Hey, I heard you missed us, we're back!
Nobody rules these streets at night but me! NOBODY!
I brought my PENCIL!! Gimme something to write on, man!
Describe Van Halen here. (Guitar Solo)
If The Rolling Stones
had Eddie Van Halen
as their guitarist and a hyperactive, insane combination of Freddie Mercury
and Ronnie James Dio
as their frontman (David Lee Roth
). And a really good drummer. And whoever's on bass.
Probably the most fun Hard Rock
band you'll ever hear. They even got their own Guitar Hero
Van Halen began their path towards super-fun rocking in Pasadena in 1972, with its initial lineup containing the Van Halen brothers (Eddie on guitar and backing vocals, Alex on drums), David Lee Roth
on vocals and Mark Stone on bass. Stone was thrown out in 1974 and the band's "classic lineup" took shape, with the Van Halens, Roth and Michael Anthony on bass and backing vocals.
After being seen by two Warner Bros. Records
executives at a concert, the band got a contract with WB and started working on its debut album. Produced
by Ted Templeman (who stayed with the band for its first six albums), Van Halen
became a smash success thanks to the combination of Eddie's hyperactive, lightning-fast fretwork and Dave's flamboyant, Large Hammy Ace
persona. It contained a few classic songs, such as the band's headbanging cover of "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks
, the Image Song
"Runnin' with the Devil" and Eddie's mindblowing solo "Eruption". They toured nearly a year in support of the album, notably opening for Black Sabbath
and completely blowing them out of the water in a time when Sabbath were going through their first Dork Age
. Come to think of it, rock music itself was in a Dork Age
at a time when disco
was still dominant (if you believe the old narrative), and Van Halen is seen one of the bands that stopped it from collapsing under its own weight (along with, you guessed it, Punk Rock
, natch). You could even say they co-opted Punk Rock, thus preventing the genre from taking over the mainstream (at least for a time).
Van Halen quickly made a followup, the aptly-titled Van Halen II
, which was another success and gave the band its first hit, "Dance the Night Away". Women and Children First
also followed a year later, containing more kickarse hard rock but also showing Eddie's first and most definitely not last use of keyboards on a VH album (on "And the Cradle Will Rock...").
Tensions started rising around the time of Fair Warning
between Eddie, who wanted to write more serious and complex stuff, and Roth, who didn't have patience for this and wanted to carry on with the fun rocking. Combined with cocaine and alcohol abuse on Eddie's behalf, Warning
was a Darker and Edgier
album that was much less fun than the previous three and, unsurprisingly, was met with much less commercial success, though it did get good reviews and spawned a hit with "Unchained". They rebounded with the cover-heavy Diver Down
a short while later.
Van Halen hit their indisputable peak with 1984
. Their highest-selling and most critically acclaimed album, 1984
saw the band reconcile their anthemic rock/metal with Eddie's love of keyboards, and gave them their most enduring hits: the keyboard-powered "Jump", the hyper-speed hilarity of "Hot for Teacher" and the Epic Riff
-driven "Panama". As a testament to how good it was, 1984
was only kept off the #1 position in the US because of Thriller
. (Coincidentally enough, Eddie also made a cameo appearance on Thriller
, playing the solo on "Beat It".)
Roth left Van Halen on April 1, 1985, replaced by former Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar. Drastic changes took place: Templeman left along with Roth, their logo was slightly changed (the lines extending from the "VH" letters now formed a sphere) and their sound changed. While 5150
retained some of the party rock sound they had become famous for ("Summer Nights", "Get Up"), Van Hagar slowly drifted away from fast, rockin' fun and became a mainstream, pop-rock band with lots of keyboards and Power Ballads
. (A smart move, since this was when Hair Metal
was really hitting its stride.)
Hagar left the band in 1996. After a temporary reunion with Roth, Gary Cherone from Extreme (and "More than Words
" infamy) was recruited as their new frontman. The resulting album, Van Halen III
, was roundly panned by everybody. After a hiatus, a second tenure with Hagar and a complicated situation, Anthony was forced out of the band, replaced by Eddie's teenaged son Wolfgang, and Roth returned in 2007. The band has released a new album, titled A Different Kind of Truth
, in February 2012. In what may strike fans as a bit of déjà vu
, Truth ended up peaking at #2 on the charts, kept off the #1 spot by 21
. (No guest spot for Eddie this time, though.)
A few years after leaving the band, Hagar and Anthony formed Chickenfoot
with Joe Satriani
and Chad Smith
- Van Halen (1978)
- Van Halen II (1979)
- Women and Children First (1980)
- Fair Warning (1981)
- Diver Down (1982)
- 1984 (1984)
- 5150 (1986)
- OU812 (1988)
- For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) (geddit?)
- Balance (1995)
- Van Halen III (1998)
- A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
Everybody Wants Tropes!! We Got Some, Too!!
- Album Title Drop: Women and Children First is namechecked in "Could This Be Magic?"
- Fair Warning is namechecked in "Mean Street."
- A Different Kind of Truth is namechecked in "Bullethead".
- Ambiguously Brown: Eddie and Alex are part-Dutch, part-Indonesian. Alex looks it, but with Eddie it's hard to tell because of his long hair, which looks thinner and thus lighter in color than short hair would. Of course, Eddie often being backlit also tends to make him look blond.
- Atlas Pose: The cover of 5150, with its version of Atlas hoisting the Van Halen globe logo.
- Band of Relatives: Eddie and Alex from the start, and now Eddie's son Wolfgang is on bass (that's right, Diamond Dave is now the only non-Van Halen member of Van Halen!). Eddie and Alex's dad Jan Van Halen guested on Diver Down, playing clarinet on "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)".
- Beggar With A Signboard: the music video for the song "Right Now" features a guy holding a sign saying "I will wrestle you for food", with the caption "Right now somebody's got the wrong idea."
- Big "OMG!": "Hot for Teacher" ends with one.
- Big Rock Ending
- Car Song: "Panama", even with all the Double Entendres. Roth said that the lyrics came after he was criticized for only writing songs about "partying, sex and cars", which made him realize he hadn't written a song about a car.
- Catch Phrase: Dave's gonna tell you one time!
- Cover Version: "You Really Got Me" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?" by The Kinksnote , "Ice Cream Man" by John Brim, "You're No Good" by Betty Everett (but popularised by Linda Ronstadt) "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, "Happy Trails" by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, "A Apolitical Blues" by Little Feat (the only cover to make it on a Van Hagar album). In concert they would frequently play "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer, Sammy Hagar's solo hit "I Can't Drive 55" (the 2006 tour also had a few tracks from his 2000s output) and "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who. For many people, their versions overshadow the originals — Ray Davies himself said their cover of "You Really Got Me" beat the original.
- Their producer, Ted Templeman, believed that cover versions were easier to promote as singles than originals, as "half the work (was) already done". So he (and Dave) encouraged VH to do more covers. The direction of the New Sound Album 1984 (and some of the reason for the breakup) came when Eddie got sick of covers (Diver Down had five covers, four original songs and three instrumentals; the band intended the "Pretty Woman" cover to be a one-off single, but its chart success caused Warner to immediately demand a full album, so they were rushed into the studio to record more under label pressure after just having finished touring — not exactly the best environment) and wanted to do things his way, working in his own personal studio, and let VH stand or fall on their own merits (he said "I'd rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else's").
- David Lee Roth also covered Louis Prima's 1956 "Just a Gigolo (I Ain't Got Nobody)", itself a mashup of two 1928 standards. The video also parodied MTV and dozens of 1980s celebrities.
- Darker and Edgier: Fair Warning. Unsurprisingly it got a mixed reaction from fans... Eddie, however, said in a Guitar World interview that "Unchained" is one of his favorite songs, and that listening to it gives him chills.
- Given that before it the only albums for decades were the Hagar years and Van Halen III, A Different Kind of Truth certainly counts.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time!" ("Why Can't This Be Love")
- Dress Rehearsal Video
- Dual Meaning Chorus: "Runnin' With the Devil"
- Egocentric Team Naming: named after brothers Eddie & Alex. (though Dave suggested the name, citing Santana as a reference)
- The Eighties: Though they rose to prominence in 1978, Van Halen set the tone for the final Cold War decade possibly better than anyone else.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: And many are played along with the next track.
- Epic Rocking: Their albums as a whole began to experience this after Dave left — see the note below under Miniscule Rocking. As for specific examples: the longest Dave-era song was "Fools" from Women and Children First, at 5:55. Their first song to actually break the five-minute mark was "Cabo Wabo" from OU812, at 7:04. Carnal Knowledge had "Pleasure Dome" (6:57) and "In 'n' Out" (6:05). Balance had "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" (5:56) and "Feelin'" (6:36). Van Halen III has the most, with: "Without You" (6:30), "Once" (7:42), "Year to the Day" (8:34, their longest official song) and "How Many Say I" (6:04).
- Excited Song Title!: "Everybody Wants Some!!", "Bottoms Up!" and "Sinner's Swing!" "Tora! Tora!" may be a borderline example as it's more a chant than a shout (on the title; the song per se is an instrumental).
- Instrumentals: "Eruption", "Spanish Fly", "Sunday Afternoon in the Park", "Cathedral", "Intruder", "1984", "Strung Out"
- Intercourse with You: Many of them.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: In addition to For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Eddie and Alex first band was named "Trojan Rubber Company".
- Large Ham: Diamond Dave.
- Licensed Game: Guitar Hero: Van Halen
- Lighter and Softer: Van Hagar.
- Long Runner Line Up: Both the Dave and Sammy line-ups lasted over 10 years.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally Rank around 5-6. Occasionally drift into 7, or down to 3 or 4. The DLR years on average are much higher on the list than later incarnations, fueling the Broken Base somewhat.
- Now with Dave back, A Different Kind of Truth climbs the scale up again. The song China Town borders on an 8.
- Miniscule Rocking: Their first albums with Dave were unusually short, usually in the slightly above 30 minutes mark (Fair Warning is the shortest, at 30:58 totalnote ). This era also gave us their shortest song, "Tora! Tora!" from Women and Children First, barely clocking in at 0:57. Once Dave left and Sammy came onboard, at the same time as vinyls were being overtaken by CDs, their album lengths immediately took a sudden jump (contrast: 1984 = 33:17, 5150 = 43:02) and actually continued to increase with every album until Van Halen III peaked at 65:18. Dave's return seems to have brought the songs back to a more "manageable", 2-4 minute length; in fact, the longest song on A Different Kind of Truth is "Beats Workin'", at only 5:02 (though, with 13 tracks, the album runs at 49:58, i.e. falling just two seconds short of the 50-minute mark).
- Mis-blamed: An oft-circulated story in the 1980s was that they did $85,000 worth of damage to Colorado State University-Pueblo's basketball arena after discovering brown M&Ms in their candy bowl. While Roth did indeed vandalize the backstage area to the tune of $12,000 after discovering brown M&Ms, the higher figure was the fault of the venue and the venue alone, as they neglected to follow weight requirements when reading the rider. As a result, the immense weight of their setup caused it to go straight through the floor because it was incapable of bearing that great a burden, which was where the >$80,000 worth of damage came from. See Secret Test, below, for more information on the M&M clause.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: By the nineties, this was hitting Mike pretty hard — most of the bass in III was done by Eddie, and not only Mike just got into the Van Hagar reunion in 2006 because Sammy wanted him to, but on the new tracks of Best of Both Worlds he only did backing vocals (Eddie had already played bass).
- Notable Music Videos: "Jump" and "Hot for Teacher" for the Dave era, "Right Now" for Sammy.
- Once Per Album: A particularly Narmy Genre Shift. Notable examples include "Ice Cream Man" (an acoustic blues cover that eventually kicks into the band's energetic hard rock, keeping the Narm in check), "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" (an old-fashioned-sounding swing jazz song), and "Happy Trails" (an a capella cover of a commercial jingle). These latter two are actually twice on the same album, though (Diver Down). There's also "Stay Frosty" on ADKOT which, on the same vein of "Ice Cream Man", starts on bluesy acoustic guitar before the band starts hammering on in). Notably, only "Stay Frosty" was penned by the band themselves.
- Power Ballad: Sketched out rather early with "In a Simple Rhyme" and arguably "I'll Wait", but it really became a staple with Hagar.
- Rated M for Manly: The David Lee Roth years, with songs such as "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love".
- Although the DLR-fronted band also gave us some of their campier songs, such as "Big Bad Bill" and "Beautiful Girls".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The lyrics of "Blood and Fire" sound so much like Dave talking about his return to the band.
Told you I was coming back
Say you missed me
Say it like you mean it.
- Rearrange the Song: Their covers.
- Record Producer: Ted Templeman between 1978-1984, with long-term engineer Donn Landee, and with various others afterwards (the band, Donn Landee and Mick Jones on 5150, the band and Donn Landee on OU812, the band, a returning Templeman and Andy Johns on Carnal Knowledge, Bruce Fairbairn on Balance, Eddie and Mike Post on Van Halen III, and the band and John Shanks on A Different Kind of Truth).
- Ret Gone: Around the time Michael Anthony was kicked out, the band shot themselves in the foot by Photoshopping the cover of their first album displayed on their website to replace him with Wolfgang Van Halen. They also completely ignored his existence in Guitar Hero: Van Halen, always having Wolfgang on the bass, even when the band appears in "classic" costumes. Justified, as they styled it as the modern band going back and playing their most famous venues rather than tracing the actual history of the band in chronological order.
- Right Now Montage: "Right Now", Trope Namer.
- Rockstar Song: A few of them, with the latest, "As Is", dealing with what fame does:
- Rule of Funny: They ran off this while Dave was in the band.
- Secret Test The band's infamous 1982 tour rider request that no brown M&Ms be included in their backstage bowl of M&M's or the band would not perform. The request was not intended to be self-indulgent or eccentric, but was instead proof that the promoters had thoroughly read the rest of their rider, which included important information about safety, security, lighting and ticketing. If they found brown M&Ms, they had a reason to believe that the promoter was inattentive, because if such a small request had been glossed over, then other more important things also had; as a result, they would have reason to demand that the venue inspect and/or redo the setup, or could just refuse to play altogether if the venue balked. This was justified by the band after a number of near-misses caused by promoters not adhering to health and safety requirements that resulted in damaged equipment and members of the road crew very nearly being electrocuted on several occasions, and their concert preparations were so cumbersome they were rather reluctant to tour outside the USA at various points.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: What most of their songs deal with.
- Shout-Out: The chorus of "Can't Stop Lovin' You" shows that it's based on the similarly titled Ray Charles song. At least, near the end of the song.
And I know what I got to do
Hey, Ray, what you said is true, ooh
I can't stop lovin' you
- Something Completely Different: The impact of their very first album, which was practically without precedent. While some of it was arguably the result of Cool Versus Awesome ("Runnin' With the Devil" sounded both as loud as The Who and as fuzzy as Jimi Hendrix), other parts of the album were absurdly original. "Eruption" sounded like a tidal wave hitting an electric power plant, while their famous cover of "You Really Got Me" had a jerky, machine-like cadence that rock musicians had formerly needed synthesizers in order to approximate.
- Song Of Song Titles: "You and Your Blues".
- Speed Metal: While obviously their overall sound isn't speed metal, several of their songs arguably fall under this, and "I'm the One" could be considered an Ur Example
- Stay Frosty: Is what the preacher man said.
- Stealth Pun: In "Good Enough": "'Cause it's three, six, nine time" i.e.: Time to multiply.
- Subdued Section: "In a Simple Rhyme" and many more others.
- Take That: It is a well-documented legend that the title of OU812note was one at David Lee Roth's debut solo album, Eat 'em and Smile.
- Another spin on the above legend is that there was a kind of "back and forth" between DLR and VH over the course of several albums: DLR's "Crazy From the Heat" — VH's "5150" (police code for the criminally insanenote ) followed by DLR's "Eat 'Em and Smile" — VH's "OU812" (as mentioned above). Then there was VH's "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" followed by DLR's "Your Filthy Little Mouth".
- Teacher/Student Romance: "Hot For Teacher", which is even quoted atop the page.
- Technician Versus Performer: The main driving force of Van Halen until 1984 was the creative relationship between Eddie, the consummate technician, and Diamond Dave, the performer, whereby Dave's Large Ham clowning endeared the band to audiences and kept Eddie from indulging himself too much on records, while Eddie's guitar wizardry elevated the band's showmanship and made them stand out. (Reviewing "Runnin' With the Devil", the AV Club highlighted the alchemy between Eddie's fret-magic and Dave's "chummy megalomania" as the key to Van Halen's success.) This relationship eventually grew strained due to Creative Differences and collapsed, leading to Dave being fired in 1984. Neither Sammy Hagar nor Gary Cherone had anywhere near Dave's capacity to challenge Eddie, who asserted control over the band's direction from then onwards.
- This Is a Drill: Which Eddie used in the intro of "Poundcake". And it sounds pretty cool.
- Title by Number: 1984 and 5150. Also, Eddie's solo "316" on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
- Trope Codifier: When elderly people or foreigners (non-Anglo-Americans who might be Two Decades Behind or more) picture rock musicians, Van Halen is probably the archetype they're thinking of. While Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, and Jim Morrison did much to define the rock star's basic personality and Alice Cooper and KISS solidified the "look", it was Van Halen who brought the ultimate in rock-and-roll energy and attitude.
- They also codified a lot of the elements of modern riders, namely the "wish list" nature and extensive (and very in-depth) listing of technical requirements for their rigs. Part of this was due to how massive their setups were and how much damage could result if everything wasn't followed to the letter; while few acts have setups that are one iota as complex as theirs, the basic elements of their riders are now standard industry practice.
- Ur Example: For Hair Metal. The songs "Eruption" and "Spanish Fly" are the Ur Example of Neo Classical Metal.
- We Want Our Jerk Back: Many fans' reaction to a sober, more serious Eddie.