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.