The year was 1980. I was 12 years old and in Jr. high school. My mother owned and operated a dance studio teaching tap, ballet, and jazz. With those surroundings I was, of course, always around music. My grandmother on my mom’s side played guitar and would always break out the Silvertone, with the case with the built in speaker, and she’d play Elvis songs for me. I was always a huge Elvis fan……..which, I can not tell a lie, I am to this day. Because of the dance studio I was always exposed to different kinds of music……that you could dance to. I can remember the late 70’s disco era with the Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, Kool and the Gang, The Commodores, Michael Jackson etc… I was a fan of all of that music, and, like Elvis’ music, I still am. But at that time there was something inside of me that was trying to get out. A piece of the music puzzle was missing. In the fall of 1980 that piece of the missing puzzle was found.
School had started, I believe I was in the 7th grade, and my sister’s friend and I decided to skip school one day and go back to her house……because her parents weren’t home, of course. When we got there, as any curious 12 year-old that loves music would do, I began to rifle through her brother’s albums. There was one album in there that just stuck out to me. The cover was completely black with 4 letters outlined in white. Those letters were…
I don’t know what it was but that album cover really piqued my curiosity. I was used to seeing flashy album covers of the disco era and here was the bold, black cover just staring at me saying “Listen to me, I dare ya!!” I had to give it a try so I pulled out the album and put it on the record player. The first thing I heard was that church bell, it mesmerized me. Then the intro started, a slightly distorted guitar sound, clean and clear, yet menacing just the same. When the full band kicked in and I heard those pounding drums, that heavily distorted guitar, that rumbling bass, and then the screeching, screaming voice of Brian Johnson I knew there was no turning back. I must have sat through that album a dozen times that day. That was my introduction to hard rock/heavy metal music. Had it not been for AC/DC I’d probably be combing my hair forward trying to look like a 44 year-old Justin Bieber…..I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. God Bless AC/DC!!
Fast forward to 1982, since my intro to rock music I had jumped in head first and soaked up as much as I could. I even went into the back catalog and discovered hard rock bands that had been around waaay before I found that AC/DC album. Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Black Sabbath. Southern Rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas. I could probably fill an entire page with all the bands that had been introduced to me over those 2 years. Then it happened, a band that I discovered on my own. A completely new band that was just starting out. A band of my own. Right there on the pages of Hit Parader was EXACTLY what I was wanting to see….Motley Crue. They had just released their album “Too Fast For Love” and were on their way to getting a big record deal. They looked menacing, evil, outlandish, standoffish…..they just looked cool. There’s no other way to put it, just cool.
Fast forward again to 1983, Quiet Riot releases Metal Health and when I hear Rudy Sarzo go into that little bass break in the middle I knew right then that I had to play bass. I hounded and hounded my dad and finally, one weekend, he came home with a bass guitar and a small amp, along with a guitar and a guitar amp for my younger brother. I guess he figured if I had the bass my brother would want a guitar too so he got one for him too….which he never learned to play. I remember my first bass lesson and the teacher showing me how to play Run To The Hills. hahaha!! Very cool.
One day I was in art class and there was this really cute girl in my class, her name was Heather Mulloy. I thought she was just the cutest thing ever. At the time I had been playing the image of the rock star with the long hair, ripped jeans, earrings etc… Well, Heather comes up to me and tells me that I looked like David Lee Roth. “Hmmm, David Lee Roth, I’ve heard of him. He’s the singer in Van Halen……but isn’t he gay?!?!” I never really listened to Van Halen because of David Lee Roth. I thought he was the biggest flaming homo that I had ever seen. Now, remember, you politically correct ass clowns, that view was coming from a 14 year old boy. Well, Heather told me I looked like him, and she liked him, so I had to check out Van Halen to see. My life was changed. That guitar had the sound, the tone that reached into my bones and rattled me sideways. After listening to an entire Van Halen album I immediately dropped the bass and picked up my brother’s guitar. The rest is history. David Lee Roth, I soon found out, was far from being a queen. If anything he was THE role model for getting all the women. I’m pretty sure that it was Heather’s influence at the time, but Diamond Dave became my favorite front man and, of course, Van Halen became my favorite band. Funny how those things work, ain’t it?!?!
So you’re probably asking yourself, “Where is this going, MULLY?” Well, let’s skip forward to 1985, when the music died. David Lee Roth and Van Halen parted ways. I was destroyed. How could something like this happen to the greatest rock band ever?!?! I never got the chance to see them live. Dave went his way and VH went theirs. Now, I don’t want to go into a long rant about how much I hated that Van Halen replaced Diamond Dave with the biggest Bette Midler look-a-like ever, so I’ll just leave it at that because I’m sure, if you have any taste whatsoever, that you understand that Van Halen with Sammy Hagar just isn’t what Van Halen is supposed to be. Now, let’s move over to Dave’s camp. Dave goes out and hires the biggest gun slingers he can find in Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan. Needless to say, Dave’s debut album with them just destroyed Van Halen’s with Bette. Oh, you can sit there and argue until you’re blue in the face that Van Halen finally went to number one with him and Dave never did, but that is totally meaningless in my opinion. VH with Sammy appealed to a much wider audience. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia on the 5150 album
“The album was notable for a number of love songs and ballads, which were not a feature of the straightforward rock stylings of the Roth-fronted era of the band.”
There ya go, that’s all that needs to be said. Of course those sappy ass love songs and ballads are going to reach a wider audience. For those of us that prefer the rock style that was Van Halen, that crap didn’t fly. As David Lee Roth once said on Howard Stern’s show, “Van Halen with Sammy Hagar makes you want have milk and cookies and go to therapy. David Lee Roth Van Halen comes with a shot of a tequila, a condom, and a driver’s side airbag.” Well put, Dave!!
Anyway, it’s been 27 years and the time has finally arrived. Van Halen and David Lee Roth are one again. Their first studio album with Dave was released here in Japan yesterday, Feb. 8, 2012. Over the past few weeks There have been bits and pieces going around the net. I have stayed away from testing the waters because I wanted to listen to the whole thing from beginning to end. Oh, I have to admit to hearing SOME of it though. The first single, Tattoo, was released and I was all over that one. At first I was a bit disappointed……we’ll get to that later.
The new CD is sitting right in front of me and I’ve listened through it 3 times already. Now, I like to think of myself as a fair, open minded listener when it comes to the bands that I like. I will try to be as honest to myself as I can be. When Van Halen III was released I didn’t wait a second to condemn it. That had nothing to do with Gary Cherone either. When it was announced that he was in the band I was pleasantly surprised because I am a huge fan of Extreme. I thought Gary would fit right in and get them back to what they should sound like, or close to it at least. I was so wrong, that album was horrible. God bless Gary Cherone. Poor bastard got roped into a situation that he didn’t deserve. When Metallica, another of my all time favorites, came out with St. Anger, I thought I was going to puke. So, you see, I’m not just drinking Kool-Aid and being a sheep for these bands. I will give as honest of an opinion as I can. So here it is…..The new Van Halen CD kicks so much ass that it’s not even funny. So many bands say that they have “gone back to our roots” but Van Halen has actually done it. They have taken a bunch of licks from days gone by, that were on their demo tape, rehashed them, restructured them, and made them new. If you want to hear some solid “classic” rock then this album is the one to buy. It literally sounds like you stepped back to 1982 and are getting the one album they never did back then. I hear so many people pissing and moaning about them rehashing those old tunes but, for myself, I see nothing wrong with it at all. How many times have you die hard Van Halen fans sat there listening to the demo and thought to yourself “Man, I’d sure like to hear this tune properly recorded”? Well, here you go. I have also heard a lot of complaining about how there’s nothing new, nothing groundbreaking, Eddie is still doing his same old riffs etc… Come on, the guy is pushing 60, and trust me, for a guy pushing 60 he is showing these kids that he’s still got it…….in spades. Eddie may be imitated but he’s never been duplicated. This album is Van Halen as they should be. Oh, I’m also hearing a LOT of complaining about Dave’s vocals. People saying crap like “his voice is shot” “he can’t hit the high notes anymore” or “he’ll never be able to pull that off in concert” etc… (PUKE). People, David Lee Roth was never a great “singer”. I’ll openly admit, as much as I dislike Sammy Hagar, Dave is not the “vocalist” that Sammy is”. Point taken. Now, you kids need to understand that, with David Lee Roth, you don’t buy the album to listen to him sing. Dave doesn’t bring “singing” to the table. No, what he brings is swagger and an attitude that no one, let me repeat that NO ONE, has ever been able to pull off, in any band. Again, often imitated but NEVER duplicated. Sammy Hagar wrote songs with Eddie Van Halen, he needed that structure of a song. Dave on the other hand takes what Eddie has and raps over it. He probably tweaks things here and there, but overall, Dave has the ability to take a song and make it ooze attitude. On the OU812 album Van Halen had one song that to this day I wish they had done with Dave. That song was a cover of Little Feat’s A Apolitical Blues. Oh my God, Dave would have owned that tune. Sammy just doesn’t have the swagger to pull that one off. It’s like this, when Dave fronted the band they were just a naturally fun band to listen to. When Sammy was there it sounded like the fun was forced into being there. No comparison.
Anyway, if you’re looking for some solid Van Halen music that will remind you of your teen years then this is the album to buy. I’d also like to say that I fear this will be the last Van Halen album we ever see. These guys aren’t spring chickens and at the pace they work they’ll be pushing mid 60’s before another album comes around. On top of that, I don’t think the brothers and Dave are going to last working together. It’s painfully obvious that they can’t stand him. Yep, one last album, one last tour and that’s it. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. But let me say this, if this is the final Van Halen album then it is the perfect album to bookend all they’ve done. I’m glad to be a Van Halen fan today and I want to bask in this for as long as I can. My boys are kicking ass and taking names. I hope they decide to come to Japan so I have the chance to finally see them together. I’ve seen Dave 4 times while he was solo, Van Halen once with Sammy (I wanted to see Eddie), and 4 times with Gary. I’d really like the chance to see my all time favorite band together on stage.
That is all, kids. Y’all come back, the light’ll be on as always…
P.S. Although I have pure distaste for Sammy Hagar Van Halen, F.U.C.K. is one of my favorite Van Halen albums. Eddie’s work on that is just amazing. Oddly enough it was the only Sammy era album utilizing the production talents of the DLR era producer, Ted Templeman.