“He started crying, and goes, You're the only one that understands me”: Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong recalls the day he made his childhood hero Eddie Van Halen cry

Billie Joe Armstrong and Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Mike Pont/WireImage | David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has spoken about an emotional meeting he had with Eddie Van Halen, one of his childhood heroes, and admitted that talking to the legendary guitarist was a “heavy experience.”

In a recent appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, Armstrong revealed that one of the first records he ever bought was Van Halen’s Fair Warning, and said that listening to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo on Mean Streets blew his nine-year-old mind. Yesterday, during an appearance on the Howard Stern show, Armstrong also revealed that the very first concert he ever attended, as a 12-year-old, was a Van Halen show, and that he was so overwhelmed with excitement that he actually cried, as the Pasadena quartet were his favourite band at the time.

When Stern asks if Green Day’s frontman ever had the opportunity to meet Eddie Van Halen, Armstrong shares an anecdote about an “emotional” face-to-face meeting he had with the Dutch-born guitarist before a “phenomenal” Van Halen show in Kansas City, which he attended with friends.

“First we went back and I met Wolfie, who was super cool, and then they were like, ‘Do you want to meet Eddie?’ and I was like, Oh my God!” Says Armstrong. “And so he's back there and he’s got his guitar on, he's plugged in, and it's like he's talking to me and shredding at the same time, and I was just like, Oh my God!

“I don't know if anybody really knows this,” Armstrong continues, “but the size of his hands are gigantic, and I grabbed his hands and I looked at them, and I was like, Dude your hands are so…

"And he's like, ‘Oh I got arthritis now and blah blah blah’. And then, like, this really insane thing happened, where he kind of started crying. He looked at me and he put his hand behind my neck, and he goes, ‘You're the only one that understands me’.

“He had tears coming down his eyes and I didn't really know what to say. I was like, Man you have no idea how much you've meant to me as a as a musician and as a songwriter… He's like, ‘People think I'm an alien because of the way I play’ and I’m like, It's all about your songs, and he goes, ‘Exactly, exactly.’ It was this really kind of heavy experience.”

Armstrong goes on to say that, at this point, Wolfgang walked into the room, and said to his father, ‘Dad, we have to tune’.

"And then Eddie said the coolest thing, it was like a father-son moment: he goes, Do you want to tune to me, or do you want me to tune to you?’… That kind of bond that a father and son had as musicians, it always stuck with me as this beautiful thing.”

Watch the clip below:

Green Day’s new album, Saviors, is out tomorrow, January 19.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.