Van Halen memory No. 1
Eddie Van Halen’s death takes me straight back to when and where I heard Van Halen for the first time.
Summer 1978, home from college, sitting at the Bar Phoenix in Schofield, Wisconsin, a dive bar I’d never been in. The Bar Phoenix had a reputation as a tough place, sort of a roadhouse. We college kids didn’t go there. An older, vaguely countercultural, working-class crowd went there.
But we were there in daylight, on a sun-splashed summer afternoon. We were 21 and had been going to bars for three or four years, so maybe we were getting to look like we knew our way around the block. But probably not. In any case, there weren’t too many people in the bar. It was cool.
Then “Eruption” came on the radio or the jukebox. (No MTV yet!) Mind blown.
It wasn’t long before I went out and bought “Van Halen.” Loved it. Still love it. Still have it.
Van Halen memory No. 2
By the time “Van Halen II” came out in 1979, I’d talked my bosses at the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram into letting me write record reviews. I’d worked at the paper for a year and change. I still was 21. I wasn’t all that sophisticated. All these years later, the cringe factor remains strong with these reviews.
I was stoked about the release of “Van Halen II.” Then I listened to it.
From my review of “Van Halen II” on Saturday, April 21, 1979:
“I want off the bandwagon and I want off now.”
“David Lee Roth seems intent on showing just how bad he can sing. His voice, kind of an I-dare-you stance punctured frequently by a howl reminiscent of a chicken with emphysema, gets boring quickly.”
Though I did like “Dance The Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls,” I didn’t like the rest of “Van Halen II.” Nor did I appreciate what Eddie Van Halen was bringing to the table.
Fun fact No. 1: Who remembers that the first cut on “Van Halen II” was a cover of “You’re No Good?” It was no good. Back then, Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “You’re No Good” from five years earlier was the only one I knew. Dee Dee Warwick? Betty Everett? No way.
Fun fact No. 2: For years, all I had were those two Van Halen records. I’ve since sold “Van Halen II,” never having played it again after reviewing it.
Fun fact No. 3: My other review that day was Joe Jackson’s “Look Sharp!” I liked that one but inexplicably compared him to George Thorogood in that both were serious about sticking to their musical roots. Yeesh, as the kids say.
Van Halen memory No. 3
The theme song to that wonderful summer of 1984, with many afternoons spent watching the Cubs chase their first playoff berth in forever.
Never saw Van Halen play live. Saw half of the group — Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony — and they were pretty good on the Van Hagar songs.
I can only imagine what the real deal was like.