In the annals of rock history, chance encounters and unexpected moments often pave the way for legendary collaborations and lifelong friendships. Brian May, the iconic guitarist of Queen, reminisces about a fortuitous night when he stumbled upon a young prodigy named Eddie Van Halen, who was opening for Black Sabbath. May vividly recalls the sheer brilliance of Van Halen’s guitar prowess, likening it to the awe-inspiring experience of witnessing Jimi Hendrix for the first time. Their encounter would not only leave an indelible impression on May but also forge a personal and professional bond that would be immortalized in the “Star Fleet Project,” now celebrating its 40th anniversary with a reissue.
May had initially set out to watch his good friend Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath perform live. Little did he know that the opening act, Van Halen, would leave an indelible mark on his musical psyche. Despite Black Sabbath’s tumultuous period, the younger band shone brightly, driven by their hunger and undeniable talent. May recollects the momentous night at Circus Krone in Munich, Germany, where he was enthralled by Eddie Van Halen’s virtuosic performance. The Queen guitarist was left in awe, struggling to comprehend the magical wizardry happening before his eyes.
May’s astonishment at Van Halen’s guitar playing led him to draw parallels to the iconic Jimi Hendrix. He marveled at the seemingly impossible finger movements and the ineffable quality that made Van Halen’s playing so extraordinary. The experience evoked a similar sentiment to witnessing Hendrix’s genius for the first time—an unparalleled blend of astonishment, admiration, and curiosity. May couldn’t fathom how Van Halen achieved such musical feats.
May stated as reported by UG: “Eddie Van Halen was a phenomenon and I guess that hardly needs saying. I met him for the first time through Tony Iommi, my great friend from Black Sabbath, when I was watching the two of them, and Van Halen were opening.”
He continued: “That was something to see. It was in a Circus Krone in Munich. And I hadn’t seen Tony for a while, and I’d never seen Van Halen. Luckily, I got there in time to see him play. And I was just, ‘Wow, what is this? What is this guy? What is he doing?’ I can’t even begin to figure out how his fingers are moving, what he’s doing.”
Following that fateful night, May, Iommi, and Van Halen found themselves in each other’s company. The instant connection was solidified by Van Halen’s revelation that both May and Iommi had profoundly influenced his own musical journey. This shared admiration provided a strong foundation for camaraderie and deep conversations. The friendship between the guitar legends blossomed, leading to a lasting bond that extended beyond their initial encounter, forever altering rock history.