Top 100 Hard Rock Groups

#8 Van Halen

By James West, The-Rocker.com

Ok, I got my baggiest windbreaker on- check; zipper is all the way up for full camouflage coverage- check; subject has been located and is in proper angle position for insertion- check; exit point is free and clear of any possible threat- check; cashier is assisting customer two isles down- check; IT’S GO TIME! Casually insert item and make way to exit; try to maintain normal walking pace; exit building and go directly to vehicle; keep hands in my

windbreaker pockets to secure item from falling out; now get keys… Oh shit, how do I get my keys when both hands are securing item from falling out….. Oh hell, I think someone’s coming… C’mon damn keys open the damn door dammit…. In the ignition, in the ignition, no not on the stinkin’ floorboard… Got ‘em let’s go you idiot… C’mon car start, C’mon car start, Please start, I promise never to do this again, just start damn you… Thank you Jesus, now let’s get the Hell out of here!  I did it, I did it!  Oh crap, now how am I gonna sneak this inside the house without my momma catching me?  Ok, time to come up with a new plan…

Was it all worth it?  YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT!  I just snagged Van Halen’s first album!  Well, I hope it was worth it, I haven’t even heard any of the songs yet! LOL

 

Turned out my brave but stupid shoplifting actions 40 years ago paid off and paid off in spades.  Van Halen changed everything for everyone in 1978.  The loud siren swooping down to that deep bass thud, and then… WHAMMO! The guitar sound that changed a generation grabs you by

the balls and demands to be heard- Up front and In your face!  You were now Runnin’ With The Devil and there was no turning back in the world of Hard Rock music. 

The sound was not Aerosmith, it was not Kiss, not even Montrose, it was a sound of a volcano with guitar strings.  And then Eruption starts…. To witness this explosion of sound deep in the heart of the Ozarks by a 15 year old kid was truly a Revelation.  I’m sure kids living in Pasadena and Hollywood heard it coming, because that was THEIR sound and soon it would be the sound all up and down the Sunset Strip with bands like Quiet Riot, Ratt, and Motley Crue.  Guitar virtuosity was no longer limited to master players like Clapton, Hendrix, and Blackmore overseas.  This new sound with dive bombs, finger tapping, and arpeggios now 

became AMERICA’S SOUND!  And we would OWN it for the next decade.

A Little Brown In My Sound Please!

How Eddie Van Halen developed his infamous “Brown” sound from the combination of a Fender Stratocaster and a Marshall Amp is extraordinary.  Here was a guitarist so intent on getting the sound he wanted that he would change bridges, pickups, knobs and connections to his own specifications to

reach his goal.  Not only that but he had the skills to pay the bills by studying his heroes like Clapton and Page and even bringing in classical elements from his piano training he learned at an early age.   And like Hendrix the guitar became an extension of his anatomy in his expressions.  His guitar became him, and He became the guitar, and this devotion to the instrument and its development has made Rock guitar what it is today.  All this and I still barely know how to tune a damn guitar after 40 years!

Of course, what’s a guitarist without a great vocalist, bassist, and drummer to fully compliment his talents!   Enough credit cannot go to Alex Van Halen, not only for his own talents as a drummer and percussionist, but also in helping and encouraging his brother Edward over the years.  Like Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, brother musicians function as ONE in capturing a unique sound and vibe. 

 

While rumors of Eddie being a control freak early on in Van Halen’s history may have some substance when it comes to Michael Anthony’s bass playing you still cannot deny how great Michael is as a bassist in his

own right.  Just check out his contributions to Chicken Foot and The Circle and you will be a believer of Mad Anthony’s talents!

David Lee Roth truly is a diamond among gemstones among rock and roll singers, and he will be the first to tell you this! Lol  But think about this for a minute.  His sarcastically funny, almost Vaudeville-type lyrics and vocal delivery have never been duplicated.  To attempt to do so would result in disaster, and even Diamond Dave struggles to be himself 40 years on.

Enter Sam-Man; Sammy Hagar!

The David Lee Roth-era Van Halen albums still sound just as strong and innovative today as they did 40 years ago.  The same can be said of the Sammy Hagar-era albums of the 80’s and 90’s.  While in my opinion not as great as Roth-era Van Halen, Sammy’s Van Halen is a close second, followed by Gary Cherone.

Unlike with Roth, Eddie seemed

so happy when Sammy was on board during their first few albums.  That great connection resulted in awesome material, even though the sound focused more on the songs than of the riffs that dictated early Van Halen.  Sammy has also always been a hero of mine through his days with Montrose, his solo career, and especially with Van Halen.  His voice is one that comes from the heart, and that is not an easy task to achieve in the world of party hardy Rock and Roll!  My only regret is not being able to see Van Hagar live while I had the chance, and it looks like that chapter is closed for good at this stage in the group’s game.

Still Runnin' from the Devil?

What’s next for Eddie Van Halen?  As of this writing there’s rumors of a new album in the works with Roth which works just fine with me.  If not with him that’s ok too.  Anything at this point from the genius of King Edward will suffice.  I’m just glad to have witnessed the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise and fall from this little old band from Pasadena.  The best thing about it being 40 years later is you don’t have to sneak anything in your windbreaker anymore; you just have to steal it from a cloud that’s out there… somewhere!

The Rocker Chic captured this cool photo to the right  of Eddie, Dave, and Wolfgang during the Van Halen Different Kind Of Truth Tour at San Diego in the Summer of  2015!

Rocker's United Speaks Out!

My ROCKER'S UNITED Facebook Group is growing like a stack of Marshall's!  Thanks go  to all members for their opinions and contributions!  For those interested in joining this cool group of fans, musicians and music industry professionals just hit the join button on The Rocker Facebook page!


A poll was done to see who fans prefer: Diamond Dave or Sammy Hagar as lead singer, and David Lee Roth won by a

landslide; just as Van Halen's first album put every other Van Halen album in its place by dominating as favorite Van Halen Album!

 

My favorite Van Halen Album Fair Warning came in second, with 1984 right on its tail.  A Different Kind Of Truth didn't get one vote as did Gary Cherrone as lead vocalist.  Ok, I felt bad and gave him a vote! lol

Some members, like Mark Manis from Indiana liked Women and Children First for favorite VH album, and John Donaldson from Washington state loves the heavier tone and hard-edged blues found on that album.  

Dave Settles, who runs a musician page called Heavy Metal Settles sums it up the best:  "I like certain songs off each. I need a greatest hits to be my pick. But what I choose as greatest hits and not what the corporate machine picks.  Thank you Van Halen for an awesome youth-hood!" 

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