Tag Archives: 1984

1984

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 It’s no wonder that sales of this album reached over 10 million in the U.S. alone at a time where LPs were being superseded by CDs.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.

Picture courtesy http://i.ytimg.com/vi/0qyA5nnZW_w/hqdefault.jpg

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

References:

  1. 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/

EVH, Keyboards and the 5150 Studio

Unusually for a rock guitarist, Eddie Van Halen also periodically used keyboards in his music too. It is this unusual touch about Eddie that makes him a true musical prodigy, and a gifted one at that.

1984 was the first Van Halen album to feature prominent keyboards in the music.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_(Van_Halen_album)

Why the experimentation with keyboards? A few reasons. Number one, many people are unaware that both Eddie and Alex undertook strict piano lessons during their childhood, until they both discovered rock and roll. It even reached the point where they performed in concerts as pianists when children. However, once they had enough and Ed bought his drum set, it all changed.

The second reason is as the trends changed in rock music, particularly during the 1980s, keyboards suddenly became acceptable within the rock framework and many popular artists of all genres used them throughout this period. It seemed like a good idea for the band, now on the rise, to use them fairly extensively in their music.

A key point for many understanding the use of keyboards in Van Halen’s music was “Beat It” on the Thriller album by Michael Jackson, which EVH collaborated on.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thriller_(Michael_Jackson_album)

The final reason, perhaps, is down to Ed’s personal preferences. Being the innovator that Ed is, he decided to fiddle around with keyboards early on, despite hostility from others in the Van Halen circle, and eventually won. Without Eddie’s persistence on the matter, some of the music from Van Halen in this period would have been vastly different, and possibly much worse.

It all began with the experimentation of the keyboard on “…And The Cradle Will Rock…” on Women and Children First where Eddie plugged a Wurlitzer keyboard into his Marshall stack. It was accepted at the time, as the sound was not dissimilar from Ed’s famous Frankenstrat, which was entirely intentional. But in particular, David Lee Roth and long-time producer Ted Templeman would not accept the keyboard alone whatsoever. This led to massive arguments between Eddie and the others about the creative direction of Van Halen. On the 1980 tour, Michael Anthony was noted as playing the keyboard part on his bass guitar for the song, which must have been humiliating for Ed.

Eddie realised he had much more power with creating his own music than allowing others to do so for him, hence the 5150 studio.

Picture courtesy http://www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/flashback-eddie-van-halen-on.aspx

Synthesizers were present on the next album Fair Warning on the track, “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”. By this point, the original incarnation of Van Halen was suffering from some problems with personal relations reaching new lows. But still, the band powered on.

Diver Down, a record that neither Eddie nor Alex Van Halen were particularly happy with had an interesting keyboard part on “Dancing In The Streets”. But it was a cover, and Eddie was unhappy with the fact that what he intended for an original composition was literally hijacked for other purposes. Still, Eddie Van Halen persisted at his dream of using keyboards to supplement Van Halen’s music.

Diver Down, although perceived as a failure by the two Van Halen brothers, was simply paving the future for keyboards and the 5150 studio.

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

The answer to Ed creating his own sometimes keyboard heavy music was to establish his own studio. Named after the police code for a lunatic on the run in the Los Angeles area, 5150 was built inside Ed’s own home and was completed in 1983, when Van Halen had begun work on what would eventually become the 1984 album.

From this point onwards, no person but Edward Van Halen could claim responsibility for the most part, of Van Halen’s music. The next album, 1984 had the band’s single biggest hit, “Jump” which had an Oberheim OX-Ba keyboard piece recorded on it, dominating the #1 U.S. chart hit in the year of release.

Ed also ventured out, and for a considerable period of time during the 1980s playing keyboard onstage. This was a more interesting touch and a different side to Eddie Van Halen, but one that did not last. As time went on, keyboards became unfashionable to the mainstream music scene during the 1990s as trends changed, and instead offstage session keyboard players and/or sequencing machines played keyboard parts so that Eddie played the primary guitar lines on stage instead, rather than playing the parts himself.

However, this experimentation with keyboards ultimately proved fatal to the first incarnation of Van Halen, with David Lee Roth leaving the scenes in 1985 along with Ted Templeman. The band then had other priorities to deal with from that point onwards. Still, it was Eddie’s ingenuity that won the day, and proved that he was no one trick pony.

Until this day, the 5150 studio has remained the basis of Van Halen’s music recordings and creation.

Picture courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/4160283836

References:

  1. Renoff, Greg. 2015. The History of Eddie Van Halen and Keyboards. http://ultimateclassicrock.com/eddie-van-halen-keyboards/
  2. Rosen, Steven. 2008. Flashback: Eddie Van Halen on 1984. http://www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/flashback-eddie-van-halen-on.aspx