Tag Archives: Alex Van Halen

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

The time had come for a new album by Van Halen. Given that their output had diminished somewhat during the Sammy Hagar era, this is one of their better albums of this era and marked a sort of turnaround comeback for the group after three years of fans waiting for the next Van Halen album. The album went to #1 in the United States alone and sold well.

Van Halen were back and ready to rock.

Picture courtesy http://popblerd.com/2012/02/07/discography-fever-van-halen-part-two/

The name came from Sammy Hagar and the original idea was to call it FUCK alone as a protest against American censorship. The idea to call it For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came after a discussion that Sammy Hagar had with a professional boxer about the history of the profanity and used the proper term as the name of the record.

The prolonged period in which the record was worked on, for about a year, delivered some of the best songs and songwriting from the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. The band enlisted two producers for the record: Andy Johns and Ted Templeman. It was a strange mixture that delivered a more cohesive sound than the previous Van Halen recording.

The Ernie Ball guitar that Eddie Van Halen designed sings on this album.

Picture courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/4004945510

The record starts oddly, with near silence for the first ten seconds. Then Eddie makes his new Ernie Ball guitar start with “Poundcake” by a power drill placed onto it. This curiously, was done using a Makita drill that was left in the studio to fix Eddie’s Soldano SLO 100 amplifier. The song itself is a great piece of work that talks about an ideal woman for the listener to take in.

“Judgement Day” is next up, which sounds very upbeat, yet has Sammy Hagar talking about inner feelings concerning faith and religion. “Tell me why…should I care or even try?” he asks in relation to this matter. Some of Eddie’s best whammy work is here, and the solo is really good as well.

Surprisingly, although humorous, “Spanked”, or at least this version of it, seems a letdown. It does have some killer vocal work by Sammy Hagar, but falls flat sonically. Despite that, the rhythm work of Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen sounds very cohesive on this song.

Andy Johns was the main producer of this album and ensured a good effort overall.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2013/04/07/andy-johns-passes-away/

“Runaround” is just awesome. In retrospect, it sounds like a party tune, yet there is a great vocal delivery on the bridge, proving that Sammy Hagar himself is quite an expert vocalist. It certainly was a hit single, and still is a fan favourite.

The biggest let down on this recording is “Pleasure Dome”. Despite this being another showcase for Alex Van Halen, it simply falls flat and does not seem listenable apart from that. It goes well over five minutes and is really only worth hearing once.

Eddie Van Halen was now focusing on his sound down to every individual aspect of its creation.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/uberschall/van-halen-whitesnake/

“In ‘N’ Out” follows, which is much better. It talks about wage slavery, and seems pseudo-political. But Sammy and Eddie both keep this song well alive, and it has some really fantastic vocal work from Sammy Hagar, proving that age does not need to destroy a fantastic voice.

“Man On A Mission” is good, but seems nothing too special. But still, the background vocals of Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen keep this song going well. Another song about finding the ultimate girl, perhaps the theme of this record.

The next track, “The Dream Is Over” is very underrated. This is what makes the song come more alive upon listening to it today. When the midsection hits, with Sammy Hagar screaming, “It’s a rip off…” you will appreciate the song more. A good effort.

Sammy Hagar really excels all expectations on this recording.

Picture courtesy http://nogonadudyp.hostzi.com/sammy-hagar-eddie-van-halen-pictures.php

One of Van Halen’s most memorable tracks, “Right Now” was a big hit for Van Halen and does still sound moving. Some of the best lyrics from this album are here and it is memorable, and very good indeed.

“316” the instrumental pastiche by Eddie Van Halen is a simple, lovely sounding acoustic piece that Eddie wrote years earlier. Due to the arrival of his then newly born son Wolfgang Van Halen, he devoted it to him on this recording. It does sound very romantic, and is a welcome change from the vocals/guitar/bass/drums of the other songs on the record.

Eddie was still coming up with fresh ways of approaching music.

Picture courtesy http://www.pasadena.edu/about/history/alumni/vanhalen/vanhalen.cfm

The last track ”Top Of The World” is a definite encore number, using the outro riff from “Jump” as the main riff on the song, although not noticeably so. It sounds positive and makes you feel like the most confident person in the world after listening to it. A very good effort.

So, in retrospect, the album went three times platinum and put Van Halen back into the game. However, from this period onwards, undercurrent issues began to emerge from within the band which would later eat themselves up. But at this point, Van Halen were indeed doing well and had made a great record for their fans to appreciate.

This recording was one of the better recordings of the “Van Hagar” era.

Picture courtesy https://frasesdavida.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/sammy-hagar-ataca-o-van-halen/

References:

  1. Van Halen News Desk. 2015. Sammy Hagar Marks ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ Anniversary With Retrospective Video. http://www.vhnd.com/2015/06/18/sammy-hagar-marks-for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge-anniversary-retrospective-video/
  2. Van Halen News Desk. 2013. This Day In 1991: Van Halen Performed “Poundcake” on the VMAs. http://www.vhnd.com/2013/09/05/this-day-in-1991-van-halen-performed-poundcake-on-the-vmas/

OU812

As the eighties drew to a close, the time had come for yet another album by the now commercially successful Van Halen. This time, the album called OU812 was packed full of tunes ready for Van Halen and Sammy Hagar fans alike.

This album, like its predecessor, was a commercial success, reaching #1 in the U.S. Critically however, it was seen as weaker than 5150 in general by critics. Sonically as well, it was the end of Eddie’s traditional setup with his Marshall Superlead amplifier, prompting him to entirely rethink his setup over the next few years.

The “Van Hagar” era was well and truly underway with OU812.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/

But, the question is, are the songs there? Of course! There were several hit singles from the album. To begin with, let’s look at a track by track in depth analysis of the album.

The first track, “Mine All Mine” is a dark, deep song about questioning one’s faith within oneself. The line, “You’ve got Allah in the east, you’ve got Jesus in the west, Christ! What’s a man to do?” creates a feeling that one is soul searching, or at least in Sammy Hagar’s case. With a funky synth line, this track is very catchy.

The first song of the album that was worked on, “When It’s Love” is a catchy pop tune that may leave David Lee Roth fans asking, “What?!”. Indeed, it is light years away from anything done with the former lead singer. Still, it is a great song, and well worth listening to. A classic single indeed.

“When It’s Love” is a great Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song.

Picture courtesy http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=519286

Following up is “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”. This song has some well-structured and interesting sections to it. It has some well varied and interesting work from Eddie and Alex Van Halen whilst Sammy Hagar has some wonderful vocal work on top of it. This is a very underrated piece from “Van Hagar”.

“Cabo Wabo” is a slow, jam like song which probably goes on far too long. Although some sections of it are indeed, catchy, it is a poor effort. It just goes on a bit, which makes it difficult to listen to after the first time.

The following number, “Source Of Infection” is rather throwaway fun. Still, it is rather catchy nonetheless. Enjoyable listening.

Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen got along so well at this point they lived next door to each other, proof of their stable relationship at the time.

Picture courtesy http://www.weissguygallery.com/images/galleries/VAN%20HALEN/

“Feels So Good” follows and is a good piece about finding love lost. Still, compared to some of the other numbers on the album, it seems very much weaker. But this is the strength of OU812. Even the weaker cuts are listenable, not a bad thing in itself.

Next up is, “Finish What Ya Started” is a more interesting touch from Van Halen. Nonetheless, it is humourous enough to engage listeners in its “we have all been there” type story. A good variety of instrumentation exists on this track, with Sammy Hagar playing acoustic guitar.

This is the last traditional “Brown Sound” album that Van Halen created.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/fmpackerfan/van-halen/

“Black And Blue” follows, a rather bland piece of work. Funnily enough, it was a hit single for the group, but still seems weaker than other Van Halen songs. It seemed that the quality of Van Halen mark II was not as strong as Van Halen mark I, a shame in itself in some ways.

On the other hand, “Sucker In A 3 Piece” is based on a Sammy Hagar real life story, humourous and interesting nonetheless. Obviously referring to jealousy, it captures a side of male sexual desire often unseen in real life. Well worth listening to.

Van Halen were still creating great songs, and were very popular at this point.

Picture courtesy http://www.rockmusictimeline.com/1988gallery.html

The last track is a throwaway cover suggested by recording engineer Donn Landee. “A Apolitical Blues” is just that and seems humourous in retrospect. Admittedly, it is filler, but good filler at that. Humourous.

So, in retrospect, how does OU812 fare? Fairly well. Although some songs on the album are fairly weak, it delivered more or less the same outcome as 5150. Still, some of the sonic output by Eddie Van Halen is less powerful than before. Was it the end of the Brown Sound? Some agree so…

This is the last Van Halen album to feature Eddie’s Marshall Superlead, which was wearing out after years of use in the studio and onstage.

Picture courtesy http://guitarvillage.uk.com/product/9857-279/Marshall-JMP-1959-Super-Lead-Head-Pre-Owned-1972-VG-100-Watts.aspx

References:

1. Popoff, Martin. The Recording of OU812 in Sammy Hagar’s Words. http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/

Love Walks In/Live Without A Net

The time had come for Van Halen to recognise how popular they were becoming. They had already built up a huge fan base intentionally and at home in the United States. In response to this, Van Halen decided to record themselves playing over two nights in New Haven, Connecticut in 1986.

The result was not considered an official release, but amongst Van Halen fans is considered so. The Live Without A Net video was released in 1987, along with a live album called Love Walks In.

Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar seemed to get along well around this time.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32pqVtsQaCA

In retrospect, there seems to be some overly generous editing on the Live Without A Net video. Indeed, purists may find that this is not a real representation of Van Halen. Watching the DVD and listening to the album give somewhat different results. It does seem that the video itself was a mish-mash of editing, paving the way for the “semi-live” album Live: Right Here Right Now in 1993. In particular, Sammy Hagar’s vocals do not sound as powerful or as good as the vocals on the video.

Regardless of this, Live Without A Net can just show you how on top of their game Van Halen were around this time. The fact was that despite the personnel changes and some of the difficulties surrounding doing so, Van Halen were (and are) capable of creating a great show with great tunes.

The best pieces are the opening tunes, such as “There’s Only One Way to Rock”. But the individual solos are a show-stopper. In particular, Eddie Van Halen’s solo is one to watch with fascination. Years and years of practice and playing, along with his awesome Kramer 5150 guitar show truly a man who was unbeatable at his craft. It is truly fantastic to watch.

Eddie Van Halen is a star on Live Without A Net.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDOFIttS69I

But the whole video is worth adding to anybody’s collection. Regardless of any editing that may have been undertaken, it is definitely a must watch for the Van Halen fan.

The album, on the other hand, does seem to take a flipside to this live recording. It is not as good, although it does include “Good Enough” as the opening track, it simply pales in comparison to the video itself, perhaps proof of some obvious editing here. Unlike the video, it seems that it is only worth seeking out if you are really keen on Van Halen. But still, this is part of the Van Halen story, and enough to generate interest.

In short, although there are mixed results with these two offerings from Van Halen, Live Without A Net and Love Walks In are fun, entertaining and exciting Van Halen moments, and more proof of the band’s capability to hold it all together after the departure of David Lee Roth.

Eddie also used the Steinberger 5150 extensively on Live Without A Net.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnS4jX9samo 

You can watch the Live Without A Net video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIWLNBPS2r8

5150

“Hello baby!” is where the 5150 album begins, introducing the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. This album is important in the Van Halen back catalogue, as it changed Van Halen, their sound and their overall perspective of the music for many years to come. It was also their first #1 album in the U.S. prompting a huge amount of interest in the band from this point onwards.

Van Halen seemed refreshed and ahead of the competition early on with Sammy Hagar.

Picture courtesy http://1979rock.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/1986-vanhagar-5150.html

In retrospect, this album is not dissimilar from its previous counterpart 1984, which sounds almost musically similar. It was the effort of pure luck for Van Halen. Without the contribution of Sammy Hagar and the new producers (Mick Jones, Donn Landee), this album would have been nothing.

“Good Enough” kicks off the album, a catchy, humourous tale of food and sex. The sound here is not as good as the sound on previous albums, as the group had lost Ted Templeman as overall producer. However, Eddie’s playing is fantastic here, sounding like he really loves shredding away on his Kramer 5150.

Eddie reached his peak of excellence in terms of his guitar playing on the 1984 and 5150 albums, and was much more confident with his skills as a result.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/norseman72/worlds-best-guitarists/

Following up is the hit single, “Why Can’t This Be Love?” This song is synth heavy, with the guitars taking a back step to the electronic sounds. In retrospect, this song sounds very dated. But at the time, it was killer. It is still catchy enough and listenable regardless.

The next song, “Get Up” is one of the worst Sammy Hagar era Van Halen songs recorded. Strangely enough, the boys decided to place this onto the album anyway and even play it live. It is the first of two songs where Eddie used the Steinberger 5150 on it. But apart from some pacing drum work by Alex Van Halen, it falls short.

Following up is “Dreams”, which is a lot better. This sort of song created a lot of criticism from older David Lee Roth era Van Halen fans who disliked it intensely. Indeed, this song could never have been done with him. Sammy Hagar really hits the higher notes here, and the guitar solo is unusual and interesting, pointing to the fact that Eddie Van Halen wanted to branch out further with the sound of Van Halen at this time.

Sammy Hagar is still a great singer, and his role as the second lead singer for Van Halen boosted his career to new heights.

Picture courtesy http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/sammy-hagar-a-history-in-photos-20110301/1986-0094850

A singalong number, “Summer Nights” follows using with Ed using the Steinberger 5150. It is very catchy and comes as a feel good song. There is some understated playing by Eddie Van Halen on this number, and still sounds fresh today.

“Best of Both Worlds” follows and sounds wonderfully awesome. Using the Kramer 5150, Eddie changes his playing subtly. Gone are the loud hard rock solos of old, instead a more thought out, methodical approach to his playing is here. A wonderful number indeed.

There was something miraculous of being able to change lead singer in a great rock and roll band, and still put out great music as well.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2013/03/27/27-years-ago-today-van-halens-first-concert-with-sammy-hagar-as-frontman/

Sounding somewhat different, “Love Walks In” is a spacey, keyboard driven song about aliens in love. Although seemingly strange nowadays, it was keeping with the fashion of the time of science fiction. With catchy melodies and an uplifting solo by Eddie Van Halen, it is essential for “Van Hagar” fans. A must.

“5150” is the next song, a more stripped down rock/pop song about the compromise of love. It really is a touching sort of song. You can imagine David Lee Roth sniggering and rolling his eyes to this piece. But that is not the point. It is emotional and uplifting, in a way that David Lee Roth era Van Halen never could be…

Eddie Van Halen was evolving musically, and the 5150 album sounds very different to anything David Lee Roth era Van Halen ever offered.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/pin/356558495469932752/

And speaking of David Lee Roth, the throwaway “Inside” is a direct dig by the band about their former singer. Although perhaps unnecessary, it has some interesting lyrics and samples of chatter (including somebody shouting not-so-discreetly “Alimony!”) which proves that the band were not going to water down any attacks towards David Lee Roth. How quickly things can change…

The reason why this album was so successful was the fact that during the Sammy Hagar era, Van Halen were now mainstream. The sounds (screaming vocals, shredding guitars, thumping basslines, electronic drums and keyboards) plus the fact that everybody knew them for the single “Jump” put Van Halen in the spotlight. Musically, the album seems a little weaker than otherwise hoped for. Still, Van Halen were happy to create music in a newer style and were not looking back.

The era commonly dubbed “Van Hagar”, although different from the David Lee Roth era Van Halen, was very successful, and proof that change is sometimes not a bad thing.

Picture courtesy http://pennycan.createaforum.com/music/van-halen-discography-(the-sammy-hagar-years)/

Changing line-up and changing sound – From David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar

Understandably, prior to this entry this website has not covered the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. The author has left out his name on certain issues as to keep the two singers’ music and representation separate.

To begin with, there were always issues in Van Halen from the start between the main members of the band. The original line-up with bassist Mike Stone did not work as he was not seen as talented as Michael Anthony. The band opted David Lee Roth to join Van Halen as their lead singer, as Eddie Van Halen was not comfortable with it at the time.

Although DLR and EVH get along much better these days, relations are still not the best between the two. However, this is not always a problem for a band still recording and touring to this day.

Picture courtesy http://magazine.dv247.com/2011/07/05/tone-clinic-part-17-edward-van-halen/

This line-up persisted for just over a decade. There has been much publicized banter on the internet, music magazines and other places about the change of singer from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar.

So, why Sammy Hagar? Well for a start, the first main line-up of the band did not get along very well from the release of the 1984 album onwards. Various private meetings were held to try and hold Van Halen together after the release of that particular album. It soon became clear that David Lee Roth did not like the sound and direction of Van Halen’s music around this time. Eddie wanted to branch out more, whilst David Lee Roth thought it would be ridiculous for a rock band to even consider placing synthesisers or other production techniques into their music. This, by far, was the biggest reason for the initial split. Ed even considered leaving Van Halen at one point around 1983. Stylistically, the band wanted more, and David Lee Roth wanted a more back-to-basics approach.

Sammy Hagar’s entry into Van Halen in 1985 represented a more melodic and poppy approach. Sales of their albums were strong throughout this time.

Picture courtesy http://www.vulture.com/2011/03/the_nine_saddest_eddie_van_hal.html

The second reason was the idea that David Lee Roth could not and should not be allowed to create his own music. Indeed, David Lee Roth suggested in an early 1985 interview that he was sick of being tied to the Van Halen project and just wanted to get on with it instead. Comments like these did not go down well in the Van Halen camp.

On April 1, 1985, Roth mentioned in a statement that he had left Van Halen. This was initially met with some scepticism, as it was on April fool’s Day. However, later that year in the mid-August issue of Rolling Stone, Eddie Van Halen told the world that the first lineup of Van Halen were over, and that the band were seeking a replacement singer. It looked like Van Halen were over for good this time.

Eddie did his best to hold things together, and managed to do so. Auditions for singers were begun, and after some time, a decent singer, yet very different to what David Lee Roth had to offer stylistically was presented to Eddie by his car mechanic: Sammy Hagar.

This cover of a late 1985 Rolling Stone Magazine suggests than the then new lineup of Van Halen was quite happy to make music without David Lee Roth.

Picture courtesy https://franny032.wordpress.com/tag/eddie-van-halen/

Sammy Hagar was not unfamiliar with Van Halen. In fact, they had toured together (although neither met each other personally until 1985) in the late 1970s. Sammy Hagar was originally famous for having a stellar solo career after inspiring, yes, Van Halen to follow a similar sound to what he was pursuing at the time. Sammy Hagar was lead singer in the group Montrose and released a string of successful solo albums prior to entering Van Halen. So, it seemed like an ideal fit for the band after years of David Lee Roth’s excessive macho behaviour…or so the band thought.

Montrose is a killer album that introduced Sammy Hagar into the world of music.

Picture courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montrose_(album)

Regardless of what the band now thinks of this change, fans were rewarded with a newer, more poppy style of Van Halen. Some older fans do prefer Sammy Hagar over David Lee Roth. Indeed, listening back to the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen: 5150; OU812; For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance (along with the live albums recorded as well), one is reminded that this self-conscious change refocused the band’s music in a somewhat different direction. Some DLR fans were not impressed with this new music, naming it “screechy”. But the point was, it was not simply a change of singer, but also a change in style.

What about David Lee Roth? Well he embarked on a moderately successful career beginning with the 1985 EP Crazy From The Heat until he properly rejoined Van Halen in 2007. But on David Lee Roth’s second long term stay, the band were very different in terms of maturity and musical direction that they wished to experience. But “Diamond Dave” in 1985 had enough, and left Van Halen and did not re-join until 1996. But still when it comes to music, although personnel can change, the music can still be wonderful and uplifting to the listener, no matter who is the lead singer.

David Lee Roth’s solo career did not reach the heights of Van Halen, but was successful nonetheless.

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

References:

  1. Renoff, Greg. How David Lee Roth really left Van Halen. http://ultimateclassicrock.com/david-lee-roth-left-van-halen/

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