This album, for many was the peak of the David Lee Roth era Van Halen, in terms of sales and commercial output.
What made 1984 so successful was the music included in the album. There were hits galore, from the uplifting U.S. #1 “Jump” to others like the hilarious “Hot For Teacher”, the creepy “I’ll Wait” and scores of other great songs. It’s no wonder that sales of this album reached over 10 million in the U.S. alone at a time where LPs were being superseded by CDs.
Van Halen had officially broken into the mainstream, and were gathering more and more attention.
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There is absolutely no filler here. The first track, “1984” is a synth led pastiche that introduces the newer, more keyboard oriented style of Van Halen. One can image Ted Templeman pulling his hair out over such “non-pop” music, but as a short intro piece, it does justice.
The group’s biggest hit, “Jump” follows. The song itself is a keyboard driven, super catchy piece about life and lust, with plenty of references in the chorus to jumping. It has become the piece that everybody knows of by Van Halen. And yes, that is Eddie playing keyboard on it.
“Panama” is a show stopping tune about driving a fast car with plenty of sexual references. Indeed, it is so catchy that when the chorus hits you, you are banging your head along with the rest of the band. There are samples of Eddie Van Halen’s Lamborghini in it as well. Nice work.
AC/DC’s Back in Black was cited as a key influence by Eddie Van Halen around the time of 1984.
Picture courtesy http://germanamur.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/acdc.html
What follows is, “Top Jimmy” recorded with a Gibson Flying V for the majority of the guitar parts in the intro. “Top Jimmy” is a hilarious tale about a rock star (Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, somebody else?) that has the crowd loving it “when he rolls his eyes”. Clever.
“Drop Dead Legs” is about sexy looking legs. Eddie Van Halen used mostly his Kramer 5150 guitar on this album and it does sound different to the previous Van Halen recordings as a result. Still, a song that sounds effortless.
The hilarious “Hot For Teacher” proves that the band were not afraid of humour, but they could not have done it without David Lee Roth. Indeed, “Hot For Teacher” may be the shining moment of David Lee Roth with his macho, politically incorrect swagger. Still, a great, interesting tune nonetheless.
Alex Van Halen sounds really alive on this recording, particularly on “Hot For Teacher”.
Picture courtesy http://consequenceofsound.net/2008/10/icons-of-rock-alex-van-halen/
“I’ll Wait” sounds like a love song. Sort of. It is, in fact about a celebrity stalker. But the song is catchy, memorable and sing-along in its approach. Eddie drives the keyboard heavy sound here.
Proof of Eddie’s musical ability comes next: “Girl Gone Bad”. It twists and turns with an awesome ending. But even though this song was not a single, it is in no way like any of the songs on this recording, throwaway. It is listenable and awesome simultaneously.
Eddie discontinued using the original Frankenstrat after the recording of this album.
Picture courtesy http://guitarism.ru/notes/4277
The closing track, the reworked, “House Of Pain” is the last song off the David Lee Roth Van Halen albums. It is just pleasurably listenable, and another great piece.
But what makes 1984 so special, apart from it being era-defining, is that it is so consistent all the way through. Few bands, let alone records make it into the books of history. Without Eddie’s vision, Dave’s performance, Michael Anthony’s solid basslines and Alex Van Halen’s interesting drum work, with the help of others, this recording would be nothing. Sadly, it was the last of the original incarnation of Van Halen. They would never be this good again.
Van Halen would create their last main recording with frontman David Lee Roth for nearly thirty years afterwards.
Picture courtesy http://www.rockpaperphoto.com/van-halen-usa-1984
- Gill, Chris. 2014. Eddie Van Halen Looks Back on Van Halen’s Landmark ‘1984’ Album and the Creation of 5150 Studios http://www.vhnd.com/2015/01/09/happy-birthday-1984-eddie-van-halen-looks-back-on-van-halens-landmark-album/