Women and Children First
Truth be told, they weren't very good. Frontman David Lee Roth played drunk with his giant inflatable bottle of Jack Daniels, but though none of the band seemed particularly inebriated, they sure as hell sounded like it – sloppy as fuck. I remember Eddie Van Halen's “Eruption” coming off as impressive at it did on the quartet's 1978 debut, but that was the extent of my excitement.
Clear as day I remember buying that vinyl in Berkeley and bringing it back to my best friend Steve Stone's empty house to shake the walls. We stood across the sunken living room from each other tilting our heads like dogs trying to understand a human. Did we like this?
In fact, we did. I bought the next two LPs faithfully, but stopped at Mean Streets (1981) and Diver Down (1982). I was on to other things by then, though of course my first year of college MTV crammed the admittedly great 1984 down everyone's throats.
In 2008, when Diamond Dave rejoined the band for a reunion tour, I didn't care. Been there, done that. And yet I was surprised by the group's San Antonio performance. Not only were they incomparably better than the first time I'd seen them, they seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves onstage, particularly Roth, who'd obviously had a dream come true in the reunification of the band.
I expect the same to hold true when Van Halen returns to the AT&T Center June 22. Don't know that I'll go for the same reasons as last time, but then I don't know that I won't go either.
This week I struggled with a review of the new Van Halen disc, A Different Kind of Truth, written up in this Thursday's print edition of the Chronicle. On the one hand, it sounds like holy hell, ancient backing tracks with new vocals. On the other, those jams are vintage Eddie Van Halen, metallic woodchipper. Will I play it 10 years from now when I need a VH jam? Most likely not, but then I don't know that I won't either. It's love/hate, maybe the way I always felt about Van Halen.
Today, I dusted off a Van Halen comp I made when I first got iTunes and did some mixtaping. It's a chronological edit of the group's first six LPs, and blasting it in my headphones at this very moment – hearing producer Ted Templemen's tight, bright production on jungle boogies such as Women & Children's “Romeo Delight” and “Mean Streets” with its comet's tail guitar intro – not to mention the winning, four-part harmonies on “Happy Trails” makes me hate the sound of A Different Kind of Truth even more.
That said, newbies “China Town,” “Bullethead,” and “As Is” could definitely be appended to this playlist, 21 songs in 77:47.
Atomic Punks: Van Halen, 1978-1984
“Ain't Talking 'Bout Love”
“I'm the One”
“Ice Cream Man”
“Dance the Night Away”
“Somebody Get Me a Doctor”
“And the Cradle Will Rock”
“Everybody Wants Some”
“Hang 'Em High”
“Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”
“Hot For Teacher”