Classic Rock Review

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Van Halen 1984


“1984” was the commercial breakthrough Van Halen had been looking for. Eddie Van Halen wanted to incorporate synthesizers into the mix.

“Diamond Dave” Roth was strictly against commercialization, and wanted to keep up with the straight ahead guitar metal rock. Eddie, though, wanted to try new things with the band, and thought synthesizers could add a new element to the music, and also reach many mainstream and new listeners. Roth reluctantly agreed, and “1984” went on to be released. It also went on to end one of the greatest eras of heavy metal and hard rock…

Van Halens infamous debut went on to sell 10 million copies and for a while was the number one album in 1978. Many rock lovers will quote it as one of the top party and rock albums in history. Also the album was famous for the new guitar style that Eddie Van Halen introduced.

His finger tapping technique, which could make the sound of animals and machines, was imitated (unsuccessfully) by many teenagers. Van Halen released other albums, but Eddie was noticing the band wasn’t making any advances on gaining more fans.

After helping in the production of Michael Jacksons blockbuster smash “Thriller”, Eddie knew the band needed to commercialize, add a “pop” sound to the mix. He knew that keyboards and synthesizers needed to be used. Lead singer Roth, who is known for his showmanship and sarcastic lyrics, was very against pop sounding metal. However, when Eddie gave him the priviledge of writing the lyrics, he agreed, and “1984” was conceived, sometime in 1983…

“Jump” was the popular song that Roth wrote the lyrics to, while Eddie Van Halen played the guitar, synthesizers, AND keyboards. It went to number one, giving Van Halen tons of radio space. Some other pop sounding songs were added to the collection, but Roth made sure straight-ahead good time rockers were still relevant. “I’ll Wait”, “Hot for the Teacher”, and “Panama” were classic heavy metal/hard rock Van Halen, with guitars taking control, and Roths singing and showmanship making for wickedly humorous MTV videos.

Because of the videos and of the songs making radio playlists all over the country, the album sold over 10 million copies, made the top three best selling albums of the year, was nominated for awards, and also released many hit songs.

The success of the album, though, lead to the downfall of classic Van Halen. Roth left the band after they decided to move to commercialization, launching an unsuccessful solo career hampered more by drug abuse than anything else. Sammy Hager became the new lead singer, and though he is a fine lead singer, he didn’t have the bravado or attraction that Roth had on the stage or the muscle he brought into the songs.

Van Halen also said goodbye to the metal lead hard guitar rock in favour of ” hair pop-metal”, a new genre that would take the late 80’s by storm and flood the radio stations and MTV with so many clones they wouldn’t know what to do with them.

Van Halen was at their best when they were about having good times and rocking out like hell. Their debut album paints this picture. “1984” is the turning point, holding on to the past, while letting go to the future.

It’s also one of the top rock albums of all time. If they could have found a good balance between the pop and the rock, they probably still would have been releasing hit albums today, instead of sporadic stabs at trying to reclaim popularity.

Check out when they had the perfect balance with “1984”, the last great hurrah from the original Van Halen.

June 19, 2013 Posted by | Van Halen 1984 | | Leave a comment