Van Halen

The first Van Halen album is now considered a rock classic. It is a mixture of hard rock guitar by Eddie, David Lee Roth’s pseudo-punk wail, Michael Anthony’s thumping bass guitar and the often understated drum work of Alex Van Halen, Eddie’s brother. But more than that, it is a combination of a number of styles into a fresh new style of music within an original framework. Rolling Stone magazine rated the magazine as the 27th best debut album of all time1.

But aside from that, Van Halen were not a very well-known band outside their hometown of Pasadena California. Prior to the recording of the album, Van Halen played school halls and similar venues with Eddie on vocals. David Lee Roth joined the band around 1974, recruiting bassist Michael Anthony along the way.

According to the Story of Van Halen documentary2, Ted Templeton heard Van Halen play in a local club. He signed them to a record deal and the rest as they say…is history.

This album really shows how talented Eddie is as a guitarist.

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The album itself is mostly hard rock. But unusually for such an album there is an undercurrent of other musical styles as well: bar music; blues; pop and virtuoso style rock. But it does not necessarily copy, even the covers. If anything it is a pure demonstration of Van Halen at their best early on: loud; rocking and energetic.

David Lee Roth era Van Halen, especially this album, is still so popular today.

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So what tracks are the best? About half the album was deemed worth enough to go onto later compilations. But Runnin’ With the Devil; Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love; Jamie’s Cryin and the legendary Eruption solo, which although is very well known amongst rock lovers now, nearly didn’t make it onto the recording. But Ted Templeton heard Eddie play the piece in the studio and suggested that they record it. The result was unlike anything done in rock before, a combination of Eddie’s technical guitar playing and few effects to create a sonic and musical triumph. People to this day attempt (for better or worse) use the techniques that Eddie utilised in that piece.

But overall the album created something unusually good and original, when the two main movements of the time musically, punk and disco, were souring and the original rock bands were under pressure to come up with something decent as well. Van Halen bucked the trend and recorded an album that will be forever remembered for quality music, and this is the album to buy first, no questions asked.

Van Halen should be proud of their debut.

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  1. Rolling Stone. The 100 Best Debut Albums of all Time.
  2. LuvEverythingMusic. 2013. “The Van Halen Story Documentary”.

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