Van Halen were of course a huge influence on the classic Bill & Ted films (which were given a most triumphant sequel this year), and in the wake of Eddie Van Halen's tragic passing, the real-life Bill (Alex Winter) has spoken to Rolling Stone about the impact of Van Halen on his life and the film series:
I’d never heard a virtuosic rock guitar player playing anthemic pop songs before. Ever. I grew up in the Seventies largely in the Midwest. Hard rock was really hard. I liked it a lot, but it was very hard. I was really into Kiss when I was young — I know that Gene Simmons is one of the people who helped Van Halen in the early days — but nobody in Kiss could play like Eddie Van Halen. Not even close. So they’re not really similar in that way.
I think “Running with the Devil” was the first song… I just love that song. I know that “Eruption” is the one that’s got the massive solo on it, but “Running With the Devil” was uplifting and powerful and innovative and very, very accessible. I think that’s what I really responded to. To be fair to David Lee Roth, I think the combination of the huge anthemic nature of his vocals in blend with Eddie’s guitar did a lot there. I think it would be unfair to dismiss that, because I think the whole package was just like, “Wow, you have to listen to this.”
I think the reason everyone’s grieving so much is there was just so much emotionality in Van Halen’s playing! It wasn’t just noodling. It wasn’t like some guy who could play the guitar really fast. There was a really beautiful quality to what he would play that I think really impacted people profoundly. I hate to keep it to this California thing, but, to me, it’s connected a lot to the Beach Boys and what made Brian Wilson so great. There was depth and intelligence and craft within these accessible pop songs.
The image that Eddie had runs through all of our movies. Bill and Ted are supposed to be into hard rock. But were these sunny, optimistic California guys. And that’s really embodied by Eddie Van Halen. We talk about Iron Maiden a lot, but I think we would have come up listening to Van Halen and the positivity that was infused in the music.