Album of the Day — April 10
Van Halen — Van Halen
Van Halen — Van Halen
The musical landscape on which Van Halen released their self-titled debut album in February of 1978 was diverse.
The Bee Gees were at their apogee, and Peter Frampton was the guitar god of the moment. If ever there was one, a Sisyphean task was handed to the four guys from Pasadena to attempt to crack into that field.
As a band, Van Halen was equal parts Black Sabbath and Rick James (with just a flare of Elton John and James Brown).
They didn’t necessarily crack into the same arena as The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton …they just made their own.
Sure, now we can say unequivocally that Van Halen is classic rock, but at the time? They were a hybrid genre unto their own. Not quite hard rock and not quite pop. Recognizing the genius of Eddie Van Halen, FM radio programmers quickly added the first single, a re-make of The Kinks “You Really Got Me.”
Side one opens with “Runnin’ With The Devil” and ranks as one of the best songs to introduce a band to the world. The second track is “Eruption,” a 1:42 minute guitar solo.
A guitar solo as a second song is a strong statement by any artist . . . that’s some serious chutzpah.
And then following that with the Van Halen-ing of “You Really Got Me.” The Kinks? Seriously? That’s some intrepid musicianship.
The rest of Van Halen is a barrage of originality. Yes, Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth are unique, but to discount the contributions of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony would be a mistake.
Van Halen, the album, and this line up of the band is bupkis without the other Van Halen and Anthony's contributions.
1978 wasn’t only a diverse year for established music, but some fractures were being created with the new music being released (Elvis Costello, The Cars, Blondie). Van Halen’s debut album only helped widen that crevasse.
41 years later, and ignoring all the Page Six nonsense, Van Halen sounds just as fresh and still sounds so fucking good. A testament to not only the band but to producer Ted Templeman and engineer Don Landee.
With Van Halen, the band built the template for what followed in the ’80s: guys wanted to be them, girls wanted to be with them . . . and parents were terrified of them.
A rock band and a record label’s dream come true.
Van Halen is arguably the most consistent, if not the best, Van Halen album.
This is the album that will continue to shape musicians for generations to come.
updated 06.October.2020 — RIP Eddie Van Halen.