What could have been… it's still hard to process Chris Cornell and Eddie Van Halen no longer being alive, let alone the prospect of them working together when they were. But Cornell's former guitarist Pete Thorn has revealed it almost happened. And there's video to prove it.
“They were buddies… Eddie always wanted to do something with Chris, musically,” Thorn said during his appearance on the The Mitch Lafon and Jeremy White Show. “He loved his voice and he used to be like, ‘Man, I love him. We were always talking about doing something together.'”
And it was during the sessions for 'rock' versions of the songs Long Gone and the title from Cornell's much-maligned 2009 Timbaland-produced solo album Scream that a crossover began.
“[Cornell and I were] in a parking lot listening to [the recordings] in my car, I remember," said Thorn. "And he looked at me and he said, ‘Hey what do you think if we got Eddie to work on this?'”
Cornell had already become friendly with Van Halen in the '90s, and Thorn was a huge EVH fan himself. The latter eventually reached out to the guitarist via Dave Friedman of Friedman Amplification. Thorn ended up calling Eddie and visited Eddie at his 5150 studios in Los Angeles to discuss the next step.
"He took me into 5150 and he didn't even know [I was a fan]," remembered Thorn. "He was so humble in many ways, and sort of unassuming. He said, 'This is the studio where we've done everything since 1984.' I was thinking, yeah I know - I'm well aware!
"So we put on the track as we sat there at the console listening to this song," continued Thorn. "And it's me playing acoustic guitar on it… and I'm sitting there listening to it coming out of the speakers. I thought I would meet this fella sometimes but I didn't know it would be under [these circumstances]. It was incredible but I don't want to get anyone excited thinking it ever got finished because it didn't. But he did work on it."
So we're left with the 'rock' version of Scream without Eddie above, wondering what could have been? Well not quite!
"It's a long story but it never got a vocal on it by Chris," explained Thorn. "Ed got busy doing the next Van Halen record right around then… it just never ended up getting finished. But if anyone has seen Chris on tour during his Songbook tour, he played to records onstage during that tour – I think it was 2011 / 2012. He would rop the needle on an album and play along; that's actually the version that Ed played on if you can find that on YouTube."
And we did…
The backing recording of Scream Cornell is playing to above on tour in Udine in 2012 is not a previously released version of the song. If this is Eddie's version it's a low key acoustic performance from him from what we can hear. But it's definitely our favourite take on the song – much more haunting, and it sounds like there's some 12-string guitar arpeggiation going on there too.
So thank you Pete Thorn for shedding light on this unexpected piece of Cornell and EVH history. And make sure you check out Pete's sublime playing on his YouTube channel if you haven't already. He also honours his hero very well indeed…