"I started laughing, because he is the best": Watch unseen footage of late guitar icons Eddie Van Halen and Leslie West backstage and jamming

Leslie West and Eddie Van Halen onstage
(Image credit: Lightyear Entertainment)

Previously unseen footage of Eddie Van Halen jamming with Leslie West and Corky Laing at a club in Los Angeles has emerged online. The clip comes from a Mountain show held at the House Of Blues in West Hollywood, CA, in August 2002, and shows Van Halen joining the band onstage for a version of Never In My Life, from Mountain's 1970 album Climbing.

The pro-shot footage also shows Van Halen and West chatting and rehearsing backstage, and includes an interview with West, where he explains how the pair's friendship began, and how Van Halen's playing inspired him to pick up the guitar after a break in 1976. 

"I was going to rehab in Milwaukee," says West. "I stopped playing for six months. So I met Ed and I introduced myself. After I saw him it got me playing again. He was kicking me up a notch. So I called Randy Bachman. I said, 'how'd you like a rhythm guitar player for nothing?' I just wanted to get on tour. He said great and I went out on the tour, and Eddie and I played every night in the room afterwards and we became friends."

In 2007, West told Andy Andort how Van Halen's guest spot had come about. "A couple years ago, right after Eddie announced he had tongue cancer, he hadn’t played in a while and I invited him to the House of Blues in L.A. to come down and play with me. At soundcheck, I invited people to come down and play, like American Idol, and I said if someone played well enough, they could come up and play on the show with us.

"So, on stage that night, I said, 'The winner is…' and I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket and said, 'Edward… uh… Van Halen!' Eddie came out and played Never In My Life with us. When he plays it, he actually plays the part Felix [Pappalardi, Mountain bassist] played, and when he played the solo, I started laughing, because he is the best. There is nobody better than him. There are guys in that ballpark, but they’re not in Yankee Stadium, you know what I mean?"

Eddie Van Halen and Leslie West died within three months of each other in late 2020.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.