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The A to Z of Van Halen
Here it is! The basic information anyone would ever want or need to know about the rock group Van Halen. It is listed out for you from “A,” all the way to the letter “Z.” Enjoy.
A: Is for Alex Van Halen. Alex is a founding member, co-namesake, and drummer for Van Halen. He is easily one of the top drummers in rock today. He and his younger brother Eddie have been playing in bands together since they were kids. When he isn’t recording/touring with Van Halen, he is reportedly just hanging out in Eddie’s studio jamming. Alex actually started out on the guitar, and Eddie played drums. Eventually they switched when Eddie became more proficient at guitar than Alex.
B: Is for Brown M&Ms. Van Halen is famous for putting on their concert “rider” one of that amenities that should be included backstage was a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. It was later revealed that this was not due to “diva-like” behavior, but to make sure the concert venues actually read and followed the band’s performance specifications. If they missed the brown M&M’s, it was likely they missed actual important details regarding the stage, lighting, weight loads, and other safety matters.
C: Is for Cabo Wabo. “Cabo Wabo” was a cantina/bar that Sammy Hagar opened in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He initially persuaded the members of Van Halen to invest with him in the venture, and performed there a couple of times. Due to mismanagement and lack of patronage, the club lost tons of money and was seen as a failing venture. The members of Van Halen ended up selling their shares back to Sammy, who saw a future for the venue and soldiered on finding quality management personnel. Of course the business turned around, and became a highly profitable business venture and outlet for future business items. Example: the popular product Cabo Wabo Tequila. Sammy still performs there on a regular basis, and a “who’s who” of rock often show up to jam with him. A notable mainstay on the Cabo calendar is Sammy’s annual birthday celebration that usually occurs on and around October 13th.
D: Is for David Lee Roth. Diamond Dave was the original lead singer for Van Halen from 1974 until 1985 when he left for a solo career. The “Dave-Era” of Van Halen is argued by some to be the strongest of the band’s musical catalog due to Dave’s over-the-top performances and shrieking vocals. Over the years, Dave has made attempts to return as the full-time lead singer of the band. In 1996 he recorded two new songs with Van Halen for the “Best of: Volume One” album. He and the band then made their first public appearance together in over 10 years when they presented an award at the MTV Video Music Awards. The Van Halens and Roth had a falling out shortly thereafter. A few other moments of attempted fence-mending occurred over the years, but nothing surfaced musically for public consumption. In 2006 he and the band reached a peace agreement, and embarked on a successful world tour with the band in 2007. They entered the studio in early 2011 to record a new album together and is rumored for an early 2012 release. When music critics make their lists of top front-men for various rock and roll bands, David Lee Roth is notoriously towards the top of those lists.
E: Is for Eddie Van Halen. Eddie is a founding member, co-namesake, and guitarist for Van Halen. When people list the top rock guitarists, Eddie is very near or at the top of the list. He has been listed as an inspiration and ground-breaking guitarist by many musical colleagues and critics. His performance of the song “Eruption” on the 1st Van Halen album is one of the most well-known and attempted solos in rock music. Eddie has been known at times to be somewhat irrational and volatile. He has had stints in rehab for alcohol several times over recent years, but appears at this time to be clean and ready to rock. He has also fought cancer, and had part of his tongue removed due to this. He has also had his hip replaced due to the wear and tear on his body over the years from Van Halen’s high energy rock shows.
F: is for Frankenstrat. “Frankenstrat” is the name Eddie gave his red/black/white striped guitar that he built from the ground up. It was constructed with pieces of different guitars from various manufacturers because Eddie wanted a guitar to do what “he wanted it to do.” It was used to record several albums and was used on tour in the early days. It was eventually “retired” as it was beginning to show its wear and tear. It did make a surprise appearance during the 2006 tour with David Lee Roth.
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G: Is for Gary Cherone. Cherone (formally the lead singer for rock group “Extreme”), became the lead singer of Van Halen after Sammy Hagar’s turbulent departure from the band in 1996. At the time of Gary’s arrival, Eddie said that Gary was exactly what Van Halen needed to get to the next level. Unfortunately the music community disagreed with Eddie when they released the album “Van Halen III” in 1998. The album and subsequent tour were not huge sellers. Eventually the album received a “Gold” album certification (500,000 US units), but was the 1st Van Halen album not to go Platinum. The band and Cherone mutually parted ways in 1999.
H: is for Hot for Teacher. “Hot for Teacher” was a hit song off the album “1984.” It was notable mainly due to the video that was released for the song that contributed to both to Van Halen and MTV’s popularity. Alex Van Halen has been cited by many for his terrific drum performance on the single. The song’s lyrics and video received negative attention due to their suggestive nature surrounding the theme of adolescent lust for one’s teacher. The video’s “hero” is child called “Waldo.” He was portrayed as a boy that didn’t fit in. Each band member was portrayed as a kid as well, and adopted Waldo and showed him how to be cool. The end of the video shows how each band member turned out in life. Eddie Van Halen became a mental patient, Alex Van Halen became a gynecologist, Michael Anthony became a sumo wrestler, and David Lee Roth went on to become a game show host.
I: is for Ice Cream Man. “Ice Cream Man” is a song that Van Halen covered on their “Van Halen” album featuring David Lee Roth on vocals. The song (originally by bluesman John Brim) is heavy with innuendo, and definitely is the vein of a typical Roth-type song. The lyrics state “I’m your ice cream man; stop me when I’m passing by. All my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy.” The song starts with a blues guitar line and eventually the rest of the band kicks in halfway through to rock the rest of the song. Roth revisited the tune live during the Van Halen tour in 2007, and is a long-time fan favorite.
J: is for Jump. “Jump” was Van Halen’s first and only number one pop hit. Off the album “1984” featuring David Lee Roth, the synthesizer heavy song was a staple of pop and rock radio, as well as in heavy rotation on MTV. The song and the “1984” album brought Van Halen to the pinnacle of their popularity.
K: is for KISS. The band “KISS” has a history of “almost” being intertwined at various points with Van Halen. KISS bassist Gene Simmons reportedly saw Van Halen perform in 1977, and immediately signed them to a record deal. When Simmons played the demo Van Halen had recorded for his KISS band members and manager, they didn’t share Simmons’ enthusiasm. Simmons eventually told the band that they could do as they pleased and seek another record deal. They eventually signed with Warner Brothers records not long after that, thus ending their association with Simmons. In 1982, Eddie Van Halen allegedly spoke to Simmons about possibly becoming a member of KISS. Eddie cited the rising tensions within Van Halen regarding David Lee Roth, and due to the recent departure of KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. Simmons eventually convinced Eddie to stay in “Van Halen” as it was the best thing to do.
L: is for LSD. “LSD” or “Lead Singer Disease” is what Eddie Van Halen said that both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar suffered with, and were the reasons for their departures from Van Halen. The idea was that the lead singer thought he had become bigger than the band itself, and their behaviors and attitudes were selfish and detrimental. He said they had lost sight of the band as a whole, and were focused on themselves.
M: Is for Michael Anthony. Anthony was a founding member, and bassist for Van Halen from 1974 until 2006. He is known for his harmonious back up singing, and reliable bassline. He is probably most famous for the “Jack Daniel’s” Bass he designed and created in honor of his love for the fine beverage. Anthony’s departure from Van Halen was one that puzzled many (including himself), as he was never told that he was “fired” from Van Halen. It is speculated that Anthony’s friendship with Sammy Hagar during the years after Hagar left the band are what primarily fueled the fire for Anthony’s exclusion. Anthony found out with the rest of the world in 2006 that he would not be joining the reformed Van Halen fronted by David Lee Roth, and was being replaced on bass by Eddie’s teenage son Wolfgang. Anthony continued his friendship with Hagar, and they are now in a band together named “Chickenfoot.”
N: is for Necrosis. Eddie suffered from Avascular Necrosis, and required hip replacement in 1999. He said this was caused due to years of injuries suffered during concert performances where he would jump up and down off risers and amps nightly. It was first diagnosed in 1995, but had eventually become unbearable. As the pain became more intense Eddie’s movements onstage were minimal, to the point of often standing still the entire performance or at times sitting on a stool. Post-surgery, Eddie was back to his jumping antics, and could be seen doing the “Flying Eddie” during the 2004 reunion tour with Hagar.
O: is for OU812. “OU812” was the second album featuring Sammy Hagar as lead singer. It went to number one, and was certified multi-platinum. The title may possibly be a veiled joke towards former lead singer David Lee Roth who had went on to perform as a solo act. Prior to the release of OU812, Roth released an album called “Eat ‘Em and Smile.” One could conclude Van Halen’s album to be saying “Oh You Ate One Too?” OU812 provided hits such as “Finish What Ya Started,” “When Its Love,” and “Black and Blue.”
P: is for Poundcake. “Poundcake” is the 1st track on the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album. It is notable due to Eddie’s use of a drill against his guitar strings at the beginning, and throughout the song. Additionally, the video for the song is one of the best during the “Sammy Era” of Van Halen, and includes footage of the band performing the song, as well as scantily-clad females appearing to audition for the opportunity to appear in the video. This video received heavy air-play on MTV.
Q: is for Questions. Van Halen has left their fans with far too many “questions” over the years. “When are you putting out another album?” “Who is your lead singer?” Why can’t you guys get along?” and “Why did you think Gary Cherone was a good idea?” have all been muttered by many Van Halen fans. A few popular questions have been: “Was that really Eddie Van Halen doing the solo in Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It?” Yes it was. He did it for free, as a favor to Quincy Jones. “What was the music on the tape labeled “Edward Van Halen” that Michael J. Fox used in the movie “Back to the Future” to wake up Crispin Glover in 1955? The music was an untitled original written by Eddie Van Halen for the movie “The Wild Life.” It can be found on the soundtrack for that movie, which is a hard to find item.
R: is for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Due to various issues between all individuals that had been in the group, the only two members that showed up to accept the award were Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. Ironically, they were the only 2 ex-members of the band. Eddie had reportedly entered rehab, and Alex didn’t want to come without Eddie. David Lee Roth refused to show up as he had conflict with the songs he was asked to perform during the show. This display showed the evident disharmony between all individuals.
S: Is For Sammy Hagar. Hagar became the lead singer in 1985 after David Lee Roth left to embark on a solo career. Prior to this appointment, Hagar was already a successful solo artist in his own right, having released hits like “I Can’t Drive 55,” and “One Way to Rock.” During Hagar’s tenure as lead singer for Van Halen, all 4 studio albums they recorded went to number 1 on the album charts, and went multi-platinum. Hagar left Van Halen in 1996 after a falling out with the Van Halen brothers over general direction and dedication to the band. He returned to his solo career, and enjoyed a string of successful business ventures. He returned to the Van Halen fold in 2004 to record 3 new songs for “The Best of Both Worlds” greatest hits CDs, and a subsequent tour. The Hagar/Van Halen relationship once again soured upon the completion of the tour, and Hagar returned to his successful solo band and businesses. He is now a member of the band “Chickenfoot” with Michael Anthony, Joe Satriani, and Chad Smith.
T: is for Twister. Van Halen was asked to contribute to the motion picture soundtrack for the 1996 summer blockbuster “Twister.” The Van Halen brothers wanted to do the project, but Sammy Hagar did not. His rationale was that they had just come off tour supporting the “Balance” album, and each member had a lot of personal issues that they should take care of. Sammy and his wife were soon going to have a baby. Eddie needed hip replacement, and Alex had a fractured vertebra in his neck. Begrudgingly, Hagar came back to Los Angeles from Hawaii, and cut the track “Humans Being.” Tempers flared between Hagar and Eddie over lyrics, song composition, and band dedication in general. Eventually, the project turned out to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and Hagar quit or was fired. It just depends on who is telling the story.
U: is for Up For Breakfast. “Up For Breakfast” was one of three songs Sammy Hagar recorded for the “Best of Both Worlds” greatest hits compilation in 2004. The other two songs were “Its About Time” and “Learning to See.” It was notable on these 3 songs as bassist Michael Anthony is not credited on the songs as he previously was on all Van Halen music. Years later it came to be known that Anthony did not play bass on the songs, which were in fact done by Eddie Van Halen. Furthermore, Anthony was only brought in to sing backup harmonies on the songs at the insistence of Sammy Hagar, as well as including him on the resulting tour as a condition of Hagar’s re-joining Van Halen.
V: is for Van Halen III. “Van Halen III” was the 1st and only album released that featured Gary Cherone as lead vocalist. The album was poorly received by listeners and critics alike. The album was the 1st Van Halen release not to go platinum, although it eventually did receive a “gold” certification. Notable songs were “Without You” and “Fire in the Hole.” The latter was added to the “Lethal Weapon 4” soundtrack as well. Cherone departed the band not long after the tour supporting the album, and remained friendly with all members. Incidentally, the album is not listed in the liner notes of the “Best of Both Worlds” greatest hits under the discography. Nor are any songs from “Van Halen III” featured. Perhaps a sign by the Van Halen gang that the album is best left forgotten.
W: is for Wolfgang Van Halen. Wolfgang was introduced as Van Halen’s bassist in 2006 when David Lee Roth re-joined the band for a “reunion” tour. At the time, Wolfgang was only 15. He is the namesake for several models and styles of guitars his dad Eddie designed and created with various guitar manufacturers, as Eddie always named them after Wolfgang. His birthday of March 16th was used as the title for a brief instrumental piece Eddie played on the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album called “316.” Wolfgang is reportedly at work with his Dad, Uncle Alex, and David Lee Roth on a new Van Halen album.
X: is for X-Rated. There have been numerous reports and documentations about the wild lifestyle that rock and roll bands normally live, and Van Halen is no exception from that. David Lee Roth was notorious for trashing hotel rooms, and having cocaine-fueled parties with strippers and hookers. Sammy Hagar mentions in his autobiography “Red” that during the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour, he had an area backstage where naked women were often found doing “things” to each other, as well as to the members of the band. Throw Eddie and Alex’s penchant for immense alcohol consumption into the mix, and the debauchery that went on backstage, at the hotel, and on the tour bus are limited only by what a person could imagine.
Y: is for You Really Got Me. “You Really Got Me” was a popular radio hit from Van Halen’s first album “Van Halen.” It is a cover of a Kinks song written by Ray Davies that helped increase Van Halen’s popularity, and rise into the mainstream. The song is a staple of classic Van Halen hits, and is one of the few songs that Sammy Hagar would sing live with Van Halen. From the start of his tenure, Hagar disliked singing songs from the “Roth-Era” as they weren’t his. His did concede to performing a few of the “Roth-Era” songs including: “You Really Got Me,” Panama,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” and “Jump” During “Jump,” Hagar would often pull someone out of the audience to help him sing it.
Z: is for Zlozower. Neil Zlozower is a long-time legendary photographer, whose work has been seen in a multitude of music related magazines, album covers, and books. Zlozower is a professed “fan” of Van Halen and the “Roth-era” of the band. He was often found on tour with the band, and is friends with all of them. When Roth split from Van Halen in 1985, Zlozower continued photographing Roth during his solo days. Zlozower has released two coffee table picture albums about Van Halen: “Van Halen: A Visual History, 1978-1984” and “Eddie Van Halen.”