BillySheehan If the only way you could join your favorite band was by costing one of its members their job, would you still want to do it? Bassist Billy Sheehan had to answer that question the hard way after getting an enticing invitation from Van Halen.

Sheehan, whose early band Talas opened for Van Halen in 1981, recalled his brush with joining the band during a recent appearance on Eddie Trunk’s podcast. Noting that he found himself on their radar after their shared dates, Sheehan says he’s always had seriously mixed emotions about the prospect.

“For many years I never said anything about it, because I thought it was a little bit denigrating to Michael Anthony,” Sheehan admits. “But they did ask me to join Van Halen a couple of times. It never panned out, and in a way I’m glad it didn’t pan out, because I love Michael Anthony and I hate it when a band changes members. But then again,” he laughs, “in the back of my mind, Van Halen was my favorite band in the world. It would have been amazing.”

According to Sheehan, the question of whether to join became moot after “they passed on me; they decided they didn’t want to make a change,” but things still turned out pretty well for him — he was a member of David Lee Roth‘s solo band after Roth split from Van Halen, and has managed to remain cordial with all of its members, past and present. In fact, as he told Eddie, “I believe I’m the only person in the world who’s played with every member of Van Halen.”

Of course, later in his career, Sheehan became personally acquainted with the difficult decision a band faces when personality or professional conflicts arise between members, and they’re forced to make membership changes or break up entirely. Noting that he and the other members of Mr. Big felt an outpouring of fan affection after their recent reunion, he drew parallels to the portion of the VH fanbase that was disgruntled after Wolfgang Van Halen replaced Anthony in the lineup.

“You see that to some degree with Van Halen,” muses Sheehan toward the end of the episode. “I wish Wolfie well, and he’s doing a great job, but it’s not the original band. It’s a tough call. I wish him well, but as a fan, I kinda wanted to see Michael in there, you know? As a fan, it tears you up.”

Listen to Eddie’s entire podcast with Billy Sheehan podcast below.

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  • James K. on

    I guess it’s okay to bring this up now. I still think it’ll hurt Mike’s feelings a little to know Ed was scheming way back then to get a new bass player. But at the same time, the way Ed has belittled Mike in the media recently, what Billy said shouldn’t be too much of a shock to anyone.

    • Michael B on

      I would imagine that Mike knew a long time ago about how Ed felt about him, and that other people had been considered.

      To be honest, none of it makes much sense. If Mike was such a horrible bass player, why did Ed keep him around so long? The fact is that he isn’t. No he doesn’t weedly deedly tap like Sheehan does, but I’ll be honest, It would have been distracting to the songs. The recent Cherone comments about him never seeing Anthony videotape anything Ed did, just points out that Ed is scoring points because he asked his kid to play bass, when many would rather see Mike up there. Ed knows that.

      I think Billy’s a great musician, but I’m not sure why we should care that much that Ed wanted him in the band a few times. He only made it through two albums, and one tour with solo DLR and left because Skyscraper was not something he was super excited about. I would imagine he wouldn’t have lasted that long with VH either.

  • shannon mehaffey on

    From what I remember it was Alex who didn’t want Billy and wanted to keep Michael.

  • RTunes68 on

    This is a case of a kid (Ed) wanting more cake than he can eat. While the idea of having a virtuoso bassist in the band is tempting, in reality, Ed would not have tolerated anyone competing with him or rivaling his abilities. Michael Anthony had a thankless job in Van Halen. He had to play simple lines so as not to compete with Ed, but he was also criticized by Ed for playing so simply. Billy Sheehan in Van Halen would’ve been a short-lived disaster. Sheehan and Steve Vai worked well together because Vai is a virtuoso who enjoys and respects competition. Ed does not (see: David Lee Roth).

  • MetalMania on

    Hey, I’m just a rock fan so what do I know, but I tend to agree with the opinions that Eddie would not have taken well to having another instrumentalist of that caliber in the spotlight with him. Billy Sheehan is a monster bass player, but I don’t feel like it would have been a good fit had he been in VH. I could be wrong but I just don’t feel like EVH would have enjoyed all the “Wow! VH’s new bass player is nuts! He plays bass like Eddie plays guitar!” that might have happened. There are LOTS of rock bass players who don’t do anything fancy and just “hold down the groove” with the drummer. Maybe I’m missing the point but isn’t that the fundamental core of what being a bass player (at least in rock) is supposed to be? And it gives lots of space for virtuoso guitarists like EVH to do what they do, and in Anthony’s case he was a solid backup singer. If you want to get twiddly, fine but you better have the core bottom end held down first. Joe Satriani seems to have nothing but praise for Michael Anthony, and he knows a thing or 2,000 about musicianship! If EVH wanted to collaborate with more high level musicians, why didn’t we see him on side projects, or do G3 tours with Satriani, etc.? Granted, the latter would have been several years after this period of courting Billy Sheehan, and I know there’s more to it than just “hey, I’m gonna do this other band or tour”, but you get the point. All that stuff about EVH having to tell Anthony what to play, um… didn’t EVH write most of the music? And from interviews with Michael Anthony I think “write” shouldn’t be taken literally, I’m under the impression Eddie didn’t actually write things down – he just came up with them and played them. Anyone else here ever jam with friends in the garage or basement, and you didn’t know what the other guy was playing? What do you do – you look at what he/she is playing to figure it out or you ask them! I think EVH himself has said, at least back in the day, that he didn’t know music theory or how to actually write music – he just played it. So maybe he had to videotape it because he COULDN’T write it down? Also, even Eddie’s rhythm playing is pretty “active”, I can see where just watching him rip through a song a couple times might not be enough to really learn what to pin it down with. I’m not dissing him, he’s one of the true pioneers and legends of rock music and has inspired countless others, and I have the highest respect for him as a player and songwriter. But the Michael Anthony bashing just doesn’t seem to really add up. If there were destructive personality conflicts or disruptive behavior issues that threatended the well being of the band, that’s one thing, but “he wasn’t good enough” just doesn’t seem to hold water. Why was he there in the first place then, and for so long?

    VH didn’t need a better bass player to broaden their musical scope, they needed a better singer. Oh right, they actually did that! Unfortunately the band didn’t rock as hard when they got that better singer, despite the success they had, and that eventually fell apart too after Eddie and Sammy’s egos collided!

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