“I'm your ice cream man baby, stop me when I'm passing by.”
If there is a better lyric to encapsulate the wonder that was the original (real) Van Halen, I probably just haven't thought of it. For those too young to recall, Alex (drums) and Eddie Van Halen (lead guitar), Michael Anthony (amazing bus driver), and David Lee Roth as the frontman in Spandex and chaps was the winning formula. Those four guys were more influential than perhaps many people think. KISS' eponymous first album in 1974 introduced what I think of as the hair band era, but no one was using the term yet. And KISS was a formative piece of what became the hair band thing. When I was a kid, I came to think of it as 'clown rock' (not a term of derision – I love KISS, but that's for another time).
But Van Halen, that was something else. No makeup, but still plenty of gimmicks (ever see Diamond Dave jump off a drum stand and kick his palms?), and enough talent at every position that they could win the Super Bowl of rock every year. I was 15 when I first heard of Van Halen in 1978 or 79. They burned bright for 6 years, from 10 February 1978 until 9 January 1984. They were the first group I remember thinking 'hair band' about. When I think of the term “hair band,” the first thing that comes to mind is the cover of “Women and Children First.” That's a hair band.
In that short time they released six albums which included some of the most memorable songs of all time for fans of rock. A lot of the material from the discography is sexist in the high school vein and some of it is sexist in the... nope, it’s pretty much all Fast Times at Van Halen High throughout. But that is the charm of it. Van Halen was the Beach Boys, but with a lot more direct sexual innuendo and many fewer years of success. But they make me smile and sing along just as easily. If you're of a certain age, listen to it to remind yourself how good it was. If you're young and don't know it, give it a try. And remember we didn't have smart phones or iPods. Also get off our lawns.
I did see them five times out of those first six album tours. Even met Dave briefly backstage. 'Welcome to Club Dave' he said. Then he followed the chick with the coke and I went to Waffle House.
This is not an anthology of their music nor an historical piece, obviously. If you would like to know more, just visit your favorite search engine. It's a pretty rock and roll story, and the music will never let you down. Everybody. Wants. Some.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.