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Van Halen: Best Of Volume One

As previously discussed, the first Van Halen compilation came along with the rotation of singers. Yet, despite this, how does it sound?

It was a shame that for this particular compilation only one disc was released. Van Halen had more than enough material to fill up two discs of songs, but regrettably only chose one instead. There are many tracks that could have made it onto another disc which would have been amazing.

The two new songs with David Lee Roth were amazing.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2014/09/04/van-halens-original-lineup-presents-mtv-award/

Still, there is a fairly good selection here of music by Van Halen. It begins with ‘Eruption’, leading all the way to ‘Panama’ (or ‘Hot For Teacher’ if you had the Japanese copy of this album) for the first David Lee Roth era. Once that is over, very much the hit singles from the Sammy Hagar era are here. And yes, many fans were aware of these songs yet for a one disc compilation it strikingly sounds well chosen.

Then we have the new tracks. ‘Humans Being’ is very much of one the worst “Van Hagar” tracks you will hear. It is a dirge like song, only redeemed by the loud, prolonged scream at the end of the song. A poor effort indeed.

It is really hard to know what Van Halen and Eddie Van Halen himself were really thinking around this time.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarplayer.com/news/1024/eddie-van-halen-performs-jimi-hendrixs-fire-and-little-wing–video/52965

Then we get two brand new David Lee Roth songs, ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’ is very cool indeed. “Got a date with a supermodel, I know I can make it…” begins Dave on the first new song. It sounds wonderful and fresh, something that Balance seems to lack. Not bad.

More catchy though is ‘Me Wise Magic’. A full on, rhythmic tune with style, it is an underrated gem out of the Van Halen cannon. Eddie Van Halen uses some cool licks on his new Peavey Wolfgang here, and it does justice indeed.

Eddie Van Halen really does show his Brown Sound progression on this particular album.

Picture courtesy http://atlasicons.photoshelter.com/gallery/EDDIE-VAN-HALEN-1996/G0000wb.BUOeMwgk/C0000YdNgrVtpTBs

The good thing about this compilation, regardless of it needing to be more inclusive, is that we can clearly hear for the first time Eddie Van Halen’s Brown Sound transition throughout the years. From the first Frankenstrat on ‘Eruption’ to his Peavey gear on ‘Me Wise Magic’, somehow upon listening one gets the feeling that this is exactly what Eddie desired to show listeners. He seemed very content with showing the difference in sound and tone over the years.

The bad thing about this compilation though is that it does fall short of a truly amazing listen by being too selective of some songs and also needs more of them. After the fade out of the last track, you may sit there and feel left out of what could have been much more.

There could have and should have been another disc of Van Halen material. Yet, despite this, this album is absolutely essential to understanding the Brown Sound progression over the years.

Picture courtesy http://www.covershut.com/cover-tags/Van-Halen-Best-Of-Volume-1-1996.html

It is the better of the two compilations though, and is a must for those who wish to understand the Brown Sound in a logical progression. A photo of Eddie’s Peavey Wolfgang is in the booklet. Unfortunately, nobody saw the future at the time, which is exactly what this compilation was for.

Chaos in Van Halen – The Beginning of the Singer Revolving Door

It was not a good or easy time for Van Halen in 1996. The pressure within was definitely consuming the once powerful and cohesive group. Although Eddie himself was busy promoting his brand new line up of Peavey Wolfgang guitars to show that he still had the genius and ability to craft wonderful instruments, the truth was that Eddie Van Halen was in an alcohol (and some say drug) induced decline.

All parties involved with Van Halen were running to the media to explain the problems within Van Halen. Unfortunately, Eddie Van Halen was no exception to this.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqUJ9Vdjs88

The fact was that Ed and Sammy Hagar did not see eye-to-eye on what Van Halen represented. Different stories have emerged from both parties on what really happened around this time, yet one thing that was certain was that in 1996 Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen had a large fallout after Van Halen indicated that they were seeking to get David Lee Roth back into Van Halen to record some new songs for their first greatest hits album Van Halen: The Best of Volume One. Although this website is about Eddie Van Halen, it is important to cover these issues as well.

Once Sammy Hagar was no longer a part of Van Halen, in an odd stroke of fate, Eddie Van Halen attempted to recruit Mitch Malloy into the band. This was kept top secret at the time and no real leak of what happened did not occur until many years later when Mitch Malloy confirmed that until the MTV Music Awards in that year happened, he was given the green light to be their third singer. He revoked the offer after seeing David Lee Roth with Van Halen on that night.

Mitch Malloy was keen on joining Van Halen around this time until bad things got their way.

Picture courtesy http://wileykoepp.com/2013/12/mitch-malloy-van-halen-replacement-for-sammy-hagar-almost/

Perhaps Eddie Van Halen himself was foreseeing a return to David Lee Roth era Van Halen? Who knows, but what was clear is that they did indeed record two songs for their first compilation with David Lee Roth, ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’ and ‘Me Wise Magic’, and both are the most underrated Van Halen songs you will listen to. Still, it was not enough to keep the band going together after the infamous MTV Music Award 1996 Ceremony.

Although stories do differ, what is clear is that David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen did not see eye-to-eye on the fact that Roth wished to be returned as lead singer of Van Halen, but Eddie wanted a more methodical approach. Of course, regardless of any bad blood on either side, the pair fell out and prompted a rethink of a new singer for Van Halen. After the MTV Music Award night, Van Halen were never the same again.

The fact that the entire band were now relying upon the media to express their disgust at what had happened with Van Halen revealed a lack of confidence in any musical project whatsoever involved with them.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2014/09/04/van-halens-original-lineup-presents-mtv-award/

The band eventually returned to their rehearsals for a new singer. They selected Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, who had not really worked along with Van Halen before and was a new addition to the Van Halen group. By all accounts, Gary was very easy going with the group and although the following record proved he may not have been David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar, he did fit the bill at the time indeed.

Gary Cherone only lasted in Van Halen for three years and sung on the disastrous Van Halen III album, but he seems much more respectful towards Van Halen and what they represent than what Sammy Hagar shows nowadays, strangely. Although he is not suited to Van Halen’s style of music per se, it was what the band needed at the time.

Gary Cherone really did do his best to hold things together in Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2015/06/09/gary-cherone-van-halens-tokyo-dome-live-concert/

 

References:

 

  1. Greene, Andy. 2013. Flashback: Van Halen tours with former Extreme singer Gary Cherone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/flashback-van-halen-tours-with-former-extreme-singer-gary-cherone-20130115
  2. Van Halen News Desk. 2013. How Mitch Malloy Almost Became Van Halen’s Third Singer (Video). http://www.vhnd.com/2013/11/06/how-mitch-malloy-almost-became-van-halens-third-singer-video/
  3. 2013. Van Halen News Story on The David Lee Roth & Sammy Hagar Break-ups – 1998. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etsan65vOqc
  4. Van Halen News Desk. 2013. Gary Cherone Reflects on his Three-Year Stint in Van Halen. http://www.vhnd.com/2013/01/17/gary-cherone-reflects/

Peavey Wolfgang

Due to some of the limitations of Eddie Van Halen’s Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model and the contract ending with Ernie Ball, Eddie decided to pursue Peavey further in his ultimate quest for the perfect sound and tone.

In 1995 Eddie Van Halen and Hartley Peavey worked together placing the finishing touches on a brand new line of guitars for Edward and the result was both unique and amazing simultaneously. The guitar itself was made commercially available in 1996, along with a licenced production of Peavey EVH Wolfgang guitar strings as well. The name was the same name as Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen.

Eddie Van Halen was eager to move on with guitar design and refinement.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/gear/evh_peavey-guitars.htm

This new guitar was similar in some respects to the previous guitar that Eddie Van Halen had used, yet there were some subtle differences that had made this guitar more unique than the previous one that Eddie had used.

The basic idea of the design was almost identical to the Ernie Ball guitars that Ed had used for some time. Basswood was used for the body, with maple used for the neck and for the body design, a licensed Floyd Rose tremolo and two custom designed and wound EVH/Peavey humbucking pickups, as well as Schaller M6 mini tuners.

Some of the design differences in comparison to the previous Ernie Ball guitars were the addition of maple top and a unique three-way switch placed at the top of the body which was reversed in comparison to regular three way switches typically placed at the same position. Additionally the new Peavey line-up also included, for the first time, a D-Tuner added to the Floyd Rose tremolo system which was not included on the previous line of guitars. A tone adjuster with knob was also added, along with a new uniquely shaped headstock.

In a sadly ironic way Eddie Van Halen endorsed and played the Peavey Wolfgang throughout the worst period of his musical career.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/news/2005-01-10_evh-parts-with-peavey.htm

The first commercially produced Peavey guitars that were created in 1996 were limited only to the Peavey Wolfgang Standard, which came in six different finishes. The quality of these guitars varied widely due to the difference in quality of the flame maple tops, which later was changed to curly maple tops in a way of remedying the problem of quality of sound output.

A variety of different models were offered over the years. From 1997 to 2004, there were models such as: Wolfgang Standard; Wolfgang Standard Deluxe; Wolfgang Special; Wolfgang Special Deluxe; Wolfgang Special EXP and also Peavey provided a custom shop for those who preferred that sort of service.

The Peavey Wolfgang guitar is an underrated lost piece of history.

Picture courtesy http://johnnyolsa.com/Guitars/

Eddie himself primarily played during this time a Wolfgang Standard with a Tobacco Sunburst style finish. He did play this through both Van Halen tours respectively after production commenced, yet apparently destroyed this guitar on the last show of the 2004 tour.

All Peavey Wolfgang guitars came with a special handbook with a personal statement from Eddie himself about this unique brand of guitar, along with tips for care. Below are some stats of the Peavey Wolfgang:

 

Body:

  • Figured maple top/basswood back or solid basswood construction.
  • Unique offset cutaway design with carved top.
  • Cream or black top-edge-binding.

Neck:

  • Birdseye maple neck and fingerboard, oil-finished.
  • Dual graphite reinforcements and adjustable torsion rod.
  • 25 ½ inch scale length, 22 jumbo frets.
  • 15 inch fingerboard radius.
  • 10 degree tilt-back headstock with 3+3 tuning machine configuration.
  • Bolt-on construction with contoured neck heel.

Electronics:

  • Two custom-wound Peavey/EVH humbucking pickups.
  • Volume and tone controls.
  • Switchcraft® 3-way toggle switch and output jack.

Hardware:

  • Schaller® tuning machines with pearloid or cream buttons.
  • Peavey/Floyd Rose® licensed, double-locking tremolo assembly or tune-o-matic/stop tailpiece fixed bridge assembly.
  • D-Tuner™ (available on tremolo model only).
  • Chrome-plated hardware finish.

In a strangely repressed way and under huge pressure, Eddie Van Halen’s Peavey Wolfgang was one of the most forward thinking designs of guitar yet.

Picture courtesy http://www.rocknrollweekend.com/index2.html

Although Ed ended his contract with Peavey in 2004, if you are seeking this guitar, be sure to look at eBay for various models of this guitar, although it can be rather pricey to purchase a second hand one. Sadly this guitar was strictly produced by Peavey and there are no other real alternatives to finding a guitar quite like it. Once Eddie ceased relations with Peavey, he took his ideas elsewhere and left Peavey with little memory of his involvement with them and Peavey now only produce the 5150 amplifiers (now branded as the 6505 amplifier range) and the guitar strings he used to use. Regardless of this, this guitar is part of the history of the Brown Sound and if you have one today, you are very lucky indeed.

Eddie named the guitar after his son Wolfgang. This clearly meant that the Peavey Wolfgang indeed was special to Eddie Van Halen at the time.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Van_Halen

 

References:

  1. 2015. Eddie Van Halen Guitars and Gear. http://www.groundguitar.com/eddie-van-halen-guitars-and-gear/
  2. Knapp, Geoff. 2006. Wolfgang Guitars – The Unofficial Site of the Wolfgang and HP Special Guitar. http://www.wolfgangguitars.com/
  3. Peavey. 1998. EVH Wolfgang Operating Guide. http://peavey.com/media/pdf/manuals/80301829.pdf