Tag Archives: Van Halen Frankenstein

Van Halen Frankenstein Guitar

Should Edward Van Halen ever decide to auction off his original Frankenstein guitar, conservative estimates are that it will set an all-time record price for a celebrity guitar, well in excess of a million dollars. Not bad for an instrument that Ed originally pieced together in 1976 from about $200 worth of spare parts.
From the Fifties through the Seventies, the vast majority of guitarists played off-the-rack instruments, and only a handful made modifications such as swapping pickups or changing electronic circuits. Eddie was the first well-known guitarist to put together his own instrument since Les Paul scrapped together his experimental solidbody Log guitar in the late Thirties. Like Paul, Van Halen found that readily available products on the market didn’t meet his needs, so he set out on his own to create a custom instrument that satisfied his exact requirements for performance, playability and sound.
Performing with Van Halen in the late Seventies, Ed literally reinvented the guitar. In the process, he inspired millions of guitarists and dramatically changed how the instruments are made and played. Van Halen’s playing style and requirements influenced the development of the Floyd Rose tremolo while his guitar and amp creations spurred on the Eighties trends for custom and kit guitars and modified amps. Furthermore, his experiments with pickups, which included rewinding the coils and potting them with surfboard wax, gave the replacement pickup industry a significant boost. In their attempts to duplicate Van Halen’s signature “brown” sound, manufacturers devised all kinds of products, ranging from high-gain amps and hot-rodded guitars to effect pedals and custom-wound pickups. While many profited from Van Halen’s contributions, Ed never asked for anything in return. “I never demanded anything from anyone, and I still don’t,”he says. “I just keep going.”
Over the years, the story of how Ed built his original homemade Frankenstein has become riddled with errors, some of which he dropped deliberately to confuse copiers. Today, Ed no longer sees any point in obscuring the truth and has given Guitar Legends the in-depth story behind this unique instrument’s creation.