Written By Braddon S. Williams

Certain memories never lose their brightness and clarity. The first time I ever heard the music of Van Halen is one of those special events in my personal history.

Their debut album was released in 1978 and had been out for maybe a month when I decided to take a chance on it and spend some of my meager teenage funds. I remember being intrigued by the striped guitar Eddie was holding on the album cover, and the implied sense of combustible energy flowing out of the pictures of the four individual band members. There was a sense of pure adrenaline even in still photographs of Van Halen.

Somehow I had avoided hearing anything from the debut on the radio up to that time, so my virgin listening experience was pristine. To add to the sonic bliss I was about to bask in, my mother told me I would have to listen on headphones due to her having company in the house when I arrived home. I recall being instantly impressed with Ted Templeman’s production work from the opening notes of Runnin’ With The Devil. From the first power chords, Eddie’s fabled “brown sound” was a revelation, but nothing could have prepared me for my first hearing of the seismic fusillade of Eruption. Upon completion of the sonic maelstrom of pure guitar mastery that Eddie’s signature solo showcase displayed, I must have looked like a bug-eyed psychopath to my mom and her friend, as I’m sure I lost control of my facial muscles for an undisclosed period of time. There was no time to recover as You Really Got Me followed with more glorious rock ‘n roll hedonistic glee. I think I made it to the end of side one before having to tell the (hopefully amused) women that my life had undoubtedly changed forever.

As far as guitar playing goes, that assessment was certainly true. In my lifetime, there have basically been two guitarists who have changed the entire landscape of rock music; Jimi Hendrix and Edward Van Halen. By the time Eddie arrived and turned my world upside down I had been playing guitar for 3 years, and had played trumpet for around 6 years, meaning I had enough musical knowledge to grasp that what I was hearing was pretty miraculous.

Van Halen (the band) delivered blistering hard rock, but tempered their songs with pop sensibility coupled with clever lyrics and irresistible choruses; in short, they had a little something for everyone. Consequently, their concerts attracted just as many female fans as males, which was not unnoticed in my teenage libidinous years. Van Halen’s concerts were bigger, brighter, louder, and more FUN than anyone else’s, and I was fortunate to be in attendance for 5 shows from 1979 to 1984.

One thing I always loved about Eddie Van Halen on stage was his big, goofy smile that never seemed to leave his face. So many musicians of that era took themselves so seriously, or were trying too hard to look tough. Ed was clearly enjoying rock stardom to the maximum, and obviously knew he was playing at an otherworldly level, so that smile invited all of us fans into the perpetual party that was the core of Van Halen Nation.

As the years went by and more landmark albums arrived, Eruption continued to expand, encompassing more intricate layers and displays of magic, including the glacial elegance of Cathedrals, Ed’s breathtaking exploration of volume swells. Eventually, David Lee Roth departed and Sammy Hagar entered, and Eddie indulged his love of keyboards, but throughout all the changes he remained a guitarist’s guitarist, and we all kept a close eye and ear on all he accomplished.

In the wake of Eddie’s reinvention of rock guitar, many imitations sprung up, and many more were simply inspired to raise their game to new levels of technical feats of fancy fretwork. Through it all, Edward Van Halen continued to innovate, both as a player and as an inventor. He tinkered with his guitars, with his amps, with his pickups; anything to achieve the sounds in his head. I hope I can describe something that has always awed me about his playing…it’s as if Eddie had his own rhythm system in mind, and his note placement resulted in phrases and fusillades of notes that landed in uncharted and unexpected territory. It was like nobody told him that what he was playing shouldn’t logically work, but once you heard it, those notes and phrases were perfectly located. Obviously his lead guitar work is rightfully regarded as legendary, but his rhythm guitar playing was staggeringly good, as was his songwriting.

I’ve read reports that he never learned to read sheet music, and remember reading an interview where he claimed he didn’t even count in his own songs, reasoning that his brother (drummer Alex) had that part covered. I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop now and offer a simple thank you to King Edward Van Halen for his legacy, for his music, and for his life. Be at peace, Ed…your music will forever be the soundtrack to summertime for me and millions of others!

The Legacy Of King Edward VanHalen

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “West Coast Bands,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Van Halen is an American rock band formed in Pasadena, California in 1972. Credited with “restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene”, Van Halen is known for its energetic live shows and for the work of its acclaimed lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen.

Van Halen, American heavy metal band distinguished by the innovative electric-guitar playing of Eddie Van Halen. The original members were guitarist Eddie Van Halen (b. January 26, 1957, Nijmegen, Netherlands), drummer Alex Van Halen (b. May 8, 1955, Nijmegen), bassist Michael Anthony (b. June 20, 1955, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), and lead singer David Lee Roth (b. October 10, 1955, Bloomington, Indiana). Later members were Sammy Hagar (b. October 13, 1947, Monterey, California), Gary Cherone (b. July 26, 1961, Malden, Massachusetts), and Wolfgang Van Halen (b. March 16, 1991, Santa Monica, California).

Exposed to music early by their father, a jazz musician, and classically trained, Eddie and Alex Van Halen turned to rock music soon after their family emigrated from the Netherlands to southern California in the 1960s. In time Eddie, a drummer, and Alex, a guitarist, switched instruments. A demo financed by Gene Simmons of Kiss led to their band’s critically acclaimed debut album, Van Halen (1978), which eventually sold more than 10 million copies in the United States alone. Featuring the hits “Jump” and “Panama,” 1984(1984) made megastars of the Los Angeles-based band. Soon after, flamboyant lead singer Roth left Van Halen to pursue a solo career. With his replacement, Hagar, the band produced three chart-topping albums between 1986 and 1991, culminating in the Grammy Award-winning For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991). Hagar departed in 1996, and Roth returned briefly but was replaced by former Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone.

Cherone was greeted with dismal album sales and lukewarm fan response, and he left the group in 1999. The band drifted without a singer for three years, and rumours circulated about possible replacements. Meanwhile, Roth and Hagar shared headlining duties on a 2002 tour that featured each singer’s solo material, as well as selections from both Van Halen eras. Quick to capitalize on the interest generated by the unlikely pairing of the two former frontmen, Van Halen released the greatest hits collection The Best of Both Worlds (2004) and recruited Hagar for a North American tour. In 2006 Anthony left the band and was replaced on bass by Eddie’s teenage son Wolfgang. The following year, with Roth once again filling in as lead singer, the group embarked on its most successful tour. A Different Kind of Truth, Van Halen’s first collection of new material in more than a decade, surfaced in 2012. The band’s second live album—and the first with Roth as frontman—was Tokyo Dome Live in Concert(2015).

Throughout the band’s frequent lineup changes what endured was Eddie’s virtuoso technique—notably his masterful use of the “whammy” (vibrato) bar and string bending and his adaptation of baroque music stylings—which influenced countless heavy metal guitarists in the 1980s. In 2007 Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Psychedelic Lunch

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Van Halen: Fair Warning

Aside from their debut, my favorite Van Halen album is Fair Warning (1981).

My reasoning for this decision is simple, because it is the Van Halen release where Eddie Van Halen took the time to really showcase his playing with multiple guitar parts and overdubs, and it is the darkest Van Halen album in tone and content.

Van Halen were always a party band, but Fair Warning showed what they were capable of when they got serious, and it opened a door into a nastier side of their group persona.

Some of my all time favorite VH songs reside on Fair Warning; So This Is Love?, Unchained, Mean Streets, Hear About It Later, Sinner’s Swing, and Push Comes To Shove.

Get it, crank it, learn it, love it…Fair Warning Rules!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

I was 16 years old when Van Halen changed the world of guitar players worldwide. The year was 1978 and I vividly recall the first time I heard their debut album. I had gone to the local record store and purchased the newest Rainbow record and decided to pick up the VH debut because I liked the album cover. Something about that striped guitar just called out to me. When I got home I was told to listen on headphones due to my mother having company. I put on side one, cranked it up and as the first song (Runnin’ With The Devil) played, I began to nearly hyperventilate with excitement. Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. Eruption literally changed my life…Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo showcase was 1:43 seconds of molten lava, jaw-dropping, face-melting insanity. It was a game changer, and I can only imagine the priceless look on my face as the revolution took place between my ears! Track by track, the album just reinvented rock guitar, not to mention just the sonic perfection of the mix, the rich bottom end and cavernous drum sound, all topped with David Lee Roth’s banshee wails and cocky swagger. Van Halen had party anthems to spare, and it was a glorious time to be 16 years old. Several generations have claimed to be part of the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, and I’m pretty sure us kids of the ’70’s have a legitimate argument to plead our case. Van Halen rules!

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

On this date in history, 7/31/1982, I traveled to Fort Wayne, IN, to see Van Halen at the Colliseum. This venue struck me as a smaller version of Market Square Arena in Indy. What was funny was that Van Halen apparently brought the same amount of equipment and this show was LOUD! Once again, they remained true to form and had a terrible opening act…After The Fire. I don’t have the interest or the time to describe how boring and incompatible with Van Halen they actually were, so please just take my word for it. Van Halen had released the Diver Down album a few months prior to this show, and their cover of “Pretty Woman” was riding high on the charts. VH now had 5 albums of material to choose from and their set was full of stellar songs, solos, death defying Roth screams, and soaring Michael Anthony harmonies. On the night of this show, apparently David Lee Roth took it upon himself to do a little pre-show drinking. Either that, or he just developed some extreme song lyric amnesia. Whatever the case, the lyrics were forgotten during many songs, but whenever it happened, Dave just let out a monstrous scream and grinned that trademark grin of his, and everything was alright. Even on a night where mistakes were made, the charisma and talent in this band were completely unstoppable.

Written By Braddon S Williams aka The Concert Critic

On This Day in History

On this date in history, 4/29/1979, my mind was literally blown out of my skull as I witnessed the mighty Van Halen for the first time! This show took place in my so called “home away from home”, the fabled Market Square Arena, in downtown Indianapolis.
6a00d8341c694153ef00e54f3f004b8834-800wiI was 17 years old at the time of this sensational show, and the impact it had on me was colossal. I had just discovered the band the previous year, along with literally every other guitar player on the planet.
Eddie Van Halen’s playing style was seismic…like an earthquake powerful enough to separate the state of California from the rest of the states. To my delight, he was even better live, careening around the stage with this big, goofy look of pure joy on his face throughout the entire show.
His brother Alex brought the thunder with his massive drum kit, Michael Anthony kept the bass lines simple, but solid as granite. He also provided those sky high, crystal clear harmony vocals on all those infectious choruses.
van-halen-78-039aDavid Lee Roth was the quintessential lead singer sex symbol…strutting and striking all the right poses, telling stories and cracking jokes between songs, leaping off the drum riser in martial arts fearlessness; all while screaming like a banshee and singing those clever lyrics that his replacement, Sammy Hagar, could never match in a million years.
Van Halen II was their current album, and it provided some new classics for their arsenal. The song “Light Up The Sky” was a particular crowd favorite, as the whole band participated in a group drum solo near the song’s conclusion.
Eddie’s long solo spot in the show had everyone’s jaws dropping and eyes bulging as 1vh2we tried to take in all the incredible playing and seemingly endless supply of cool tricks the man was capable of conjuring from his trademark striped Kramer guitars. Oh yes, there was a forgettable opening act, one Robert Fleischman.
Little did I know  at the time  I would see VH 4 more times in the next few years and 2 things remained consistent…Van Halen’s badassery and their opening band’s lameness.
b20705070271556ace5034d1bc94d88cApparently, Van Halen was not concerned with being challenged. That is a minor complaint, because I always got my money’s worth at a Van Halen show. If you never saw them, I truly feel sorry for you!
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

Van Halen – Dance The Night Away (live 1979)


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On This Day in History