Monday, August 13, 2007

The Original VH-1

When Kiss started falling out of favor a bit in the late '70s, their void was filled for me by a band that one Gene Simmons ironically had a hand in discoveringVan Halen.  I saw these guys in concert four times during the David Lee Roth era, and three more with Sammy Hagar, and these were some of my all-time favorite concerts.  The DLR era in particular featured some of the most high-energy shows I've ever attended, and at their peak (circa. 1981-82) VH was white-hot on stage, even when Roth was too drunk or too stoned to remember some of the lyrics!

 So why is it I'm so queasy about today's announcement of a Van Halen reunion tour with Roth?  I guess maybe because I know that deep down inside, the Van Halens and Roth really still can't stand each other, but they can put up with each other long enough to snag a few paychecks.  And you just know that this tour is going to end badly (if it ever gets off the ground in the first place), and it will have more to do with Roth's arrogant tendencies than with Eddie Van Halen's well-documented substance abuse problems.  I also have issues with bassist Michael Anthony being sacked in favor of Eddie's 17-year-old son Wolfgang.  I don't understand what Eddie's (and/or Alex's) beef is with Mikeyhe's certainly put up with all of their problems all these years and never complained.  For all we know, young Wolfie might well be a competent bassist, but can he also duplicate Anthony's high harmony backing vocals that are an integral part of the VH sound?  To me, this is not a true reunion tour if Anthony isn't part of it.  As I said the first time they announced this tour earlier this year, I have a baaaad feeling about this...

But let's not forget why I came to love this band in the first placethey fucking rocked!  Great guitar pyrotechnics from Eddie, Roth's testosterony lyrics, and some great live shows.  My favorite VH album was 1981's Fair Warning, the 8-track tape (remember those, kids?) of which I nearly wore out during my junior year in high school.  All four of the VH shows I saw with Roth were great, but my personal favorite was the Diver Down tour in 1982.  My friend Tom and I had great seats at Kemper Arena on the lower lever near Eddie's side of the stage, and I distinctly remember how pumped-up the crowd was before the show began.  One of my all-time favorite concert memories occured during the opening act, After The Fire (of "Der Kommisar" fame), when some guy in the front row stood up right in front of ATF's lead singer with his right arm and middle finger extended!  Crude gesture, to be sure, but deadly accuratethese guys sucked, and that's how anxious that crowd was to see Van Halen!  Then again, crappy opening acts were a VH staplewhereas Kiss always brought along great opening acts like Judas Priest, Molly Hatchet, Queensryche and W.A.S.P., Van Halen gave us big names like The Katz, G-Force, After The Fire and The Velcros!

The Van Hagar era was less satisfying on many levels, although I really do like Sammy Hagar.  Early on, the shows were still high-energy, and by far, 1988's OU812 was the high-water mark of Sammy's tenure, but after that, it felt like Van Halen really lost their edge, and by 1995's Balance album, they were downright boring!  Then the whole big soap opera began when Hagar was fired and VH briefly reunited with Roth for two lame songs on a best-of CD, then Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone came in for that still-born Van Halen 3 flop in 1998, and then they reunited with Hagar again for another greatest hits album and a very ragged concert tour.  Sadly, this once-mighty band has basically been irrelevant for the last 15 years.

Do me a favor, please, and wake me up when or if they become relevant again...

My All-Time Van Halen Top 10 (Hagar era):
10) "Top Of The World" (1991)
9) "Dreams" (1986)
8) "Humans Being" (1995)
7) "Good Enough" (1986)
6) "Mine All Mine" (1988)
5) "Runaround" (1991)
4) "When It's Love" (1988)
3) "Source Of Infection" (1988)
2) "A.F.U. (Naturally Wired) (1988)
1) "Get Up" (1986)

My All-Time Van Halen Top 15 (Diamond Dave era):
15) "Jamie's Cryin'" (1978)
14) "Hot For Teacher" (1984)
13) "Everybody Wants Some!!" (1980)
12) "Panama" (1984)
11) "Ice Cream Man" (1978)
10) "D.O.A." (1979)
9) "Pretty Woman" (1982)
8) "Somebody Get Me A Doctor!" (1979)
7) "Eruption"/"You Really Got Me" (1978)
6) "Fools" (1980)
5) "Sinner's Swing!" (1981)
4) "Hear About It Later" (1981)
3) "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" (1978)
2) "I'm The One" (1978)
1) "Unchained" (1981)


The DLC said...

Thank you for posting about this topic of utmost importance to anyone between the ages of 25 and 45.

I do however respectfully disagree on your assessment of the intolerable Sammy Hagar. "Van Hagar" is altogether a different and far-suckier animal than the glorious Van Halen.

Brian Holland said...

Thanks for your comment, DLC, but I don't see where we're in all that much disagreement on this issue--I didn't exactly give glowing praise to the "Van Hagar" era in my piece there. I do like Hagar as a solo act, though, and I thought 'OU812' was a solid record. But you are right--the DLR era was far superior until Dave's ego got the best of him.