In the annals of “what if,” a potential collaboration between Chris Cornell and Eddie Van Halen would have to be ranked among the missed opportunities we’d most like to have heard. But at least one person had a chance to hear how it might have sounded as Cornell guitarist Pete Thorn recently revealed how close the collaboration came to almost happening.
According to Thorn, Cornell and Van Halen were friendly and around the period that Cornell was recording his 2008 solo album Scream there was a point where Cornell had considered reaching out to Van Halen about some acoustic tracks that Thorn had been working with him on for the album.
“[Chris and I were] in a parking lot listening to them in my car, I remember, and he looked at me and he said, ‘Hey what do you think if we got Eddie to work on this?’” the guitarist recalled, in turn telling Cornell, “And I was like are you serious? Are you kidding me? Because that was like a hundred percent ‘Yeah!’ I was so excited and he said, ‘Okay, you know, I’ll get in touch with him…’” But Cornell put off the call for a period.
According to Thorn, producer Dave Friedman then intervened and offered to asked Eddie about the idea of collaborating with Cornell for Thorn.
“45 minutes later he texted me and said, ‘Ed wants you to call him, here’s his cell phone number,’” says Thorn. “So I left him a message and… he called me back and said, ‘Well how soon can you come up the studio and play me this stuff?’ …So we set up a date, I drove up the 5150, and he was just so cool.”
“I get out of the car and there he is, and you know he gives me a big hug and said, ‘Okay, let’s go studio and take a listen…’ I was just like, ‘This is my hero’, you know? ‘This is awesome!’ He took me into 5150 and he was so humble and unassuming,” the guitarist recalls of his first meeting with Van Halen, revealing that he then sat with Eddie playing him some of his acoustic tracks that he was working on with Cornell.
Thorn says, “I don’t want to get anyone excited about this thinking it ever got finished because it didn’t, but he did work on it. I would go up there over the next couple of weeks and he had played on it and I’d be like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening, myself and Eddie on a track.’ But it’s a long story, but it never got a vocal on it by Chris. And Ed got busy doing the next Van Halen album right about then … it just never ended up getting finished.”
Thorn says fans can get a bit of an idea of what was planned by finding video of Cornell’s “Songbook” tour concerts. As the guitarist reveals, Cornell would drop a needle on a record during the shows and then play along to versions of songs and the version of “Scream” from that tour was in line with the idea that they had for Eddie’s guest contribution, but he adds, “That’s not the version with Ed on it.”
“I heard it once, but we just never finished it,” says Thorn. “So somewhere at 5150 there’s a 24-track reel with that on it, and someday I’d love to [find it].”