“Those Van Halen brothers, they were nuts!”: Ann and Nancy Wilson recall “the circus” of touring with Van Halen

“There was so much imbibing and chicanery going on, but they were really solid brothers.”

Eddie Van Halen performing in 1979 with his custom Kramer, photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Eddie Van Halen performing in 1979 with his custom Kramer. Image: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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American rock band Heart opened up for Van Halen a multitude of times back in the 1980s, and sibling-bandmate duo, Nancy and Ann Wilson, remember their times of touring with the group as pretty crazy.

According to the sisters, Van Halen’s own sibling-bandmate pairing of Alex and Eddie Van Halen would swing between “fisticuffs” and emotional hugs, all of which was amplified by the culture of “imbibing” which was so prolific among rock artists of that era.

Speaking to Howard Stern (via American Songwriter), Nancy recalls, “Those Van Halen brothers, they were nuts! They were really imbibers, and they were always in the bag, like way in the bag.” She later adds, “They would just start fighting, and then they’d be like, ‘Oh, I love you, man.’ And then they’d be hugging.”

Asked how they felt about watching their relationship also as siblings, Ann replies, “Well, it was sure interesting to watch.”

“It was something to see,” states Nancy. “We never really hung out and had much of an opportunity in the wild, crazy times that we were in [during] the ‘80s. There was so much [imbibing] and chicanery going on, but they were really solid brothers and cool people, and musicians, and it was fun to know them and be part of the circus with them.”

Both Ann and Nancy don’t deny their own indulgence in the drinking culture that was around at the time, but say they waited until after a show to get partying.

Watch the interview below:

Back in 2021, Nancy released her first ever solo album, You and Me. It featured eight original tracks including a heartfelt tribute to Eddie Van Halen on the song 4 Edward.

Speaking to Guitar.com at the time, she recalled one of her most precious memories with the guitar icon: “Back in ‘79, when Heart and Van Halen were touring together, Eddie told me one night that he thought I played really great acoustic guitar, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe you said that to me’. Then I asked him why he doesn’t play more acoustic guitar. He said, ‘Well, I don’t really have an acoustic’. I said, ‘Well, you do now! Here’s my present to you.’”

She later added, “Flash forward to very early the next morning. Eddie calls me on the phone all excited and says, ‘Listen, listen, listen!’ and he played me this beautiful, sweet instrumental that was almost classical, but with some rock in the middle. So the next day we’re on a bus heading to another show, and I said, ‘Eddie, what you played for me on the phone was so beautiful’, and he goes, ‘What are you talking about?’ I think he’d completely forgotten because he was so out of it!”

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