The current lineup of VH – the two Van Halen brothers, Eddie’s son Wolfie on bass, and David Lee Roth back on vocals – issued a new single yesterday and will soon release an album of new material (although some of it has its origins in their pre-fame days). As someone who as a junior high student many years ago considered them the coolest band in the universe I must say this is one of the most exciting things to happen to me in a while. The new song rocks – you can check it out here. I love it – it is not Panama or some other such old hit but it is driving and catchy, which is what I want out of a VH song. Some thoughts on Van Halen…
-I definitely prefer the Roth era of VH to the Van Hagar era. Early Van Halen was fun party music, while the Sammy stuff is VH for grownups. There are some great moments with Sammy and he is technically a better singer but Dave is an awesome frontman and I like his stuff best.
-Dave’s leaving of the band in the mid-80s was shattering to us little VH fans. People forget this now but initially Dave had a very successful solo career although within a few years he slid into irrelevance. But there was always the pull of him coming back to Van Halen, as the Sammy Years became a time of soap opera – like drama.
-It is hard to believe that Sammy last recorded an album with VH in 1995 – 17 years ago! (There was a touring reunion and the recording of a few new songs in 2004). I was an avid reader of various guitar geek magazines at that time and the back and forth between Eddie and Sammy in interviews was dizzying. It really seemed then that fifty years on we would still be talking about the Dave vs. Sammy argument.
-I mentioned above that I loved the new song Tattoo. It is catchy in a way that new material from heritage bands (and I don’t mind calling VH that – it is a good thing) often isn’t. The lyrics are clever Dave-speak and it is good to see the guys bouncing around on stage. The song is way better than the two they recorded during their initial reunion in 1996. It is sad that Michael Anthony is no longer welcome in the band. To me the sound of Van Halen was four special parts combined – the guitar prowess (and keys) of Eddie, Alex’s drumming, which is the most easily identifiable drum sound this side of John Bonham, Dave’s unique voice and phrasing, and the distinctive backing vocals of Michael Anthony. We will see how much his vocals are missed on the album.