The Story Behind Edward Van Halen’s Most Personal Song: “316”
Edward Van Halen's 1978 groundbreaking instrumental "Eruption" symbolized the birth of a whole new generation of guitar rock but there would be another instrumental to come years later that, for Edward, would symbolize a far more important birth.
On March 16th, 1991 Edward Van Halen and his then wife Valerie Bertinelli welcomed their son Wolfgang into the world. It was for them as it is for any parent a life-changing event. Leading up to their son's birth Edward would pick up his acoustic guitar and play a piece of music he had written years earlier for Valerie and his son-to-be. Years later on Wolfgang's 25th birthday Valerie posted a photo capturing one of those precious moments on her Facebook page.
Wolfgang was born just about a month before Van Halen was completing their upcoming album to be titled "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". Up until that time it's believed that Edward didn't have any specific title for the instrumental and it's not known if it was even intended to be included on the album to begin with. With Wolfgang's birth, however, it was an easy decision. It would not only go on the album but it now had the perfect title go along with it.
In retrospect it seems as if the one minute, 29-second beautifully crafted piece of music was waiting patiently to be given the appropriate title it was meant for all along. It was destined to be a touching tribute to the day Wolfgang was born - 3/16.
Before hearing the version from "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Album" let's trace this piece of music as far back as is known which is 1986. While Van Halen was touring in support of their album "5150" Edward would begin his instrumental with this particular arrangement before diving into ones that fans were familiar with at the time such as "Eruption", "Spanish Fly" from 'Van Halen II' and "Cathedral" from 'Diver Down'.
Here is that first-known version of "316":
Now the 1991 version from "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge":
On the ensuing tour to support the album Edward performed "316" live again:
Years later Edward would have the opportunity to perform with the son he named the song after live on stage. This is Edward and a 13-year old Wolfgang with a father/son version of "316":