Van Halen 40th anniversary

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February 10, 2018 at 4:26 pm Quote #58238


From Eddie.

Eddie Van Halen
5 hrs ·
On This Day In 1978, The Van Halen Album Was Released!
I used a Shure 57 microphone and my famous stock 100 watt Marshall through my variac down to 89 volts and a 4X12 slant cabinet to record the whole record.

EDDIE’S fingers aren’t fingers they are muscle-powered pistons that hammer guitar strings to the fretboard with the force of a rivet gun”.

February 11, 2018 at 10:26 am Quote #58249


Van Halen: a track-by-track guide to the album that saved rock’n'roll
2018-02-10 10:08:05 / by Dave Everley

Your handy guide to the Van Halen’s debut album, a record that took just 35 minutes to change the way rock’n'roll was played… and may have saved it in the process

Back in 1978, Eddie Van Halen was asked what his band wanted to achieve with their newly-minted debut album. “All we’re tryin’ to do is put some excitement back into rock’n'roll,” he replied, modestly.

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Modestly but accurately — and then some. Forty years after it was released, Van Halen stands as one of rock’s great landmarks. This was more than just a stellar debut album — it was an adrenalin shot to the heart of a music scene that was slumped in a corner, turning a nasty shade of blue. In just 35 minutes, Van Halen single-handedly saved rock’n'roll, ushering in the 1980s two years ahead of schedule. This is how they did it…

Runnin’ With The Devil
Like most of the songs on Van Halen, the opening track dated from the days when the band cut their teeth on the Southern California club circuit. Opening with a blare of cars horns — reputedly the idea of Gene Simmons, who produced one of the band’s early demos in an attempt to help get them a record deal — it quickly locked into a pulsing groove that provides a foundation for Eddie Van Halen’s restless guitar and Dave Lee Roth’s weaponised charisma. The sound of the blue touch paper being lit.

The song that reinvented the guitar god for the new era: one minute and 42 seconds of mercury-fingered genius that was as revolutionary as Hendrix had been a decade earlier. It introduced the world to Eddie’s radical two-handed tapping technique, though it was a happy accident that it ended up on the record at all. “We were warming up for a weekend gig,” said the guitarist. “I was just rehearsing and [engineer] Donn Landee happened to record it. The take on the record was a freak thing.” Freak or not, it remains the Rosetta Stone for every would be guitar hero that followed.

You Really Got Me
If The Kinks really did invent heavy metal with You Got Me, then this was Van Halen paying them back. One of dozens of covers they’d throw in their sets back in the days when they were called Mammoth, it took the original’s Jurassic riff and Van Halenized it to glorious effect. Producer Ted Templeman certainly thought so — this was the song that persuaded him to work with the band.

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Eddie Van Halen once claimed he wrote his band’s early signature song as a pastiche of punk: “A stupid thing to us, just two chords.” The result was far from dumb. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love was everything that was fantastic about Van Halen wrapped up in three and a half minutes: the jagged guitar that sounds like it would knife you in a heartbeat, the vocal squeals and showboating from Roth, the weird shit like the sitar that doubles up the guitar solo.

I’m The One
The oldest song on the record dated back to 1974, when it was called Show Your Love, but it didn’t show its age. Like most of the tracks on Van Halen, it was cut live, without overdubs — Ted Templeman rightly clocked that would be the only way to bottle the band’s relentless energy. The doo-wop breakdown that crashed the party near the end was the roadmap to Dave Lee Roth’s entire career.

Jamie’s Cryin’
Van Halen sounded like they were strutting, even when they weren’t. And no song on Van Halen strutted like Jamie’s Cryin’, a song about the aftermath of a one-night stand that’s surprisingly sympathetic. Killer harmonies too — something VH have never got their due credit for.

Atomic Punk
Van Halen’s secret weapon: Ain’t Talkin’ About Love and Eruption might be the album’s marquee tracks, but Atomic Punk is its best. As Eddie alternates between sawing through sheet metal and firing off laser beams with his guitar, Diamond Dave stalks the dark streets, king of all he surveys, oozing cartoon menace and attitude. That final, stretched squeal of “The Atomic Punk!” shows off Roth’s vocal shortcomings. But never has anyone done so much with the so little.

Feel Your Love Tonight
Van Halen did ‘heavy’ effortless, as a wheezing Black Sabbath found out when they brought them out as support in 1979. But they could do ‘pop’ too, as this proves. If nothing else, it’s a showcase for Michael Anthony’s instantly recognisable backing harmonies — Roth called the bassist “one of the greatest high tenor voices ever.”

Little Dreamer
Van Halen were too amped to bother with ballads, but they did occasionally dial things down a little. Little Dreamer is the sultriest moment on the record, a hazy mid-paced shuffle that sizzled like the Pasadena sidewalks in a California heatwave.

Ice Cream Man
Van Halen were never ones to shy away from covers, but their choices were always immaculate and their reimaginings frequently brilliant. Their take on forgotten Chicago bluesman John Brim’s 1954 song is a case in point — what starts out as a smoky front porch strum suddenly erupts into full-blown lip-smacking lasciviousness. There’s even a nod Elvis-style curl of the lip at the end, a cute nod to the recently deceased King of Rock’N'Roll.

On Fire
Perverse bastards that they are, Van Halen saved the worst for last. On Fire is the debut album’s weakest song — putting forward motion over anything approaching a tune (and let’s not get started on what passes as the chorus). But it didn’t matter. The genie was out of the bottle, never to go back in. In just 35 minutes, Van Halen hadn’t just put some excitement back into rock’n'roll, they’d changed things forever.

February 11, 2018 at 10:26 am Quote #58250


Some Critics Hated ‘Van Halen’ at First — Here’s Proof
Dave Lifton
Sat Feb 10 2018 – 12:29

Van Halen’s self-titled debut has earned its proper place as one of the most influential albums in rock history. But at the time of its 1978 release, as is often the case with hard rock and metal, the established rock press weren’t so thrilled with them.

Robert Christgau, the self-appointed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” gave it a grade of C. As is his wont, he didn’t go into specifics, preferring instead to obliquely dismiss it. “For some reason Warners wants us to know that this is the biggest bar band in the San Fernando Valley,” he wrote. “This doesn’t mean much–all new bands are bar bands, unless they’re Boston. The term becomes honorific when the music belongs in a bar. This music belongs on an aircraft carrier.”

(If you think that’s harsh, perhaps you shouldn’t read what he wrote about the Sammy Hagar era.)

In Rolling Stone, Charles M. Young had mixed feelings about Van Halen’s debut album. He loved their cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and said that “they have three or four other cuts capable of jumping out of the radio the same way ‘Feels Like the First Time’ and ‘More Than a Feeling’ did amid all the candyass singer/songwriters and Shaun Cassidy-ass twits.” He also praised Eddie Van Halen, saying that he “has mastered the art of lead/rhythm guitar in the tradition of Jimmy Page and Joe Walsh; several riffs on this record beat anything Aerosmith has come up with in years.”

(Really? Less than two years after Rocks?)

Young also liked David Lee Roth for singing hard rock with “energy and not sounding like a castrato at the same time” but called the lyrics “largely forgettable” and defined their rhythm section as “competent and properly unobtrusive.” But he was definitely wrong about their future, suggesting that, by 1981, Van Halen would be “fat and self-indulgent and disgusting, and they’ll follow Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet.”

Perhaps Young’s critique is why, in 2004, Rolling Stone published a retrospective review, spotlighting how Eddie “crammed a whole season of soap-opera plot twists into every solo, making liberal use of the whammy bar but never losing the melody.” They also called “Jamie’s Crying” a “surprisingly empathetic song about a girl regretting a one-night stand” and closed by acknowledging that Roth is their definitive vocalist: “[S]ince their 1985 breakup, nobody involved has ever recaptured that spontaneous cheeseburger magic.”

February 11, 2018 at 10:27 am Quote #58251


Van Halen’s Debut Album: A Track-By-Track Guide
Ultimate Classic Rock Staff
Sat Feb 10 2018

Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 debut album all but completely re-wrote the vocabulary of rock music. Here’s a track-by-track look at how they made the record, and how its influence has been felt over the following decades.

“Runnin’ With the Devil”

The first musical sound you hear on Van Halen’s debut album isn’t Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. It’s Michael Anthony’s bass. And those insanely stratospheric chorus vocals you can’t hit on karaoke night aren’t coming from David Lee Roth, either.

It’s understandable that Anthony and his rhythm section battery mate Alex Van Halen took a back seat in terms of public perception when compared to the group’s two flashy and charismatic frontmen. But Anthony’s musical and vocal contributions to the group were sizable and too often overlooked. In fact, in recent years they’ve been called into question by his former bandmates.

In a 2015 interview, Eddie Van Halen claimed, “every note Mike ever played, I had to show him how to play. Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.” As for Anthony’s vocals, Van Halen says “Mike was just born with a very high voice. I have more soul as a singer than he does. And you know, people always talk about Mike’s voice on Van Halen songs, but that’s a blend of Mike’s voice and my voice. It’s not just him.”

(Eight years earlier, when Eddie’s son Wolfgang joined the band in Anthony’s place, the group briefly went so far as to replace their former bass player’s picture for online replicas of the artwork for their debut and other albums – although a swift public backlash made them quickly change them back.)

These claims drew a swift, sharp and profane rebuke from Sammy Hagar, who sang for Van Halen from 1985 to 1996. “Michael Anthony is a bad motherfucker. … I was in that band for 11 years. There was never a video camera involved of Eddie showing him what to play,” he seethed. “Eddie would tell him what to play once in a while and say, ‘No, Mike. Don’t play that many notes. Just stay on one note [demonstrates] so that I can fuck up and nobody will know it. It was that kind of shit.”

Two years before that dust-up, Roth — who doesn’t agree with Hagar on very many things — had similar high praise for Anthony’s contributions to the group. “What we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever — that was in Michael Anthony,” he explained. “In our tiny little corner of the universe, that voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire, as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys.”

Besides, who else could look so cool playing that famous intro with his teeth? — Matthew Wilkening
Van Halen – “Runnin’ With The Devil” (Official Music Video)


In under two minutes, Eddie Van Halen became the new god of guitar. “Eruption” had been part of Van Halen’s setlists for a couple years, but if you lived outside of Southern California, you needed to wait until 1978 and Van Halen’s debut to experience the sheer insanity of it.

If “Eruption” had only been the first 20 seconds, with Alex and Michael thundering away on the drums and bass behind Ed, it would have been revolutionary. Sure, the structure is ripped from Cactus’ 1970 tune “Let Me Swim.” But those first squeals, screams, and tremolo bombs, redefined heavy guitar (maybe the closest thing to Ed’s intro that predates it would be Neal Schon’s playing on Journey’s 1977 cut “Hustler”). However, “Eruption” is a lot more than those first 20 seconds.

After Alex and Anthony move out of the way, Eddie begins his clinic of two-handed tapping. Yes, yes, Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett was tapping in 1972. But he wasn’t doing it like this. Somehow Eddie sounded like Jimi Hendrix, Bach and an alien invasion all at once. You can pull it apart, chart out the echo and harmonies, triplet tapping and flutter picking and dive bombs, but as a whole it remains unparalleled.

The craziest part? Van Halen almost left “Eruption” off the record.

Think about that for a moment: The most revolutionary minute-and-a-half of electric guitar work since, well, ever, might have missed Van Halen if it wasn’t for producer Ted Templeman’s insistence.

In 1996, Eddie recalled the story to Guitar World: “I showed up at the recording studio early one day and started to warm up because I had a gig on the weekend and I wanted to practice my solo guitar spot. Our producer, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked, ‘What’s that? Let’s put it on the tape!’ So I took one pass at it, and they put it on the record.”

Eddie has deviated slightly on the story — he told Rolling Stone, “I was just rehearsing, and [engineer] Donn Landee happened to record it. It was never planned to be on the record. So the take on the record was a total freak thing. It was just an accident. He happened to be rolling tape.”

But the core of it never changes: Van Halen had no plans to put it on the record. Which would have been like leaving “Jessica” off of the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers and Sisters or the title track off of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain or, OK, there’s no true comparison, because there is nothing that compares to “Eruption.” — Jed Gottlieb

“You Really Got Me”

A few weeks before the release of Van Halen, the band was introduced to the world via their cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” They had played the song regularly in the bars, and Ted Templeman lobbied for it to be their debut single, even though Eddie said he “would have maybe picked ‘Jamie’s Cryin,’ just because it was our own.”

It reached No. 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and Kinks frontman Ray Davies would say it was his favorite cover of one of his songs. But Dave Davies, who created the original’s groundbreaking guitar tone, didn’t appreciate the new, flashier approach. “It was like, ‘Hey man, look at me with my tight trousers! Here’s our version of ‘You Really Got Me!’” he said in 2010. — Dave Lifton
Van Halen – “You Really Got Me” (Official Music Video)

‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’

A two-chord blast of hooky fun that started out as a goof on punk rock, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was dashed off during a single day spent in the basement of David Lee Roth’s folks’ house. If Eddie Van Halen had anything to do it with, that just where the song would have stayed.

He once called it the “lamest” thing he’d ever written. “‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ was actually a stupid thing to us — just two chords,” Eddie told Guitar World. “It didn’t end up sounding punk, but that was the intention.”

He was reluctant to even show the song to the rest of Van Halen. Good thing he did: Though it never charted, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” has become a fan favorite and a concert staple — through multiple eras. More than that, it pointed to big changes in rock into the ’80s.

In one sense, Van Halen shared some of the very punk aesthetics this tune sought to puncture. After all, Van Halen couldn’t have been further removed from the fast-bloating prog and fiddle-driven disco of its time. They even let loose a few cathartic cries of “hey, hey, hey!” But Van Halen always had bigger aspirations.

“On Van Halen, I was a young punk, and everything revolved around the fastest kid of town — the gunslinger attitude,” Eddie told Guitar World. “The thing is, I do so much more than just blow fucking solos. Actually, that’s the least of what I do.”

Van Halen in general, and this song in particular, was simply having too much fun to completely align with the angry safety-pinned crowd. They also weren’t tossing these off in frenetic first-take run throughs. Their early songs were the result of a lengthy woodshedding period spent working as a local band. “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” even featured a well-placed, and completely unexpected, electric sitar.

“Either [engineer] Donn [Landee] or [producer] Ted [Templeman] suggested I overdub a sitar underneath that melodic part I played for the solos,” Eddie says in Greg Renoff’s Van Halen Rising. It became one of Templeman’s favorite moments as a producer.

Van Halen admitted that he had no idea what this new instrument, in fact, was. Still, he ended up liking the noises it made. “It could have been a Coral guitar, but it looked real cheap. It looks like a Danelelectro, with some kind of stuff muffling the strings back there,” Eddie told Guitar World. “I never really knew it was an electric sitar, because it didn’t sound like one. It just sounded like a buzzy-fretted guitar. The thing was real bizarre.”

That gave “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” a newfound musical depth and complexity, even as Roth shifted from cock-rock Casanova to something a little more dangerous. At one point, he’s standing on the edge of some precipice — whether real or imagined, it’s unclear — marveling over those who’ve been lost to love’s high-risk invitations. Van Halen then comes roaring back in with that signature riff, a riff that could have kicked off the next decade all by itself.

Yes, boys in makeup, boys in spandex, everybody in animal prints, excessive umlauting, fingerless gloves and assless leather chaps, it arguably all started right here. Looking back, even the guys in the band could see it.

“Van Halen,” Roth said in a 1978 interview, “is music for the 1980s!” — Nick DeRiso
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (2015 Remastered Version)

“I’m the One”

Going into the end of side one, it had been nothing but bombast. From the car horn blare of “Runnin’ With the Devil” through the anthemic, fist-pump inducing “hey, hey, hey” chant of “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” there was no letting up. “I’m the One” looked to be no different, with Eddie delivering some quick fretwork to start things off.

Things change pretty dramatically in short order and it turns into a swift rump-shaker with a boogie beat. At the core of the song is Roth’s showmanship, all that he had been working on as a young lad singing and dancing for anyone who would watch. It’s his ultimate performance piece. When he, Eddie and Anthony come together for the main chorus harmony, it’s unlike anything else on the album.

But then there’s that breakdown, following a unique and spontaneous guitar solo, and suddenly the track formerly known as “Show Your Love” makes a sharp left turn into the ether, with nothing more than a “Bop bada, shoobe doo wah, bop bada, shoobe doo wah” vocal refrain keeping it afloat. It could’ve been part of a jingle for the local department store or cherrypicked from a barbershop quartet at the turn of the ’00s. Instead, it became a finger-snapping shimmy that showcased another side of Van Halen; it wasn’t all chest-beating, big rock machismo — these guys had dexterous levels of musical ability and no influence would go unchecked.

The allure of the song isn’t lost on the players either; it’s one of the most-beloved live in their catalog, done through their entire club days and beyond, then revived at the behest of Gary Cherone during his short-lived tenure as singer number three. Fans of “I’m the One” come from all ends of the spectrum too; there’s the paint-by-numbers version by an ad hoc lineup fronted by Mark Slaughter and more strikingly a swaggering take on it from early-’90s one hit wonders 4 Non Blondes that came from the soundtrack to the heavily Van Halen-referencing 1994 film Airheads. — Michael Christopher
I’m The One (2015 Remastered Version)

“Jamie’s Cryin’”

Although it’s one of the best-loved songs from Van Halen, “Jamie’s Cryin’” didn’t chart when released as Van Halen’s third single in May 1978. But Eddie’s riff and Alex’s drums reached a massive audience a decade later when rapper Tone-Loc sampled it on his No. 2 hit from 1989, “Wild Thing.”

Engineer Mario Caldato Jr. told Red Bull Music Academy that it was the brainchild of producer Matt Dike. “He was really inspired by the Rick Rubin rap/rock thing, and I guess he was trying to emulate that kind of vibe. He brought a West Coast vibe to it. Nobody would do something like that, but he just used the intro and the little guitar hits. He actually came up with the concept of the track “Wild Thing.” He’d seen Spike Lee’s movie She’s Gotta Have It, and they say the “wild thing” in there, and he’s like, “That’s it right there, we got to do that.”

Reportedly, Van Halen’s management charged Tone-Loc $5,000 for the right to use the sample, but they didn’t get permission from the band. When the song became popular and the members of Van Halen heard it, they sued for a piece of it. It’s believed they received $180,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

By coincidence, Van Halen covered the Troggs’ garage-rock classic “Wild Thing” 15 times on their 1986 tour. — Dave Lifton
Van Halen – “Jamie’s Cryin’” (Official Music Video)

“Atomic Punk”

“Atomic Punk” is another come-on from Roth with plenty of guitar fireworks from Eddie but the use of the word “punk” in the title is interesting given their disdain for punk. “We’re not punk, we don’t dress weird. We play good music,” Eddie said. “I’m not saying that the all the things I come up with are genius-brand riffs, but neither is punk. Punk’s like what I used to do in the garage.” The band even played a date at the Whiskey a Go-Go in June 1977 as the Enemas, a punk band from Scotland, where they mocked punk and were quickly thrown off the stage.

Still, as they prepared their debut, Warner Bros. tried to lump them in with the nascent punk movement, proposing a different logo and using a washed-out photo for the cover. “They tried to make us look like the Clash,” Eddie recalled. “We said, ‘Fuck this shit!’” — Dave Lifton

“Feel Your Love Tonight”

Without “Feel Your Love Tonight,” there would never be Poison’s “Unskinny Bop,” “Lay It Down” by Ratt or a hundred other testosterone-fueled odes to young lust. Looking for a fleeting moment of partnership, one where “love” is meant in the most literal sense possible where it comes to clothes coming off is as basic a theme as it gets.

As Greg Renoff noted in his thoroughly researched book Van Halen Rising, Alex — who used the song to showcase his drum solos in the earliest days of the group’s live shows — once said of the track, “It’s about what everybody feels on a Friday or Saturday night … you jump in your car, you pick up your girlfriend, and you’re gonna have a good time. Well, with Van Halen, every night’s a Saturday night.”

Encapsulating that in a three-and-a-half minute, catchy-as-hell song is a blueprint any upstart musical outfit would be smitten with trying to emulate. For Van Halen, it was just another day at the proverbial office, and a highly productive one at that. On any other planet, “Feel Your Love Tonight” would’ve been a smash hit, but the band’s debut was so heavily frontloaded with instant classics, it’s sometimes forgotten just how captivating the deep cuts can be. — Michael Christopher

“Little Dreamer”

Written long before they met producer Ted Templeman, “Little Dreamer” is the first concrete proof that Van Halen wasn’t just another party-rock band. The darker, more substantive elements of 1979′s Van Halen II and 1980′s Women and Children First trace back to this soulful mid-tempo piece.

Still, “Little Dreamer” has a complicated legacy. It stands as one of the first power ballads. (Take a bow, Styx.) It also speaks to the astonishing influences that guided this band.

Eddie begins with a knife-sharp, Randy Rhoads-esque riff, then lays out some as Roth is given a nice showcase to sing — actually sing, rather than squealing and barking — about someone who’s faced with the stark reality of lost promise.

Then something happens, 43 seconds in: A rush of layered background vocals led by Michael Anthony. They doesn’t just power “Little Dreamer” along. They definitively connect Van Halen back to what Roth describes as his “old Motown learning.”

Songs like the Four Tops’ “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” this slow-simmering cry of heartbreak, became a touchstone for him. “That’s where the harmonies come from,” Roth says in Van Halen Rising. “We had no keyboard; we had no pumping brass section. What are we going to do to add a little color to the chorus? We’ll sing. Let’s get some harmonies going here.”

Eddie then checks in with an appropriately muted (for him, anyway) solo, offering lyrical Eric Clapton-isms and impressive Jimi Hendrix-inspired bends. (On the demo, Roth actually quips, “Are you experienced?”)

The only question was how Van Halen might end this brooding moment. Unusually adept at finishing things on just the right note, they do not disappoint. Eddie fires off a few more gnarled outbursts on guitar as Anthony and Roth’s backing sighs rise to one more improbable peak. Roth then settles into a sharply emotional restating of the title against Alex Van Halen’s showering cymbal.

It’s a perfectly understated conclusion to the most complex, utterly surprising thing on Van Halen I.

Within a few years, however, this sound was everywhere. Newer rivals from across the Los Angeles scene broadened their mainstream appeal with heart string-tugging power ballads, striking chart gold again and again by replicating an approach that still felt brand new when “Little Dreamer” first arrived.

Roth took it all in stride. “I don’t know who coined the phrase imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he told the Guardian in 2012. “Probably a litigating attorney coined it first. OK, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then there are a whole lot of dogs out there. … At worst, I feel like I’m driving past a traffic accident and I’m relieved no one was killed.” — Nick DeRiso

“Ice Cream Man”

As surprising as the inclusion of the rootsy “Ice Cream Man” might have seemed at first, it was actually old hat. David Lee Roth had been singing this horn-dog blues number long before he joined Van Halen, to the point that Eddie Van Halen considered “Ice Cream Man” to be part of Roth’s pre-band solo repertoire.

Yet, in its own odd-ball way, it fit into the larger Van Halen aesthetic, Eddie said.

“No one in Van Halen really has one main thing that he likes,” he told Guitar Player in 1978. “Dave, our singer, doesn’t even have a stereo; he listens to the radio, which gives him a good variety. That’s why we have things on the Van Halen album that are a change from the slam-bang loud stuff — like John Brim’s ‘Ice Cream Man.’ We are into melodies and melodic songs. You can sing along with most of our tunes, even though many of them do have the peculiar guitar and the end-of-the-world drums.”

“Ice Cream Man,” at least to begin with, had none of that. Instead, it was just Dave, picking out a down-home figure and winkingly dedicating this song “to the ladies.” Eventually, the rest of the guys come crashing in. But as their take upshifts from a dust-kicking shuffle to a choogling romp, Van Halen does something unusual: He adds a knotty slide, giving the song another element of Delta grit.

“Dave played the guitar, that little acoustic part,” Eddie told Guitar World. “I just used some glass job for the slide. I had listened to Duane Allman a bit on ‘Layla,’ but slide is something that has never really interested me.”

The single-entendre lyrics certainly fit in with this album’s general mood of convivial debauchery: When Roth says his “flavors are guaranteed to satisfy,” it clear he’s not referring to any frozen treat. There really was an ice cream man, however, and that’s how Roth first heard Brim’s work.

He had a old friend, Tommy Lake, who drove an ice cream truck for extra cash, and Lake was the one who initially stumbled across “Ice Cream Man.” Stanley Swantek, another old buddy, “borrowed the record and played it for Dave,” Swantek’s brother David says in Van Halen Rising. “Anyway, that is where the song came from.”

“Ice Cream Man” emerged from the original demos Van Halen recorded during pre-label sessions, but early producer Gene Simmons was said to be lukewarm on the track. Undeterred, they put it on Van Halen I anyway — but only after Eddie added one of the most galvanizing solos of his youth.

It wasn’t easy, though. Roth had always done this as an acoustic piece. The radical change in musical settings had admittedly left Van Halen at a loss. “Fuck, man, what kind of solo am I gonna do?” he muses in Van Halen Rising.

Of course, Eddie ultimately nailed it, adding a one-take effort that was recorded live and — as with “I’m the One” — left just as it arrived by producer Ted Templeman. Later, Van Halen returned to overdub a series of well-placed fills as the track reaches its climax.

It all combined to create a special, largely unrepeatable mix of impish gumption, vaudevillian poise and hooky presence. That became all the more obvious when Roth offered a horn-addled, utterly pointless solo cover version of “Ice Cream Man” on 2003′s Diamond Dave. — Nick DeRiso

“On Fire”

Apologies in advance for ending this series with basically just a rant. But there are 11 songs on Van Halen’s debut album – and one has been treated incredibly unfairly over the years. Nine of them (including “Eruption” as part of Eddie’s extended solo) were played nightly on either the band’s 2013 or 2015 tours – or in most cases, during both tours. But somehow the mighty “On Fire” hasn’t been played live since the last show by the original lineup – which took place way back Sept. 2, 1984.

That’s over 30 years. They’ve played “Fire in the Hole” 75 times since then, just as one horribly unfair point of reference. Even “Little Dreamer” was brought out for their first reunion tour with Roth, back in 2007-2008. So why is “On Fire” – which dates back to the band’s club and first demo days, and was used to open shows on their 1978 tour – exiled from the setlist?

Could it be because it trades the pop sensibility of many of its album mates for one of the most straight-up metal approaches the band has ever taken? Or are the song’s frequent and sustained vocal high notes just too much to handle after all these years? Like how Aerosmith skipped “You See Me Crying” when they played the rest of Toys in the Attic live on tour in 2009? If so, that’s fair but is it OK if we’re still sad about it?

What if we were actively plotting revenge against a co-worker who recently chose it as the song he’d cut from the album, allegedly because it “feels slightly unfinished” – would that also be alright? — Matthew Wilkening

February 11, 2018 at 10:27 am Quote #58252


Runnin’ with the Devil: Van Halen’s Debauched Debut Turns 40
The LA metal legends embraced a wild rock and roll lifestyle that couldn’t exist today
by Wren Graves
on February 10, 2018, 2:48pm

In a curious way, glam metal can be traced back to a difference in laws between the City of Los Angeles and LA County. During Prohibition, it was legal to gamble in greater LA County but illegal to gamble within the city limits. That wouldn’t have mattered much, except that Hollywood became ground zero for the exploding new movie industry. Boatloads of cash were dumped on Los Angeles so fast that there was nothing to spend it on.

Almost overnight, a service industry sprang up in the unincorporated town of Sherwin just to the west of Hollywood: Nightclubs, fine dining, and — since Sherwin wasn’t part of the city — gambling. It was entertainment for rich entertainers. The name of the road from Los Angeles to unincorporated Sherwin was Sunset Boulevard, and that little stretch of land just outside the city limits came to be called the Sunset Strip.

In the 1950s, when legal oversight improved in LA County, Hollywood elites began to favor Las Vegas. But the nightclubs and restaurants were still in operation, scaled back for middle-class tourists. In the 1960s, Sherwin, now calling itself West Hollywood, became a counterculture hub for beatniks and hippies. The Doors played nightly at Gazzarri’s while Led Zeppelin and The Byrds strutted the stages at the Roxy and Whiskey a Go Go. The Sunset Strip was as vibrant as it had ever been.

And so we come to the 1970s, one of those rare moments when a new kind of music is deeply rooted in a certain city, a particular neighborhood, or even a couple of bars. Seattle had grunge. Detroit had soul. The East Coast and West Coast had hip-hop. Musicians and fans come together, and that energy — that local feeling — is broadcast to the rest of the country.

In 1978, the album Van Halen sounded just like the Sunset Strip: like vibrant billboards, flashing neon lights, bougie boutiques, hip nightclubs, drugs, prostitutes, and rock and roll. Rolling Stone called them, “The ultimate California party band.” Their music wasn’t heavy metal; it was pop metal, well polished, and ready for middle-class tourists and audiences nationwide. Like the Sunset Strip, Van Halen is almost a contradiction, with one foot in the counterculture and one foot in Hollywood.

Eddie Van Halen is the heart of that album, now celebrating its 40th anniversary. His guitar is a chatty guitar, audible in almost every single second of every single song. David Lee Roth’s vocals are manic fun, but we know he’s replaceable, because Eddie Van Halen would later have him replaced. No offense to drummer Alex Van Halen, but brother Eddie is the reason we know the Van Halen name. Eddie is an all-time great, one of the last of the guitar gods.

But even so, the music has almost been eclipsed by legends of Van Halen’s backstage antics and behind-the-scenes debauchery. That offstage behavior embodies the ’70s Sunset Strip just as much as the music does. And while the music feels timeless, the public displays come across as historical relics. Some of their public behavior is hard to imagine today, not because it’s too shocking or outrageous, but because social customs have changed.

In many ways, the public has become more tolerant than it was in the 1970s, especially in regards to marginalized groups. But it’s interesting to note the ways in which the public has become less tolerant, too. Some of Van Halen’s outlandish behavior would never be tolerated today.

In Madison, Wisconsin, in 1978, Van Halen trashed the 7th floor of a Sheraton hotel. They glued doors shut, smashed lamps with hammers, and threw appliances out of windows. What could be more rock and roll, right? Except that kind of behavior was only typical for a few short years. These days, nobody trashes hotel rooms any more. Says one industry professional, “Managers, lawyers, accountants, and other advisers seem to be more involved in the business these days, making artists think twice about the consequences of such behavior.”

Destructive behavior is less welcome by the audience. When Josh Homme kicked a photographer at a concert in 2017, the public grumbled so loudly that he quickly issued an apology. When that didn’t quiet the outcry, he issued a second, even lengthier apology. He was afraid the negative publicity would hurt his career. Van Halen’s behavior wouldn’t be lauded today.

Public perceptions about drug use have altered, too. Way back in 1966, The Beatles gave recreational drug use “a certain celebrity appeal” with cryptic messages about LSD. In the late ’70s, when Van Halen was messing around with cocaine and heroin, drugs still had a vestige of counterculture charm. But the experimentation of the ’60s and ’70s gave way to the habitual abuse of the ’80s, celebrity overdoses (John Belushi, Bon Scott), and the crack epidemic. By the ’90s, Kurt Cobain’s struggles with heroin were treated as romantic tragedy. Nowadays, some media outlets go so far as to take a gleeful tone with addiction, as when the Daily Mail breathlessly covered the deterioration of Amy Winehouse with stories of a life lived in “shambolic squalor.” If a multi-platinum superstar partied today as publicly as Van Halen did then, they’d likely be dragged across the front page of tabloids while facing calls to stop touring and seek professional help. Drugs have become less mysterious, and addiction more stigmatized.

Today’s audiences also wouldn’t be so forgiving of Van Halen’s sense of its own importance. The band’s famously fussy tour rider demanded a bowl of M&M’s with all the brown ones removed. David Lee Roth later claimed it was a way to make sure the venue read the fine print so that they could feel confident the special effects would work. Even if you accept the logic — that picking out M&M’s is proof someone can correctly operate pyrotechnics — you’ve got to admit there are less condescending ways to find out.

In 2012, DJ Steve Aoki wasn’t nearly as famous as Van Halen, but his tour rider was leaked and he became the bad kind of internet famous. His demands for “Two medium-sized cakes reading ‘DIM MAK,’” six black v-necks, six pairs of underwear, six pairs of socks, and an “inflatable boat or dingie” earned him widespread scorn. The same internet that mocked Aoki would have a long laugh at those missing brown M&M’s.

In many ways, the public has become more tolerant than it was in the 1970s, especially in regards to marginalized groups. But it’s interesting to note the ways in which audiences have become less tolerant, too. The rock and roll lifestyle, with its grams and groupies and all its messy grandeur, is no longer quite socially acceptable. Wanton destructiveness is no longer cool; the health and lifestyle choices of the rich and famous are fair game for criticism; and diva demands get you ripped apart on Twitter. All of this goes to show why superstars are more risk-averse today than they were in the ’70s and ’80s: They have to be. In the internet age, mockery is the national pastime and mistakes linger forever.

February 11, 2018 at 7:26 pm Quote #58256


Thanks for posting all the articles, Ron. They have made (and will continue to make – didn’t get through them all) some interesting and entertaining reading.

For some reason I’m surprised there are that many write-ups about it.

February 12, 2018 at 8:18 am Quote #58260


Pop Versus Rock: Van Halen’s Debut Album 40 Years On
Michael Hann, February 12th, 2018 08:56

Rock or pop? Rock or pop? Rock or pop? Forget the false binary and worship the first band who were simultaneously both, says Michael Hann on the 30th anniversary of Van Halen’s debut album

Van Halen’s first album was Californian to the core. It was long days in the sun, longer nights in the bars, open topped cars, consequence-free sex. Van Halen were the Beach Boys’ squalid younger cousins, freed from Brian Wilson’s curse of self-examination, and the pressure to conform. They were what the Beach Boys might have ended up like — socially, behaviourally, rather than musically — had Dennis Wilson been entrusted the job of leading them. They were unruly, exciting, liberating. They were a great pop group as well as a great rock band.

Van Halen became the first and greatest group to be both pop and rock simultaneously because they had to. First, they had a singer who didn’t really care for hard rock — David Lee Roth loved soul, funk and R&B above all else — even if the Van Halen brothers were dedicated to it. Second, they formed in the 1970s at a time when Los Angeles was not the hotbed of heavy rock it would be a decade later. To build an audience, Van Halen had to woo fans: playing parties, then bars, then clubs, they had to play what audiences wanted to hear. That meant covers.

“We’d turn on the radio to hear what the music fashion was that week and take it from there,” bassist Michael Anthony told Guitarist in 1993. “Horn bands like KC And The Sunshine Band were big then, so we learned all their stuff.” Or as Eddie Van Halen told the Los Angeles Times shortly before the release of their debut album: “We were supposed to make sure people got into the bar, not into the band.”

They got a foothold in Hollywood, with the support of Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer, thanks to the interest in punk — compared to the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters, and the soft rock set, Van Halen seemed like a street band — and began playing the clubs of the Sunset Strip. It was there, at the Starwood, that Warner president Mo Ostin and staff producer Ted Templeman saw them in June 1977. Templeman was convinced he was watching a new Charlie Parker, but playing guitar rather than sax, and knew Warner had to sign the band — despite them already having chalked up scores of rejections, and been taken up by then discarded by Gene Simmons of Kiss, who had recorded some demos with them. What Ostin and Tempelman realised was that Van Halen were not just another hard rock band. Despite having been together for five years, they sounded new. They sounded different.

Tempelman — a former member of Harper’s Bizarre — and engineer Donn Landee deserve a large part of the credit for the brilliance of the first Van Halen album. After working on demos with the band — they recorded 28 tracks in two hours — Tempelman realised they were best recorded live, and took them to Sunset Sound Recorders, which was little more than a concrete box room. Tempelman and Landee gave the band a live sound that was most unlike the prevalent major label sound of the day. Instead of separating instruments and keeping things dry, Tempelman — recording early takes with very few overdubs — let instruments bleed into each other. But because of the lack of overdubs, Van Halen is not filled with noise: there’s so much space in there that you almost feel inside the room.

All that would be irrelevant, though, were it not for the songs. As well as producing, Tempelman A&Red the album, but he was given rich material to work with by the band. I’ve written for tQ before about the revolutionary impact of Van Halen, but the reason their revolution was possible was not because listeners were simply dazzled by Eddie Van Halen’s playing (though many were), or because they were excited by the possibilities of hard rock that broke away from the template (though doubtless that was true, too), but because the songs were so fucking good.

From the opening of ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’ — car horns squealing, and fading into the the dull thud of Michael Anthony’s bass, before Eddie Van Halen enters with one of those riffs that begins in a characteristically hard progression before leaping skywards in a manner that symbolises the album’s commitment to pop — Van Halen’s break with the past is anchored in the force and concision of the writing. The writing is backed by the fluidity of the playing: those five years had turned Van Halen into a ferociously tight band; they could play this stuff almost without thinking. You can hear the precision, throughout the album, in the way so many solos have no rhythm guitar behind them — because of the live recording, and the minimal overdubs — with Eddie Van Halen dropping the riff to solo, then returning in precisely the right place, as if the solo were an offroad excursion that delivered him back to the highway just where the traffic eases and he could reenter with speed.

There are weak links on Van Halen — the cover of John Brim’s ‘Ice Cream Man’ is filler — but it’s remarkably strong. As well as ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’, ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ is a signature song, with ‘Jamie’s Cryin” and ‘Atomic Punk’ not far behind. The album’s other cover, a version of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, is that rarity: a cover version that is almost as important as the originals, even on a song as hoary and well worn as that one.

It’s not that they do anything remarkable to the structure: it’s the same monstrous riff, the same topline melody, the same chorus. What’s astonishing, perhaps, is that by taking an old song — though it’s worth remembering it was only 13 years old at the time they recorded it — Van Halen showed how clean their break with the past had been. ‘You Really Got Me’ allowed them to show off their clarity and precision — it’s the best example on the album of Eddie Van Halen’s ability to switch between rhythm and lead — and to allow listeners to compare and contrast. For a measure of the achievement in making that song sound new, it’s as if a new band today were making their name by covering ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ — a record as seismic in 2005 as ‘You Really Got Me’ had been in 1964 — in a manner that made it seem wholly separate from 2005 and utterly of now. It’s unimaginable.

But the choice of ‘You Really Got Me’ is instructive for other reasons. It links Van Halen back to an age before rock music had become bloated and self-indulgent, when its principal purpose was to shoot adrenalin into the cultural bloodstream (it’s a paradox that ‘Eruption’, a solo guitar instrumental, proved to be the most significant moment on the album. It’s a paradox, too, that Eruption wasn’t intended to be a solo instrumental — it was Eddie Van Halen warming up for 102 seconds when Landee happened to have left the tape rolling).

Van Halen didn’t record their first album to be “important”, even if that’s what the record proved to be. They recorded it to be a joyride, to get them girls, to get rich. They recorded it for the same reason Elvis recorded ‘Mystery Train’, the Stones recorded ‘Come On’, the Kinks recorded ‘You Really Got Me’. They recorded it because the music was bursting out of them and because they could. That’s why, 40 years later, it still sounds perfect. Because, like the greatest rock music, it sounds unfiltered.

February 15, 2018 at 9:24 am Quote #58268


February 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm Quote #58269


Can you imagine the universe if VH went disco instead of rock?

February 23, 2018 at 9:39 am Quote #58315



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