Van Halen

 Van Halen

 Eddie Van Halen – circa 1979

 “A live wire / Barely a beginner” – ’Dance The Night Away’ (Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony)

It could all have been very different.  Eddie Van Halen is described as ‘inarguably the most significant heavy metal guitarist of the 1980s.’  Yet he doesn’t start out as a guitar player.  The first instrument Eddie Van Halen learns to play is the piano.  Later, he switches instruments…becoming a drummer.  This too passes, and Eddie Van Halen finally takes up the guitar, the instrument with which he is closely identified.  But it could have been very different…

Edward Lodewijk ‘Eddie’ Van Halen is born 26 January 1955 in Nijmegen, Gelderland, Netherlands.  He is the son of Jan van Halen and his wife, Eugenia van Halen (nee Beers).  Jan (pronounced ‘Yarn’) is Dutch but Eugenia comes from an Indonesian-Eurasian background.  Edward’s middle name, Lodewijk, is the Dutch form of Ludwig; the boy is named after the famed classical music composer Ludwig van Beethoven.  Edward is the couple’s second son.  Their elder boy is Alexander Arthur Van Halen, born 8 May 1953 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands.  Jan van Halen is characterised as happy-go-lucky but his wife, Eugenia, is viewed as more career-minded.

Jan van Halen is an accomplished musician who plays clarinet, saxophone and piano.  Jan is a bandleader, so his sons grow up in a musical household.  Alex Van Halen says, “The earliest memories I have, musically, is that our father was into music and you couldn’t help but be touched by it.  I’d watch him practice, I’d watch him play.  Basically, Ed and I were surrounded by music.”  Eddie Van Halen points out, “I never took guitar lessons.  I took classical piano lessons from the age of 6 when we lived in Holland.”  In fact, both Alex and Eddie take classical piano lessons.

In February 1962, the Van Halen family relocates to southern California in the U.S.A.  “When we came on the boat to America, my Dad would play in the band that was playing on the boat to pay for our passage.  We were flat broke when we came over here,” says Alex Van Halen.  “Ed and I would play piano…on stage [with our father]…It was kind of a novelty to have two kids playing piano.”

The Van Halen brothers attend Pasadena High School in Pasadena, California.  At first, the boys have very little knowledge of English.  “When Ed and I went to school the only barrier we had was the language barrier,” Alex Van Halen observes.

Although Eddie and Alex Van Halen are expected to keep up their classical piano lessons, they find American popular music interesting as well, and soon their musical ambitions extend in that direction.  “My parents bought me a guitar and they bought me a Silvertone amplifier,” recalls Alex Van Halen (yes, Alex Van Halen – not Eddie!).  “I was playing the thing but no matter what I tried it wouldn’t happen.  Ed bought a drum set and he had a paper route to pay for it…While he was gone [delivering newspapers], I’d sit there banging on the drums…I forget exactly how it happened, but eventually Ed and I switched: Ed played guitar and I played drums.”

‘Eddie [Van Halen] spends his adolescence in his bedroom for hours on end playing records from front to back and learning all the guitar parts verbatim.’  Eddie’s first guitar is a Teisco Del Ray.  Eddie says, “I grew up on a lot of early Beatles, DC5 [The Dave Clark Five, a British pop group of the same era as The Beatles], Cream, [Eric] Clapton [Cream’s guitarist], [Jimmy] Page [of Led Zeppelin], [Jeff] Beck [of The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group], and [guitarist Jimi] Hendrix.”  But despite this list of influences, Eddie claims, “I just like songs…I’ve never really been that much of a fan of bands outside of Cream.”

Eddie Van Halen meets David Lee Roth while both are attending Pasadena Community College in the 1970s.  Eddie and his brother, Alex Van Halen, form a band called The Broken Combs.  Eddie is both lead vocalist and guitarist in this group.  David Lee Roth auditions to join them but is rejected.  However, Alex Van Halen persists and eventually persuades his brother that Roth should become the lead vocalist.  He joins in 1973.

David Lee Roth is born 10 October 1954 in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.  He is the son of Nathan and Sibyl Roth and is of Ukrainian descent with a Jewish heritage.  David has two sisters, Allison and Lisa.  Nathan Roth is an ophthalmologist, a ‘renowned eye surgeon who makes millions via his private practice and in real estate.’  Several of his relatives are also surgeons.  One exception is David’s uncle, Manny Roth, who is the owner of Café Wha in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, a venue famed for hosting notable folk and rock artists.  David Lee Roth’s family moves from Indiana to California a few years after David’s birth.  He goes on to attend John Muir High School in Pasadena, graduating in 1972.  Then, at Pasadena Community College, Roth meets Eddie Van Halen.  David Lee Roth is the lead singer for another band, The Red Ball Jets, while Van Halen forms The Broken Combs.  Roth joins Van Halen’s band in 1973.

David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen are joined by bassist Mark Stone to form Mammoth.  Stone’s tenure with them is brief.  In 1974 he is replaced by Michael Anthony.

Michael Anthony is born Michael Anthony Sobolewski on 20 June 1954 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.  He is the son of Polish immigrants.  He attends Dana Junior High and Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California.  Although he is left-handed for every other purpose, Michael Anthony plays bass right-handed.  From 1967 to 1974 Michael Anthony plays in a number of different bands: Poverty’s Children, Black Opal, Balls, and Snake.  “The first time I heard of or saw Eddie Van Halen play guitar was in 1972 at a student carnival in Arcadia, California,” Michael says.  “Two years later, the band I was in opened for Van Halen at Pasadena High School.  David Lee Roth was now singing lead and they were playing original material…I joined…soon after.”  Michael Anthony provides high backing vocals as well as his bass-playing to the group.

Mammoth plays ‘1960s and 1970s cover versions and some originals.’  Gene Simmons of hard rock band Kiss produces some demos for the group but they fail to secure a recording contract for Mammoth.  To add to their woes, the quartet discovers there is another band who has already registered the name Mammoth, so there is a need for Roth, Anthony and the Van Halen brothers to find a new sobriquet.  They toy with the designation Rat Salade, but ultimately go with David Lee Roth’s straightforward and simple suggestion: Van Halen.  The quartet is still in search of a record deal.  They resort to ‘attention-grabbing tricks like parachuting into a stadium gig in a successful attempt to upstage the headlining band.’  Ted Templeman from Warner Bros. catches a Van Halen gig at a Hollywood club in 1977 and signs the group to a recording contract.

Van Halen are normally characterised as a heavy metal band – but there are some caveats to that designation.  Some see them more as a hard rock band, but the distinction between the two labels is wafer-thin and only really debated by hard core aficionados of the genres.  Basically, Van Halen play really loud songs with caustic guitar riffs, screamed vocals, throbbing bass and thundering drums.  Although the boys sport the long hair of standard metal bands, they favour bright satins and tight pants over leather jackets and grotty denim.  Perhaps most importantly, Van Halen has a definite sprinkling of pop smarts amidst their strafing bombast.  “Music is for people.  The word ‘pop’ is simply short for popular,” Eddie Van Halen says.  “If I could deliberately sit down and write a pop hit, all my songs would be pop hits.”

In David Lee Roth, Van Halen is blessed with one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen.  He has a ‘flair for showmanship derived as much from lounge performers as Robert Plant [lead vocalist of Led Zeppelin, perhaps the greatest heavy metal band].’  Or, to put it another way, he is ‘equal parts rock god and used car salesman.’  ‘Diamond Dave’ is not exactly a shrinking violet, so let’s let him speak for himself: “The world’s a stage, and I want the brightest spot.”  On his ego: “I’m not conceited.  Conceit is a fault and I have no faults.”  It must be noted that David Lee Roth says such things with tongue-in-cheek.  He’s definitely not shy, but he doesn’t take himself all that seriously either.  “You want a hero in the music world?  James Brown,” he suggests, nominating the flamboyant Soul Brother Number One.  David Lee Roth is one of rock’s greatest – and funniest – roosters.

For all David Lee Roth’s antics, for many fans, the real star of Van Halen is guitarist Eddie Van Halen.  “I’m a musician, Dave’s a rock star,” Eddie says, drawing a distinction between the two.  David Lee Roth describes Eddie Van Halen as, “The first guitar hero of the 1980s.”  Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work is marked by some notable characteristics.  Although he is not the originator of the technique, Eddie popularises ‘tapping.’  Instead of using a plectrum, he will, at times, ‘tap’ the guitar strings in a percussive manner with his fingertips.  Then there is his use of the whammy bar – a sort of handle on the scratchplate of the guitar.  The whammy bar temporarily alters the tension of the guitar strings.  It is usually used to provide a distorted ‘dive-bombing’ sound.  Eddie Van Halen is also notorious for radically, violently, customising his guitars.  Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony observes that Eddie “would hack up some very expensive guitars, changing the wiring and pickups around to create what would ultimately define his sound, and separate him from any other rock guitarist in the business.”  Although he is fond of his ‘Frankenstein guitars’, Eddie Van Halen frequently plays a Gibson Flying V guitar in Van Halen’s first recordings, going on to later favour Kramer guitars.  Guitarist Eddie Van Halen ‘redefines what the electric guitar can do.’

Most of Van Halen’s songs are jointly composed by all the members of the band.

The debut album is ‘Van Halen’ (1978) (US no. 19, UK no. 24, AUS no. 17), released in February.  The group’s first six albums are produced by Ted Templeman.  The debut is Van Halen’s best album.  Arguably, later sets are better written or more cohesive, but this trumps them because it is aided by the element of surprise.  It is here that the world at large first experiences the shock of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar prowess.  “I was a young punk and everything revolved around the fastest kid in town, gunslinger attitude,” he muses.  Of course, the disc also introduces the outrageous David Lee Roth and the powerhouse rhythm section of Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen.  The first single from the disc is a cover version of ‘You Really Got Me’ (US no. 36, AUS no. 12) by British group The Kinks.  With its orgasmic moans, Van Halen’s take on the 1964 song that some view as the original heavy metal song also owes a debt to Led Zeppelin’s 1970 song ‘Whole Lotta Love’.  The brief (1:42) instrumental ‘Eruption’ is a fast-fingered guitar spray from Eddie Van Halen.  It was originally just intended to be a guitar warm-up exercise, but the recording engineer happened to have the tapes rolling, so it was captured and kept for the album.  Among the better original compositions is the rough and charging ‘Ain’t Talkin’ About Love’ in which David Lee Roth roars, “My love is rotten to the core / Ain’t talkin’ about love / Just like I told you before.”  Roth offers this philosophy, “I live my life like there’s no tomorrow,” on the stalking ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’ (US no. 84, UK no. 52).  Tracks like ‘Jamie’s Cryin’’ and ‘Ice Cream Man’ are also well regarded.

‘Van Halen II’ (1979) (US no. 6, UK no. 23, AUS no. 68) is recorded in a mere six days, only one third of the (still quite quick) recording time for the debut album.  The highlight of this album is Van Halen’s all-time best song, ‘Dance The Night Away’ (US no. 15), a surprising pop metal confection.  The song finds David Lee Roth’s narrator sizing up a young honey and yelping, “Just watch that lady go / She’s so fine, ‘cause dancin’ gets her higher than-uh anything else she knows.”  What makes this definitive?  Well, there’s Roth’s cartoonish lust, Eddie Van Halen’s precise and powerful guitar work and a strong pop melody acting as a framework.  Added together, it’s Van Halen as they deserve to be remembered.

‘Women And Children First’ (1980) (US no. 6, UK no. 15, AUS no. 128) features the bad boy anthem ‘And The Cradle Will Rock’ (US no. 55).  “Well, they say it’s kind of fright’ning how this younger generation swings,” confides David Lee Roth.  Playing the concerned parent, he asks, “Have you seen junior’s grades?” just before Eddie Van Halen kicks off the kind of solo bound to inspire teenagers to rock out in their bedrooms, playing imaginary air guitar along with their hero.  Adolescence has rarely sounded so attractive.

In 1980 Eddie Van Halen begins dating actress Valerie Bertinelli.  The couple marry in Los Angeles on 11 April 1981.  They go on to have a son, Wolfgang (born 16 March 1991).

On 21 February 1981 bassist Michael Anthony marries Susan Hendry.  Michael and Sue will have two daughters, Elisha (born 1985) and Taylor (born 1992).

In 1981 drummer Alex Van Halen begins dating Valeri Kendall.

Van Halen’s next album, ‘Fair Warning’ (1981) (US no. 5, UK no. 49, AUS no. 97), is released in April.  With this album, Eddie Van Halen claims, “I started to concentrate more on songwriting.”  The result is the off-the-hook, riff-happy ‘Unchained’: “Change / Nothing stays the same / Unchained / Yeah, you hit the ground running.”  In the same song, David Lee Roth describes a woman as “Blue-eyed murder in a side-swiped dress.”

The album ‘Diver Down’ (1982) (US no. 3, UK no. 36, AUS no. 79) is most notable for Van Halen’s growling cover version of Roy Orbison’s 1964 hit, ‘(Oh) Pretty Woman’ (US no. 12, AUS no. 59).

After a two-year engagement, Alex Van Halen marries Valeri Kendall on 11 June 1983.  The wedding ceremony takes place in Los Angeles but features Tahitian fire dancers at the reception.  Eddie Van Halen acts as best man for his older brother.  The marriage is short-lived.  They divorce two months later.

Over the next decade, Van Halen’s lead vocalist, David Lee Roth is romantically linked to a number of women.  His loves include: Apollonia Kotero (1983), Kathy Simmons (1983), Sonia Braga (1984), Sabrina Guinness (1985), Fleur Thiemeyer (1986) and Caron Bernstein (1991).  According to one account, Roth even marries Kathy Simmons, but this is officially refuted.  “I have had four great loves in my life, but have never married or even come close,” states Roth.  He does not name those ‘four great loves’ so it is open to conjecture.  Even murkier is the issue of David Lee Roth’s paternity.  Three individuals claim to be his children: two daughters, Avy (born 1977) and Brenna (born 1983), and a son.

Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ in 1983.  This proves beneficial to both artists.  It enhances the rock credibility of Jackson, the self-styled King of Pop, and brings Van Halen to a wider audience.

The Van Halen album ‘1984’ (1984) (US no. 2, UK no. 15, AUS no. 11) is named after its year of release.  The album is a major change for the group since guitarist Eddie Van Halen plays a synthesiser on a number of tracks, giving the group a new emphasis on electronic keyboards.  David Lee Roth initially opposes the use of synthesiser.  The upbeat, synth-powered ‘Jump’ (US no. 1, UK no. 7, AUS no. 2) is the album’s calling card.  “You got to roll [pronounced roh-oh-wohl] with the punches to get to what’s real,” Roth sings, leading to the advice, “You might as well jump.”  The song ‘transforms Van Halen from a very popular heavy metal band to one of the most popular bands in the world.’  ‘1984’ also offers somewhat more traditional Van Halen fare.  ‘Panama’ (US no. 13, UK no. 61, AUS no. 74) is a shout-along blast with its marching rhythm and Roth’s lascivious ‘Hot For Teacher’ (US no. 56, UK no. 87, AUS no. 89) is also notable.  ‘1984’ turns Van Halen into ‘superstars.’

The growth in Van Halen’s popularity creates the possibility for the band to exercise its power in questionable ways.  One legendary example is the story that Van Halen demand in their contract rider that, backstage, they are provided with the multi-coloured chocolate candies called M & M’s – but with all the brown ones removed.  It’s true.  Article 126 of their contract reads: ‘There will be no brown M & M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show with full compensation.’  However, David Lee Roth justifies what seems like pure whimsy as something with more serious intent.  “If I saw a brown M & M in that bowl…guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error.  They didn’t read the contract…[and it could mean something] life-threatening [was also wrong].”

In 1984 drummer Alex Van Halen marries for the second time.  He and his new wife, Kelly Carter, go on to have a son, Aric (born 6 October 1989).

David Lee Roth releases a solo EP, ‘Crazy From The Heat’ (US no. 15, UK no. 91), in January 1985.  The four tracks on the disc include covers of The Beach Boys’ 1965 hit ‘California Girls’ (US no. 3, UK no. 68, AUS no. 6) and ‘Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’ (US no. 12, AUS no. 13).  The latter medley was first recorded by Louis Prima in 1956 but its component parts have a longer history.  ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ is written in 1915 by Roger Graham (lyrics) and Spencer Williams (music).  ‘Just A Gigolo’ is written in 1929 by Irving Caesar but is an adaptation of a 1928 Austrian song, ‘Schoner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo’ by Julius Brammer (lyrics) and Leonello Casucci (music).

This solo venture by David Lee Roth brings to a head tension between the vocalist and the rest of the band.  ‘Eddie [Van Halen] grows tired of the comic antics of Roth’ and the vocalist is ‘fired.’  Eddie states that, “Roth was trying to take the band in more of a Las Vegas direction.”

David Lee Roth records the following albums as a solo act: ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’ (1986) (US no. 4, UK no. 28); ‘Skyscraper’ (1988) (US no. 6, UK no. 11, AUS no. 35) – whose cover shows the singer indulging in one of his passions, mountain climbing; ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’ (1991) (US no. 18, UK no. 4, AUS no. 26); and ‘Your Filthy Little Mouth’ (1994) (US no. 78, UK no. 28).  Some of his more notable solo singles are: ‘Yankee Rose’ (US no. 16, AUS no. 33) (from ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’) and ‘Just Like Paradise’ (US no. 6, UK no. 27, AUS no. 14) (from ‘Skyscraper’).

After David Lee Roth leaves, Warner Bros. ‘urges [Van Halen] to change the group’s name, but they decline.’  The three remaining members hire Sammy Hagar as the new lead vocalist.  Hagar also becomes second guitarist in the group.

Samuel Roy Hagar is born 13 October 1947 in Salinas, California, U.S.A.  The son of a professional boxer, young Sammy also tries out as a pugilist before becoming a rock musician.  In 1967 he passes through three different acts: The Fabulous Castilles, Samson & Hagar, and The Johnny Fortune Band.  In 1967 Sammy Hagar begins dating Betsy Berardi.  Sammy and Betsy marry on 3 November 1968 and go on to have two sons: Aaron (born 1970) and Andrew (born 1984).  Sammy Hagar’s musical career begins to take off in 1973 when, as Sam Hagar, he becomes the vocalist for hard rock band Montrose.  The group takes its name from their noted guitarist, Ronnie Montrose.  Sammy Hagar appears on two albums by Montrose, ‘Montrose’ (1973) (US no. 133, UK no. 43) and ‘Paper Money’ (1974) (US no. 65), before leaving the group in 1975.  The song ‘Bad Motor Scooter’ from the debut album follows Hagar through much of his later career.

As a solo act, Sammy Hagar releases the following albums: ‘Nine On A Ten Scale’ (1976) (US no. 167); ‘Sammy Hagar’ (1977) (US no. 89); ‘Musical Chairs’ (1977) (US no. 100); ‘All Night Long’ (1978) (US no. 89) – a live album; ‘Street Machine’ (1979) (US no. 71); ‘Danger Zone’ (1980) (US no. 85); ‘Standing Hampton’ (1981) (US no. 28); ‘Three Lock Box’ (1982) (US no. 17); and ‘VDA’ (1984) (US no. 32).  Some of his better known songs are: ‘Urban Gorilla’ (from ‘Nine On A Ten Scale’); ‘I’ve Done Everything For You’ (UK no. 36) (which first appears on ‘All Night Long’ and becomes a hit for Rick Springfield in 1981); ‘Trans Am’ (from ‘Street Machine’); ‘Three Lock Box’ (from the album of the same name); and ‘I Can’t Drive 55’ (from ‘VDA’).  In 1983-1984 he is part of the short-lived Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve (or HSAS), an act that issues one album, the concert recording ‘Live – Through The Fire’ (1984) (US no. 42).  Then, in 1985, Sammy Hagar joins Van Halen.

‘5150’ (1986) (US no. 1, UK no. 16, AUS no. 5) is Van Halen’s first album with Sammy Hagar.  The disc is produced by the group, Mick Jones (from the band called Foreigner) and Donn Landee.  Pronounced ‘fifty-one-fifty’, the album takes its name from the law enforcement call number for ‘a mentally disturbed person’ (which is itself derived from section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code).  5150 is also the name of Eddie Van Halen’s home recording studio.  A potentially disastrous album for Van Halen due to changing frontmen, ‘5150’ instead proves a triumph.  The synthesisers are still present but are now more integrated into the band’s heavy metal rock.  “It’s got what it takes / So tell me why can’t this be love?” asks Hagar in ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’ (US no. 3, UK no. 8, AUS no. 8) and it seems to echo the sentiment that his pairing with the other three boys from Van Halen can work.  The airy ‘Dreams’ (US no. 22, UK no. 62, AUS no. 51) pushes the synths to the foreground, but still makes room for an impressive Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.  In ‘Dreams’, Hagar’s voice strains for the high notes, urging, “So baby dry your eyes / Save all the tears you’ve cried / Ohh, that’s what dreams are made of.”

Sammy Hagar releases a solo album, ‘I Never Said Goodbye’ (1987) (US no. 14).

The title of ‘OU812’ (1988) (US no. 1, UK no. 16, AUS no. 9) is not another police code; it’s a bad pun: ‘Oh, you ate one too.’  Donn Landee is the producer on this album.  The disc’s best known song is ‘When It’s Love’ (US no. 5, UK no. 28, AUS no. 23): “How do I know when it’s love?” chorus the band.  “I can’t tell you but it lasts forever,” responds Sammy Hagar.  The synthesisers and guitars are roughly evenly balanced on this slower-paced track.  “In Van Halen there were moments, like in some of the ballads, I put my heart and soul into those records,” Hagar reports.  ‘OU812’ also includes ‘Cabo Wabo’.

In April 1990 Sammy Hagar launches Cabo Wabo, a chain of nightclubs and restaurants in Cabo San Lucas in the Mexican State of Baja California Sur.  Hagar goes on to also manufacture tequila under the name of Cabo Wabo.  This brand of booze is eventually sold to Campari/Skyy in 2007.

‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991) (US no. 1, UK no. 12, AUS no. 5) is another joke title – if the initials are put together…Production credit here is shared by Andy Johns, Ted Templeman and Van Halen.  This album includes the thundering ‘Poundcake’ (UK no. 74, AUS no. 55), which draws a parallel between loving and cooking, and the dramatic demand of ‘Right Now’ (US no. 55).

Sammy Hagar has a part-time project, Los Tres Gusanos (The Three Worms), from 1993 to 1996.  The act briefly reunites in 2002 and 2005.

The next Van Halen release is a double album recorded in concert: ‘Live: Right Here, Right Now’ (1993) (US no. 5, UK no. 24, AUS no. 7).

Sammy Hagar’s marriage to Betsy Berardi ends in divorce in 1994.

‘Balance’ (1995) (US no. 1, UK no. 8, AUS no. 9), released by Van Halen in January, is produced by Bruce Fairbairn.  It is most notable for the pop metal track ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’ (US no. 30, UK no. 33).

On 29 November 1995 Sammy Hagar marries his second wife, Karte (known as Kari).  Sammy and Kari go on to have two daughters, Kama (born 1996) and Samantha (born 2001).

Alex Van Halen and his wife, Kelly, divorce in August 1996.

The Van Halen compilation album, ‘Best Of – Volume 1’ (1996) (US no. 1, UK no. 45, AUS no. 11) released in October, is particularly interesting for the three new tracks it includes and the effect they have on the band’s future.  One of these songs is recorded with Sammy Hagar; the other two are a reunion with former vocalist David Lee Roth.  Hagar’s voice adorns the sinister, punishing ‘Humans Being’.  “I had written the lyrics to a song called ‘The Silent Extreme’, which Alex [Van Halen] later renamed ‘Humans Being’,” says Sammy Hagar.  He adds, “When they brought Roth back into the picture, obviously I didn’t go along with that well.”  ‘Hagar…falls out of favour with the band for reasons that are difficult to pin down’ and he is dismissed in 1996.  “I think all the bad blood started when Geffen [Records, Hagar’s old label] released a ‘Greatest Hits’ package of my solo stuff [‘The Best Of Sammy Hagar’ (1992)],” theorises the departing member of the group.  Eddie Van Halen ‘accuses Hagar of being stricken by the same condition that befell Roth, that of “L.S.D.” or “Lead Singer’s Disease”.’  For his part, Hagar bitterly says of Eddie, he is “one of the greatest guitar players who ever lived, but he’s really limited to a style and they’re just locked into it.”  On Van Halen’s ‘Best Of – Volume 1’, David Lee Roth features on two new songs, the strutting ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’ and the burnished ‘Me Wise Magic’.  With Hagar’s exit, it seems Roth is set to rejoin Van Halen full-time.  However the 1996 reunion is ‘unsuccessful.’  ‘Roth eventually goes on to say that he had been out-and-out lied to by the Van Halen camp, who told him that he would be returning on a permanent basis but were really only interested in utilising his services for the two new songs.’  Roth quips, “Van Halen can keep providing the rain and I’ll keep providing the parade.”

David Lee Roth writes his autobiography, ‘Crazy From The Heat’ (1997) – which is named after his 1985 solo EP.

Sammy Hagar releases a solo album, ‘Marching To Mars’ (1997) (US no. 18), before resurfacing with the Hagar/Hart Project for ‘Code War’ (1999).  Putting together a new backing group, he releases the following albums credited to Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas: ‘Red Voodoo’ (1999) (US no. 22), ‘Ten 13’ (2000) (US no. 52) and ‘Not 4 Sale’ (2002) (US no. 181).

Gary Cherone becomes Van Halen’s new vocalist in 1996.  Born Gary Francis Caine Cherone on 26 July 1961 in Marsden, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Gary Cherone is best known up to this point as the lead singer for another heavy metal band, Extreme (1985-1995).  ‘Van Halen III’ (1998) (US no. 4, UK no. 43, AUS no. 8) introduces Gary Cherone to the ranks of the band.  The disc is co-produced by Mike Post and Eddie Van Halen.  ‘Cherone is put in an impossible position, and when his debut with the group…simply does not sell, he is unfairly blamed for the downturn in the band’s fortunes.’  Gary Cherone is dismissed from Van Halen in 1999.

David Lee Roth issues another solo album, ‘DLR Band’ (1998) (US no. 172), before he is again enticed to attempt a reunion with his Van Halen bandmates who, after sacking Gary Cherone, are again without a lead singer.  They reconvene with Roth in 2000 and ‘record a couple of songs but soon part ways due to legal reasons.’

Eddie Van Halen soon has greater concerns.  He is treated for throat cancer in 2000-2001.

Alex Van Halen marries for the third time in 2000.  His bride is Stine Schyberg, whom he has been dating since 1996.  Alex and Stine have a son, Malcolm.

Eddie Van Halen and his wife, Valerie Bertinelli, separate in 2002, with the divorce becoming final on 20 December 2007.

2002 brings the unlikely spectacle of Van Halen’s two former frontmen, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, touring together on a double bill.  Predictably, the tour is rife with tension.  “I don’t like Dave,” Hagar says bluntly.  “What’s rock ‘n’ roll without a little drama?” shrugs his touring partner.

David Lee Roth resumes his solo work with ‘Diamond Dave’ (2003).  His music career declining, in 2004 David Lee Roth begins a new job as an emergency medical technician in New York’s ambulance service – but it doesn’t seem to last long.  He obtains a private pilot’s licence for helicopters in December 2006.

Sammy Hagar tries a new project, Planet Us, in 2002-2003.  He then re-joins Van Halen from 2003 to 2006 but the band records no new material in this period.  Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas issue ‘Livin’ It Up’ (2006) (US no. 50), before Hagar puts out another solo disc, ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’ (2008) (US no. 95).

Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony leaves the group in 2006.  He joins with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani (guitar) and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith (drums) in a modest supergroup called Chickenfoot.  This part-time exercise creates two albums: ‘Chickenfoot’ (2009) (US no. 4) and ‘Chickenfoot II’ (2011) (US no. 9).

In 2006 Van Halen is reconstituted with a line-up of: David Lee Roth (vocals), Eddie Van Halen (guitar), Wolfgang Van Halen (bass) and Alex Van Halen (drums).  Wolfgang is Eddie’s 15 year old son.

On 27 June 2009 Eddie Van Halen marries his second wife, Janie Liszewski.  The couple began dating in 2007 and became engaged on 4 August 2008.  The wedding ceremony is conducted by Eddie’s brother, Alex Van Halen, who has become an ordained minister.  Alex also officiates at the marriage of former sister-in-law, Valerie Bertinelli, in 2011.

‘A Different Kind Of Truth’ (2012) (US no. 2, UK no. 6, AUS no. 4) on Interscope is Van Halen’s first new studio album since 1988.  It is the debut of the new line-up with the return of David Lee Roth and the introduction of Wolgang Van Halen on bass.  The disc is co-produced by Van Halen and John Shanks.  The single from the album is ‘Tattoo’.

Sammy Hagar continues to follow his own path with ‘Sammy Hagar & Friends’ (2013) (US no. 23).

Things could have been very different if Eddie Van Halen had stayed with piano, the first instrument he learned, or even if he had continued with his second instrument, drums.  Arguably, the mid-1980s to mid-1990s version of Van Halen, with Eddie making significant contributions on keyboards, gave some idea of what may have been.  Van Halen fans may debate until infinity the comparative merits of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar without reaching conclusions.  Roth’s sense of humour was perhaps more appealing, but both men had their strengths.  Van Halen’s early heavy metal pop (1978-1982) is their best period, but the subsequent keyboard-laced recordings (1984-1995) also have value.  After that, they seemed to become bogged down in switching and changing vocalists and became much less productive.  Van Halen specialised in ‘coming of age car-radio unavoidables.’  They were the ‘most popular American rock ‘n’ roll band of the late 1970s and early 1980s and in the process set the template for hard rock and heavy metal for the 1980s.’

Sources:

  1. ‘The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal’ by Daniel Bukszpan (Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. 2003) p. 202, 266, 269, 270
  2. brainyquote.com as at 29 July 2014
  3. ‘The History of Van Halen Pt. 1: The Van Halen Story – The Early Years’ – Video documentary (26 September 2010?)
  4. wikipedia.org as at 2 June 2014
  5. Internet movie database imdb.com as at 29 July 2014
  6. Notable names database – nndb.com – as at 2 June 2014
  7. ‘The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Eighties Music’ – Edited by Colin Larkin (Virgin Books, 1997) p. 219, 457
  8. ‘Eddie Van Halen’ by Neil Zlozower (Chronicle Books, 2011) p. 23, 25, 114, 115, 119, 129
  9. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 148, 219
  10. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘The Metal Explosion’ by Chuck Eddy (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 466
  11. allmusic.com, ‘Van Halen’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 30 July 2014
  12. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 284, 297, 325, 355
  13. ‘Van Halen – Best Of – Volume 1’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Warner Bros. Records Inc. 1996) p. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10
  14. lyricsfreak.com as at 25July 2014
  15. whosdatedwho.com as at 2 June 2014
  16. ultimateclassicrock.com – ‘David Lee Roth Opens Up About His Love Life’ by Sterling Whitaker (7 April 2013)
  17. halen.com posting on 18 October 2003
  18. lukeford.net/blog – ‘An interview with David Lee Roth’s daughter, Brenna’ (17 August 2007)
  19. ‘Crazy From The Heat’ (1997) by David Lee Roth – via snopes.com as at 24 March 2014
  20. ‘Sammy Hagar Vs David Lee Roth Pt. 5 of 5’ – Video (21 February 2010? 2002?)
  21. E! Online: ‘David Lee Roth’s New Gig: Emergency Medical Technician’ by Sarah Hall (25 June 2004) (reproduced on eonline.com)

Song lyrics copyright WB Music Corp. ASCAP

Last revised 12 August 2014

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