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Sunday Old School: Van Halen

Though the Netherlands have given the world some excellent metal bands over the years such as Pestilence and God Dethroned, the country doesn’t receive as much attention as some others in Europe, such as their neighbours in Germany. However, it’s worth remembering that one of the most important names in the history of hard rock and heavy metal was literally born in the Netherlands in 1953 and 1955, where in the city of Nijmegen, the brothers Alex and Eddie were born, siblings who would go on to bring their surname into rock folklore. The name of Van Halen.

The brothers moved with their family to the United States in 1962 and started to learn instruments shortly afterwards, with Eddie learning drums and Alex learning guitar, though they switched after Eddie found out that Alex had been playing his drums while the younger brother was out on his paper route. They eventually formed a band which they Christened, Genesis, along with bassist Mark Stone and ultimately bringing in singer David Lee Roth, who the band had been hiring a P.A. from, who was hired to save money. Stone was soon replaced by Michael Anthony and another change came when the quartet found out about the British band named Genesis, so decided to rename themselves, Mammoth, though this name would also be dropped in favour of the now familiar, Van Halen.

After slogging it out in the Los Angeles music scene for several years and earning some big name fans such as Gene Simmons of Kiss, who produced a demo tape for the group, Van Halen were eventually signed to Warner Brothers and released their self-titled debut in 1978, which reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, becoming one of the most successful rock debuts of the time. It featured several staples of the band’s catalogue, such as the frantic instrumental, “Eruption,” the memorable bass introduced opener, “Running With the Devil” and a cover of The Kinks’ classic, “You Really Got Me.” Not only did the album perform well, but so did the band, particularly on a tour supporting Black Sabbath, who were promoting their “Never Say Die” record at the time and were reportedly outshone by the young Dutch/American group at practically every show.

Success on and off the road was soon capitalised upon with the release of “Van Halen II” in 1979, which contained their first hit single, “Dance the Night Away.” It was another well received album, as was the next year’s, “Women and Children First,” which didn’t yield any hit singles but contained some more live favourites such as “Everybody Wants Some” and “And the Cradle Will Rock.” Reviews remained positive for their fourth album, “Fair Warning,” which was more progressive in nature but did not sell as well as the albums before it.

Despite the disappointing commercial response to “Fair Warning,” the band bounced back a year later with, “Diver Down,” which sold very well and interestingly featured a clarinet performance from the brothers’ father, Jan Van Halen on the song, “Big Bad Bill.” Their live attraction continued to increase around this time, which earned them a place in the Guinness Book of Records when they were paid $1.5 million for one appearance, making them the most expensive one off live act of the era. Their commercial success somehow further increased with the album, “1984,” released that year and boasting their biggest singles success with the classic lineup in the form of, “Jump,” a synthesizer laden track with an unforgettable chourus, as well as other classic songs in the shape of, “Hot for Teacher” and “Panama.”

Although the band had become wildly successful, tensions between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen had become very apparent and it was to be the singer who was forced from the band and replaced by former Montrose frontman and successful solo artist, Sammy Hagar. Though some were skeptical how Van Halen would fair without Roth, their doubts were put to bed when the band released, “5150” in 1986, which was a massive success and spawned three hits in, “Why Can’t This Be Love?,” Love Walks In” and “Dreams.” Not only did the album top the American charts, but so did their next three releases, beginning with “OU812” two years later, which featured the top five single, “When It’s Love.” They also received a Grammy award for the following album, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” which spawned some successful singles such as “Runaround” and “Right Now.”

A fourth consecutive number one album, “Balance” was released in 1995 and the band joined forces with Bon Jovi for a stadium tour of Europe. Though they continued to garner commercial success, the brothers once again had a falling out with their singer whilst recording music for the 1996 movie, Twister. Eventually, after several disagreements, Hagar was relieved of his duties, though whether he quit or was fired remains a subject of debate. They briefly delighted fans by reuniting with Roth in 1996, though instead of continuing with the original singer, they recruited former Extreme frontman, Gary Cherone. Cherone recorded the album, “Van Halen III” with the group, which was released in 1998 to disappointing sales. Though they fully intended to create another album together, Warner Brothers forced the band to fire the singer in 1999, though he remained on good terms with the other members.

Van Halen then went quiet for a few years, almost silent even, as they privately reunited with Roth again before old tensions resurfaced and the reunion was called off. Rather surprisingly, they joined forces with Sammy Hagar again in 2003 for a series of tours which proved highly successful, with three new songs written with the singer appearing on the 2004 compilation, “Best of Both Worlds.” This would turn out to be the lineup’s last material together to date, as after the tour, Hagar returned to his solo work.

Where the band would end up after this tour was a complete mystery, with speculation of another reunion with David Lee Roth refused to go away, while Michael Anthony stated in interviews that the brothers did not want him to be a part of the reunion with Hagar and that he was only on board because Hagar refused to join without him. Perhaps his comments proved detrimental to any future he may have had with the group, as when the reunion with Roth was finally confirmed in 2007, all mention and photographs of Anthony were removed from the website and his place in the band was taken by Eddie’s son, Wolfgang.

The resulting tour was the most successful of the band’s career, reportedly earning them $93 million and so interest in a new album from the band remained very high. It was to be five years before the anticipated album finally surfaced however, when Van Halen released “A Different Kind of Truth” in February 2012. The record was warmly received by critics and entered the Billboard charts at number two, as well as peaking at number six in the United Kingdom. Where the band goes from here remains to be seen but whether they release another album or spend the rest of their careers as a live act, they can be rest assured that their place in metal and hard rock has been cemented.

Van Halen - "Runnin' With the Devil"

Van Halen - "Dance the Night Away"

Van Halen - "And the Cradle Will Rock"

Van Halen - "Little Guitars"

Van Halen - "Panama"

Van Halen - "Why Can't This Be Love?"

Van Halen - "Black and Blue"

Van Halen - "Fire in the Hole"

Van Halen - "Tattoo"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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6 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Van Halen"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Steve John writes:

The author is not a very good one and either has little working kwledge ofVan Halen or poor editing skills, referring to Michael Anthony as Mark Anthony and listing songs as being on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge that were actually on Balance. He should be extremely embarrassed.

# Dec 28, 2014 @ 3:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. spiral_architect writes:


# Dec 29, 2014 @ 12:12 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. Carlos Santos writes:

I'm afraid I'm a bit biased when it comes to Van Halen. Why I think Van Halen's music sounds better with David Lee Roth is because with him Van Halen sounded more spontaneous. With David Lee Roth they were a heavy rock'n'roll band, with Sammy Hagar they turned into a hard rock band. i'm not at all against hard rock, I just think they were more fun with Roth, that's all.
Happy New Year and may Sunday Old School never stop.

# Dec 31, 2014 @ 2:27 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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4. Blindgreed1 writes:

Oh yes, absolutely!!! SHAME on Oz!!! He'll never write for another underground metal e-rag again. Nice typo in your post there too steve. Something about throwing stones and living in glass houses??? Lol. Cheers everyone. Nice piece Oz.

# Dec 31, 2014 @ 11:30 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
spiral_architect's avatar


5. spiral_architect writes:



# Dec 31, 2014 @ 4:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

6. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers guys. Means a lot to me to see support, as well as seeing that people actually read this articles!

# Jan 1, 2015 @ 8:36 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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