Who could have imagined that a synthesizer, and not a guitar, would put Van Halen over the top? But that was indeed the case when the first blast of Oberheim OB-Xa announced the arrival of "Jump" and the quartet's leap into the rock superstar strata with the album "1984," the latter of which was released 30 years ago today on January 9, 1984. After five platinum previous albums Van Halen was already there, of course, and following a headlining performance (for a whopping $1.5 million) at the 1983 US Festival, it was clear that even bigger things lay ahead for the band. But how big, and how different, was the surprise.
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Stylistically, Van Halen staked its reputation on the combination of frontman David Lee Roth's clown prince personality and, primarily, Eddie Van Halen's six-string heroics, so the prominence of synthesizer on "1984" -- on the short title track instrumental, "Jump" and "I'll Wait" -- marked an unexpected new direction that caught many of VH's guitar-loving fans off guard and uncertain, although ultimately assuaged by many of the set's other six songs.