Van Halen Songs Ranked From Worst to Best
September 5, 2018 7:11 AM   Subscribe

All 131 Van Halen Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best
The pop landscape had changed so radically that appreciating the musical style pioneered by Van Halen has become akin to appreciating recent breakthroughs in blacksmithing. To many people born post-grunge, the difference between David Lee Roth and Glenn Miller is negligible. It’s easy to imagine an engaged teenage music fan unfamiliar with 130 of Van Halen’s 131 songs. Which, both predictably and paradoxically, is part of the reason I wanted to compile the following list. This material deserves deeper, detailed contemplation.
Pretty much anyone who’s seen the video for “Panama” views the band as idealized avatars for a euphoric, consequence-free, hyper-intoxicated lifestyle that (a) could only exist in Southern California, (b) could never exist today, and (c) probably never existed at all, unless you were a member of this specific band. The abstract idea of Van Halen remains iconic. The individual musical compositions, however, tend to be lumped into two categories that resist close reading. Songs from the Roth era are marginalized as party anthems designed for strippers, subscribers to Guitar World magazine, and guys with unusually strong opinions about how many cylinders a car engine should have. Songs from the Sammy Hagar era are marginalized as well-crafted, non-bombastic radio hits that you can like but never love, unless you’re Sammy or whoever concocted the marketing strategy for Crystal Pepsi.
posted by kirkaracha (140 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
131. “Why Can’t This Be Love,” 5150 (1986)
Introducing the Hagar era with a cold, mid-tempo, keyboard-based love song installed the belief that Van Halen was moving away from high-octane fiesta rock and toward responsible, AOR maturity. That sentiment was galvanized almost four months later, when Roth’s solo band debuted with “Yankee Rose,” an unbelievably ebullient song about wanting to fuck the Statue of Liberty.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


I like that they covered the Kinks. I like the Kinks' versions better.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Klosterman. Why did it have to be Klosterman?
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:25 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


i knew what would be no 1 - and all i can say is the first time i heard it, i thought it was technically impressive and had no real feeling except rampaging testosterone - everybody else was like wow and i was like it's just too much technique

also he flubbed a note

also, he is a good rhythm player
posted by pyramid termite at 7:26 AM on September 5, 2018


After despairing about Klosterman, i do have to hand it to him that this is both a good line and a good observation: "To many people born post-grunge, the difference between David Lee Roth and Glenn Miller is negligible."
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Scans the list
"Huh, what a weird Top 10."

Notices the author's name
"Ah. I see."
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


TIL someone is still willing to publish Chuck Klosterman.

That's too bad.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I remember being in high school and the people wearing shirts with stylized logos of this band, and bands like it, and just not getting it, not understanding why people liked this music and these bands. But then, people called me Professor and kicked me, so I clearly wasn't in the target audience. The raw thumping is okay, kind of nice, except for everything that goes with it (angry patriarchy) so it's kind of ruined forever for me.

I wear earplugs in retail stores so I don't have to hear most of this shit. Or the modern day versions of it, which is generally the same just with different instrumentation.

Can we kill the patriarchy yet?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


To many people born post-grunge, the difference between David Lee Roth and Glenn Miller is negligible."

oh, come on - glenn miller had a band of horns, david lee roth had a horny band
posted by pyramid termite at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [44 favorites]


Ain't Talkin' Bout Love at 25 seems like a peak of self-indulgent contrarianism
posted by thelonius at 7:36 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I was disappointed not to see where Just A Gigolo ranked. Sure it's David Lee Roth solo, but still...
posted by neuracnu at 7:36 AM on September 5, 2018


Atomic Punk deserves better.
posted by donpardo at 7:42 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Gene Simmons might be an asshole, but that demo of "House of Pain"? That's just awesome. The proto-CookieMonster growl seals the deal.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have never understood the hate for Hagar-era VH. Is it really just "this isn't David Lee Roth"?

Don't get me wrong, I love DLR-era VH (I graduated high school in 1984), but I enjoy the hell out of the 5150 album and will happily sing along with the whole damn thing every time.
posted by hanov3r at 7:46 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


This list is great. I disagree with almost every ranking but it's fun and thoughtful and I'm listening to 1984 now with a huge smile on my face.
posted by saladin at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think my favorite Van Halen song is On Fire. I love the riffage in House of Pain, but Dave's vocals kind of wreck that one for me a little bit somehow. OTOH, if you're paying much attention to the vocals of a Van Halen song, you're doing it wrong.
posted by smcameron at 7:54 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


This material deserves deeper, detailed contemplation.

As I big Van Halen fan, I have to ask, "Does it, though?"
posted by straight at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2018 [22 favorites]


Also reminds of the hilarious use of Van Halen in Yacht Rock.
posted by saladin at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


there just isn’t a practical synonym that adequately reflects what a riff is, and writing about Van Halen without analyzing the riffs is pretty much impossible. It would be like trying to rank the 131 best deciduous forests in North America without repeating the word tree.

Snort. This was an entertaining read.
posted by 41swans at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2018


Yeah, sure, I get the Klosterman hate, he's way too self satisfied with his own shtick and tried to show off for little reason and sometimes little result, but he also can deliver a good line on reasonably frequent occasion and sometimes finds an interesting angle on something normally mundane, even if he rarely follows through on the observation to something truly insightful and lord knows his influence and imitators are annoying, but none of that really disqualifies him from making this list, more makes him a good choice for the job. I think Van Halen and Klosterman are well suited to each other. Take that as you will.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


I have never understood the hate for Hagar-era VH. Is it really just "this isn't David Lee Roth"?

This pretty much explains it
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:06 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I graduated high school in 1987 and had an electric guitar at 16, a bunch of stoner friends by 17, so Van Halen was pretty much the soundtrack to my teenage years. I unapologetically love the shit out of them and probably always will. I am almost 50 now, my tastes have changed (and mostly softened) but I will always, always turn up Panama if it comes on the radio. If I still listened to the radio.

I know they've self destructed, I know their lyrics and antics are/were problematic, I know Eddie is generally considered to be an asshole, I know all that. Still though, they are the sound of 1980s rock and roll and Eddie's guitar playing is amazing. I don't even really like his solos, I've always been more of a rhythm guy. I will always have a soft spot for them.

I never did see them live. I only really became aware of them with the 1984 album and by the time I was old enough to go to a concert Dave had been replaced by Sammy. I did get to see Roth live, back when Steve Via was on guitar (with that silly heart shaped triple necked guitar that he jacked off when he played) and I consider that to be close enough to seeing VH live.

I was supposed to see Hagar-era Van Halen live in Oxford Maine, at the Monsters of Rock tour in 1988, but it rained so hard (like, legendary rain that you can read about today if you care to) that we left half way through the festival and spent the next few hours trying to get out of the parking lot. The entire festival experience was a nightmare, though I did get to see Metallica for the first time.

I like this list and won't argue with it. I think it's close enough, though I'd probably have put Hot for Teacher at #1 because it is everything Van Halen is about, good or bad. Eruption is certainly impressive enough, more so because there was nothing else like it at the time, but it's still just a damn guitar solo.

It surprised me just how many songs on the list I've never heard, or don't remember. I guess I never owned any Hager or later era stuff and I rarely listened to VHII or Diver Down.
posted by bondcliff at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Found the line that convinced me that Klosterman is way too far into his own shtick to be really informative or relevant:
49. “Finish What Ya Started,” OU812 (1988)
Spontaneously composed at 2 a.m. (during a bygone era when Eddie and Sammy were so simpatico they lived next door to each other), this track would dominate country radio if it were released today
No, Chuck. No. You could imagine one of the anonymous countroids who go to Drawl School so that they sound like they're from East Texas instead of Long Island doing a countrified cover, but assuming that the original track would play on 99.9 Cornpone just means that you don't really listen to country, ever.

And people who insist that DLR's VH is the One True Van Halen do so mostly because, even though his act is ridiculous and always has been, it's something that they could imagine that they could do: grow out your hair and dye it blond, put on some magenta zebra-striped stretch pants, and act like a little kid trying to impress his parents' friends at their cocktail party, and boom you're there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on September 5, 2018


i knew what would be no 1 - and all i can say is the first time i heard it, i thought it was technically impressive and had no real feeling except rampaging testosterone - everybody else was like wow and i was like it's just too much technique
The music fades out, and any cogent first-time listener would find themselves thinking, “Well, I guess that was it. I guess that was okay.” But suddenly he’s back, and now he’s attacking the instrument the way piranhas skeletonize a water buffalo, and then he does that thing that he always does and your living room speakers transmogrify into the P-Funk Mothership and ascend through the roof and into the troposphere. It ends with the Doppler effect, except you haven’t moved and neither has he. This is, by the widest possible margin, the most important freestanding guitar solo of all time. And I realize that if you hate Van Halen, this is precisely what you hate. You hate the sensation of having your brain trapped in a beehive, you hate the distance between the proficiency of the artist and the potentiality of his audience, and you hate that this guy just invented the 1980s.
posted by straight at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also reminds of the hilarious use of Van Halen in Yacht Rock.

Wow, that is very, very funny. Thank you saladin!
posted by straight at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I like Van Halen with David Lee Roth and pre-Van Halen Sammy Hagar and don't like post-VH David Lee Roth and post-DLR Van Halen. Class of 1983.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:32 AM on September 5, 2018


This was really more of an article about Chuck Klosterman than an article about Van Halen songs.

Also, Everybody Wants Some!! should have been ranked higher, just for the moment when Dave starts to talk and gets cut off by a guitar and has to start again.
posted by rocket88 at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Awesome use of "You Really Got Me" in this 1996 Nissan commercial with a Ken, Barbie, and GI Joe love triangle.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


In all my encounters with Klostermann's work, the work has turned out to be something like this, where he writes very entertainingly and perceptively about something that I just never quite come around to believing is worth the effort. But there were some hilarious lines in this; I particularly enjoy the recognition that it's very easy to imagine David Lee Roth being disappointed with getting everything he wants.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:36 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


then he does that thing that he always does and your living room speakers transmogrify into the P-Funk Mothership and ascend through the roof and into the troposphere.

please show me where evh ever played like his mother died - eddie hazel was ON the mothership
posted by pyramid termite at 8:39 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Class of 1980. I'm not familiar enough with VH and the bulk of their music to argue with the rankings, but what he says about Eruption? Co-signed. It blew our collective mind.
posted by corvikate at 8:43 AM on September 5, 2018


Also, this is the best use of any VH in a film.
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Loss of Control 112? Bogus list.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:46 AM on September 5, 2018


The thing about Panama, is that it was written in response to all the critics saying that their songs were all about cars and girls when in fact nothing was further from the truth.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I like that they covered the Kinks. I like the Kinks' versions better.

If I click on the link, I'd just be encouraging this sort of thing. But reading between the lines, it sounds like Eruption's #1, which speaks to a certain truth. Do Van Halen have any other instrumentals? Those would fill all the next slots on my list. And then all the Hagar* tracks tied for second last and then all the whatzizname tracks tied for last. Guess I was just never much in the target market.

But I don't mind The Cradle Will Rock for some reason. That's alright.

* I saw Sammy Hagar warm up Boston way back when, and blow them away. The man could deliver live. Couldn't name a single song, but he knew how to work it.
posted by philip-random at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2018


True. Their songs were also about hamburgers.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


My list is rotten to the core
posted by thelonius at 8:55 AM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


The entire contents of my career-spanning Sammy Hagar the Horrible playlist:
  1. Heavy Metal
  2. I Don't Need Love
  3. There's Only One Way to Rock
  4. Your Love is Driving Me Crazy
  5. I Can't Drive 55
posted by kirkaracha at 8:59 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Do Van Halen have any other instrumentals?

The article says there are 13 instrumentals, with a footnote on interpretation of "Instrumental".
posted by humboldt32 at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2018


i thought it was technically impressive and had no real feeling except rampaging testosterone - everybody else was like wow and i was like it's just too much technique

There's something kind of charming and goofy about the way he desperately wants to be playing a Beethoven symphony through his guitar at the end. (Sort of like how Yngwie Malmsteen spent his career trying to be a Bach harpischordist).
posted by straight at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


music for getting hammered in parking lots

As an 80s kid from nowhere Illinios, I can confirm the music does work for this.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


This was really more of an article about Chuck Klosterman than an article about Van Halen songs.

That's an accurate summation of Klosterman's entire oeuvre.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:09 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


The entire contents of my career-spanning Sammy Hagar the Horrible playlist:
Heavy Metal
I Don't Need Love
There's Only One Way to Rock
Your Love is Driving Me Crazy
I Can't Drive 55


Bad Motor Scooter
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:10 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


• cmd-F "jump"
• throws article across room.
posted by ardgedee at 9:10 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


jump
posted by ardgedee at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


bondcliff: "Also, this is the best use of any VH in a film."

I knew what that would be before clicking.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:12 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Sort of like how Yngwie Malmsteen spent his career trying to be a Bach harpischordist

That's Yngwie Fucking Malmsteen.
posted by rocket88 at 9:13 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


That's an accurate summation of Klosterman's entire oeuvre.

Which I don't see as the end of the world? I wouldn't want to read nothing but Klosterman for any period of time, but he's amusing in small doses. "Overthinking things" can be a fun genre.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:14 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


.
posted by hawthorne at 9:16 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


posted by kirkaracha at 8:59 AM

Really, no Montrose at all? Really?
posted by humboldt32 at 9:17 AM on September 5, 2018


I wouldn't want to read nothing but Klosterman for any period of time, but he's amusing in small doses. "Overthinking things" can be a fun genre.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed some of his writing in the early aughts. I think it wasn't until his third book—Killing Yourself to Live—that he finally managed to crawl entirely up his own ass.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:22 AM on September 5, 2018


But suddenly he’s back, and now he’s attacking the instrument the way piranhas skeletonize a water buffalo, and then he does that thing that he always does and your living room speakers transmogrify into the P-Funk Mothership and ascend through the roof and into the troposphere. It ends with the Doppler effect, except you haven’t moved and neither has he. This is, by the widest possible margin, the most important freestanding guitar solo of all time. And I realize that if you hate Van Halen, this is precisely what you hate. You hate the sensation of having your brain trapped in a beehive, you hate the distance between the proficiency of the artist and the potentiality of his audience, and you hate that this guy just invented the 1980s.
So I just went and listened to Eruption again, and... meh. I don't hate Van Halen, I'm essentially indifferent to them; never could see what the fuss was about. I don't hear Eddie doing anything on Eruption that Angus didn't do better on the regular.
posted by flabdablet at 9:22 AM on September 5, 2018


OK, this list needs more "brown sound" near the top of the list, less anything after the WACF LP. Also, the list does not give enough credit to "Different Kind of Truth" being a truly rare return to form. Other than that, Chuck does a fairly good job.

Regarding #1, I have a special memory because I am older than dirt. I was standing in the parking lot of a frat house, drinking bad beer out of plastic cup. It's cold out. A friend yells something about everyone needs to hear something and puts both speakers up to the windows. You know now what track he plays. Time stops. Jaws drop, along with a few beers. The young woman I would marry turns up her nose a little but then again, she was/is/always will be in love with James Taylor. And I will always remember the first time I heard that song.
posted by Ber at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


OK, fuck this guy. This may be the last ranking I ever read (ha). It's not that I think it's in the wrong order to whatever degree, it's that his rationales are so lame. Someone once told me music critics don't like music, but what I think happens is a twist on the old saw, "people become psychologists to solve their own problems," and he's searching for meaning when all he's done is read the dictionary. That's one tortured series of metaphors, but tl;dr: Chuck does not have solid opinions.
posted by rhizome at 9:28 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I read an even longer article about KISS a couple of years ago by Chuck Klosterman. The whole thing. Even though I've never listened to an entire song by the band. I haven't listened to an entire Van Halen song (voluntarily) either, but I like Chuck K's music criticism.
posted by kozad at 9:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


And as far as Montrose goes, Space Station #5 is the perfect Ronnie/Sammy song. The spacey intro, the riff, and then that opening scream - that's golden.
posted by Ber at 9:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oh by the way, the girl in the red and white striped shirt at 0:17 in the "So This is Love" video was from my High School.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


People hate Hagar-era VH because he marks the precise moment when the band went from "edge of your pantaloons virtuosic rock madness" to "adult contemporary piano prog."
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't hear Eddie doing anything on Eruption that Angus didn't do better on the regular.

Are you serious? Angus Young is more my cup of tea, but he didn't play that kind of flash/virtuoso stuff.
posted by thelonius at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I was a Hagar fan when he was the Red Rocker pre-VH, and I've remained a fan after. However, "Dance The Night Away" is the tune I heard on FM radio in 7th grade that made me a Van Halen fan.
posted by COD at 10:02 AM on September 5, 2018


131. “Why Can’t This Be Love,” 5150 (1986)

"Only time will tell if we can stand the test of time"

.... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck that's a bad lyric
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:09 AM on September 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


God, I'm such a sucker for these Vulture music worst-to-best lists. I even read the ones about bands/artists I don't like and/or have virtually no knowledge of.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:11 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Van Halen-esque shredding doesn't make me think of Glenn Miller. It makes me think of Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie: How hard can I drive this instrument? How brilliantly fast can I go?

But perhaps that's the sound of me missing the point.
posted by clawsoon at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2018


Forgot to say that my favourite Van Halen song is "Hot For Teacher," in all its stupid glory, and my favourite moment within that song is when you can hear David Lee Roth say "I don't *feel* tardy" in the background.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2018 [21 favorites]


I don't hear Eddie doing anything on Eruption that Angus didn't do better on the regular.

What was that thing that person said that one time about something being so wrong it's not even wrong?
posted by bondcliff at 10:13 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't *feel* tardy

The best thing about the band as a whole was their humor. Their interviews were laugh riots. The concert programs and sleeve liners were glorious.

"C'mon Dave. Gimme a break"
posted by humboldt32 at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


But perhaps that's the sound of me missing the point.

Well, I think he picked Glenn Miller as an example of someone The Kids Today wouldn't know or care about - there's not really a stylistic comparison intended.

As an aside, I used to play with a big band in the 90's, and the kinds of gigs we got (50th wedding anniversary parties, etc), the people would have been delighted if we literally just played "In The Mood" over and over all night.
posted by thelonius at 10:18 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: an unbelievably ebullient song about... eh, you know, maybe not...
posted by Naberius at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


>It makes me think of Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie: How hard can I drive this instrument? How brilliantly fast can I go?

I dunno, people like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane were fast, but they weren't JUST fast. Those guys were trying out new, and even kind of radical, approaches to constructing melody and harmony. Eddie Van Halen was playing major chord arpeggios, really fast. It's impressive on the level of pure calisthenics, but I don't think it represents any kind of musical innovation. Maybe I'm just prejudiced against him 'cause I don't like frat rock, but I'm gonna say 'not in the same ballpark'.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Louis Armstrong is the soloist you're probably thinking of when talking about rock guitar.
posted by rhizome at 10:49 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


EVH: The Artist
DLR: The Comedian
MA: The Hammer
AVH: Harpo
SH: Curly
posted by rhizome at 10:52 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


but I'm gonna say 'not in the same ballpark'.

I dunno, I've always thought of F.U.C.K. as Eddie Van Halen's A Love Supreme.
posted by JamesBay at 10:56 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Neat list although I'm not sure why Why Can't This Be Love is the worst, while Dance the Night Away is one of the best songs on this list. The only thing that makes an uneven album like Diver Down than 5150 is DLR's presence.
posted by JamesBay at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2018


Van Hagar - DLR solo = Christopher Cross
posted by rhizome at 11:04 AM on September 5, 2018


my favourite moment within that song is when you can hear David Lee Roth say "I don't *feel* tardy" in the background.

I have used that exact quote. In corporate meetings. No one gets the reference.
posted by notsnot at 11:07 AM on September 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


EVH: The Artist
DLR: The Comedian
MA: The Hammer
AVH: Harpo
SH: Curly


Gary Cherone: Joe Besser
posted by hanov3r at 11:08 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Was never a fan, but have a decent story...

1980-1, about to graduate HS, went for a visit to the University of Chicago. Was staying with a bunch of engineering students.

At like 1:30 am, the roomate's starts blasting Running with the Devil. Guess I had already gone to bed...

Knew, this was not a place I wanted to be for four years...
posted by Windopaene at 11:21 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


> Eddie Van Halen was playing major chord arpeggios, really fast. It's impressive on the level of pure calisthenics, but I don't think it represents any kind of musical innovation. Maybe I'm just prejudiced against him 'cause I don't like frat rock, but I'm gonna say 'not in the same ballpark'.

There was an episode of the "Fresh Air" show on NPR in which the guest was Richard Thompson, and the show interspersed segments of interview with Thompson performing his songs solo. The host moved the topic to how Thompson seems to be a virtuoso musician but doesn't seem to get the same kind of recognition that, say, Eddie Van Halen does for it. Thompson, iirc, kind of verbally shrugged before ripping a 10 second piss-take on a heavy metal guitar solo, and the host laughed and changed the subject.

I think what sets Van Halen apart is not just that they were not just a metal band; at their peak they were a tight pop music act with good songwriting to match. If the songs were kind of meatheaded with dopey lyrics, well, that's just par for both the metal and pop genres, and it's what they did with what they had that made them special. I don't think EVH is a musically innovative guitarist (in the way I'd consider the luminaries of bebop, or Sonny Sharrock, or Richard Thompson), but he had the technique to support a particular style that's enjoyable to listen to and he's contributed meaningfully to the technology around electric guitars and metal music, so I wouldn't kick him out of the hall of fame.
posted by ardgedee at 11:28 AM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


starts blasting Running with the Devil. Guess I had already gone to bed...

Knew, this was not a place I wanted to be for four years...


this speaks to my general experience of the culture during Van Halen's reign, rather like a dorm you couldn't escape from -- no matter how good the guitar solo might be, that asshole would always be singing again way too soon.
posted by philip-random at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's impressive on the level of pure calisthenics, but I don't think it represents any kind of musical innovation

I'd say that, compared to the blues-rock guitar vocabulary that came before, it was pretty novel. It's not really fair to compare him to Coltrane.
posted by thelonius at 11:31 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Atomic Punk deserves better

This is the song that sold me on VH, too, and I am pleased that I am seldom completely alone in my appreciation.

Running With The Devil plods, Eruption ain't all that if you've heard the decade of guitar showoffs that followed, Jump is cheese, Hot For Teacher is... come on. The band is poorly served by so many of their hits. But Atomic Punk or On Fire - that's where the energy is.
posted by atoxyl at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Some of the hot takes on how Eruption isn't all that or is just pure speed work are completely foreign to anyone who was trying to play rock guitar back then. Eruption caused a near meltdown in the guitar press. It wasn't just lightning fast, Eddie used two handed tapping techniques that were pretty much unknown then (lots of people did hammer-ons but the only reasonable claim for the same two-handed technique is Steve Hackett with Genesis for a minute and that was child's play compared to Eruption), he weaved together distortion into forced harmonics and crushed the whammy bar like pretty much no one had ever seen or heard. If you listen to it now and think it is nothing new, that is only because pretty much every rock guitarist afterwards went to school on it. A few years ago, it was still voted "Greatest Guitar Solo of All Time" by readers of Guitar World. You might not like the tune or that general in-your-face with a sledgehammer aesthetic, but you can't say it didn't knock the guitar world for a loop. There are certainly guys with more technique or even pure talent than EVH, but his tweaking of the physical instrument and tone and sound was innovative and unique.
posted by Lame_username at 11:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [29 favorites]


There's certainly a huge distance between originating and copying.........Youtube has served me up a video of a 7 year old playing the bass solo from "Havona".......it's weird how something so fresh and unique and innovative can be made into a cliche
posted by thelonius at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2018


I've always loved Unchained. Which I guess is #2 on the list.
posted by JamesBay at 11:49 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, that guitar tone... people have chased after that tone for decades. I expect nowadays any number of amp modelers like the kemper can get pretty close, but for a long time, that tone seemed to be made from unobtainium.
posted by smcameron at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


rhizome: Louis Armstrong is the soloist you're probably thinking of when talking about rock guitar.

I'd put Louis Armstrong and Slash together. Both of them were focused on making their solos melodic, and they didn't mind playing the same solo every time they played the same song.
posted by clawsoon at 11:54 AM on September 5, 2018


It seems like I'm the only one whose major exposure to Van Halen was from the Atari Jaguar CD game Vid Grid, which means the only non-Jump track I know is "Right Now" and its oddly earnest text video.

Did you know, right now, old men and oil companies are in control? And science is building a better tomato?
posted by grahamparks at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Eruption is probably also the progenitor of the neo-Classical style that most shred guitarists would employ going forward, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you could trace the release of Eruption to Jason Becker playing Paganini’s 5th Caprice. Lame_username has it right though, which is that two-handed tapping pieces were unknown when that song came out. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody out there was doing two-handed tapping (the guy from Genesis was mentioned) but they either didn’t get it out there or they weren’t doing it like Eruption.

I’d also add that two-handed tapping gave birth to a lot of math rock guitarists, who basically slowed it down and added polyrhythms to the technique, and that’s not even mentioning the loads of technical metal guitarists who did other things with the technique. Check out this video by Christopher Arp playing the song Imogen’s Puzzle that he wrote, which he performs for his band Psyopus. There is a direct lineage here, and while the song itself contains a lot of the shred sensibilities of Eruption, as a whole it is a much more technically complex piece of music.
posted by gucci mane at 12:10 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


In our discussions about two-handed tap playing we probably shouldn't not mention Stanley Jordan.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:19 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


The best thing about the band as a whole was their humor.

Roth is kind of the patron saint of "It's not sexist if I'm winking at the camera when I leer at the ladies." I remember watching their videos as a kid and thinking, "Oh, SEE They aren't gross like other rock stars because they aren't taking themselves seriously."

(Ow! Sorry if that made you pull a muscle rolling your eyes too hard.)
posted by straight at 12:32 PM on September 5, 2018


I'd put Louis Armstrong and Slash together.

I see this like lame_username does Eruption above. There's a difference between originating and being influenced.

I'm only a musicological dilettante, but if Louis had done something like go completely chromatic, putting Buckethead or somebody in Slash's slot above, I'm pretty sure King Oliver would have torn his lips off.

The chronotope says that these things were created within the limits as they existed at the time. Louis busted out of those, Eddie busted out of his, and frankly I'd say Slash is a few influences removed from Louis. Yes, his solos are melodic and tailored, but the ground he's breaking (or broke) was to use that technique against the shralpers who were ascendant in the second half of the 1980s, GnR being the most visible denouement band between hair metal and grunge. In that way I'd put Slash in the category of Harry James and other jazz soloists who kept things "nice." No offense to Slash, who by all accounts seems to be an extremely cool and nice guy.

I don't know that Louis' solos were seen as aggressive at the time, but I feel we have to rely the chronotope in order to preserve a proper history where Louis and the kid on YouTube can not seen as similar, on a basis other than personal preference. This is not to say that the kid is not good, just that innovation is not commutative (distributive?).
posted by rhizome at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who can't listen to Van Halen on earphones because they hate how it sounds having the guitar in only one ear?

Are there any other rock bands that used that kind of extreme stereo segregation?
posted by straight at 12:42 PM on September 5, 2018


Are there any other rock bands that used that kind of extreme stereo segregation?

Early stereo mixes, like early Beatles albums, often did that.
posted by thelonius at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2018


Are there any other rock bands that used that kind of extreme stereo segregation?

The early Beatles stereo mixes are like that.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2018


73. “Little Dreamer,” Van Halen (1978)
I have a problem with this song, and it’s a personal problem. And I know this confession degrades the value of my perspective, since my obligation as a professional critic is to separate my own experience from a song’s free-standing value, particularly when my personal experience is unusually weird or exceptionally specific. But in this case, I can’t help it. I was introduced to “Little Dreamer” on an 8-track tape. It was the last song on program three, but there was only room for the first minute and 20 seconds, so the music faded out after Dave sings the line, “Seems no one’s talking ‘bout those crazy days gone past.” It would then click over to program four and fade back in for the remaining two minutes. If you’ve never seen an 8-track, I’m sure this makes no sense whatsoever. It probably sounds like I’m describing a gramophone or a reel-to-reel or a butter churn.


Oh, man, that was the WORST! I hated that!

For, like, two years or maybe more, someone on my morning school bus would blast a mixtape with "Jump" on it. I loathe pretty much every other song that was on the tape from sheer overexposure, but I still can't hear "Jump" without feeling like getting up and dancing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:03 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed that "The Cradle Will Rock," which Klosterman chose as the absolute midpoint of quality when it comes to rock songs (i.e. every song better than it is a good song and every song worse than it is a bad song) in one of his books, wasn't ranked #65 or #66.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:10 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I can't believe any Hagar song is higher than any DLR song.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:21 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Aztec Camera cover of "Jump"
posted by kirkaracha at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Some of the hot takes on how Eruption isn't all that or is just pure speed work are completely foreign to anyone who was trying to play rock guitar back then.

not to me - i was 21 at the time - the technique couldn't be denied, but you underestimate steve hackett's abilities with tapping - you also forget that alan holdsworth was already cutting everyone in 76 - this has a lot of van halen's moves with charlie parker's harmonic sense - in 75 steve hillage was up to tap speed on the rhythm of meditation of the snake - to do this through an echo effect takes very precise technique, you mess up and it's a wreck

robert fripp, jimi hendrix, john mclaughlin and jan ackermann had a lot of ability too

i wasn't that into it because i'd been listening to these guys
posted by pyramid termite at 1:32 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Are there any other rock bands that used that kind of extreme stereo segregation?

The first Ramones album is like that. And lots of stuff from the 60s but that's before you could be more subtle with stereo mixing.
posted by atoxyl at 1:33 PM on September 5, 2018


Roth is kind of the patron saint of "It's not sexist if I'm winking at the camera when I leer at the ladies."

Yeah. I always enjoyed his enthusiasm and humor, and tolerated this aspect of him. Except recently, I was listening to an old playlist in the car, and his cover of "California Girls" came on, and I was just like, nope - can't do it anymore.

I do still love "Just a Gigolo," though.
posted by nickmark at 1:37 PM on September 5, 2018


Aside from pure technique, one of the best things about "Eruption" is that, on the album, it segues immediately into "You Really Got Me", and so many radio stations play the two together that for the longest time I thought that "Eruption" was just Eddie's lead-in to the second song. That segue--from this incredibly arcane instrumental to one of the simplest riffs in rock--is kind of brilliant.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:43 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Btw I haven’t read a lot of Klosterman, but what is it with his style? Other people here seem bothered by it as well, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s something about him writing this where it seems as if he heard somebody say all these things before and then he went to a party and decided to rip them off to seem funny and cool to a bunch of strangers. It’s been nagging at me since I went through the list.
posted by gucci mane at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


not to me - i was 21 at the time - the technique couldn't be denied, but you underestimate steve hackett's abilities with tapping - you also forget that alan holdsworth was already cutting everyone in 76 - this has a lot of van halen's moves with charlie parker's harmonic sense - in 75 steve hillage was up to tap speed on the rhythm of meditation of the snake - to do this through an echo effect takes very precise technique, you mess up and it's a wreck

I mean, I wouldn't say Eddie is more technically impressive than those guys but he brought a pyrotechnic quality to it that's different from the jazzy/proggy material you're linking. I'm not a fan of Eruption when it comes on the radio simply because I did grow up in the post-Eddie era, where lots of metal guitarists could go wheeeew-diddly-doodly-doodly-do all over the place.
posted by atoxyl at 1:48 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]




Metafilter: wheeeew-diddly-doodly-doodly-do all over the place.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


> Am I the only one who can't listen to Van Halen on earphones because they hate how it sounds having the guitar in only one ear?

Nope, EVH himself hated it:
Interviewer: When did you start splitting your signal like this?

EVH: I think Fair Warning, or the album after. Maybe 5150.. I forget. But that's been my thing ever since. In the old days, Donn Landee [engineer on every Van Halen album from Van Halen (Warner Bros, 1978) through OU812 (Warner Bros, 1988)] would have my dry signal on the left and a little echo or reverb on the right. And I'm going, "Well, why don' t we use the harmonizer and get the whole fucking guitar over there instead of just [makes breathy noise to imitate the decay of a reverb or Echoplex unit] -- the tail-end of everything I play. I hated that sound.

Interviewer: Really? I always thought of it as a really cool trademark of your sound.

EVH: I can't stand it. I guess it worked for the first record. But after that it got old really fast. If you have a car and the left speaker's blown, the guitar is gone. If you're sitting on the right in the back seat, you don 't hear the guitar even if both front speakers work. What kind of shit is that?
posted by smcameron at 2:03 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Sing Or Swim: “Eddie Van Halen was playing major chord arpeggios, really fast. It's impressive on the level of pure calisthenics, but I don't think it represents any kind of musical innovation.”

ardgedee: “I think what sets Van Halen apart is not just that they were not just a metal band; at their peak they were a tight pop music act with good songwriting to match. If the songs were kind of meatheaded with dopey lyrics, well, that's just par for both the metal and pop genres, and it's what they did with what they had that made them special. I don't think EVH is a musically innovative guitarist (in the way I'd consider the luminaries of bebop, or Sonny Sharrock, or Richard Thompson), but he had the technique to support a particular style that's enjoyable to listen to and he's contributed meaningfully to the technology around electric guitars and metal music, so I wouldn't kick him out of the hall of fame.”

This is exactly right, I think; theatrics are super fun, sure, but at the end of the day they have to be seen for what they are. Arena metal of the 80s, for all its glories, was a repackaging of pop songcraft in the trappings of market-friendly rock transgressivism, and shared most aspects of its theatrical aesthetic with its natural entertainment-industry brother: professional wrestling. In other words, the "EDDIE VAN HALEN GREATEST GUITARIST EVER BOW DOWN" thing was entirely keyfabe and often (outside of 12-year-old circles) even understood as such, as it was around the same time in England by the people bringing cardboard cutout electric guitars to Neal Kay's Bandwagon to shred along to their heroes like Iron Maiden and Tygers of Pan Tang. It's theater.

Which is one of the reasons why it's so dumb when Klosterman says stuff like this:

“EVH is certainly not the only guitarist who ever played lead and rhythm simultaneously, but almost no one outside of Hendrix ever reached this level of aptitude at both skills.”

I mean - what? For starters, what in god's name does "rhythm guitar" denote here? It's a vague and oft-misused term, and is particularly inapt here given that Eddie Van Halen is playing throughout "Running With The Devil," just as he plays throughout most Van Halen songs, and is playing not chunka-chunka quarter-note chords (which is the only adequate definition of "rhythm guitar" I can come up with) but actual riffs. So what Klosterman apparently means here is... Eddie Van Halen is playing more than one note at a time – that is, he's playing chords (very often two-note chords, but chords nonetheless) which apparently means he's playing "rhythm guitar. But... the thing is that there are approximately ten trillion guitarists in the world, and at least 70% of those are rock guitarists, and there is a fantastic diversity in playing styles and methods there, but almost all of them sometimes play chords, even the ones who only ever really play solos. "Rhythm guitar" is not just playing the guitar rhythmically; playing the guitar rhythmically is just playing the guitar. Yes, Jimi Hendrix was particularly percussive in his playing, and liked to play percussive chords. No, that does not mean he was "playing rhythm guitar." And – if this needs to be said – any time someone has a discussion of "greatness of guitar players," and then proceeds to use Jimi Hendrix as a benchmark, they deserve what they're going to get, which is an eyeroll and a massive, massive sigh.

In conclusion, three observations:

1. Van Halen were mostly remarkable for their early ability to really sell the dark theatrics which metal was always aiming toward before the unfortunate detour into cheery spandex that was 80s arena metal. Their first album is in this regard their masterpiece, and they went swiftly downhill as they gradually traded in their aloof sneers for the boppy fun-loving spirits with which Klosterman seems so enamored. Kerry King, who would know, and whom Klosterman quotes in the article, is right – the last truly great Van Halen song is "Romeo Delight."

2. The best #1 hit in the summer of 1984 that featured a synth-driven melody that hopped between triads and was based on a I-IV-V chord progression that was called "Jump" wasn't even by Van Halen.

3. The best cover of a Kinks song is the one the Kinks themselves did in 1980.
posted by koeselitz at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


is playing not chunka-chunka quarter-note chords (which is the only adequate definition of "rhythm guitar" I can come up with) but actual riffs.

That is what "rhythm guitar" means in hard rock and metal - playing the riff.

What Chuck is really talking about, I think, is players who constantly embellish riffs and link them with looser transitional bits. Yes, anybody who is the only guitarist in their band plays both lead and rhythm, but some guitarists are particularly adept at fluidly filling the space of both "lead" and "rhythm." Jimi and Eddie are nowhere close to the only ones but I do think it's a distinctive part of how they play.
posted by atoxyl at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2018


OK your favorite band sucks and all, but EVH and Yngwie Malmsteen are basically the guitar equivalents of Mariah Carey. Technically impressive noodling without any consideration for whether or not it sounds any good.

That said, "Cradle Will Rock" and "Finish What You Started" are OK by me.
posted by biscotti at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Good gawd; they all look so young. Total 5150.
posted by Afghan Stan at 3:29 PM on September 5, 2018


EVH and Yngwie Malmsteen are basically the guitar equivalents of Mariah Carey

Where does Eric Johnson fit in? Is he Taylor Swift?
posted by hanov3r at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I always find it interesting how one's appreciation or lack thereof for certain bands, music, songs, can change as one ages and no longer associates music with social standing or identity.

I listen to a lot of stuff I liked in high school/university but I also don't listen to a lot of stuff I did back then, having decided it hasn't aged well.

Was never into Van Halen then or now but I don't mind a few of their songs. One of my best friends then and now still loves them so I hear them from time to time. I'd say I would rather listen to the earlier tracks then the later.

Whenever I hear about Van Halen these days I remember Johnny Marr talking about the Smiths seeing them play (including Morrissey).
posted by juiceCake at 3:58 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yep, Chuck & VH are kinda made for each other, both are talented charming joker-bullshttrs.

Trivia: I saw VH live on their first tour, and it was the worst muddy gut-churning live sound in a concert that I'd ever experienced. And that's probably why they made them count out all of those brown m&m's in their concert riders, because they wanted their live sound crews to adhere closely to the specs.

(You could try to compare Eddie to some legendary jazz cats if you wanna, but he was very good at his influential thing.)
posted by ovvl at 4:06 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


What is it with Klosterman's style? I have mixed feelings. He's smart and funny, but he does come across like some guy you meet at a party saying clever insincere blather. That said, I really liked his 80's Dakota slice of life novel, 'Downtown Owl', and I recommend it if you like this kinda thing.
posted by ovvl at 4:24 PM on September 5, 2018


not to me - i was 21 at the time - the technique couldn't be denied, but you underestimate steve hackett's abilities with tapping - you also forget that alan holdsworth was already cutting everyone in 76 - this has a lot of van halen's moves with charlie parker's harmonic sense - in 75 steve hillage was up to tap speed on the rhythm of meditation of the snake - to do this through an echo effect takes very precise technique, you mess up and it's a wreck

robert fripp, jimi hendrix, john mclaughlin and jan ackermann had a lot of ability too
I totally agree with you and recognize that even Eddie acknowledged that Hackett did it first, but it didn't remotely have the impact on the world that Eruption did. None of the fusion guys really did either, even though Holdsworth was a beast -- I'd add Al DiMeola to the list of guitar gods that don't get the acclaim they deserve. But probably like 200 of us listened to U.K. in the 78 and I don't even know which obscure fusion groups (Tony Williams, right?) he was playing with before Bruford grabbed him, although I'm sure he was amazing.

Everyone I knew was definitely going WTF? and madly trying to figure out what he was doing and how he got that sound.
posted by Lame_username at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Lame_username has it right though, which is that two-handed tapping pieces were unknown when that song came out.

Emmett Chapman would like a word.
posted by ardgedee at 4:52 PM on September 5, 2018


If it amuses you to fight about who was the first to do two-handed tapping, there is a video on youtube of an Italian (iirc) guitarist doing it in about 1950
posted by thelonius at 5:06 PM on September 5, 2018


Here - it's 1965, not 1950
posted by thelonius at 5:18 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


But how famous was Chapman when he developed the Chapman Stick? Like I said, I’m not surprised that people did two-handed tapping prior to Van Halen, and in fact I’m pretty sure there are videos of Jimi Hendrix using his picking hand to tap notes, but I don’t know if the widespread public saw two-handed tapping often until Van Halen.
posted by gucci mane at 5:47 PM on September 5, 2018


There was an episode of the "Fresh Air" show on NPR in which the guest was Richard Thompson, and the show interspersed segments of interview with Thompson performing his songs solo. The host moved the topic to how Thompson seems to be a virtuoso musician but doesn't seem to get the same kind of recognition that, say, Eddie Van Halen does for it. Thompson, iirc, kind of verbally shrugged before ripping a 10 second piss-take on a heavy metal guitar solo, and the host laughed and changed the subject.


I was already planning to post this here as a better double entendre song about ice cream, but that makes for a nice intro. I know that here on MeFi poking fun at Klosterman is pretty much shooting fish in a barrel, but as was noted above Klosterman and VH seem made for each other. I find both occasionally entertaining, sometimes tiresome, and sometimes just ridiculous. (Also the acronyms; I am of an age where VH is usually followed by 1, and indicates the TV channel that played music videos after Music TV stopped. I notice CK seems to refer to the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album by its acronym whenever possible as if the rest of us never got it.) It also seems that CK fidgeted with the list so that he could cleverly segue from one song to the next; # 61-60 is a good example.

But what really stuck out to me was his ranking of Little Dreamer at #73 apparently because he first heard it on 8-track. Based on other remarks in the article, and a quick look at his Wikipedia page, he graduated high school in 1990. My first thought was "why is he critiquing songs based on hearing them in first grade". But then I found this: In the U.S.A., eight-track cartridges were phased out of retail stores by late 1982. Some titles were still available as eight-track tapes through Columbia House and RCA (BMG) Music Service Record Clubs until late 1988. For some reason I think that explains a lot.
posted by TedW at 7:18 PM on September 5, 2018


I was disappointed to see "Jump" placed so low. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but I would swear it's actually somewhat self-reflective. It's telling that the central boast isn't something about outrageous sexual prowess or hard-drinking ability or anything like that, it's just "I ain't the worst that you've seen". It really captures the insecurity of so many men. A slightly older guy, starting to feel a little silly about the big hair and the frilly blouse, in the corner of the room nervously backed up against the jukebox, desperate for companionship, thinking, "aren't I good enough? please?".

Also I like the guitar solo, it's very concise. Some speedy bits, a little tapping, but nothing overblown.

On the other hand maybe it's just that the famous out-of-tune video has utterly destroyed my ability to take the song at face value...
posted by equalpants at 7:24 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Where does Eric Johnson fit in? Is he Taylor Swift?

Please. Adele.
posted by Chitownfats at 8:45 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I notice CK seems to refer to the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album by its acronym whenever possible as if the rest of us never got it.

It's 29 characters long, maybe he just didn't want to waste that much space.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:51 PM on September 5, 2018


I was disappointed to see "Jump" placed so low. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but I would swear it's actually somewhat self-reflective.

The Aztec Camera cover I posted does this with a slower, more acoustic arrangement.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:54 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Why make a comparison to Glenn Miller when Louis Prima is right there? Ok sure, that was Dave solo, but still a missed opportunity.
posted by fings at 10:07 PM on September 5, 2018


You know, now that you mention it, I do recall this one-hit wonder of a band called Van Halen, who turned in a tremendous, gleaming, malevolent machine of a single, "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love." That song was real. The Minutemen covered it, even.

They did something beyond that, though? Huh, who knew.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:24 AM on September 6, 2018


Here - it's 1965, not 1950

I've never seen a better example of a guy supposedly inventing and perfecting a genre all at the same time.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


one-hit wonder of a band called Van Halen
Best Band In The Land
posted by thelonius at 6:50 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Dance The Night Away" is, even at #3, underrated.
posted by tftio at 7:17 AM on September 6, 2018


So, this just came up in my youtube recommendations: Van Halen - Complete Zero Demo - 1976 (Unreleased)
posted by smcameron at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


The thing I kinda like about Van Halen and "Dance The Night Away" is that it could just as easily have been an ABBA song.
posted by rhizome at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


I just realized "Dance The Night Away" is 110% foreshadowing of "Jump."
posted by rhizome at 10:08 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wow, that complete Zero demo is pretty great, and they could've had an awesome(-r) demo album since it's got most of the best songs from Van Halens I and II.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2018


The Aztec Camera cover I posted does this with a slower, more acoustic arrangement.

and then it erupts beautifully at the end (unless you're listening to the shorter neutered version). This particular cover went a long way toward solidifying my thoughts about music -- that there are no bad songs, only bad performances. As for Van Halen, I suspect I would hold them in high regard indeed had they chosen a more resolutely Yacht Rock trajectory at the beginning of the career ... or really anything but the frat-boy territory that they explored so relentlessly.
posted by philip-random at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Love that comment on the Zero demo:

"Sounds like they wrote most of their albums in 1976."

posted by JoeZydeco at 1:44 PM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


equalpants: “I was disappointed to see ‘Jump’ placed so low. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but I would swear it's actually somewhat self-reflective. It's telling that the central boast isn't something about outrageous sexual prowess or hard-drinking ability or anything like that, it's just ‘I ain't the worst that you've seen’. It really captures the insecurity of so many men. A slightly older guy, starting to feel a little silly about the big hair and the frilly blouse, in the corner of the room nervously backed up against the jukebox, desperate for companionship, thinking, ‘aren't I good enough? please?’.”

I guess it provides an interesting counterpoint to sneering "you know, you're semi-good-looking."
posted by koeselitz at 10:11 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, he wasn't talking about love.
posted by straight at 4:06 PM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


To me, the essence of Sammy "Oh, you ate one for unlawful carnal knowledge too?" Hagar's crassier and crappier fratboy version of Roth is how he always sang the line in "Jump":
Ah, can't you see me standin' here
I got my ass against the record machine
Boorishly losing the poetic "back against the wall" image for the sake of throwing an extra swear.
posted by straight at 4:40 PM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


After despairing about Klosterman, i do have to hand it to him that this is both a good line and a good observation: "To many people born post-grunge, the difference between David Lee Roth and Glenn Miller is negligible."

That kind of sums up Klosterman for me. It sounds clever and has a ring of truthiness, but then you think "wait, is that even true?" and then "wait, does that actually even mean anything?"
posted by bongo_x at 12:32 AM on September 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


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