VAN HALEN

Hard Rock • United States
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Van Halen is an American hard rock band formed in Pasadena, California, in 1972. From 1974 until 1985 the band was composed of virtuoso guitarist Eddie Van Halen, vocalist David Lee Roth, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. This line-up was changed when David Lee Roth was replaced as vocalist by Sammy Hagar. Critics and fans alike consider its 1978 debut album, Van Halen one of the most "original and revolutionary albums to change rock and roll." The band went on to further success, and by the early 1980s they were one of the most successful rock acts of the time. 1984, released in the same year as the name of the album, was their most successful. With the lead single, "Jump", becoming an international hit, and their only single to reach number one on the Hot 100, and the following singles, "Panama" and "I'll Wait", both hitting read more...
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VAN HALEN Discography

VAN HALEN albums / top albums

VAN HALEN Van Halen album cover 4.31 | 100 ratings
Van Halen
Hard Rock 1978
VAN HALEN Van Halen II album cover 3.65 | 35 ratings
Van Halen II
Hard Rock 1979
VAN HALEN Women And Children First album cover 4.01 | 35 ratings
Women And Children First
Hard Rock 1980
VAN HALEN Fair Warning album cover 4.07 | 31 ratings
Fair Warning
Hard Rock 1981
VAN HALEN Diver Down album cover 3.24 | 27 ratings
Diver Down
Hard Rock 1982
VAN HALEN 1984 album cover 3.96 | 45 ratings
1984
Hard Rock 1984
VAN HALEN 5150 album cover 3.92 | 39 ratings
5150
Hard Rock 1986
VAN HALEN OU812 album cover 3.57 | 26 ratings
OU812
Hard Rock 1988
VAN HALEN For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album cover 3.88 | 25 ratings
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Hard Rock 1991
VAN HALEN Balance album cover 3.51 | 24 ratings
Balance
Hard Rock 1995
VAN HALEN Van Halen III album cover 2.66 | 15 ratings
Van Halen III
Hard Rock 1998
VAN HALEN A Different Kind Of Truth album cover 3.58 | 15 ratings
A Different Kind Of Truth
Hard Rock 2012

VAN HALEN EPs & splits

VAN HALEN live albums

VAN HALEN Live: Right Here, Right Now album cover 3.38 | 8 ratings
Live: Right Here, Right Now
Hard Rock 1993
VAN HALEN Tokyo Dome Live in Concert album cover 2.95 | 2 ratings
Tokyo Dome Live in Concert
Hard Rock 2015

VAN HALEN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

VAN HALEN re-issues & compilations

VAN HALEN Best Of Volume 1 album cover 3.31 | 8 ratings
Best Of Volume 1
Hard Rock 1996
VAN HALEN The Best Of Both Worlds album cover 4.33 | 3 ratings
The Best Of Both Worlds
Hard Rock 2004

VAN HALEN singles (32)

.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
You Really Got Me
Hard Rock 1978
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
Runnin' With The Devil
Hard Rock 1978
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
Hard Rock 1978
.. Album Cover
3.00 | 2 ratings
Dance The Night Away
Hard Rock 1979
.. Album Cover
3.00 | 2 ratings
Beautiful Girls
Hard Rock 1979
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
And The Cradle Will Rock...
Hard Rock 1980
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
So This Is Love?
Hard Rock 1981
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
Mean Street
Hard Rock 1981
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
Unchained
Hard Rock 1981
.. Album Cover
2.75 | 2 ratings
Dancing In The Street
Hard Rock 1982
.. Album Cover
3.25 | 2 ratings
Secrets
Hard Rock 1982
.. Album Cover
3.25 | 2 ratings
Hot For Teacher
Hard Rock 1984
.. Album Cover
2.25 | 2 ratings
I'll Wait
Hard Rock 1984
.. Album Cover
3.00 | 2 ratings
Panama
Hard Rock 1984
.. Album Cover
2.67 | 3 ratings
Jump
Hard Rock 1984
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Why Can't Be This Love
Hard Rock 1986
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Dreams
Hard Rock 1986
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Love Walks In
Hard Rock 1986
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
When It's Love
Hard Rock 1988
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Finish What Ya Started
Hard Rock 1988
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Black And Blue
Hard Rock 1988
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Feels So Good
Hard Rock 1989
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Poundcake
Hard Rock 1991
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Top Of The World
Hard Rock 1991
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Jump (live)
Hard Rock 1993
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)
Hard Rock 1995
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Can't Stop Lovin' You
Hard Rock 1995
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Amsterdam
Hard Rock 1995
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Not Enough
Hard Rock 1995
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Me Wise Magic
Hard Rock 1996
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Fire In The Hole
Hard Rock 1998
.. Album Cover
2.00 | 1 ratings
Tattoo
Hard Rock 2012

VAN HALEN movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
3.88 | 4 ratings
Live Without A Net
Hard Rock 1987
.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Video Hits Volume 1
Hard Rock 1996
.. Album Cover
3.50 | 2 ratings
Live: Right Here, Right Now
Hard Rock 1999

VAN HALEN Reviews

VAN HALEN Van Halen

Album · 1978 · Hard Rock
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Unitron
In the world of guitar virtuoso's, several can obviously play with great technical skill, but few were able to master songwriting. This took away from their ability to appeal to more than just guitar nerds. I went through a brief phase of delving into that scene, but apart from the first couple Satriani and Malmsteen albums, it just doesn't hold up to a guy like me who just wants to enjoy some great music. The way to truly become one of the greatest guitarists of all time to the ears of many music lovers, is to not only master your craft in a technical sense, but also master songwriting and be a true team player in a band where each member has equal importance and never outshines another.

This is what made the original lineup of Van Halen such legends and Eddie Van Halen one of rock and metal's most celebrated guitarists. The band had pure chemistry, with each member being a master in their field. David Lee Roth sings with so much exuberance and charisma that few other frontmen have been able to match. Eddie Van Halen plays fantastic melodies, hooks, and solos that always fit into the song. Michael Anthony's bass thumps, pops, and stands out in a way that is usually only reserved for funk bassists, and Alex Van Halen's drumming is rambunctious, driving, and along with the bass makes for an incredibly energetic rhythm section.

Van Halen's debut set the blueprint for future Van Halen albums, with the band taking their songwriting even into the organization of tracks making it all fit together perfectly. The guitar solo track Eruption could easily just come across as showing off with any other band, but it sounds great between the two classics that bookend it. Ice Cream Man, while good, wouldn't make a good ending. That's why On Fire follows as a fittingly fiery encore with some fantastic frantic and anxious sounding melodies.

Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love's opening melody is one of the most iconic in rock and metal, and never gets old no matter how many times you hear it. I'm the One's Doo-Wop bridge screams with personality and what other band could make it blend perfectly with roaring heavy metal? The moody Little Dreamer with its heavy bass kind of reminds me of Budgie. Even with all these highlights, Atomic Punk's always been my personal favorite. There's just so much attitude with one of the band's most commanding performances.

Van Halen's debut is simply a legend, and while I think Women and Children First and Fair Warning are my personal favorite albums from them, this isn't far behind at all. It's an iconic album that, along with the following few albums, shows how important band chemistry is to creating an awesome winning sound. The band may be called Van Halen, but each member is an absolute star here.

VAN HALEN Women And Children First

Album · 1980 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
VAN HALEN experienced a phenomenally fast rise to the top after the release of the debut album in 1978. The combo effect of David Lee Roth’s charismatic vaudeville laced frontman antics in tandem with Eddie Van Halen’s pyrotechnic guitar wizardry was enough to give the world of hard rock and heavy metal a much needed kick in the ass and as a result the band quickly ascended to top dog status. The band toured extensively and then dropped the sophomore album “Van Halen II” only a year later but round two failed to catch the magic of the debut. The sophomore slump could’ve been interpreted as VAN HALEN falling from grace as quickly as it arose from nowhere but all those fears were put to rest when the band released its third album WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST on March 26, 1980. 


After two unapologetic party rocker albums VAN HALEN decided to move on a bit and solidify its rather scattered musical approach and as a result VH focused on a sound that firmly cemented them in the world of the 80s heavy metal scene with much more emphasis on rowdy metal rockers that emphasized fast tempos, sizzling guitar antics and strong rhythmic drives accompanied by Roth’s already flamboyant singing style. One could even say the album was a bit more serious although VAN HALEN was never known for its philosophical meanderings into existential quandaries. The more focused approach was also matched by the band’s first album of all original material which yielded two of the band’s best classic tracks that were concert draws for years including “And The Cradle Will Rock” and “Everybody Wants Some.”

Ted Templeton once again sat in as producer and while WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST failed to produce any hit singles as had the first two albums, the band’s unrelenting heavy rock approach made them a successful album oriented band that became very popular in arena sized concerts. The leading track “And The Cradle Will Rock” began with a phase-shifting Wurlitzer electric piano masquerading as a guitar effect debuted Eddie’s fascination with keyboard tricks which would culminate with heavy synth use on “1984.” The track became one of the most beloved live songs of the band’s repertoire and equally popular was the jungle drum / vocal led “Everybody Wants Some!” which gleefully celebrated Roth’s sexual conquests which also showcased another VH trait, namely Roth reciting spoken word dialogue like a lustful teenager in a whorehouse.

While none of the album’s remaining tracks became FM radio classics like the first two, the entire album seriously rocks the house with tracks like “Fools” showcasing some of Eddie’s tasteful guitar antics ushering in a groovy bluesy guitar led riff with a bass stomp that allowed Eddie’s improv virtuosity to have a moment in the spotlight. While “Romeo Delight” takes things into even heavier metal territory with head banging guitar riffs and Hendrix-esque feedback it manages to keep that VH charm of mixing louder and softer dynamics. The true surprise comes from the brief instrumental “Tora! Tora!” with trippy synthesizer effects along with a Black Sabbath inspired doom metal riff accompanied by Eddie’s restless fret workouts. The track bleeds into “Loss Of Control” which keeps the metal pace going strong with an unusual song arrangement that showcases not only Eddie’s guitar techniques but unusual rhythmic cadences and lots of VH vocal tradeoffs. Somehow they keep the boogie-woogie underbelly in tact.

“Take Your Whiskey Home” finds Eddie in classic acoustic blues guitar form, a trick that would later be recycled for “Hot For Teacher” but turns into a heavy rock hard hitter that displays a bass line reminiscent of the “Running With The Devil” playbook. The track that started out acoustically and turned hard rock is followed by the all acoustic “Could This Be Magic?” which is the only track in the entire VH canon to feature a backing female vocalist however Nicolette Larson is practically drowned out by the rest of the band also belting out vocal harmonies. It’s also somewhat of a title track with the lyrics WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST appearing several times. The beautiful slide guitars and a rare appearance of Roth on acoustic guitar create a nice little respite from the heavy metal heft. It’s a beautifully melodic track which is followed by the final rocker “In A Simple Rhyme” which originally was supposed to connect to the ending to the beginning of the next album but that never happened.

This is my second favorite VAN HALEN after after the debut notable for its consistency and heaviness only punctuated by brief moments of slower paced acoustic parts. WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST pretty much stated that VAN HALEN was here to stay and went multi-platinum and ushered the band into the heavy metal 80s as one of the top acts of the day. It was also becoming clear that the egotistic frontman David Lee Roth was increasingly in conflict with the Van Halen brothers which led to serious tensions brewing in the band but due to the success the band was enjoying was always worked out in the end but after many decades since the band’s heyday it’s been revealed that Roth’s antics clashed big time with the brothers’ desire to steer the band in a different direction. There are many moments that are a sneak preview to Roth’s solo career and while he would split just a few years down the road, for this moment in time the chemistry and tension worked to everyone’s advantage. WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST is an outstanding classic hard rock / heavy metal album of the era.

VAN HALEN Van Halen II

Album · 1979 · Hard Rock
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siLLy puPPy
VAN HALEN scored immensely with its debut which hit the ground running in 1978 and electrified the hard rock world with David Lee Roth’s charismatic showmanship and Eddie Van Halen’s virtuosic guitar antics which reverberate into the modern era. While drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony may have been left out of the glittery flamboyance club, their strong rhythmic chops also helped propel VAN HALEN into superstardom virtually overnight. The band immediately went on a grueling tour and partied on like the end of the world was nigh but suddenly the realization came that the record company was expecting a followup and they wanted it sooner rather than later.

The result was the unremarkably titled VAN HALEN II which emerged less than a year after the debut as if the world would forget about this wildly energetic band if they had not pumped it out so quickly! While following in the footsteps of the multi-platinum debut, VAN HALEN II came across as the reject tracks from the earlier recording sessions. Having funneled their energy into touring and attracting a much larger international audience, the four VAN HALEN members seemed to have forsaken the songwriting process and crafted more direct simpler descendants of the sizzling powerhouses that graced the debut. Likewise the band was rushed to record and completed the album in less than a week and despite the massive success of the previous 12 months received even less money for production values. The result of all this was a far inferior second coming only saved by the energetic deliveries that showed the boyz in full action even when things were not ideal.

In many ways, VAN HALEN II is simply retreading what was successful on the first album. In the vein of the massively popular “You Really Got Me” came the Linda Ronstadt cover “You’re No Good” although song was actually written by Clint Ballard Jr first performed by Dee Dee Warwick in 1963. Likewise an instrumental wankfest guitar solo by Eddie appeared on “Spanish Fly” although this time he opted for a short acoustic Spanish guitar piece which was too little too late as the seventh track for full exploitation of Eddie’s pyrotechnic guitar wizardry which electrified a heavy metal planet in full gestation. The main gist of VAN HALEN II seems to have been to go for the pop rock jugular with catchy feel good sing-along songs with strong guitar hooks and a bit of heavy metal sizzle but overall no tracks really could capture the magic that made the debut so brilliant.

The album spawned two singles, “Dance The Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls” and along with the majority of tracks opted for a more chilled southern California beach party vibe over the wider spectrum of musical prowess present on the debut. While no tracks on VAN HALEN II are horrible and most are actually quite pleasant, the album clearly faltered in encompassing an album listening experience and instead sounds like a collection of leftovers that were gussied up a bit here and there for the sake of exploiting the band’s instant popularity for commercial purposes only, a common but sad trait of the world of record companies of another time. Despite the tamped down dynamics which offered a more even keel hard rock approach, VAN HALEN II rocketed up to #6 on the Billboard album charts even if the album came across as an addendum of the debut. The track “Dance The Night Away” even peaked at #15 on the Billboard singles charts.

While hardly VAN HALEN’s best effort, VAN HALEN II is nevertheless a fun little slice of late 70s hard rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously and after all it’s totally understandable that an exhausted and partied out group of characters were unable to perform given the immense pressure to due so. Yes, VAN HALEN experienced a sophomore slump but they would get back on track in time for the following year’s third release “Women And Children First” which would prove once and for all that VAN HALEN were no one trick pony and had the mojo to stick around for the long haul. True that VAN HALEN II is never my top pick if i get that itch to hear what made the band so unique but despite it’s rather ho hum track selection, it’s no throwaway either and could a VAN HALEN fan really exclude this one from their collection? I don’t think so!

VAN HALEN Van Halen

Album · 1978 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
VAN HALEN has been without a doubt one of the major forces in modern music having debuted all the way back in 1978 with this stunningly energetic and off-the-wall self-titled debut that kept hard rock relevant in a time when punk rock, disco and new wave were taking over the world. The eclectic quartet of lead vocalist David Lee Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Mike Anthony literally swooped onto the music scene and forever altered its course and would ultimately spawn the glam metal scene of the 80s although VAN HALEN itself was a much more interesting act than any mere imitators as the band was larger than life mostly due to the wild antics and brash bravado of frontman David Lee Roth along with Eddie Van Halen’s virtuosic guitar antics that took hammer-ons and lightning fast soloing to unthinkable stunning levels.

While VAN HALEN would go on to sell over 80 million albums worldwide making it one of the top selling bands of all time, like any other this band had humble beginnings. After having moved from the Netherlands to Pasadena, CA as kids, Eddie and Alex took up music at a very young age and as is well known, Eddie started on drums and Alex on guitar until one day they suddenly switched instruments and never looked back. The brothers formed its first band The Broken Combs as early as 1964 playing in backyard parties and then changed the name to The Trojan Rubber Co and then in 1972 formed a band called Genesis and played for a couple years in which time recruited Roth as vocalist and Anthony as bassist. Once they discovered that another band Genesis already existed (remember this was before the internet!), they quickly changed the name to Mammoth but Roth insisted that the name VAN HALEN had a certain ring of success to it. Wow, he was right!

After establishing itself as an energetic and charismatic band that found regular gigs at clubs like the Whisky a Go Go (the photos on the album cover are from that venue), VAN HALEN caught the attention of Gene Simmons of KISS and once Warner Bros. producer Ted Templeman caught the band live, it was recording contract time and the band was headed for the big time fast. The album was mostly recorded live in three weeks time to keep that authentic band sound from sounding too overly produced. The album was released in February 1978 and quickly shot up the charts with songs like “Runnin’ With The Devil” and the remake of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” becoming instant classic rock radio hits that have been played ever since. The album has since been certified diamond having sold more than 10 million copies.

Opening up with “Runnin’ With The Devil,” VAN HALEN immediately established itself as a bad boy band with playful mischievous intent and the ability rock like nobody else ever had. The track begins with Michael Anthony’s pounding bass groove which signifies the band’s emphasis on melodic grooves above all else but once the fiery guitar and drum sections let loose, both the Van Halen brothers fire off their best chops but of course it’s the flashy charismatic charm of Roth that steals all the attention his way. Having established the band’s sound which in many ways was a typical if not upgraded hard rock not too overly distant from what had been happening all through the earlier 70s, the album is followed by the thundering intensity of “Eruption” which at only a minute and forty-three seconds immediately established Eddie Van Halen as the king of rock guitar thus giving him that instant guitar god status for his fiery pyrotechnic virtuosity. Basically the track took the basic intro from Cactus’ 1970 track “Let Me Swim” but added blood-curdling squeals, tremolo bombs, hammer-on gymnastics and unparalleled tempos that would give birth to the legion of guitarists that spawned the countless forms of more extreme metal to come.

Having dropped the nuclear bomb on the listener with the mostly guitar oriented “Eruption,” the band reverts back to, well a band with the following Kinks cover of “You Really Got Me” which takes it to the wild 70s with heavier guitar heft and sizzling solos along with Roth’s talent of turning everything into a Vaudeville extravaganza. This track was released as the fist single and reached #36 on the Billboard singles charts and paved the way for a many cover tunes to follow on following albums. This is one of those songs that i swear is being played somewhere in the world at any given minute of the day but displayed the band’s love of classic rock music that they could easily adapt into the repertoire. It is well known neither the band itself nor Ray Davies who wrote it have claimed that they really liked this version. The band was disappointed that the Warner Bros chose a cover as their first single but considering it all worked out they probably no longer care!

“Ain’t Talkin Bout Love” is a two-chord blast of energetic guitar bravado that started out as a spoof of a punk song. VAN HALEN was notoriously vocal in their disdain for punk rock and even went as far as posing as a punk band called the Enemas in 1977 where they claimed they were from Scotland and they talked shit about the punk rock scene before the band was quickly booted from the stage. Despite the song starting off as a punk rock parody somehow it took on a life of its own as Eddie added lightning fast riffing along with Roth’s sensual sensibilities coming out of the woodwork. This one has also become a classic rock staple. Next up is the heavy metal rocker “I’m The One” which kept the adrenaline supply surging despite the track actually taking on the characteristics of a swinging showtune piece which only becomes obvious when the band steps out and Roth is left to employ a rather competent “Bop bada, shoobe doo wah, bop bada, shoobe doo wah” vocal performance.

“Jamie’s Cryin” is another beloved classic from VAN HALEN that has also been on heavy rotation for over 40 years now and was only made all the more popular when 80s rapper Ton-Loc sampled the guitar riffs for his mega-hit “Wild Thing” in 1989. This track showed a more serious side of the band and recounts a tale of a girl named Jamie who had a one night stand with some undisclosed guy with whom she tries to kindle a bonafide relationship only to find the guy has not interest. This high school drama has resonated with audiences from the moment it was released. While VAN HALEN straddled the border between hard rock and heavy metal, they mostly veered toward the hard rock side of the equation but VAN HALEN I (as it’s often called) does deliver the metal goods on the tracks “Atomic Punk” and the closing “On Fire” which turns things up a few notches and delivers the incessant guitar rampage, fast tempos and proper metal bombast.

The tracks “Little Dreamer” and “Feel Your Love Tonight” provide the blueprint of how VAN HALEN would often skirt the line between hard rock and melodic pop with strong vocal harmonies and emphasis on the melodic groove over the flashy virtuosity of the heavier songs. These types of tracks also display the excellent vocal counterpoints of bassist Michael Anthony whose backing vocal duties added a whole extra layer of melodic flavor to the mix. “Little Dreamer” in particular showcased Eddie’s excellent guitar playing to find a solid grounding in a simple melodic flow without the pyrotechnic excesses while Roth was allowed to deliver some heart-string tugging vocals that would become the band’s style of delivering the more pop infused ballads. The backing oooo’s and aaaah’s also showed the band’s love of the classic vocal harmony bands of the 60s .

One of the best tracks of VAN HALEN’s career came in the form of “Ice Cream Man” which is a cover of the rather unassuming blues song from John Brim recorded in 1954 and turned into a veritable VAN HALEN classic. The track begins with the rare acoustic guitar performance of David Lee Roth as he plays contemporary folk dude but then taken into the stratosphere as the band bursts in and rockets off to heavy rock heaven. The track was a favorite of Roth which he performed regularly before joining VAN HALEN and displays his love of boogie boogie blues sounds that he brings to life in a rather Las Vegas strip nightclub performance. The song perfectly encapsulates the band’s fondness of double entendres as the lyrics of “Ice Cream Man” quickly reveal themselves to have nothing to do with tasty frozen treats. While the track adheres to its bluesy stomps that made it so Chicago bluesy cool AF, the musicians deftly adapt it to the world of hard rock and Eddie even crafts the perfect mind numbing solo to its irresistible charm.

VAN HALEN I is indubitably one of the classics of the heavy rock world with its audacity to take the world of hard rock into arenas hitherto unthinkable. Thinking outside of the box while maintaining the integrity of the genre with its bluesy hard rock underpinnings that nurtured irresistibly addictive melodic hooks is what propelled VAN HALEN to the top of the music scene virtually overnight. Tarnished only by its popularity of being played to death, VAN HALEN I still is one of the most entertaining albums in the world of rock music and although i have to stay away from this album and band for long bouts of time due to overdosing on many of the classic songs on here, once i throw this album on after a few years it still retains all that magic that made it so special upon first exposure. While this album was historically innovative beyond anyone’s dreams at the time of release, i never rate albums on that aspect alone but rather on how well the album hold’s up in its own right. Despite all the years of glam rock bands that borrowed a thing or two from VAN HALEN, this album still remains the best of the style and was never topped by even the band itself. This was their crowning achievement where every track is perfect. If i could change only one thing i would put “Ice Cream Man” as the last track so that the final words would be “all my flavors are guaranteee-eeeee-eee-eeeeeed to satisfy!”

VAN HALEN Van Halen

Album · 1978 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Vim Fuego
The Salvation Army and two bucks led me to a revelation, and a deeper understanding of the wider world around me.

No, I haven’t abandoned a lifelong lack of belief to worship any sort of supernatural being, deity, cult leader, or graven image. Instead, I finally understand something which had hitherto been a mystery to me. Why did a certain sector of the rock community always heap such praise on Van Halen?

My first experiences with Van Halen were with the stadium schlock rock of the ever-dreadful “Jump” and the misogynistic teen wankfest of “Hot For Teacher”. So far, so mediocre. A bit later, I encountered the stomping “Runnin’ With The Devil”. This was more like it. It fuckin’ hard rocking, if not quite metal, but no matter. To this day it remains my favourite Van Halen song. And then there was the cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, which is in take-it-or-leave-it territory.

So where do the Sallies and two bucks come into it? I’m all for good works for the community, regardless of religious affiliation, and so I support the Salvation Army by donating unwanted stuff there so that someone needier than me may get some sort of use out of it, and the Sallies might make a few bucks too. I buy stuff there too, often not out of need, but just because it’s there, and hey, it’s cheap! On one expedition, I was perusing the CD racks. You’re more likely to find Daniel O’Donnell than Dani Filth in these racks, so I wasn’t expecting much. I found a pristine copy of “Van Halen” by Van Halen, and the price was two dollars, so I thought “fuck it, why not?”, and then thought “is it blasphemous to think the word ‘fuck’ in a Sallies shop?”. This was followed by the thought “you don’t believe in God, so therefore, you don’t believe in blasphemy, and you haven’t been struck down by lightning yet, so it’s probably OK.” By the time I got to the counter with my purchases, I had resolved the internalised theological dilemma, and the lady at the counter was more than happy to take my money.

And now for the revelation. Finally, a few days later, I had the opportunity to finally listen to this album.

Fuck. Me. Sideways.

I’ve waited over 40 years to finally hear this album in it’s entirety, and now I get it. Now I get why guitarists rave over Eddie’s technique. Now I get why the Diamond Dave vs. Sammy Hagar debate is important. Now I get why 80s glam metal sounded the way it did – those bands were chasing the dragon, and here’s that addictive high they were after.

It probably helps that the first track is “Runnin’ With The Devil” (good thing the ladies in the Salvation Army shop didn’t see that song title!) What’s the best thing about it? Eddie Van Halen’s fluid, classy soloing? His crunching main riff? David Lee Roth’s soaring vocals? Nope. It’s Michael Anthony’s thudding, hypnotic bass line, which ties in perfectly with Alex Van Halen’s straightforward, solid drums. Michael and Alex are often forgotten in this band, but remember, no Michael and Alex, no foundation for Eddie and Dave to show off.

And then “Eruption”. This is the track which caused so much consternation among budding guitar heroes the world over. Hell, even some pros were stumped by it. One of the Schenkers (jokingly) threatened Eddie Van Halen with physical violence if he didn’t show him how he played this less than two minute interlude. It squeals, shreds, soars, trills, and leaves your jaw lying on the floor. This is absolute mastery of your instrument. And unlike so many other shredding interludes, it’s actually fun to listen to, and doesn’t just reek of fretboard masturbation. And then the cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”? Take it or leave it? I’m fuckin’ taking it this time! The new leads Eddie added to what’s a fairly basic song set it off. It makes more sense in the context of this album than on it’s own.

“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” shows off a quality not often noted when talking about Van Halen – it’s got a strong metal riff to it. Eddie’s solos are what people remember, but the main riff, underpinned by Michael’s driving bass, makes what might ordinarily be a fairly tepid love song into a hard rock masterclass.

And so proceeds the rest of the album. “I’m The One” has a rocking boogie rhythm to it. Eddie’s guitar almost talks on “Jamie’s Crying”. “Atomic Punk” isn’t punk, but it’s got an overdriven gallop to it, like a rocking Judas Priest track. A couple of things haven’t aged well. It was a different time, but “Feel Your Love Tonight” is a bit date-rapey. Unfortunately, this lame duck track seems to be the one most emulated by the 80s hairspray and heels brigade.

The bluesy swagger of “Little Dreamer” pulls things back from the brink. Diamond Dave shines on this track, showing a soulful side to his voice. For all his narcissism and other faults, the guy could fucking sing!

“Ice Cream Man” is a second blues tinged song, with a double entendre laden acoustic intro. Just when it seems the whole song is going to be just guitar and voice, the rest of the band, and the amps kick in, and it turns into an old time rock and roller. Eddie shreds and shreds and shreds, while Dave wails and Elvises it up a bit.

“On Fire” closes the album with another driving rocker of a song, once again ending up somewhere near Judas Priest territory. There were multiple facets to Van Halen shown on this highly impressive debut. The band eventually followed their more mainstream commercial leanings, but there was enough hard and heavy material here to keep the headbangers interested. And that guitar playing… Many people have wanted to play like Eddie Van Halen, but no one else quite cuts it. Every listen reveals another fill, solo, or lead which you missed before. There are hidden depths and details to what seem superficially simple compositions.

All in all, this was two bucks well spent.

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