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Van Halen - I (1978)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Vintage, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. Vintage

    Vintage Vintage Rocker

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    [​IMG]

    One of my fondest rock and roll memories took place in the spring of 1977. A friend rang me up and asked if I'd like to go to the Whisky A Go-Go to see this new and exciting band. He said they were a hard rockin' four-piece with a monster of a guitarist. As my friend himself was a monster of a guitarist (and still is with a busy musical career of his own), I figured it was something I should check out. As it turned out, I paid five bucks to see history in the making. In the midst of the punk and new wave revolution sweeping the Strip, a then unknown Van Halen was blowing doors all over Hollywood. The full-bodied rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony; the obnoxiously charismatic lead singer David Lee Roth; and the monstrous Eddie Van Halen reinventing the whole idea of rock guitar, his back often turned to the crowd to hide his mind boggling two-handed technique -- were all giving the new wavers and their ilk a run for their money. Oblivious to the industry buzz, I caught Van Halen three times before their debut album came out, thinking they were going to remain this cool local band that no one outside of SoCal would ever know about. But once the self-titled Van Halen was introduced to the world, the cat was out of the bag and on its way to global domination.

    Just months before the release of Van Halen, Kiss' Gene Simmons had shown interest in the Pasadena quartet and bankrolled their first demo. Out of nowhere, veteran producer Ted Templeman, who had turned the dials for everyone from Montrose to the Doobie Brothers, swooped in and snagged a deal for the band with Warner Brothers. Incredibly, Templeman had no desire to change or manipulate the Van Halen sound; he merely wanted to capture it "live" in its most frenzied state. Over the course of just a few weeks with even fewer overdubs, the powder keg was uncorked and 11 songs came rolling out. In-your-face, take-no-prisoner thumpers like "Runnin' With The Devil," "I'm The One," "Atomic Punk" and "On Fire" roar with lethal authority, brimming over with the taut interplay between the Van Halen brothers and Anthony while Roth yelps and gyrates to keep up. Smart and savvy rockers like "Ain't Talkin' "Bout Love," "Feel Your Love Tonight" and "Little Dreamer"" reveal a more melodic side that surely widened their demographic. The explosive "Eruption," previously a warm-up exercise of Eddie's, simply belies every preconceived notion of guitar acrobatics since Hendrix played the national anthem at Woodstock.

    Ironically, it was their spunky version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," a late arrival to the Sunset Sound sessions, that became the album's first single. As their debut made its way to multi-platinum wonderment, I caught Van Halen's homecoming show at the Long Beach Arena, and later that summer, saw them on a bill that included Boston, Black Sabbath and Sammy Hagar. It was obvious they were on their way to becoming an international phenomenon. When I saw them on tour behind the gazillion-selling 1984, they were a completely different group. Over the course of six years, the classic incarnation of the Van Halen brothers, Anthony and Roth recorded five more albums with Templeman at the helm. Each is as distinctive and brilliant as the next. But it's always been the first one that catches the band in its most visceral state. As Diamond David Lee Roth so wryly put it: "I'm not sure what the brothers think, and I'm not sure I even really care. I think that probably the two biggest words up there on Howdy Doody Mountain now are, 'Uh-oh!'"
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  2. Zombeels

    Zombeels Senior Member

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    I will go on record as saying Van Halen is my most hated band. I can't stand them, I can't stand DLR's egotistical attitude and his shrilling sheiks throughout every song and AVH's horrible drumming and the overall sound of his drums. But I can agree that Eddie is a great guitarist. I wish he found another band to play with.
     
  3. Dave78

    Dave78 Dave's not here, man

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    Great post, Vintage! Seeing =VH= in their club days must have been awesome!

    I know I'm not speaking for everyone here, but I think Van Halen's music was important for two reasons back in 1978.

    Back in the mid-70's or so, bands had shifted away from the standard "three minute radio single" formula and began recording longer songs, typically anywhere from four to seven minutes in length. Van Halen went back to basics and brought back the three-minute radio single, and at the same time infused some much-needed energy into the bland MOR format that FM radio had morphed into.

    Also... although Van Halen's music was hard, exciting and electrifying, it wasn't heavy and "threatening" like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or even Led Zeppelin so they immediately got a lot of airplay, and it seemed as if FM radio suddenly began playing music from similarly sounding bands like UFO, The Scorpions, Triumph and eventually Def Leppard and even Judas Priest.

    Van Halen I was so unique sounding that everything else paled in comparison. Like Hendrix' Are You Experienced, it was a game-changer, imo, and I've only had that feeling with one other debut album since... Guns & Roses' Appetite For Destruction.

    Funny story: In 1979 I was over at the house of a neighborhood friend one afternoon and we were in her bedroom just talking and listening to the radio and her father just happened to walk by her open door when Jaimie's Crying was playing, and he just shook his head and said to me, "we could have signed those guys". He was the President of Capitol Records at the time and they had rejected Van Halen's demo tape two years earlier. Whoops! :heheh:

    This a clip from a radio interview with David Lee Roth talking about VH's new demo tape:



    This is the demo for "House Of Pain" which was actually written before VH I, but didn't find its way onto an album until 1984.

     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  4. LG

    LG Fade To Black

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    I am a huge fan of this album and I have to disagree with my friend Zombeels, they were a great live band, much better than any of their albums with the exception of this one.

    I was in a Kelly's record store when the clerk, Stacey opened the first copy they received and put it on the platter, when "Running for the Devil" came on everyone in the store just stopped and looked at each other and then the display to see who was playing. I think all 5 of us in the store bought a copy before they even put them in the new releases rack.

    Ahh the memories of a misspent youth...:hab:
     
  5. Dave78

    Dave78 Dave's not here, man

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    That was the exact reaction of everyone who saw them here in 1976. :lmao:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. LG

    LG Fade To Black

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    I am sure we are talking different reactions if I remember the story behind this picture Dave...:heheh:
     
  7. Dave78

    Dave78 Dave's not here, man

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    You have a very good memory, sir. :D
     
  8. Cosmic Harmony

    Cosmic Harmony Senior Member

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    One of the best hard rock albums ever. If memory serves me right "You Really Got Me" wasn't originally intended to be the first single but I once heard a story that went something like Eddie being at a nightclub and may or may not have been drinking and after hearing a band he decided to show off and played their recording of "You Really Got Me" before the album was released and another band (the name escapes me) thought it was awesome and recorded their own version which sounded album exactly like Van Halen's. They were to have it released as a single so the folks at the Van Halen camp had to rush to release theirs first so as not to seem like the ones who ripped it off.
     
  9. Rockperson

    Rockperson Senior Member

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    Classic debut, wonderful guitar playing, my favourite tracks are On Fire, I`m The One, Ice Cream Man, Ain`t Talkin` Bout Love and Atomic Punk :grinthumb
     
  10. TheWhalerfan

    TheWhalerfan Lovus My Avatarus

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    Re: Van Halen Debut

    Dave78 nailed it perfectly. Love or hate it, Van Halen's debut was as influential for its time as Appetite for Destruction was. Great band eventually ruined by personal abuse and egotism. Very nice review, I enjoyed reading this one!
     

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