When I was a kid, the first record (or cassette in this case) I wore out was the first album from Van Halen. I played the cassette so many times, the tape started squealing. I got another copy and did the same thing. It along with KISS' Alive II re-enforced the hard rock tendencies that simmered beneath my suburban goodie two shoes exterior.
The new tour and record announcement came as no real surprise to me. One of my good friends has been working as a tech with the band for several years and I'd heard rumors and rumblings that they were preparing to get back at it with David Lee Roth. But hearing it still reminded me of when I loved the band, before Sammy Hagar replaced Roth and the wheels came off for early VH fans.
This is not to say I don't like Hagar. I had several of his solo efforts including Standing Hampton and Three Lock Box, both regulars in my rotation in the early '80s. Maybe it was the heavy handed use of synthesizers and electronic drums, but the Van Hagar edition of the band fell flat with me, so when DLR came back in the fold a few years ago, I was thrilled if skeptical, just as I am to hear their new music.
In honor of their new tour and record, I give you ten of my favorite lesser known pre-Sammy songs to get you juiced for the coming mayhem.
10. Dirty Movies
From Fair Warning, could this have been the impetus for Ed's porn soundtrack music career?
9. Top Jimmy
Despite the success of the ultra cheesy "Jump," 1984 turned out some damn fine songs including this swingin' rocker.
8. Hang 'Em High
Few bands did the super fast heavy thing in the late '70s as well as VH and this is a killer example.
7. I'm the One
Like "Hang 'Em High," a balls out shuffle with some early piercing Mike Anthony vocals -- miss that guy.
6. Ice Cream Man
My friends and I used to love this bluesy ode to ice cream truck vendors... or was that a metaphor?
5. Mean Streets
This one and the next were Van Halen at their most nasty. The Fair Warning/Women and Children First period was pretty dark to being with.
From Van Halen II, a louder, punk-inspired vocal from Roth and "a dirty faced kid in a garbage can."
3. Atomic Punk
Speaking of punk, one of my all-time favorites, a blistering rock song with a killer guitar riff and a filthy scratch guitar intro.
2. Light Up the Sky
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This was track one on side two of Van Halen II and it burned from note one.
1. Little Guitars
Still one of the more complicated finger plucked guitar parts ever and a good example of the band's ear for great melody.