Did a Bad Hot Dog Inspire Eddie Van Halen to Write ‘Jump’?
Getting Eddie Van Halen to talk about the inspiration behind any of his songwriting efforts is rather difficult, in part because he refuses to take much credit for his work. “I’ve said plenty of times, I can’t claim to ever have really written anything. Because I don’t really feel like I’m responsible, it comes through me.”
Still, the legendary rocker took a shot at explaining the origins of the band’s only No. 1 single — 1984’s keyboard-heavy ‘Jump’ — alongside his bandmates for a Japanese TV special entitled ‘Song to Soul.’ The group’s irrepressible lead singer, David Lee Roth, nailed the appeal of the song’s opening riff quite nicely by declaring, “‘Jump’ sounds both happy and sad to me — (it’s) like ragtime, the initial riff. You can’t tell. It’s bittersweet.”
So was there in fact a bittersweet moment in Van Halen’s life that revealed itself in the song? Probably, but the actual event is as much of a mystery to the guitar (and sometimes keyboard) hero as it is to the rest of us. “I just happened to be very much into playing keyboards at the time,” Van Halen explains modestly. “So, because I was playing so much piano and keyboard, somehow a keyboard song came through me. Where it came from? Some experience. I don’t remember if it was getting my ass kicked down the street, or a girlfriend breaking up with me, or a bad hot dog or what. We’re all filters, you know? Or sponges. You soak stuff up, you squeeze it out, (and) whatever comes out, well.. it was ‘Jump,’ that time.”
One thing he’s not shy about is admitting the impact his first major entrance into the world of keyboard-dominated rock had on the rest of the music world. “That (keyboard) sound actually did not exist. We made that sound popular. Then all the synthesizers after ‘Jump’ came out came with that sound (built) into (them.)”
Watch Van Halen on ‘Song to Soul’
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