This Is Why It’s Mandatory To Have “Sunshine Of Your Love” In Your Guitar Improvisation Skill Set.
Following our series of 6 Blues Solos that we learnt to help develop our improvising skills I’d like to now take a look at one of the all time classic solos “Sunshine of Your Love”, maybe the most influential guitar solo ever recorded.
I originally did it as a lesson for Australian Guitar Magazine.
The song’s main riff, along with “Smoke On The Water” and “Stairway To Heaven”, is one of the best known Rock anthems.
How many beginner guitar players learn a simplified rendition of of “Sunshine Of Your Love” and feel very pleased with their accomplishment? And rightly so.
As Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen built their playing styles by learning Clapton’s solos you’ll see your own playing grow as you learn the solo to “Sunshine Of Your Love” and build your vocabulary of licksSteve Flack
Sir Isaac Newton famously said “if I’ve seen further it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants” and that’s what we’re doing when we learn the licks by the greats!
Many of the worlds greatest guitar players have been influenced by Eric Clapton so have stood on his shoulders, so to speak… and the name Neal Schon comes to mind.
Anyone that followed Santana will know Neal Schon.
The “Journey” From Santana To Solo Mastery
He joined the band at the age of 17 and played on two of the bands great albums, “Santana 3” and “Caravanserai”.
I thought Neal Schon and Carlos Santana foiled off each other beautifully.
Carlos, while high energy, is melodic and soulful whereas Neil Schon is always ferocious, flashy and impactful.
Schon shines on the first three tunes on Santana 3, “Batuka“, “No One To Depend On” and “Taboo” but on Caravanserai his playing on “Song Of The Wind” was really something special and is my favourite guitar solo.
His time with Santana, however, was just a warm up for his life’s mission.
Several members were unhappy with the direction that Carlos Santana was taking the band.
Carlos had discovered Jazz and especially John Coltrane so he wanted to explore the innovative and experimental aspect of Coltrane’s later recordings.
Neal Schon and Greg Rollie, (the band’s keyboard player and singer) wanted to play Rock… not Jazz… so they left and formed the band “Journey” who became one of the biggest bands in the world and established Neal Schon as one of the guitar’s heavyweights.
Neal Schon’s parents were both musicians.
His mother was a Jazz singer and his father was a multi instrumentalist who’d played in big bands and also taught music. A good way to start a career in music with such parents!
Neal claims to have learnt every note that Eric Clapton had played on the Cream recordings by the time he was 15.
He definitely would have worked on the solo from “Sunshine Of Your Love” and it’s interesting to consider just how much it contributed to making Neal Schon the monster guitar player that he became.
Eric Clapton’s Monumental Influence On The Guitar Greats Continues With Van Halen
Another great guitar player that claimed Eric Clapton as his main influence was Eddie Van Halen.
I remember hearing “Eruption” for the first time and being completely floored.
“Eruption” was on Van Halen’s first album which proclaimed Eddie as a major force and innovator.
Not only was he innovative with his playing but he built his own guitars. He tweaked and modified his amps giving him a really unique sound.
Eddie’s story is a really interesting one and Kevin Dodds’ excellent book “Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography” is a great telling of that story.
Eddie’s father, Jan, was a Jazz musician and multi instrumentalist.
The Van Halen Family Legacy
When WW 2 broke out, like most young Dutch fellows of his generation, he signed up for the military but when they found out that he was an accomplished musician he was assigned to the band which may have saved his life.
When the Germans occupied Holland after their surrender the Dutch soldiers were told that they either fight for the Germans or would be shot… so being in the band was the safest place to be.
When the war ended Jan Van Halen decided to seek a better life so he left Holland and migrated to the Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia).
He found steady work as a musician and also met a young girl, Eugenia De Beers, who was part Dutch and part Indonesian.
They married and when the Indonesians pushed for independence the Dutch went back to Holland as did Jan and Eugenia Van Halen.
Eddie and his older brother, Alex, were born in Holland but being mixed race they got a bit of a hard time at school so Jan and Eugenia moved the family to California where Eugenia had some family .
America in the 60’s & 70’s was “Rock music” crazy and Pasadena was equally as keen and Rock mad.
Alex and Eddie having a father like Jan who was a classically trained Jazz musician were always going to have music as a big part of their upbringing.
Both of the boys learned to play the piano at a young age but gravitated towards their favourite instruments, Alex on drums and Eddie practicing guitar for hours every day.
Van Halen’s Rise To Guitar Immortality
Eddie claimed that he’d learnt all of Eric Clapton’s solos from the Cream records by the time he was 15, same story as Neal Schon so if these two greats did their apprenticeships learning E.C.’s solos then there must be something to it.
Van Halen the band had a very impressive recorded output with songs like “Jump“, “Panama“, “Dreams“, “Running With The Devil” and “Eruption” which was Eddie’s show piece that ranked Eddie alongside the greats like Hendrix, Page, Beck or Clapton.
Eruption was an astonishing one minute exhibition of virtuosity but later Van Halen filmed a live concert and titled the movie “Live Without A Net”.
It’s full of Van Halen classics and a few interesting covers but at one point the band left the stage giving Eddie the spotlight he then extemporised on “Eruption” for over 10 minutes and for the second time I was floored by Eddie and Eruption. You must see it!
As Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen built their playing styles by learning Clapton’s solos you’ll see your own playing grow as you learn the solo to “Sunshine Of Your Love” and build your vocabulary of licks