I can still remember being a senior in High School, 1978, and a drummer friend of mine asked me if I had heard of Van Halen, as his band was doing their version of an old Kinks song. At that time I hadn't. So I bought the first album and was quite impressed. They were for a short period of time (that first album, actually) a part of the new wave of late-70s hard rock/metal, along with AC-DC, Motorhead, The Scorpions, etc... But beyond that, there just wasn't any music at that time that sounded like "Atomic Punk", "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love", and of course, "Eruption"--Oh My God, Garth.
Over time they left their metal roots and fulfilled the destiny of all or most LA bands, bright lights, swimming pools and movie stars, rather than hot rods and punk decadence. In my opinion they became another 80s pop band, albeit with an awesome guitarist. Over the years they did return a couple of times to those blazing roots, notably the "Mean Street" and "Diver Down" albums, at least to some degree. But I have always thought they would have been a completely different band had they followed in the style of that first album, but alas... I suppose that was not what they wanted, and they were awfully successful anyway.
In the meantime, Eddie was one of the few real innovators of rock guitar. Nobody sounded like that before he came along, and no one has really topped him since. I give him all the credit he deserves and appreciate being alive in his era. If you never have, or even if it's been a while, take a listen--a real listen--to that first album. Listen to it in light of it's place in history. 1978 was a change year for rock and roll. People were losing interest in the music that had defined the generation, with the exception of the above noted behind the scenes new metal bands. Van halen abandoned that track, but this album is steeped in it. It is awesome and unique in history, that of rock and roll in general and Van Halen in particular. RIP, EVH.