When Van Halen rocked the world, they did it for real.
This much I know – Van Halen f***ing rules.
Sometimes it's easy to forget this, I know, because a lot has happened with the band over the years. There was a lead singer change, synthesizers began to edge guitars out of songs, a few bad records were whipped together and released, and I barely remember something about (gulp) Gary Cherone.
There's also the fact that they don't seem to release records any more. And that David Lee Roth now works as a radio DJ(?).
But go back 20 years, and Van Halen was the biggest band on the planet. If you were alive in the '80s and a fan of rock music, you have spent some time with a Van Halen record in your hands. At least you should have. And here's why...
But before we get into this, I should start off my telling you about some of my early formative experiences with music, all of which involved Van Halen. Like the time I was 10 and I had to trick my mother -- who's mantra was "You're not buying a Van Halen record, they do drugs. And no, you're not buying an Ozzy Osbourne record, he bit the head off a bat, he does more drugs." -— into bringing me to K-mart to buy "Diver Down" ("Mom, I want to buy a Kenny Rogers record" I said and pulled the old bait-and-switch once we were there).
And there was my first concert -- David Lee Roth at the Worcester Centrum in Massachusetts in 1986 (hello acid washed jeans and mullet hair). But at the end of the day, what really comes out of these stories is that Van Halen was the music I grew up on, the first band I got in to, the band that got me excited about music.
And because for me, Van Halen is that band -- we all have one, that band that acted as our "rock-n-roll training wheels," the one we will tirelessly and endlessly defend -- you might be brushing this opinion to the side and thinking, "Yeah that's great, but we're talking about Van Halen, right? David Lee Roth, the former EMT, was in that band, right? The band that went pop with Sammy Hagar? What are they doing now anyway?"
But I don't care that they haven't put out a record in seven years, or a good one in more than 10, or that Eddie Van Halen dragged his kid on stage to perform guitar solos with him on the last tour. I just don't care.
Here's why -– and here's where I push the junior high nostalgia aside -- at one point in rock history Van Halen was the best rock band in America. Period. And during this time they made some absolutely brilliant rock records ("Van Halen II," "Fair Warning" and their debut, "Van Halen"). These records, by far, are better than most of the rock that comes out today and they are as good or better than most of the stuff that's come out in the past 30 years.