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Music / Van Halen

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Nobody rules these streets at night but me! NOBODY!
— "Atomic Punk"

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 Eddie's brother on drums. And the bassist. Probably the most fun Hard Rock band you'll ever hear. They even got their own Guitar Hero game!

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 was going through their first Audience-Alienating Era. While rock music itself was in an Audience-Alienating Era at a time when disco was still dominant (if you believe the old narrative), Van Halen is seen as one of the bands that stopped it from collapsing under its own weight (along with, you guessed it, Punk Rock, natch)note .

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 kick-arse 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 the 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, which had hits such as "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "Dancing in the Street."

Van Halen hit their indisputable peak with 1984. Their highest-selling and most critically acclaimed album, 1984 saw the band reconcile their anthemic rock 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 Thrillernote .

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 panned by everybody, earning this short-lived era the nickname of "Van Horrible." After a hiatus, a second tenure with Hagar, and a complicated situation, Anthony was replaced by Eddie's teenaged son Wolfgang. Roth returned in 2007, and the band released what would be their final album, 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. More recently, Hagar and Anthony have been playing with Jason Bonham and Hagar’s longtime guitarist Vic Johnson in a band called Sammy Hagar and The Circle.

On October 6, 2020, Eddie Van Halen died after a long battle with cancer; Wolfgang confirmed a month later that the band, for the time being, called it quits. The following year, Mammoth WVH, Wolf's side project, released their self-titled debut album to critical and commercial acclaim, keeping the Van Halen name alive in the media as well as with rock fans.

Band members (Founding members in bold):

  • David Lee Roth - lead vocals, acoustic guitar (1974-1985, 1996, 2007-2020)
  • Alex Van Halen - drums, percussion (1972-2020)
  • Wolfgang Van Halen - bass guitar, backing vocals (2007-2020)
  • Eddie Van Halen - lead guitar, keyboards, piano, bass guitar, backing and lead vocals (1972-2020; died 2020)
  • Mark Stone - bass guitar, backing vocals (1972-1974; died 2020)
  • Michael Anthony - bass guitar, backing and lead vocals (1974-2006)
  • Sammy Hagar - lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar (1985-1996, 2003-2005)
  • Gary Cherone - lead vocals (1996-1999)


Everybody Wants Tropes!! We Got Some, Too!!

  • The '80s: Though they rose to prominence in 1978, Van Halen set the tone for the final Cold War decade possibly better than anyone else.
  • 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".
  • Alternate Music Video: There are two versions of the video for "Dreams"; one has newscasts of the massive lines from the band performing a show in a tiny venue, while the other is film of a Blue Angels demonstration flight.
  • 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 then Eddie's son Wolfgang is on bass (that's right, in the final line up Diamond Dave was 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)".
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Alex and Dave are tall, Wolfgang is fairly tall too, Sammy is average, Ed and Mike are a few inches shorter.
  • 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: Many of their songs tend to have it, including "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and "Hot for Teacher".
  • But We Used a Condom!: Alluded to in the video for "Right Now". One of the frames fades into an unused condom under the message "Right now, nothing is more expensive than regret."
  • Canary in a Coal Mine: As described in Secret Test below, this was the true purpose behind the infamous "No brown M&Ms" clause in their tour rider. Finding said candies backstage indicated the rider had not been read thoroughly, and was an almost sure sign that other requirements - ones critical to the safety of the band, crew, and fans - had also been overlooked.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The Dave era for Sammy, and vice-versa (see Ret-Gone for more details). On this count, if there's one good thing that can be said about Gary Cherone's stint, is that he was more open-minded about the band's live repertoire than the other two.
  • 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.
  • Careful with That Axe: Dave's whistle screams are legendary, and almost impossible to emulate, they are just that high.
    • Specifically, his highest measured scream is about two full octaves over the typical highest note of a soprano, the highest pitched voice type for women.
  • Catchphrase: Dave's gonna tell you one time!
    • He ain't lyin' to ya.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Where do we begin with Diamond Dave? He wore bizarre outfits ranging from a feathered cape, to garish suits to tight-fitting leotards with assless chaps. His voice is like if a Soul singer, Robert Plant and a train whistle had a baby, he loves scatting, extreme sports and regularly performed swordfighting and ribbon dancing as normal stage routines. Also, any funny speaking breaks or odd music videos are guaranteed to be of Dave's making.
  • 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, "Jean Genie" by David Bowie, 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.
    • What parts of the later Sammy Hagar years became. Compare "Dreams" or "When It's Love" to something like "Humans Being", "The Seventh Seal" or "Crossing Over", and you might not guess the latter songs are even from the same band.
    • 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")
  • Ditzy Genius: According to Noel Monk, the band's manager during the Roth years, Eddie was a godlike guitarist, a skilled songwriter, and a talented gadgeteer (see above), but hopelessly naive in most other areas (such as basic sex ed—at one point he was concerned that a woman who had given him a blow job might have become pregnant as a result).
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": At points in his career, Eddie insisted that he be referred to as Edward Van Halen. Longtime friend and collaborator Steve Vai still refers to him as such.
  • Doom It Yourself: Being a musical genius and not an engineering one, Eddie's DIY approach to music resulted in quite a few comical mishaps. At one point, Eddie believed that he could reduce the feedback of his Frankenstrat's pickup by encasing it in wax, which he attempted to do using his kitchen stove. The pickup partially melted, the homemade tin mold failed to hold any wax, and the entire experiment was deemed a failure.
  • 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.)
  • 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).
  • Fun with Acronyms: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Sammy actually said he wanted to name the album Fuck as a protest against censorship, but his friend, lightweight boxer Ray Mancini, convinced him otherwise by telling him about the false etymology of "fuck".
  • Freestate Amsterdam: The lyrics Sammy Hagar made for "Amsterdam". Eddie and Alex, being born in Amsterdam, hated them (Eddie called them "just stupid" when interviewed by Guitar World), but, since by then inter-band relations were getting so bad, Sammy refused to change them.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Eddie was famous for extensively modifying his gear. For starters, he was the first known player to use a "Super Strat," a guitar designed to have the features and playability of a Stratocaster and the humbucker sound of a Gibson. The Super Strat would go on to be the most used guitar design of the eighties. He also modified a Univox echo unit with a motor that ran so slow it would drop the sound by an octave, creating a divebomb effect. The effect needed to be mounted in a rack and at the time guitarists didn't use effects racks so Eddie made one out of the hull of a WWII-era bomb. He also invented the "D-Tuna," a modification for a Floyd Rose bridge which allows the player to instantly switch in and out of drop tunings, something that isn't possible without the modification (tuning the bridge is extremely fiddly).
    • As with all tinkerers, not all of Eddie's experiments ended up working, however. Most notable was the case of his Ibanez Destroyer note , with which he recorded a substantial portion of the band's debut. In attempt to give it an edgier look, Eddie chainsawed a massive chunk out of the instrument's body and coated it in a red, white and black paint job that he eventually transferred to the Frankenstrat. Eddie liked the new-look Explorer (dubbing it the "Shark"), but the tone of the instrument was irrevocably altered by the modifications. He later admitted that he'd essentially ruined the guitar, and never used it on another LP (although it is pictured on the cover of Women and Children First).
    • Unable to afford a distortion effect pedal, Eddie discovered he could produce a similar sound by using a variable voltage transformer. This would also dramatically increase the volume of his amp. This system initially consisted of a Marshall amp (unbeknownst to him, a UK model intended to run off a 220 volt power supply) and a light dimmer switch, which exploded after he wired it backwards.
  • Genre Roulette: Roth-era Van Halen had an interesting tendency to mix and match various genres with it's own style - for some examples, "Jamie's Cryin" has a Latin dance groove, "I'm the One" is a sped-up jazz swing type deal, "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love" was their attempt at parodying a punk song, "Spanish Fly" is basically an improvised classical piece and "Push Comes To Shove" is a reggae rock/jazz funk hybrid.
  • Genre Shift: Roth-era Van Halen was a party rock band similar to Aerosmith and AC/DC, with a sound driven by guitars and drums and lyrics frequently about sex and partying. Hagar-era Van Halen shifted towards a more mainstream pop-rock sound, with lots of power ballads and a sound that incorporated keyboards and synthesizers.
    • This actually first happened even prior to the recording of the band's debut, when they were still known as Mammoth. Alex and Eddie mainly listened to hard rock and prog bands like Cream, the Who and Yes. Upon joining, Dave steered them more in the direction of pop, soul and funk. The fusion of the genres that emerged from this provided the basis for the classic Van Halen sound.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Templeman's production gimmick was to put Eddie's guitar high in the mix and pan it, either slightly or more blatantly, to the left (or sometimes the right) to simulate a "live" sound. Eddie hated this and stopped mixing it that way after Templeman and Dave left.
  • Green Aesop: "Outta Space" is Dave singing about how Earth got so bad he wants to leave it...
    I do not refuse it.
    I am guilty, I do use it.
    I am the reason
    We outta space!
  • Hard Rock: They basically saved and redefined Hard Rock, making sure it would last through The '80s.
  • Heavy Metal: Though it's debatable whether or not they are this, Heavy metal wouldn't have been the same without Eddie being the Trope Codifier for lightning-speed tappingnote .
    • Additionally, Kerry King once described Hair Metal as "Van Halen, turned up to eleven in all the wrong directions."
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar. Not only did they form Chickenfoot together, Mikey also joined Sammy's solo band as well. They're also the only two members of Van Halen (former, ironically enough) to attend its own Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction.
    • Hell, the guys are close enough for Sammy to refuse the 2004 reunion, if Anthony weren't included.
  • Hidden Track: Women and Children First has a hidden instrumental at the very end, called "Growth". It's only nineteen seconds long.
    • On the Japanese edition of Balance, a bonus thirteenth track called "Crossing Over" can be heard.
  • I Am the Band: Eddie and Alex, until the former's death in 2020.
  • I Call It "Vera": Eddie's striped guitar, Frankenstrat. And yes, it was put together with parts of two different guitars.
  • Iconic Item: Eddie's "Frankenstrat", his "Shark" Ibanez Destroyer, the Bumblebee, and later his custom Steinberger; come to think of it, it's easier to name the guitars that haven't become instantly recognizable.
    • In more recent times, his Evh Wolfgang guitars, which have gone wayyy past simple signature models, and are beginning to see use by other huge, completely non Van Halen-related guitarists.
    • To a lesser extent, Michael Anthony's Jack Daniels bottle bass guitars. Also his Yamaha's.
  • Insistent Terminology: According to Sammy Hagar, Eddie always referred to him as Sam. It's due to this reason that neither he nor Michael Anthony believed a tweet from Eddie's Twitter account was posted by the man himself when it wished Sammy a happy birthday (instead believing it was written by an official account handler).
  • Instrumentals: "Eruption", "Spanish Fly", "Sunday Afternoon in the Park", "Cathedral", "Intruder", "1984", "Strung Out", "Baluchitherium", "Neworld", and "Primary".
  • Insufferable Genius: Eddie, depending on who you ask...
  • Insult Backfire: A music critic once complained that all of Van Halen's songs were about either girls or cars. When David Lee Roth heard this, he realized that Van Halen didn't actually have any songs about cars, so he came up with the lyrics for "Panama". The song would go on to become one of Van Halen's most iconic songs.
  • Intercourse with You: Many of them.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: In addition to For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Eddie and Alex's first band was named "Trojan Rubber Company".
  • Jungle Drums: "Everybody Wants Some!!"
  • Kneel, Push, Trip: The music video "Right Now" features an animation of three figures pulling this stunt with the subtitle "Right now, our government is doing things we think only other countries do."
  • Large Ham: Diamond Dave.
  • Lighter and Softer: Van Hagar. From sex and partying to love and relationships, for the most part. Dave even jabbed at it in a 2004 interview, saying that "In my time in Van Halen people used to feel like drinking, dancing and fucking; in Sammy's time they felt like drinking milk, driving a Nissan and having a relationship."
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Both the Dave and Sammy line-ups lasted over ten years. The final one managed fourteen years before Eddie's death.
  • 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 closer "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).
  • Money Song: "Big Fat Money" from Balance.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The extended tapping leads that made Eddie a legend and revolutionized lead guitar playing are really just simple arpeggios, a very basic and conventional technique usually reserved for mellow rhythm playing. By playing them entirely on one string instead of three or four and pumping them up with heavy overdrive and phase shifting, a mundane sound was transformed into something that barely sounded like guitar.
  • Mr. Fanservice: David Lee Roth! The guy was seriously built back in the day, and enjoyed performing shirtless. Even other stars who played with Van Halen back in the day have commented on the guy's looks.
    • Eddie had a fair few fans too.
    • Legend has it that Alex was the band member most likely to, ahem, service the fans.
  • Mythology Gag: Wolfgang's new band, formed after Eddie's passing, is called Mammoth WVH, that is, Van Halen's original name plus Wolf's initials.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Eddie named his son Wolfgang after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Eddie's middle name, Lodewijk, is a Dutch translation of Ludwig, coming from Ludwig van Beethoven.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: By the Nineties, this was hitting Mike pretty hard — most of the bass in III was done by Eddie. Later, Mike only joined the Van Hagar reunion in 2004 because Sammy insisted, despite Eddie not wanting him there, and then on the new tracks of Best of Both Worlds he only did backing vocals (Eddie had already played bass).
    • When Mike was fired and replaced with Eddie's son, Wolfgang, he wasn't even properly notified. He only found out because of online news sources reporting it.
  • Once Per Album: A 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.
  • 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.
    • The Sammy Hagar tenure is treated like this since David Lee Roth's return (or at least as far back as the last time he was kicked out of the band). The band has never performed any of their post-1984 songs (except for those in A Different Kind..., obviously) with Dave as frontman, and none of the songs from that period are even in the Guitar Hero game (which was released two years before ADKoT). Then again, Sammy would only ever perform three Roth-era Van Halen songs live ("Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", "Panama" and "Jump"note ), so the trope kinda goes both ways.
  • Right Now Montage: "Right Now", Trope Namer.
  • Rock-Star Song: A few of them, with "As Is" dealing with what fame does:
    Yesterday I was a bum and broke.
    Today I am a star and broke.
    In this town that's called progress,
    That's how we do biz.
  • 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&M's 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&M's, 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 (see the "Mis-Blamed" entry at the YMMV page for one such example).
  • Self-Empowerment Anthem: If "Dreams" doesn't make you feel empowered, nothing will.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: What most of their songs deal with.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Eddie's guitars from the 70s and 80s. The most popular guitar designs feature two or three pickups, 2-4 knobs and a switch and many also feature more ornate construction methods. Eddie's guitars were built with one pickup and one volume control with the only aesthetic considerations being the famous striped paintjob.
  • Shout-Out: The last chorus of "Can't Stop Lovin' You" shows that it's based on the similarly titled Ray Charles song.
    And I know what I got to do
    Hey, Ray, what you said is true, ooh
    I can't stop lovin' you
    • The booklet of A Different Kind of Truth has discarded lyrics of "Big River" showing that the song is partly one to "Proud Mary":
    "Creedence told me. Tina sold me. At first I was unconvinced. Been rollin' on that river ever since."
  • Soprano and Gravel: None of the lead singers have had particularly deep voices, but this dynamic often occurs because Michael Anthony's vocals are just that high-pitched.
  • Song of Song Titles: "You and Your Blues".
  • Spoken Word in Music: A lot of these from the early years with Roth: "Have you seen Junior's grades?" (on later tours, he liked to change Junior to "Wolfie", the bassist...)
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: During their first major tour opening for Ted Nugent. Van Halen was a fresh, original band doing high energy shows supporting their debut album. Nugent, by contrast, was touring behind weak latter day material after his original backing band got fed up and abandoned him. Big name fans like Henry Rollins would report "They put the Nuge to bed on that tour."
  • 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.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: "How Many Say I" is sung by Eddie.
  • 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. In fact, 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".
    • Diamond Dave has had a few unkind words to say about the Glam Metal bands that sprung up in Van Halen's wake. In one interview he particularly singles out Quiet Riot, though given they were long-time rivals before Van Halen's big break, that could just be Dave slinging some mud for the sake of it.
  • 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 AVClub 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. In fact, their 1978 self-titled debut could be considered the first hair metal album.
    • The songs "Eruption" and "Spanish Fly" are the Ur-Example of Neo Classical Metal.
    • Eddie is universally regarded as the first true shredder, a style of guitar player defined by lightning fast (not to mention flashy) arpeggios and tapped legato leads, rather than the more traditional bluesy style of playing that had dominated rock and roll to that point. Shredders would dominate rock music unchallenged until the early 90s, with one notable exception.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Michael Anthony is a short, stocky, hairy guy that liked to dress up in boiler suits. His voice is one of the most pure, angelic countertenor voices in modern history, comparable in timbre to a female choir singer.
    • Diamond Dave sounds like a mix of a 60s soul singer and a classic rock singer - only the latter of which shows in his appearance.
  • Vocal Range Exceeded: Fairly commonly happens to Dave live, but hey - the man's a showman, never claimed to be a good singer either.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Eddie had this towards Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar after they were both kicked out. At that point they both might as well have never been in the band, though they made peace before Eddie's death.
    • Recently averted in regards to Michael and Alex Van Halen, who stated in an interview with Eddie Trunk that he managed to get Alex on the phone, and they chatted for about 20 minutes. Michael has always stated that he and Alex never really "fell out," but were never able to speak because of Eddie.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Many fans' reaction to a sober, more serious Eddie later in the band's career. He did, however, treat Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar with significantly less respect than they deserve. It got to the point where he barely acknowledged their existence at all.