Eddie Van Halen's friendship with rock journalist Steve Rosen dated to 1977, before the release of Van Halen's self-titled debut album, and continued into the 2000s.

They'd often spend time talking and jamming in a Hollywood Hills guesthouse and at Van Halen's 5150 studio. Rosen chronicles those days in Tonechaser - Understanding Edward: My 26-Year Journey With Edward Van Halen, which is returning for its third edition.

"I chose that title, Tonechaser, because Edward once described himself in that way," Rosen says. "I thought it was such a beautiful, fragile and poignant word for him to use in his pursuit of the ever-elusive Brown Sound. I also thought it worked on another level in terms of the 'tone' of his life and being a guitar player, band member, husband, father and icon.

"I had never heard Edward ever use that phrase anywhere else," Rosen adds, "and in fact after interviewing hundreds and hundreds of guitar players, I've never heard one of them ever use that word to describe what they do."

The following first-ever Tonechaser excerpt, from 'Chapter 9: Marshall the Troops,' takes place in December 1979. Van Halen has "just purchased two immaculate Les Pauls," Rosen says. "The first thing he did was put the guitars in his car and drive over to my Hollywood Hills pad and show them to me":
 

While he played, the serenity and silence of Laurel Canyon was fractured. The gently rolling hills and crests, the peaceful valleys, glens and dusty lanes were split open, transformed, and consumed by him. Nature had never heard anything like Van Halen unleashed.

I watched him standing there just a few feet away from me, enveloped in a cigarette smoke-created haze. It appeared as vapor or mist, surrounding him, and making it look as if he was atop the highest mountain ringed by clouds and there was nothing else in the world but Edward and his guitar. For all intents and purposes, he was alone, his smile as wide as the universe and his eyes lit like twin suns because he was in that place where no one else was ever allowed to go.

For those few minutes, he was changed. He morphed into something else, his arms, hands and fingers dissolving and melting into the Gibson until guitar and guitarist was one thing. He became some mythic creature, half-man, half-guitar. Manitar. That happened every single time I watched him pick up an instrument. The metamorphosis was rare and special, and I had only seen it happen a couple times with other guitarists.

Standing in front of the amp, Edward took the cigarette from beneath the strings and put it in his mouth. He turned the volume up full on the Gibson and the amp. It was fucking crazy mad loud. A full Marshall stack on 10 with two 4x12 Celestion cabinets in a room maybe 15x20 and even while my house shook as if an earthquake had hit it and my eardrums exploded, all I could think of was, "I hope he never stops playing."

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He only messed around for a short time, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but it was such a sublime act. It was one thing listening to Edward playing acoustically on my Strat and that was a world of its own. It was another thing hearing him pulling riffs from my Ampeg VT-40 with the volume barely turned on or chunking through a Pignose and that was otherworldly.

But to hear him plugged into a Marshall and hammering out lines at a volume closer to what he was using onstage was transcendent. You could pick up on all the hammer-ons, overtones and harmonics falling from his fingers. You could hear the ghosts singing, man.

It was truly miraculous and if angels had appeared and started flapping their wings in time to Edward’s riffs and all the animals in the canyon, the foxes, coyotes, bobcats, deer, squirrels, raccoons and birds, began howling, growling, chirping and chittering in a far-flung creature chorus of perfect three-part harmonies, I would not have blinked an eye.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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