Like I did with bands that were great for a brief moment of my youth, whom later became parodies of
themeselves (previously, Aerosmith, Heart, not sure whomelse), let's talk tonight about a band that was somewhat unique, for a few minutes there in my hihg school/college years, and then became so unlistenable that they are generally considered a joke......and THAT is what happens, but when it does, we truly forget about the GOOD STUFF that the band put out EARLY on before, commercialization, greed, internal strife, or whatever stirred things up.
If ever there was a band created for SHORT-TERM excellence, it was Van Halen (!), yes, I was a junior in high school when the self-titled debut came about, "Running With the Devil" was a pretty fair hard-rock single, good enough for me to purchase the album, anyway, and discoverd the unique guitar stylings of Eddie Van Halen.........they also included of course, bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Alex Van Halen, and of course, singer/front-jackass David Lee Roth......I saw these guys my senior year and they were AMAZING live, Roth being such a natural showman and Eddie Van halen being such a unique and skilled axewielder........they were just THAT kind of band......one could have predicted their demise, in my opinion, of course "demise" in my eyes means 'Ultra-popularity" in the eyes of the lesser-enlightened.......ANYWAY yes, Van Halen sucked, in every incarnation beyond thier fourth studio LP, if you like some of the latter crap they spewed, that is totally your problem, not mind......
OK, the first, self titled LP......typical late 1970's metal, or "big rock" as some called it at the time, actually lumping the genre with stuff LIKE Heart and Aerosmith, heavy rocking yet radio friendly, as opposed to something like Rush, for example, with their 20-minute "suiets" and the like.......but for a little while there these guys melded the TOTAL metal experience with a listenable pop/radio sound, it was an accomplishment and NOT a small one, to be honest.....besides the good "Runing With the Devil", there is also the spazzed-out solo "Eruption", which leads into a frantaic cover of the Kink's "You Really Got Me", the great "Jamie's Crying", "Atomic Punk" ( a good song, docked a notch for an attempt to be topical), and my fave, the slow blues cover of "Ice Cream Man"......all in all a 3.5* album, you could do worse.
So, the following year, along came "Van Halen II".....I recall one critic referring to it as "as imaginitive as it's title", and there is a BIT of merit there, but look beyond the dross ("You're No Good" for example), and check out the GOOD STUFF here: "Somebody Get Me a Doctor"......."Beautiful Girls" (silly, but cool), and th albums best cut "D.O.A."........3 stars, but a decent hard rock album as well.
OK, here is where it gets complicated......I thought "hey, they put out two decent albums......they are likely done for...." That was ME, and as usual I was wrong as can be, as "Women And Children First" is a fine album, better than the first two.....the opening single "And the Cradle Will Rock", kinda sucks for my cash, but "Everybody Want Some" is one of their best tracks, as is the epic "Take Your Whiskey Home".......this was a band that was maturing, with the release of a VERY solid album, with a quite cool acoustic title track as well........3.5 *'s for me, and a fine album I still listen to parts of today (on occasion).
What even confuses the issue even more is that album #4 "Fair Warning", is quite good as well.....could these guys have actually been LEGIT? (well, no, as we will see), "Unchained" is one of their better efforts, "Mean Streets" is a good one, as is "Panama" (even better than the Pat Boone version featured here a while back)......for a fourth album, this is a pretty good one, it's pretty damn good.......could I have been wrong?
Well, no....."Diver Down" came out next, its awful, then came all the personnel hijinx, the Sammy
Hagar nonsense, the Roth leaving/returning/leaving/returning.......sorry Dave, you just aren't important anymore, and Van halen has been, since "Fair Warning" been relegated to the status of a joke band in my opinion......
But, shit, that happens......they DID put out four decent hard rock albums, far from "classics", but easy to forget how great these albums were before they got so ridiculous........just my opinion, but I would rather listen to myself urinating than any Van Halen album released since "Fair Warning"......just my opinion, but these other albums, as I have pointed out, DO have some great, hard rocking moments, enjoy them and remember them fondly, as though Sammy hagar never even existed.
Knowing that I am such a swell guy I am going to include a 1979 show from Niagra Falls when the band was just reaching thier peak, it's pretty good, give it a listen.....other than that, can't help ya much......they WERE, in thier day, a FINE live act, and I welcome any boots you can send my way, but after the first four albums, these guys really did bite the big one. Hard Core.
VAN HALEN-01 Running With the Devil/02 Eruption/03 You really Got Me/04 Aint talkin Bout Love/05 I'm The One/06 jamie's Crying/07 Atomic Punk/08 Feel Your Love Tonight/09 Little Dreamer/10 Ice Cream man/11 On Fire
VAN HALEN II-01 01 You're No Good/02 Dance The Night Away/03 Somebody Get Me a Doctor/04 Bottoms Up!/05 Oughta Love Again/06 Light Up the Sky/07 Spanish Fly/08 DOA/09 Women In Love/10 Beautiful Girls
WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST-01 And the Cradle Will Rock/02 Everybody Want Some!!/03 Fools/04 Romeo Delight/05 Tora Tora Tora/06 Loss of Control/07 Take Your Whiskey Home/08 Could This Be Magic/09 In a Simple Rhyme
FAIR WARNING-01 Mean Street/02 Dirty Movies/03 Sinner's Swing!/04 Hear About It Later/05 Unchained/06 Push Comes To Shove/07 So This Is Love/08 Saturday Afternoon In the Park/09 One Foot Out the Door
LIVE NIAGRA FALLS 1979-01 On Fire/02 I'm the One/03 Bass Solo/ Runnin With the Devil/04
Atomic Punk/05 Drum Solo/Little Dreamer/06 Feel Your Love Tonight/07 Ain't Talking Bout Love/08 Guitar Solo
sucks for my money,