roth obviously thought he was hot stuff... I was not impressed with him -- but Eddie totally blew me away with his brilliance and charisma (not to mention he was pretty cute, lol).
Coincidentally, another friend of ours from high school, who had also moved to the city about a year before my concert partner did, was sitting a row or two directly behind us. After the concert, the three of us went to a bar for a few drinks and to catch up. I stayed overnight with my girlfriend at her parents' house and returned to campus the next day for more exams.
When I think of Van Halen & Eddie, I think of this song and this guitar riff, from one of their early albums. And when I hear it, I think of being at a party, late, late one dark summer night in the early 1980s in a friend's back yard, with this album playing in the background. (Sorry, neighbours! lol) A moment in time that's stuck in my memory for 40 years, never to be recaptured.
RIP, Eddie, and thanks for the memories.