Van Halen, 1984 (1984)
You get to that middle section of Panama where David Lee Roth is all “Yeah, we’re runnin’ a little bit hot tonight/I can barely see the road from the heat comin’ off…” and then there’s the bit, “She’s runnin’, I’m flyin’/Right behind in the rearview mirror now”. And Eddie Van Halen’s guitar is the song. Yeah, you get to that bit and you’re only two complete songs in, but it’s already cigarette time (something even non-smokers could realise). You’ve just had Jump where Eddie, not content with serving up the guitar solo of the 1980s on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, decides to just reinvent the guitar lexicon once again. So that’s the first two songs – well, there’s that spacey instrumental to start with, serving as an extended intro for Jump really, so it’s only two songs-proper. At that point it’s easy to see why all the guys wanted to be David Lee Roth and/or Eddie Van Halen and all the girls wanted to fuck them. And plenty of guys wanted to fuck them too. And plenty of girls probably wanted to be them. It’s very clear. Every time you think you’re hearing Van Halen as a giant cliché, a precursor to the softer hair-metal that followed, you’re also hearing Van Halen as the great arena rockers of their day. Eddie and Alex were in their prime here. Everyone hears Eddie as the virtuoso but – in so many ways – the real virtuoso was actually Alex. Eddie was more of a freak; a freak of nature, a freak of the week – who only knew how to do three things, play guitar, drink and smoke. And he liked to combine them. David Lee Roth went out from the band on a high. Speaking of high, Michael Anthony might have been the weakest link instrumentally – playing between two monsters – but he knew how to wail on the BVs. Ridiculously good band when you hear them in their prime. I don’t even think of them all that often but when I play their albums – this one for example – I get caught up in just how killer it all was (is).
Sample Track: Hot For Teacher
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