“This Ain't Television, But It's More Than It Seems”

I was driving around at work today hearing about Van Halen’s tour and the great reviews the band’s getting. Then I get home and the new Rolling Stone is in the mailbox. What’s it say? Van Halen had the crowd in the palm of their hand on Sept. 27, when they opened their David Lee Roth-asized tour in Charlotte, N.C. "Man, that was like a fucking dream," they quote one fan as saying.

Originally, I had no real interest in seeing what looked like one of those nostalgia tours. I saw David Lee Roth a year or so ago on a solo tour. Lemme tell ya, it was a little disappointing to see Diamond Dave shuffling around on stage in a baggy track suit, looking like he had just come from the early-bird dinner at Denny’s.

Now, though, I wouldn’t resist the idea of seeing Van Halen again. If they were coming to South Florida. And, if they did come to South Florida, the show wasn’t sold out hours before I even got online to look for tickets. At this point, I don’t see either option occurring.

I did find a boot recording of that opening date, but the sound quality’s pretty poor. I made it about halfway through the first song then said the hell with it. That being the case, I’m not going to subject you good people to it. Besides, if you want to hear it bad enough, I’m sure you can find it somewhere. I just gotta maintain some semblance of quality control around here.

What I opted to do, to feed my Van Halen jones, is grab a song apiece from each of the four “middle” albums. I call them middle albums because they’re book-ended by Van Halen and 1984.

I picked the songs absolutely at random, trying for a combination of the deep cuts and the songs I liked. One recurring theme I noticed after I had arranged all of these, is I tended to favor the songs that start off a little slower, with some Eddie Van Halen guitar noodling, before breaking loose. Not one of these four songs just hits it from the gate.

Some brief notes on the songs or the albums from which they came:

“Bottoms Up” comes from Van Halen II, released March 1979. Rolling Stone didn’t think much of the disk at the time of its release: “From ‘Somebody Get Me a Doctor’ to ‘D.O.A.,’ the material on Van Halen II comes up consistently ruminative and semirollicking, fleshed out as it is by the stilted instrumental blarings of lead guitarist Edward Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen.” Ouch.
Some trivia: The black and yellow guitar Eddie is holding on the backside of the album was buried with Dimebag Darrell. Eddie said Dimebag had told him it was his favorite.

“Fools” comes from Women and Children First, released March 1980. By this time, Rolling Stone was beginning to change its tune: “Underneath the noisy chutzpah, Roth and his mob are exceptionally good players. This is especially true of guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who harnesses feedback almost as well as Jimi Hendrix did and displays smarts plus speed in his solos.”
Trivia: This is the first Van Halen album to feature all original band compositions.

“Push Comes to Shove” comes from Fair Warning, released April 1981. AllMusic.com called this album a dark, strange beast: "Fair Warning is the first Van Halen album that doesn't feel like a party. This may be a reflection of the band's relentless work schedule, it may be a reflection of the increasing tension between Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth -- the cause isn't important, because whatever the reason, Fair Warning winds up as a dark, dirty, nasty piece of work. Gloomy it may be, but dull it is not and Fair Warning contains some of the fiercest, hardest music that Van Halen ever made.”
No trivia here.

Which brings us to “The Full Bug,” from Diver Down, released April 1982. Two interviews from the period give the best account of how the band - certainly Dave and Eddie - saw the album at the time. The comments are from Dave's interview with Sylvie Simmons (Sounds, June 23, 1982) and Eddie's interview with Jas Obrecht (Guitar Player, Dec. 1982. My source for all of it is the Diver Down Wiki.)
Dave: “You know when you have a cockroach and they run round the house and get into a corner? We used to have these shoes called PRFCs - Puerto Rican Fence Climbers, okay? And this was aptly titled because if you were running from the police or what have you, and you were wearing your PRFCs, you could hit the fence at a dead run and your foot would stay in and you could commence climbing immediately, which was the essence of the whole sport anyway. And these were also great shoes for when the cockroach moves into the corner and you get at it with your foot or the broom anymore. You just jam your toe into the corner and hit as hard as you can. And if you did it right you got the full bug. So this slang means - bammm! - you have to give it everything you've got. Make the maximum effort, do everything possible, get the full bug.”
Eddie: “Dave plays the acoustic guitar and harmonica on the intro of ‘The Full Bug.’ My lines in the middle of that are different. I've been doing a lot of stuff with Allan Holdsworth, and he inspires me.”

Bottoms Up!.mp3
Push Comes to Shove.mp3
The Full Bug.mp3

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At 1:05 PM , Blogger Casey said...

I liked your Van Halen song choices. Definitely leaning away from the mainstream airplay. Good stuff!

At 1:39 PM , Blogger Nazz Nomad said...

I never saw VH back in the day because I was a Punk Rocker. Actually, I had 8th row to see Black Sabbath in the late 70's and VH was opening up (they had just released their first album) and I ended up not going because I was a moron.
But, they are playing in NY in Nov on my birthday and I ain't gonna miss em this time!
And if it's gonna cost me a few hundred bucks, so be it!

At 2:47 PM , Blogger aikin said...

Casey - thanks! Yeah, there are soem songs that have worn a little thin over the past 30 years!

Nazz - Sabbath and Van Halen?!? Oh, man! I think Ozzy was still with Sabbath around that time, wasn't he?
I saw Van Halen on the 1984 tour and I saw DLR solo a couple of years ago. I don't think they're coming to So Florida or I'd definitely try to see them this go around.

At 4:51 PM , Blogger Scott said...

AWESOME picks!

I was lucky enough to see the original VH back in the day ('Diver Down' and '1984' tours), both of which were the best shows of my life to date. Caught the reunion show in LA last week and they were just as amazing as I remembered. Wolfgang is the man!! Well worth every single penny.


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