Van Halen

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Van Halen is a band. They fucking rock. They've had more personnel changes than your mother's late night client roster. Ross Rifle has taken it upon himself to write the entire history of Van Halen for you, the fan, and you, the want-to-be-fan.



The Beginning

Van Halen was started by brothers Edward and Alex Van Halen, Dutch immigrants who moved to Pasadena, California, when they were 12 and 14, respectively. They were born into a musical family, their father Jan being a band leader. After years of tedious piano and violin lessons, Eddie and Alex were struck by the rock bug. Alex decided to play guitar and Eddie got a drum kit. While Eddie was out delivering papers to pay for his kit, Alex was using it. When Eddie heard Alex play the drum solo from 'Wipeout', he called for a trade. The rest, as they say, is history. They played in a few bands throughout their teenage years, such as Genesis (not to be confused with the Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel power trio) and the Trojan Rubber Company. They met a bassist named Mark Stone and formed the power trio Mammoth. A little while later Stone left and they recruited Michael Anthony from the group Snake. They started renting a PA system from David Lee Roth, a dentist's son fronting the group Redball Jet. Soon they decided that it would be cheaper to have Roth in the band and asked him to join. When they found out that another group in the area was already named Mammoth, Roth suggested they change their name to Van Halen. After making their bones on the Sunset Strip circuit, they were discovered by Gene Simmons, who paid to finance their demo. The demo got them nowhere, but one night Mo Ostin of Warner Bros. came in and heard them. They were instantly given a deal.

The Roth Years 78-85

Van Halen released their eponymous debut in early 1978, during the height of Disco and Punk. Disco and Punk effectively died after the album came out. It became the ultimate party album, chock-full of radio friendly hits, such as "Jamie's Cryin'", "Runnin' With The Devil", "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," the death-thrash riffage before death-thrash riffage of "I'm The One" and a zesty cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me". It was the album's second track, an instrumental called "Eruption", that made the album really special. A one minute, 42 second display of Eddie Van Halen's innovative technique turned him into a guitar hero, and changed the way guitar was played, virtually overnight. Van Halen embarked on a successful tour opening for Black Sabbath, whom they blew off the stage every night.

Less than a week after their first tour, Van Halen headed into the studio to record Van Halen II. The album took just over a week to produce, and featured "Dance The Night Away", the band's first top 15 hit. The album also featured the classic "Beautiful Girls" and the speed metal fury of "Light Up The Sky", as well as "Spanish Fly", another instrumental that demonstrated Eddie's talent on acoustic guitar. The band headed out on a headlining tour. Also, doesn't the intro to "Women In Love" kinda sound like Zora's Domain from Ocarina of Time?

Less than a year after Van Halen II, the band released Women and Children First. It was grittier and better demonstrated the band's style of recording live in the studio, with Roth periodically ad-libbing lines. The album featured "And The Cradle Will Rock" and "Everybody Wants Some!!", which was featured prominently in the John Cusack film Better Off Dead. During the 1980 tour, tensions in the band started to rise, as evident on their follow-up album, 1981's Fair Warning.

During the recording sessions for Fair Warning, Eddie would constantly come into the studio at 4 am to record parts. One example of this was the track "Push Comes To Shove". It features a guitar solo that Eddie played at least 20 times, none of the takes being to the liking of producer Ted Templeman. Eddie went in to the studio late that night and recorded the same solo. When he presented it to Templeman later, it was accepted. Though this album's single was "So This Is Love?", a classic track that never charted, it is best known for the radio staple "Unchained".

After four years of nonstop recording and touring, Van Halen decided to a vacation. Before they all left, they decided to record a quick cover of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman", just to keep their name out there. The single immediately launched up the charts, and the band had to enter the studio to record an album. The result, 1982's Diver Down, though an exceptional album, was a rather weak effort, consisting of 3 instrumentals and 4 covers in its 12 song list. The album became their most successful at that point, despite arguments over a cover of Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing In The Street", which Eddie was not satisfied with. After the ensuing tour, the band took a year off.

In 1983, David Lee Roth went on a trip to the Amazon, Michael Anthony went to Disneyland (according to Eddie), and Alex did...something. Eddie recieved a phone call one day from Quincy Jones, asking to do a solo for Michael Jackson's upcoming album. Eddie went in and played a solo for the track "Beat It". As he didn't want the rest of the band to know, he did it as a favour, figuring nobody would know it was him. Of course, Thriller, the album "Beat It" is from, became the best-selling album of all time, and Eddie recieved no royalties.

Later in 1983, the band got back together to record. The resulting effort was 1984's MCMLXXXIV, which featured the hits "Panama", "Hot For Teacher", "I'll Wait", and their first #1 hit, "Jump". Unfortunately, tensions over the band's new synthesizer-fueled, pop-oriented direction, and Roth's impending solo album and movie career drew the band apart. David Lee Roth announced his departure from the band on April 1st, 1985...seriously. Not long after, Van Halen recruited Sammy Hagar to sing...seriously.

The Hagar Years 85-96

With the release of 1986's 5150, a new phase of Van Halen was born. The band started to produce their own material in Eddie's home studio, and Ed started to experiment with synthesizers. The result was a power-pop sound which, while not as popular with fans, was far more commercially successful, with 5150 becoming the band's first #1 album. Although "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Dreams" became hit singles, the album succeeded without the strength of any videos on MTV. After a successful tour and their first concert film, "Live Without A Net", the Van Halen boys got back to work.

1988's OU812 marked Van Halen's second #1 album. It featured te hits "When It's Love" and "Finish What Ya Started", both of which had regularly rotated videos on MTV. They embarked on two tours, the second being the Monsters of Rock tour in 1988.

Van Halen released their third straight #1 album, the cleverly titled For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, in 1991. It marked a return to the band's hard rock style, only featuring piano on their hit "Right Now". The album also featured "Poundcake", "Top of the World" and "Runaround", as well as "316", an instrumental in dedication of his son Wolfgang's birth, on March 16, 1991. The band enjoyed another successful tour, with their first live album, Right Here Right Now being released in 1993.

By the time Van Halen recorded their fourth album with Hagar, Balance, in 1995, tensions were starting to rise within its ranks. Eddie had just come out of rehab and had found God, and Hagar was refusing to write lyrics, resulting in two instrumentals. The album was heavy and featured deeper, more introspective lyrics, and became the band's fourth #1 album.

Band tensions came to a head in '96, over "Humans Being", a song contributed to the Twister soundtrack, and the track list on their upcoming Best Of Collection, which was to feature two new songs with David Lee Roth, who had joined the band in the studio while Hagar was away. Hagar left Van Halen, or was fired, depending on who you talk to.

The New Roth Year 96

At the 1996 MTV Music Video Awards Eddie, Alex, and Mike appeared live on stage with David Lee Roth to present an award. They recieved a two minute standing ovation. After the show, it was reported that Ed and Dave got in a fight and Dave was out. Many fans were devastated that their 11 year dream of a reunion was smashed, and that they had been subject to a publicity stunt to sell copies of their best of (it worked). Roth left Van Halen, or was fired, depending on who you talk to.

The Cherone Years 98-99

In 1998 it was announced that the Van Halen camp had hired Gary Cherone of Boston group Extreme to front them. The resulting album was Van Halen III, which, although an excellent album by any standards, was the group's worst selling. By 1999, Cherone was out, and four years of silence followed.

Four Years of Silence 00-04

Between 2000 and 2004, there was much turmoil in the Van Halen world. Though no one is sure of all that went down, some things have been confirmed:

  • Eddie recieved a hip replacement.
  • Eddie successfully battled tongue cancer.
  • Eddie divorced Valerie Bertinelli, his wife of 20 years.
  • Eddie, Alex, and Mike reunited with Dave on 3 occasions, all of which ended badly.
  • It was later revealed that Michael Anthony played bass on only three tracks on Van Halen III.

The New Hagar Year 04

In 2004, seemingly out of the blue, Van Halen reunited with Sammy Hagar. They released a new best of, The Best of Both Worlds, featuring three new tracks with Sammy. They then embarked on a North American tour. The tour was largely considered overpriced (Ross Rifle will attest to this), and Eddie, who had fallen off the wagon, was a mess most nights. The tour grossed massive dollars, but by the end, Sammy left, or was fired, depending on who you talk to.

The Seeming End of Van Halen 05-07

After the tour, Van Halen disappeared off the map. Eddie teamed up with MXR to release signature phaser and flanger pedals, and teamed up with Charvel to make replicas of his three famous custom guitars. Sammy toured as a solo artist, with Mike joining him as "The Other Half". Eddie then announced a partnership with Fender guitars, who created a perfect replica of his legendary Frankenstein guitar, as well as launched his own "EVH" line of guitar products.

In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were rumours of a Dave/Van Halen reunion with Eddie's teenage son Wolfgang on bass, but Eddie checked himself into rehab, making himself (and Alex) unavailable for the induction. Dave refused to show when Velvet Revolver, who were paying tribute to them, said they would rather do "You Really Got Me" than "Jump". Only Sammy and Mike, who were no longer members of the band, were there to accept the induction. Gary Cherone was not inducted. It truly seemed like a sad end to one of the greatest rock bands on Earth.

The New Roth Year(s?) 07-??

About a month after the RnRHOF induction, Eddie made his first post-rehab appearance, looking healthy and clean-cut. He had an interview with Guitar World promoting his new 5150III amp, and the fountain of hope soon began to flow. Sure enough, on August 13th, 2007, Van Halen, consisting of Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen, as well as David Lee Roth, held a press conference announcing a North American tour. The tour, originally slated for 25 dates, commenced on September 27th. It was then extended four months until April 08, and went on to become one of the most successful tours in history, selling out nearly every show, and making the band an estimated $1.5 million a night. Once again, the Mightiest Band in all the Land was rocking the nation, with a proposed World Tour and upcoming album.

After the successful tour, Van Halen once again feel out of the limelight. Eddie Van Halen commenced work with Fender, kicking his EVH brand into overdrive, releasing amps, guitars, cables, pickups, even high-top shoes. In 2009, he also underwent surgery on his left hand, for arthritis-like pain. Wolfgang Van Halen finished high school. David Lee Roth and Alex Van Halen just kinda fell off the map. And then, the unthinkable happened.

In mid-2010, rumors were starting to pop up in the industry, regarding the production of a new Van Halen album. Various musicians and celebrities made claims that they had heard new material, and the consensus was that it kicked ass. In January 2011, Van Halen officially entered the studio with producer John Shanks. 2011 became wrought with occasional Van Halen updates throughout the year. In December, the official Van Halen website was updated, announcing a 2012 tour. On January 10th, 2012, Van Halen dropped "Tattoo", the lead single for their upcoming album, "A Different Kind of Truth".

On February 7th, 2012, Van Halen released "A Different Kind of Truth", their first full-length studio album since 1998, and their first album with Roth since 1984. Although the lead single was met with general indifference, the rest of the album received glowing reviews from almost everybody, fans and critics alike. Van Halen was, once again, standing on top of the world.




  • Sammy Hagar-Vocals, Guitar
  • Eddie Van Halen-Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals
  • Michael Anthony-Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Alex Van Halen-Drums


  • David Lee Roth-Vocals
  • Eddie Van Halen-Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Michael Anthony-Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Alex Van Halen-Drums


  • Gary Cherone-Vocals
  • Eddie Van Halen-Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals
  • Michael Anthony-Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Alex Van Halen-Drums


  • Sammy Hagar-Vocals
  • Eddie Van Halen-Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Michael Anthony-Backing Vocals
  • Alex Van Halen-Drums


  • David Lee Roth-Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
  • Eddie Van Halen-Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Wolfgang Van Halen-Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Alex Van Halen-Drums


Since the beginning, Eddie Van Halen has been considered the greatest guitarist since Jimi Hendrix, and pretty much every guitarist since him had tried to be as good as him. His custom guitars also influenced most 80s metal guitars, and music nerds have been trying to cop his "Brown Sound" tone for decades.

Van Halen were innovators in the music video ring as well. Their three videos from MCMLXXXIV created three important genres of video: the studio preformance (Jump), stage performance (Panama) and situational (Hot For Teacher). The latter was also one of the first videos to get banned for its latent sexuality.

Surprisingly enough, Eddie Van Halen was instrumental in getting African-Americans on MTV. His collaboration with Michael Jackson on "Beat It" also helped get MJ on rock radio and Van Halen on pop radio.


  • Van Halen fuckin rules.
  • Ross Rifle loves Van Halen.
  • Gary Cherone suffered from the same syndrome as Tim 'Ripper' Ownes, Blaze Bayley, and John Corabi. That syndrome is Replacement Singer Syndrome, where a singer is put into the impossible shoes of a fan favorite.
  • Van Halen coined 'LSD', or 'Lead Singer's Disease'.
  • At least 3 of the members of Van Halen have probably had sex with your mother, wife, or sister.
  • Now that Van Halen and Led Zeppelin have reunited, there will no longer be any reunion tour EVER. Including Pantera :(.
  • There's a little Van Halen in everybody.
  • GPFontaine Saw them during a Cherone concert. The band was great, the singer was not.

JRA's essential playlist for n00bs

  • Jump
  • Dance The Night Away
  • Unchained
  • I'm The One
  • The Full Bug
  • Romeo Delight
  • Runnin' With The Devil
  • Outta Love Again
  • House Of Pain
  • Little Guitars
  • Hot For Teacher
  • And The Cradle Will Rock...
  • Mean Street
  • Beautiful Girls
  • (Oh) Pretty Woman
  • Push Come To Shove
  • Eruption - You Really Got Me
  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Somebody Get Me A Doctor
  • Panama
  • Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

(yes that will all fit onto an 80 minute disc, believe me I've tried)

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