“They were buddies back around the late, I believe it’s like kind of the late ’90s, early 2000s, and Eddie always wanted to do something with Chris, musically,” Thorn said. “He loved his voice and he used to be like, ‘Man, I love him. We were always talking about doing something together.'”
The Van Halen legend nearly got his chance when Cornell was working on his 2009 solo album Scream, which was produced by Timbaland and notable for its pop and electronic elements.
“I produced up a couple of versions of a song called ‘Long Gone’ and ‘Scream,’ the title track from the album, in a very stripped-down kind of acoustic way, with brushes on the snare drum and upright bass and stuff, and me playing acoustic guitar,” Thorn explained. “So Chris listened to them he’s like, ‘I love this, man.’ … And he looked at me and he said, ‘What do you think if we got Eddie to work on this, if we would ask him to play on it?'” Thorn extended the invitation via Dave Friedman, the Friedman Amplification guru who worked on some of Van Halen’s gear. “And 45 minutes later, he texted me,” Thorn recalled. “He said, ‘Ed wants you to call him. Here’s his cellphone number.'”
The guitarist met Van Halen at his 5150 Studios and showed him the Scream tracks. Van Halen was a fan and even recorded some guitar parts for the title track, but a proper collaboration never saw the light of day.
“I don’t want to get anybody excited thinking that this ever got finished, because it didn’t. But he did work on it,” Thorn said. “And, you know, I would go up there over the next couple of weeks, and he had played on it. I would listen to it and just be like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. This is myself and Eddie on a track.’ And then, it’s a long story, but it never got a vocal on it by Chris. You know, that was what it was. And Ed got busy doing the next Van Halen record right around then and producing things up and … it just never ended up getting finished.”
Thorn added that Cornell did play the alternate version of “Scream,” without Van Halen’s guitar parts, during his 2011-2012 Songbook tour. “He kind of wanted it to look to like a living room onstage, like he was just jamming at home, so he’d drop the needle on an album,” he explained. “He had the version put on an LP, but that’s not the version with Ed on it.”
The version with Van Halen remains ostensibly locked up tight at the guitar hero’s studio, where he recorded his parts to tape instead of a digital audio workstation. “So somewhere at 5150,” Thorn said, “there’s a 24-track reel with that on it.”
Eddie Van Halen Year by Year: 1977-2017 Photos
You’ll see him with long hair, short hair, a variety of his most famous guitars and all three of his band’s lead singers.