For me, hearing the first Van Halen album was one of those life moments where I'll always remember where I was, when it happened, etc. When the second album came out, I was old enough to drive, so I was driving to the record store every day, driving the clerk crazy - "No man, we don't have it yet". When they finally got it, all they had were cassettes, no albums - so I reluctantly bought the cassette, even though albums sounded a lot better and I could record my own cassettes to play in the car. Whatever, I had to listen to it ASAP.
The thing is, I never really dug Eddie's solo's all that much. To me they were kind of like jazz (which it turns out he grew up on), they didn't always follow the chord changes or even match the rhythm - not catchy. I finally figured out that I had to learn them before I could appreciate them.
Also, I've never heard it said much before because maybe it seems disrespectful, but I think Eddie Van Halen was the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time.
Anyway, RIP Eddie Van Halen. You
are, and always be, a huge part of my musical life.