This album came as a surprise for those following the musical journey of Van Halen. For those who had followed the band over the past several years, Diver Down did seem like, for many, a step back down in the creative scheme of things. Nonetheless, although it is certainly focused heavily on covers, and less so on original material, it is still essential for the Van Halen fan. The release of the single, “(Oh) Pretty Woman” which was originally intended for the band to buy some more time backfired as it became a huge success. This album in retrospect perhaps was rushed, but still is a satisfying listen to this day.
By 1982, the release of Diver Down had occurred and Van Halen had the ball rolling once again.
Picture courtesy http://www.the80sman.com/van-halen-little-guitars-complete-version-1982/
From the beginning of the album, the cover of “Where Have All The Good Times Gone!”, another Kinks number, it seems as though the lighter end of things was present for the record. Gone were the dark tales of sex and mean streets, instead a more poppy edge to the recording was present. It seemed as though the band, and producer Ted Templeman had agreed to a different agenda for this record.
“Hang ‘Em High” follows with some interesting guitar work from Eddie Van Halen and a slightly different sort of song than usual. It is a thrilling listen and continues to animate the sort of band that Van Halen were at the time.
The instrumentals on Diver Down are definitely examples of Eddie Van Halen’s genius, and underrated at that too.
Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2013/01/27/top-10-eddie-van-halen-guitar-solos/
The following piece, “Cathedral” is brilliant with Eddie Van Halen plugging in a Fender Stratocaster into a multitude of effects pedals, particularly his delay pedal, and using the volume control on his Stratocaster to create the intentionally organ-like sound. It is so simple and ingenious that Ed still plays this piece as part of his onstage solo today.
“Secrets” follows with a quieter, pop like song about love. Perhaps inspired by Ed’s then new relationship with actress Valerie Bertinelli, it is fairly average but listenable. It seems a little weaker overall this recording, but still essential listening.
The secret to “Secrets” is that there is no secret that Eddie Van Halen was inspired by his then new love Valerie Bertinelli.
“Intruder” follows with some bashing drums and weird guitar sounds, sounding like something out of a horror movie. Indeed, the 1980’s was all about horror and science fiction movies, and Van Halen covered them quite well in their songs.
It segues into the single “(Oh) Pretty Woman” which is a good, but laughable cover. Indeed the average Van Halen fan may shake their head at this one. But still, David Lee Roth puts in a great performance on it.
Van Halen were becoming increasingly well known around the world for their music and their live performances at this point.
Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2012/08/11/the-summer-of-van-halen/
“Dancing In The Street” is another cover, although this time sounding much more like an original than a cover. Eddie Van Halen said that the interesting guitar part that he made up for the song he wanted to make into a “Phil Collins like piece” but apparently Ted Templeman got his way. Ed did not enjoy this sort of move by the producer, adding to the already present resentment by Eddie Van Halen and the rest of the band of the recording process with him.
The “Little Guitars (Intro)” follows which is a nice piece, similar to “Spanish Fly” in its sound. Eddie did play this onstage in his solo part for some time. Regardless, it is a good listen.
“Little Guitars” itself became an onstage gimmick, with Eddie playing a mini Gibson Les Paul for that and being a fairly ordinary song. Not much to say about this one.
“Little Guitars” became an onstage spectacle with Ed’s little guitar itself.
Picture courtesy http://www.vintagekramer.com/5150f.htm
The hilarious “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” is, yet another cover. Despite this, the band do a very good job of covering this song and with credits going to Jan Van Halen, the father of the two Van Halen boys for him playing Clarinet on the song. A good listen, and a little stronger than the other songs.
“The Full Bug” is a nonsense song about women and lust. It is one of the better originals for the album. Still, a sense of lost direction on this record persists by the point with a multitude of covers.
Van Halen, in its first incarnation, were working up to something truly amazing that even few fans could recognise.
Picture courtesy http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/0229291
A cover of Dale Evans’s “Happy Trails” ends the album with just the four Van Halen members singing along the piece. There is chuckling at the end of it but were the band really happy at that point? Who knows?
After the release of this album, stronger sales were present in comparison to those of Fair Warning. But the tensions there were ever present between the producer and the rest of the band. Eddie and Alex particularly dislike this record, and the band vowed to break free of the control of Ted Templeman on the next record. Thus, the 5150 studio was built in Eddie Van Halen’s house and recording of 1984 was done there, but that is another story…
Van Halen were leading onto some of their best work yet, even if relations between band members were not so rosy.
Picture courtesy http://www.heyreverb.com/blog/2012/01/05/van-halen-pepsi-center/43708/