Legendary rock journalist Steve Rosen has finally released his long-awaited book about the intimate friendship he shared with the late iconic guitar player Edward Van Halen. The book is titled Tonechaser – Understanding Edward: My 26-Year Journey with Edward Van Halen and chronicles the writer’s remarkable relationship beginning in 1977 (before the release of Van Halen’s first album) and continuing through 2003.
Rosen, who has previously authored seven other books including biographies on Jeff Beck, Free & Bad Company, Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads, writes about what it was like being friends with the greatest guitar player in the world.
Not an easy task to undertake.
In order to tell the story accurately, Rosen pored over hours of interviews—all fastidiously recorded and catalogued on cassette—and peered deep inside distant memories to create a book unlike any other out there.
The journalist spent many hours with Edward at his own Hollywood Hills guesthouse; up at Van Halen’s 5150 studio; on airplanes, in cars; and even jamming on several occasions with Ed.
There is no other book out there that captures the heart and creativity of the late master instrumentalist. Rosen was Edward’s friend—close friend—for many years and no other writer can lay claim to that title.
Tonechaser – Understanding Edward: My 26-Year Journey with Edward Van Halen is a hardcover, 580-page tome with a 7×10 format. Front and back covers were shot by the iconic Van Halen photographer Neil Zlozower who also provided interior photographs.
The author was going to write Edward’s authorized biography back in 1985 but that book never came to light. Van Halen fans have literally been waiting some 37+ years for Rosen to revisit the book.
If early responses from readers are any indication, fans say the wait was well worth it.
Steve Rosen writes, “I chose that title, Tonechaser, because Edward once described himself in that way. 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, bandmember, husband, father, and icon.
“I had never heard Edward ever use that phrase anywhere else 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.”
Tonechaser is available on Amazon, Reverb and Etsy.
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The book shipped in the US is $47.00
The book shipped to Canada is $85.00
The book shipped to Europe/UK is $91.00
The book shipped to Australia is $102.00
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4 titled “How to Play Guitar Like Eddie Van Halen in One (Not So) Easy Lesson.” Steve Rosen shares “This took place on December 30th, 1978 and was the very first time Edward came over to my little guesthouse in the Hollywood Hills.”
My coffee cup emptied and my brain swimming with a sweet caffeine buzz, I heard a car pull up on the street below. I looked out my front window and saw some beater parked in front of my garage and assumed that couldn’t have been his car since I expected him to pull up in something fast, shiny, and exotic. I went into a mild pique of anxiety because I wanted to keep that spot free for his arrival. I opened my front door, started down the stairs and saw the driver’s side door opening. I was about to unleash fury in the same instant I recognized the person exiting the car. It was Edward. He slammed the door, saw me standing at the top of the steps and called out, “Steeeeve.” Holy sweet sabotaging hell, I almost screamed at him for parking in the place I was holding for him and how unsettling would that have been?
I walked down the steps and said hello, thanked him about a hundred times for coming over and how had he been and how was the tour and honestly, I don’t remember much about what took place. I was too busy grappling with the incomprehensible reality of his presence at my place that day and trying to make some sense of the fact that I was standing there with that person whom I’d only met a little over a year-and-a-half ago and during that time had conquered the world and been elevated to a level of idolatry few musicians ever reached over the course of an entire career much less achieved with the release of one album and holy fuck what was going on? All of that went trampling through my head and as I tried to process it Ed said, “Get in the car.”
While I sat there in his car waiting to hear the music, I wanted one of my neighbors to see me. No, I was desperately hoping a neighbor would see me and particularly this drop-dead blonde who lived one house up from me or these two fiercely beautiful girls who lived across the street. I was praying one of them would be walking by and see me sitting in the car and look at the driver and recognize him and gasp. I would no longer be that anonymous writer who lived at 1909 Weepah Way but rather that guy who was sitting in a car with Eddie Van Halen. “Maybe we should go talk to him,” they’d think. “Maybe he’ll introduce us to Eddie” (cue: squeals of sexual delight). Scenes of wild excess dancing in my brain, I was brought back to reality as I heard Ed cuing up the tape. Before the first song came out of the boombox speakers, I realized how truly rare this was. Not only because I was sitting there with Edward Van Halen, but because I had never listened to an album while the artist was right there beside me. I had been to listening parties where the record label played a band’s new album as hundreds of guests and the group itself wandered around noshing on hors d’oeuvres and tossing back free cocktails at an open bar but that was not the same because it felt so impersonal. This was different, man. I was there with the artist about to listen to his album. One on one. That had never happened before.
The first song started pouring out of the speakers at ear crushing levels. I was assaulted by that monstrous riff bordering on what I thought was almost funky; a very staccato, stabbing-like lick. The next track began with a series of behemoth chords and segued into volume swells I figured Edward had created with the guitar’s volume control. What I remember about both songs were that as soon as the killer solos kicked in, there were no rhythm guitar backing tracks, which was what I loved about Cream and their live approach to recording. I also recognized that as something Van Halen had done on the first album: just a stripped-down trio going for the throat.
We sat there in his car and kept listening and I tried to scribble mental notes in my brain about solos and certain riffs and what kind of guitar sounds he was getting but that was nearly impossible. Had I known we were going to be listening to music, I would have brought a pen and paper and I was not about to say to him, “Uh, Edward, I’m going to run back into the house and get a pen and paper. Just pause it there.” Talk about a mood killer, right? I had no reference point because there were no vocals, so I had to try and catalog the songs as a fast shuffle or mid-tempo and which solos went in which songs and stuff like that and the minute a new song came on, I forgot the track before it.
Because we didn’t want to disturb the neighbors, the windows had been rolled up. Edward continued to blow smoke rings like whole notes that drifted to the top of the car and filled the compartment with this vaporous and lethal cloud. My eyes were watering, and I could feel my lungs turning black. On top of all of that, he had cranked the volume to such a deafening level, I kept waiting for little droplets of blood to come leaking out of my ears. Still, with all of that, I never wanted to leave the car. I wanted that tape to keep on playing so I could sit next to him forever, locked in that cocoon, that bubble, marveling at the guitar playing I was hearing and thinking I was the most special and privileged dude in the world and who cared if I went deaf, my eyeballs exploded, my lungs turned to leather, and a merciless migraine sent me to the hospital. I was sitting in a car with Edward Van Halen and hearing music only a few people in the world had heard at that time and if that meant going deaf, dumb, and blind, I was willing to make the sacrifice.
About the Author, Steve Rosen:
Steve Rosen is a professional music journalist with a career spanning over 45 years. During this period, he has published well over 1,000 articles appearing in major periodicals originating from around the globe. Everywhere from the United States and Canada to Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, England, Australia, Brazil and even Katmandu. Amongst the publications Rosen’s work has appeared in are Guitar Player, Guitar World, Guitarist, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Playboy, Musician, US, Creem, Circus, Player, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Mojo, Roadie Crew, This Is Rock, M Music Magazine, Rhythm and Drum! and a myriad of others. He was also the main contributor to the influential music site, Ultimate-Guitar, for many years.
He was the West Coast correspondent for Guitar World magazine for four years during the seminal mid-‘80s when he wrote seven cover stories [three lead features on Edward Van Halen are now recognized as pivotal pieces on that artist]. As a contributor to Guitar Player magazine, he wrote a prodigious 16 covers in a six-year span [one out of every four was his]. The 1977 Frank Zappa front-cover contribution represented the periodical’s biggest selling issue to that date. Additionally, GP, in two special reprint issues, featured his stories on Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page as covers [Rock Guitarists published by Guitar Player Productions and Rock Guitarists Vol. II distributed by Guitar Player Books).
He served as West Coast Editor for Fachblatt, one of Germany’s most respected and highest circulated magazines [during his tenure, more than half of the cover features were Rosen-based compositions]. He was the West Coast correspondent for Player, a Japanese periodical employing his services for over 40 years.
A recognized authority on the eclectic world of rock, Rosen has been tapped seven times to write books on some high-profile individuals including one book on the history of rock for children. His first book was The Beck Book on guitarist Jeff Beck that required a second printing due to the crazed demand [published in Japan in 1978]. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was part of the Rock Lives series orchestrated by Castle Communications and distributed by The Penguin Group . Bruce Springsteen, an eponymous-titled bio published by Castle Communications was also part of the Rock Lives series . The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion was a book on the classic metal band that went into a third printing 1996. Free At Last: The Story of Free and Bad Company was published in 2001. In 2008, he wrote The Story of Rock Music, a book on the history of rock music for children. In 2012, Rosen wrote a book called Randy Rhoads issued by Velocity Publishing and his most recent Tonechaser – Understanding Edward: My 26-Year Journey with Edward Van Halen.
He worked briefly in 2008 as a correspondent for the Gibson Guitars website. Look at his True Adventures in Rock Journalism series to see a unique blending of print and audio.
Never a creator to involve himself in armchair observations, this traveling troubadour’s work has taken him to distant vistas in search of mysterious stories and elusive sagas. Steve has been hand-selected to accompany numerous bands as traveling wordsmith. Pen and persona have been present on the road with Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Loggins & Messina, Van Halen, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, Alice Cooper, The Firm, and others.
Because of his insights as to the inner workings of rock ensembles and able to extract their thoughts and mindsets, he has been cited by other writers as an indispensable source. He is cited in a cross section of texts and a great number of his quotes appear in countless numbers of reference and biographical works including The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul ]; Hammer of the Gods; Robert Fripp; Uncle Joe’s Record Guide; Secrets From the Masters; The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal; Jeff Beck: Crazy Fingers; several Frank Zappa profiles including Frank Zappa’s Negative Dialectic of Poodle Play; and Frank Zappa Companion. And many others.
In addition to his essential journalistic pursuits, Rosen has worked closely with record and management companies, providing them with bios and treatments. This involved working with Atlantic Records, Warner Bros., Columbia Records, and music-related businesses such as Seymour Duncan, Oberheim, Charvel Guitars, Kawai, Guitar Center, C.P.P. Belwin and REH Publications. For this latter company, he virtually single- handedly originated and developed a line of instructional tapes called ProTalk (that included Carlos Santana, C.C. De’Ville, and Lee Ritenour and several others). Similarly, in 1991, he sketched out the blueprint for another line of guitar videos titled Hot Guitarist for the ESP Company.
In recent years, his work has been utilized as liner copy for both audio CDs and DVDs. For the English company Chrome Dreams, he wrote all the liner copy for oral liner copy diaries on Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Kiss as well as licensed his own extensive audio library of recorded interviews to be shaped and edited for the CD material itself. Passport Video embraced this remarkable archive in order to extract valuable audio for their DVDs on Van Halen [The Van Halen Story: The Early Years], Queen, and Led Zeppelin. In 2005, he licensed a large number of interviews to another highly regarded audio content company and additionally, provided cover text and extensive liner copy for projects including The Beach Boys and Jethro Tull.
Steve Rosen’s understanding of rock’s winding road derives not from reading maps but from writing them. This native of St. Louis, Missouri, draws from a number of sources including his work as a published songwriter. His have been covered by outside artists including Blackthorne [for whom he co- wrote three songs with esteemed vocalist Graham Bonnet for their self-titled debut album including the title track “Afterlife”). Additional published works include Sic Vikki’s “Tough Enough” for their first album; and a co-write on Cold Sweat’s debut [produced by master knob-twirler Kevin Beamish of REO Hi Infidelity fame]. Rosen has drafted songs for several cable movies [Scorned featuring Playboy figure Shannon Tweed, Kiss’ Gene Simmons longtime friend, pops up on late night television like clockwork [ and his music is regularly heard on major daytime soap operas like All My Children and One Life to Live.
In the late ‘90s, he co-wrote Spirit Nation, a world music project marrying Native American elements with ambient textures—loops, slashing edits, twisted, tangled and tender flute arrangements—and landed a deal on Richard Branson’s V2 Records. The record has sold over 50,000 units to date. A second Spirit Nation album titled Winter Moons was released in 2001. In 2022, Rosen co-wrote and played rhythm guitars on an album called The Waiting Fire with a band called the called Highway Sentinels, which featured vocalist David Reece (ex-Accept), keyboardist Jimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz) and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning). Rosen called on some of his buddies to play solos including Joe Satriani, Bumblefoot, Paul Gilbert, Matt Heafy, Tracii Guns and Joe Stump.
Apple Computers has specifically chosen two Spirit Nation tracks to drive major media campaigns and a film company tagged one of the songs as part of its soundtrack.
Recently, his main focus has been on organizing his incredibly extensive and rare collection of audio interviews dating back to 1973. The entire library represents well over 1,500 hours of content with hundreds and hundreds of classic rock’s most engaging, enraging, and entrancing characters.
Here in 2022, Steve Rosen continues to track down rock’s elusive denizens. When not on some semantic safari, he retreats to his Laurel Canyon cottage, nestled in the bucolic hills of Hollywood. The space is crammed floor to rafter with books and records, broken guitar strings and miscellaneous incomplete book chapters and song lyrics.
As someone earning his keep as a conversationalist and instigator of ideas, Rosen is typically the quietest person in the room. But place him within shouting distance of a guitarist, and in 10 minutes he’ll have them revealing parts of themselves even they didn’t know existed.
And this, perhaps, is his greatest strength: drawing on a chameleon-like ability in transforming himself from interviewer to innerviewer to simple friend. A musical zelig. Steve is someone with whom you want to tell your secrets to and for many decades now, a lot of people have been doing just that.