Guitar legend Steve Vai is featured in a new interview with Classic Rock discussing eight songs that changed his life. Following is an excerpt from the rundown.
Leonard Bernstein – “The Rumble” (West Side Story Original Soundtrack, 1961)
Vai: “I was seven or eight years old when I first heard this and it completely captivated me. The story of the film is so powerful, dramatic and full of theatre, and when I heard the soundtrack I knew I wanted to be a composer. ‘The Rumble’ is a real high-energy piece of music, and it moves so freely, not tied to a particular rhythm base or melodic structure, which I found inspiring. My parents listened to Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Italian accordion music, comedy records, whatever, and those were all fine and good, but West Side Story is just a monolith.”
Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
Vai: “Hearing my sister Pam’s copy of Led Zeppelin II was the defining moment in me wanting to play guitar. That record was my everything. I’d always thought that a guitar was this untouchable, beautiful thing that I was unworthy of holding, but as soon as I heard the solo on ‘Heartbreaker’, something shifted in me, and I thought, I don’t care about my insecurities, I’m playing the guitar. I bought a Teisco Del Rey guitar from a friend for $5 and started learning, and everything Jimmy Page represented was everything I wanted to be.”
Queen – “Ogre Battle” (Queen II, 1974)
Vai: “‘Ogre Battle’ is heavy in the most sublime way. There was a kid called John who lived a few houses from me and he introduced me to Queen at a point where I believed that Led Zeppelin was the only music in the world. After I heard Queen II, Brian May became my god, and I studied everything about his playing.
A few years later, when I was playing with Frank Zappa, I walked into the Rainbow bar in Los Angeles and he was standing at the bar. He was so kind and engaging, and he invited me to a Queen rehearsal the next day. It was so surreal. I looked at his guitar, and I was like,’ Is that the actual Red Special?’ And he said, “Yeah, wanna try it?” So I picked up that guitar, and played through his rig, and to my chagrin, I did not sound like Brian May at all! What Queen did can never and will never be replicated, because together those four musicians were a unique force of nature.”
Read the complete rundown here.