Eddie Van Halen Had a Secret Cameo in This Beloved '80s Movie

The late legendary guitarist's work could be heard in this fan favorite film from the era.

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The recent death of Eddie Van Halen—revolutionary guitarist, metal legend, and founder of Van Halen—saw the world of music lose one of its most unique talents. But along with being the driving force behind evergreen hits like "Jump," "Hot for Teacher," and "Why Can't This Be Love" (and broadly inventing the "tapping" style of playing guitar that came to define '80s metal), Van Halen also crossed over into Hollywood. A fun fact fans of the legendary guitarist may not know is that he had a cameo in Robert Zemeckis' 1985 film Back to the Future–or at least, his music did. Read on to find out more about Van Halen's role in Back to the Future, and for more nostalgia from this awesome era, here are 50 Things Only People Who Lived in the 1980s Will Remember.

The conceit of Back to the Future is that Marty McFly (played by a young Michael J. Fox) has traveled back in time to his own parents' adolescence and must engineer their meeting, or risk being erased from the future himself. To command his sci-fi obsessed father to ask his future mother out, Marty dresses as an alien and pays McFly senior a late-night visit. To prove his futuristic credential, he blasts his fathers' ears with a Sony Walkman loaded with a cassette marked "Edward Van Halen." And while this blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment could easily be chalked up to an homage, the bombastic music playing is in fact a riff from Van Halen.

van halen cassette in back to the future
Universal Pictures

The commentary from the DVD of the film fleshes out the backstory: The rest of Van Halen didn't want to be involved in Back to the Future, hence the tape couldn't legally say Van Halen, so they added the name "Edward" in a smaller typeface. The film also wasn't allowed to feature the band's music, but relied instead on a solo piece from Eddie. The exact authorship of the piece remained unclear until 2012 when the guitarist confirmed to TMZ that it was him "just playing a bunch of noise."

Music was a strong element throughout the Back to the Future trilogy–Huey Lewis plays a talent show judge, there's a running joke about Chuck Berry, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers appears in both sequels, and ZZ Top soundtracked Back to the Future Part III. But it's Eddie Van Halen's brief instrumental cameo that has proven to be one of the most enduring moments. Not bad for an uncredited appearance where you don't even see the man in question! And for the Van Halen song you may not have known was originally by another famous band, here are The 50 Best Cover Songs of All Time.

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John Quinn
John Quinn is a London-based writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle topics. Read more
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