The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - PUZZLE TIME -

Ed­die Van Halen is widely re­puted to be the great­est gui­tarist in the world. But not the great­est busi­ness­man. Quincy Jones rang him in 1982 and asked him to play on a new song he was record­ing with Michael Jack­son called Beat It. Van Halen in­stantly agreed, went down to the stu­dio and recorded the track in 20 min­utes — adding, spon­ta­neously, the sen­sa­tional gui­tar solo that wowed the world.

The song went on to be­come one of the big­gest sell­ing and most iconic pop records in his­tory.

It also helped pro­pel Jack­son’s al­bum Thriller to No. 1 too — forc­ing Van Halen’s own al­bum to No 2.

Still, the cheque must have helped ease the pain, right? ‘How much did you get paid?’ I asked him.

‘Noth­ing!’ he chuck­led. ‘I did it as a favour… we had a pol­icy of not do­ing things out of the band, but the oth­ers were out of town, so I fig­ured, “Who’s go­ing to know if I play on this kid’s record?” To this day, they blame me for our al­bum not go­ing to No. 1.’ vig­or­ously and Don­nie had to be led away by se­cu­rity guards be­fore re­ar­rang­ing my pretty lit­tle fea­tures.

Four months later, he marched on stage at Wem­b­ley Arena wear­ing a Tshirt say­ing: ‘ PIERS MOR­GAN SUCKS!’

He told the 12,000 strong crowd of scream­ing pre­pubescent girls: ‘In case you don’t know this Piers Mor­gan dude, he’s al­ways slag­ging us off and putting us down. His stuff should be ig­nored, you shouldn’t read what he writes.’

They roared their sup­port and I got my­self head­lines every­where from Amer­ica to Mon­go­lia. It was the finest mo­ment of my pop-writ­ing ca­reer.

New Kids On The Block dis­banded soon af­ter­wards — and I never saw, or heard, from Don­nie again. Un­til tonight... 22 years later.

New Kids, who re­united in 2008, were per­form­ing at a char­ity event in Bos­ton to raise money for the re­cent marathon bomb­ing vic­tims.

And Don­nie — to my as­ton­ish­ment — agreed to come on my CNN show. I watched as he was miked up.

‘Put me through to him be­fore we go on air,’ I asked my pro­ducer.

So I was patched through. ‘ Mr Wahlberg…’ His face broke into a huge grin. ‘Mr Mor­gan… ’ ‘It’s been a while…’ ‘It cer­tainly has…’ ‘Good to see you again…’ ‘You too, man. I have to say, I’m amazed how far you’ve come since your tabloid days. I watch you on CNN all the time and you do a great job.’

Now, this was a Don­nie Wahlberg I could start to like. He then launched into a heart­felt state­ment about why he was do­ing this con­cert. ‘I grew My per­sonal trainer in New York has been on hol­i­day for a fort­night. I’ve tried to keep a dis­ci­plined fit­ness regime while he’s been ab­sent, but the lure of late- night Man­hat­tan bars, McDon­ald’s and the odd bot­tle of Pomerol has proved ir­re­sistible.

But when I walked through the gym door this morn­ing, he ex­claimed: ‘Wow! You look a bit pumped!’

I was sur­prised, but flat­tered. ‘Re­ally? Thanks.’

He looked be­mused. ‘You’re happy about that?’ ‘Yes! Ex­tremely.’ He shook his head in as­ton­ish­ment. ‘You Brits are so weird.’

At that point it was my turn to feel be­mused.

‘You said I looked “a bit pumped” — that’s usu­ally a gym com­pli­ment, isn’t it?’

He burst out laugh­ing. ‘No, I said you looked a bit PLUMP.’ The num­ber of gun deaths in Amer­ica since the Sandy Hook School mas­sacre last De­cem­ber has now ex­ceeded the to­tal num­ber of US ca­su­al­ties dur­ing the en­tire Iraq War.

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