As November tips over into my time capsule year in review that is December 2020 I need to do three things. I need to get into the timey wimey functionality of the SteveForTheDeafTimeSpaceTupperwareParadox (the SFTDTSTP). For no other reason than my reticence to go in there and judiciously edit the syntax of the posts already scheduled. When I wrote the 30 posts for December, it was before I came back in October and just started blogging everyday (again). I’d gathered a lot of new music in 2020 and was planning a month long pop up shop then gone. Due to some real world events in the final quarter of this decade long year, we were now in a different world to the one in which I’d written them.
Sure, the most evil would be dictator of the future was disposed and the fight back to intelligent progress from selfishness and hate was underway. You’d have thought I’d have mentioned it more, but I usually like to read about my political coups and kristallnacht’s in hindsight so… Close call. Too Close. Work to do! Our assured destruction is not averted yet.
That leaves just the one really big thing that happened in the rock world which I have yet to properly acknowledge. We lost a king. A true pillar of the culture. One of THE most influential musicians of ALL TIME.
Edward Van Halen. Eddie.
The wunderkid who arrived in a flurry of fingers like an Eruption of fun in the late 70’s just when the excess and the drugs and the doom and gloom were really taking a hold on the genre. There are bigger fans and better writers who have already paid their respects to the man who sold ten million guitars in the 80’s than I. And yet… Were I to not acknowledge Van Halen in 2020 here on SFTD our mission would be incomplete.
Van Halen were of course more than just EVH’s band. He had blood in the line up with Alex “Hi Hat Lover” Van Halen on drums. There was the goofy groover Michael Anthony on Bass and depending when you got to them, there was either Diamond Dave or The Red Rocker on front man duties. I’m not gonna compare the two. I loved both and this post isn’t about them as such. On the early records though. That Running With The Devil, Janie’s Crying, Ice Cream Man, You Really Got Me party vibe was most certainly more than just a shot in the arm for metal guitar pyrotechnics. It had the show tune fun and the cover versions cemented into the bands DNA from day one. Van Halen albums were a celebration. That was the message.
Van Halen II was the return to the same hotspot. It featured the immaculate pop rock single Dance The Night Away and lacked any poker face at all on Beautiful Girls. The 80’s were coming and Van Halen were ready to joke, sing, party and play in a way that defined the era like no other band can claim. Their reverence for a crowd pleaser meant they could open their album with a cover and not lose face. Eddie could show off on Spanish Fly and rock up a dark storm cloud on DOA and their metal credentials were all in place.
Album number three was where I came in as a fan. It was already an old record by the time I bought it. Hot For Teacher was already out fending for itself in the wilds of the top 40 (and so was David Lee Roth) by the time I was old enough to listen to Van Halen, but Women And Children First was the album I started with.
And The Cradle Will Rock, Everybody Wants Some, Romeo Delight, Loss Of Control. It was a heavy fast loud riot of a record. Still that comedy show tune element came along for the ride too. This time In Take Your Whiskey Home. By the time I’d caught up with Fair Warning, Diver Down and 1984, I was a fully fledged Van Halen Fan. They worked well alongside Kiss at a garage party, although musically they had more to do with the Maiden’s and Metallica’s. It was the humour that meant AC/DC and Led Zeppelin had a playmate in my growing collection.
Some of my buddies took to certain bands more than others. Benny liked VH as much as I did. We were the party guys. It made sense. He liked Bon Jovi more than I did. I liked Metallica as much as Scotty, The Dogs D’Amour and Aerosmith the same as Fizz. Hound was GNR down the line. Loved a bit Aerosmith with me and Fizz, while Wilde was more LA Guns and Faster Pussycat. When our high school band finally got good we were going to sound amazing. Hahahahahahahaha!
When Eddie started experimenting more and more with synths and studios with 1984 and then 5150 there were different ideas from the gang about how that would go. Hound got really interested. Those tracks like Summer Nights and Best Of Both Worlds kept the rest of us paying attention.
As for Why Can’t This Be Love? If you were a teen in the 80’s that songs a time machine. That noise is a time machine. No band could sound like Van Halen on 5150 and OU812.
Oh my word! OU812. How I loved that record (Well, actually it’s the only one I had on tape). Side two of OU812 plays Source Of Infection into Feels So Good, Finish What Ya Started, Black And Blue then Sucker In a 3 Piece. Damn. That’s a strong five songs.
But let’s go one album further. To the cluster of goodness on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Not everyone’s favourite VH opus. For me it’s got some of the strongest memories attached. I remember my Brother passing his driving test and taking me out for a ride to a shopping mall in his new car. We blasted Top Of The World on the tape deck as we cruised around the roof tops and spiraling exit and entrance ramps of the UK’s newest and biggest shopping mall.
I remember our band experimenting with guitar pick ups and powertools at early gigs and the assembled family and friends thinking we were inspired. like we’d come up with something revolutionary. A direct steal from Poundcake for us. Those who knew, knew.
I remember seeing the video for Right Now on MTV at my girlfriends house and thinking deep thoughts about how ‘right now’ was almost over.
We were all about to get stuck into a new decade. School was finishing. Childhood was coming to an end and stuff was changing. It had to. I knew I would leave this town (that town), I knew I sucked as a musician. I knew the 90’s would have a new sound, new look and new things to occupy our time. Van Halen were the band we listened to huddled into a bedroom taking turns on an Atari or reading comics down at Liberty Hall. They were the band for racing BMX bikes or building new skateboards to.
I never really went back to Van Halen after the Live/Not Live Without A Net album promo left me not really fancying a copy of my own. There was never a third singer for me. Or a reunion.
I always loved that era though. Eruption to Top Of The World what a ride.
Happy Trails Eddie. You were a Titan.