30 Years Ago Today: The Second Coming Of Van Halen
Van Halen has had more “lives” than a whole bag full of cats. When I talk about the “second coming” of Van Halen, I’m not referring to Sammy joining the band, I’m talking about the release of the album “1984”.
I am authority on Van Halen. I lived in Southern California right before they broke and I rocked with them on the way. As a fan, and a radio programmer, I think I can give you some pretty good insight into their rise.
The first Van Halen album dropped like an atom bomb. It was new, fresh, and over the top. The second album was mostly made up of scraps that didn’t make the first album but sold well due to the one GIANT track “Dance The Night Away”. The third album “Women and Children First” brought the band to a more hard rocking style a bit but foreshadowed a problem “Fair Warning” had, it seemed the band lost it’s “party” attitude. Yeah, it was great rock, but we wanted to “party”. Diver Down brought the party back, but went a little too far with some of it’s retro covers. So really, Van Halen seemed to be flailing around a bit too much trying to find the “sweet spot” for their careers.
Van Halen 1984 brought the band their most successful album ever. With the addition of keyboards, the bands reinvented sound made them sound relevant to the MTV crowd. And for every fan that was turned off by ballads like “I’ll Wait”, there was a rocker like “Hot For Teacher”. Most importantly, Van Halen finally had not one, but two songs that cemented their reputation as the ultimate “party” hard rock band with “Jump” and “Panama” .
I’ll also go on record saying the record had one of the best covers ever with the little angel boy smokin’ a cig. The symbolism is perfectly on target. Happy 30th Birthday 1984!