When Eddie Van Halen Made a Surprise ‘SNL’ Appearance
Generally speaking, Saturday Night Live's guest hosts aren't encouraged to bring their spouses along for the taping, but the show made an exception for Valerie Bertinelli on Feb. 28, 1987.
As Van Halen fans no doubt recall, Bertinelli was married to Eddie Van Halen at the time, and though her guitar god hubby didn't sit in as the episode's musical guest — an honor reserved for blues great Robert Cray — Eddie did make a couple of appearances during the show.
The episode even had something of a Van Halen theme. During that week's "Weekend Update" segment, cast member Dana Carvey offered a wildly antic impression of former VH vocalist David Lee Roth, bounding around the room while a "lost weekend" contest winner (played by Jon Lovitz) silently begged anchor Dennis Miller for help.
Eddie surfaced in a sketch of his own, showing up alongside Bertinelli for a segment dubbed "Dinner With the Van Halens" in which a trio of roadies (played by Lovitz, Miller and Kevin Nealon) try to get the couple a restaurant table.
Watch Eddie Van Halen on 'SNL'
What people really wanted to see, however, was Eddie play guitar — and they got their wish in a musical interlude which found Van Halen playing alongside G.E. Smith and the SNL house band for an instrumental number titled "Stompin' 8H" - a reference to Studio 8H where SNL has been staged since its inception (watch the performance here).
In a conversation with the Archive of American Television, Smith explained that the piece was based on a “little lick” Van Halen had come up with. “I wrote another section, and then Lenny [Pickett, musical director] arranged the horn parts and then there we were,” the house guitarist explained.
Always the perfectionist, Van Halen was ultimately disappointed in his surprise SNL performance. “He made a tiny little mistake,” Smith recalled. “He forgot where this one very intricate little thing [was]. Nobody would even know about it; maybe three people in the United States. He was so upset that he had made a mistake; but it was great.”
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