follow us in feedly
The Nightmare Before Halloween: Insane early Van Halen set from 1977
10:29 am


Van Halen

The original lineup of the mighty Van Halen standing on the steps of David Lee Roth’s Pasadena mansion.

We try to look like the music sounds.

—David Lee Roth, 1977.

After leaving their disco pimping days as the house band for LA rock club Gazzarri’s back in the late 70s Van Halen would go on to play the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on nearly a monthly basis to thousands of enthusiastic air guitarists and other awestruck fans before exploding into mega-stardom. The audio from this performance recorded on October 15th, 1977—VH’s last at the PCA—will send chills down your spine as the quality is nearly beyond compare. As are the ear-piercing vocals of David Lee Roth that team up seamlessly with the on-point brightness of backing vocals from bassist Michael Anthony (a sound I sorely miss since Anthony departed VH).

Here’s Van Halen’s manager Marshall Berle (nephew of comedian Milton Berle) echoing my feelings about one of the band’s performances at the PCA in a quote from the 2011 book by photographer Neil Zlozwer’s on guitar mangler and musical virtuoso, Eddie Van Halen:

The lights went down and the announcer introduced Van Halen and the kids went nuts and started screaming. They started playing and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I got a chill right through my bones. I had never seen anything like this in my life. These guys were so good I almost crapped my pants. I thought “what the fuck is this?”

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Van Halen cover Bowie and KC & The Sunshine Band (while judging a dance contest!) in the 70s

Van Halen during their ‘house band’ era at the Sunset Strip club, Gazzarri’s (mid-1970s).

“One day, we’re going to be the the Kings of Gazzarri’s.”

—A teenage David Lee Roth accurately predicting Van Halen’s future

The person who uploaded the audio of Van Halen performing as a “cover band” places the year at 1975—not long after VH had transitioned from the name Mammoth, and were in the process of blowing the fuck up after Sunset Strip club Gazzarri’s (RIP) gave the band their first big break.

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen on stage at Gazzarri’s, mid-70s.
An early shot of Van Halen and the band’s first logo design created by original VH bassist, Mark Stone (Stone is pictured to the far left).
And when I say big break, I mean that before Gazzarri’s, DLR and the boys were literally playing house parties and high schools. After getting the green-light to play Gazzarri’s by the club’s owner, Bill Gazzarri (who initially didn’t like the band, he later maintained that Van Halen was the best band to every play there), the band became Gazzarri’s house band playing the club several nights a week and would often run the dance contests held at Sunset Strip club. VH vocalist David Lee Roth recalls that in addition to getting paid $75-$125 bucks a night, another perk was getting to watch Gazzarri’s famous “Go-Go” dancers who also performed at the club regularly. It was a huge upgrade from their usual gigs. 1975 sounds like it was a pretty sweet time if your name was (or was associated with), “Van Halen.”

VH drummer Alex Van Halen remembers that the “crowd” at the band’s first gig at Gazzarri’s consisted of about four fans. Van Halen would go on to play approximately 90 gigs at Gazzarri’s to ever-growing crowds before Eddie Van Halen told Bill Gazzarri that they were “never going to get anywhere” by honing their ability to kick out disco jams like the 1975 hit by KC and the Sunshine band, “Get Down Tonight.” And as much as I love that song (I don’t judge and neither should you), he wasn’t wrong. Sometime in 1976 KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer met up with KISS loudmouth Gene Simmons to see one of VH’s gigs at Gazzarri’s. Simmons dug what he heard and got the band to record a demo, but things didn’t pan out. Luckily, Warner Brothers Records producer Ted Templeman (the famous voice behind the line “Come on Dave, give me a break” from the Van Halen’s 1981 classic “Unchained”) caught a live gig of the still under-the-radar band, and ushered the boys into the studio to record what would become VH’s seminal debut record, 1978’s Van Halen.

As I’m a huge fan of digging up interesting historical rock and roll artifacts, I have to say I was super entertained listening to 32 minutes of the then-emerging young Van Halen covering songs by David Bowie (specifically “The Jean Genie” during which Roth amusingly confesses to forgetting the lyrics), Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, and “Twist and Shout”—all while emceeing one of Gazzarri’s many dance contests. While the audio isn’t good (and the band doesn’t really sound that great either), it truly has its priceless moments. Mostly due the antics of the then just 21-year-old “Mr. Entertainment” David Lee Roth. I’ve included a number of photos of Van Halen’s days at Gazzarri’s as well as a few cool other artifacts from that mythical time when it seemed that most people in LA didn’t know who Van Halen was. Yet.
Much more early Van Halen after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Whoooo!’ Watch this ridiculously over-the-top David Lee Roth karate kick compilation
08:46 am


Van Halen
David Lee Roth

This is so dumb, but by the end of it I was nearly hyperventilating from laughing so hard.

Some genius put together this superb supercut of David Lee Roth jumps and kicks—which would have been amusing enough on its own—but then they took it completely over-the-top with the addition of grunts, whoops, and yells pilfered from Roth’s “Runnin’ With the Devil” vocal take.

By now everyone’s probably heard the hilarious acapella track from the sessions of Van Halen‘s debut album. It’s taken on an Internet life of its own, first as a viral YouTube video, and then having been used in countless mashups (including the “Can Halen” track we wrote about a couple of months ago), and even as the soundtrack to a David Lee Roth-themed, asteroids-inspired video game. But THIS, my friends, is by far the best use of that track yet.

The video starts to get REALLY good about 40 seconds in as it reaches a fever pitch. I absolutely lose it on the “Oh God!” at 1:03.

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Can Halen: Some genius mashed up David Lee Roth with everyone’s favorite Krautrock band
08:32 am


Van Halen

This is totally a one-note joke, but it could also be argued that Diamond Dave is a one-note singer.

YouTube user and goddamned genius Jim Haney took that Van Halen vocals-only track from “Runnin’ With the Devil” that’s been floating around the Internet for a few years and laid it over the top of an edited version of Can’s “Mother Sky.”

The result is magical.

This is the dumbest, most crucial thing you’ll hear all day:

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘They tried to make us look like the Clash!’ Van Halen’s rejected first album cover
06:08 pm


The Clash
Van Halen

Here’s a wonderful story reported by Greg Renoff over at Ultimate Classic Rock. Today we think of Van Halen and the Clash as occupying very distinct places in the hard rock firmament. Influenced by Jamaican reggae, the Clash is all about anger, political resistance, and liberation, while super-noodly arena-rock heroes Van Halen boogies to a decidedly sexier party backbeat. But that wasn’t so clear to the executives trying to figure out how to position Eddie, David Lee and the gang. At the time of Van Halen’s self-titled first album in February 1978, one of the most visible bands in the world was the Clash, whose own self-titled first album had been shaking things up for almost a year. 

It wasn’t like Van Halen was unfamiliar with punk and its cousin, new wave—on the contrary. Punk had long since hit the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and Van Halen had been in lineups at the Whisky à Go Go nightclub with bands like the Mumps, the Dogs, and the Motels. In a meeting with Warner Bros., the first stab at the album cover was presented—and it was a disaster. Not only had the designers misunderstood the band’s name to be Vanhalen, but the downbeat photo—Michael Anthony looks like he’s just eaten a bad Quaalude or something—placed Alex Van Halen in the foreground while natural ham David Lee Roth is practically snoozing in the background.

It didn’t take long for manager Marshall Berle and the band to reject the cover. As Eddie would later tell Guitar World, “They tried to make us look like the Clash. We said, ‘Fuck this shit!’”

After absorbing Van Halen’s criticisms of the preliminary cover art, Warner Bros. hired photographer Elliot Gilbert to shoot the band onstage at the Whisky, which made for a completely different impression. Eddie is waving his famous Frankenstrat around like he’s Nigel Tufnel or somebody. Add Dave Bhang’s silver, winged VH logo and you had a glitzy, balls-out look that was perfect for the new cocks on the walk. Eddie later said that after the band saw the logo, they “made [Warner Bros.] put it on the album so that it would be clear that we had nothing to do with the punk movement. It was our way of saying ‘Hey we’re just a fucking rock and roll band, don’t try and slot us with the Sex Pistols thing just because it’s becoming popular.’”

Here’s Van Halen on the Clash’s turf, London, at the Hammersmith Odeon on June 1, 1978, playing one of the best tracks off the debut, “Little Dreamer”:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Images from the L.A. rock scene of 1978 to 1989

Demonstrating for Quiet Riot, 1979. Photo: Ken Papaleo
As a New Yorker I’ve sometimes asked myself why Los Angeles often didn’t appear to produce as many good musical acts as its size might lead you to expect. This was in the 1990s and after, when the closest answer to “What’s L.A.‘s answer to the Pixies?” might well have been “the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” which isn’t a great answer. My indie-rock bias and physical distance from the L.A. scene aren’t the only factors that would lead me to underrate what the city has produced, another one would be time. If you jump back just a decade or two, L.A.‘s music scene was as vital as anything the country had to offer, what with Minutemen, Black Flag, the Go-Go’s, RHCP, X, and the Dickies, not to mention such hard rock stalwarts as Van Halen, Faster Pussycat, Motley Crüe, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. And that only scratches the surface, as an invigorating new photo exhibition suggests.

Opening yesterday, the Los Angeles Public Library has a remarkable exhibition dedicated to throwing open the library’s Herald Examiner archives (as well as the Gary Leonard collection) for the years 1978 to 1989. The show features iconic shots of talents as diverse as Eddie Van Halen and Eazy-E as well as countless other important vital contributors to the L.A. music scene. At its best, L.A. music possessed a theatricality and immediate legibility that other cities may have lacked. Not sure what exactly that quality was, but the word “glitz” has been used so often to describe L.A. that we’ll just go with that one. And yet glitz had nothing whatsoever to do with the trenchant and incendiary punk of Minutemen or Black Flag or Descendents. Los Angeles is 100 neighborhoods in search of a city, and its music scene reflects that too, in a good way.

The exhibition is called “From Pop to the Pit: LAPL Photo Collection Celebrates the Los Angeles Music Scene, 1978-1989,” and it can be visited at the History & Genealogy Department of the Central Library location at 630 W. 5th Street through June 28. In addition to the acts shown here, the exhibition covers such diverse musical talents as Jetboy, All, the Runaways, Burning Tree, Faster Pussycat, the Nymphs, X, and the Unforgiven.

The show features an attractive catalog that runs a very affordable $13.75 on Amazon.

Dream Syndicate, ca. 1982. Photo: Dean Musgrove

Minutemen, 1983. Photo: James Ruebsamen

The Go-Gos, 1981. Photo: Anne Knudsen
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Six-year-old drums to Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’
02:04 pm


Van Halen
Hot for Teacher

You might have seen this little dude’s videos making the rounds before: His name is Avery… and he’s a 6-year-old drumming machine!

Here’s Avery pounding along to Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” As one friend of mine commented on this video:

“My children cannot do this. I feel like I failed somehow as a parent.”

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Reggie Watts covers Van Halen’s ‘Panama’ like you’ve never heard it before…
11:16 am


Van Halen
Reggie Watts

Let it be no secret that I love Reggie Watts! I truly adore this man! There is no one else like him in the world.

Anyway, here’s Reggie reworking Van Halen’s “Panama.” It starts around the 1:29 mark.

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
John Lennon, Van Halen and Crackerjack

There is something about mash-ups that reminds me of the classic British children’s TV series Crackerjack, which ruled the winter airwaves from 1955-1984.

Crackerjack was broadcast live every Friday, from BBC TV Centre in London, and was a frenetic mix of sketches, games, quizzes and mini dramas (rather like pantomime), with each show opening with the lines, “It’s Friday. It’s five o’clock. And it’s Crackerjack!”  Christ knows what drugs inspired the genesis of this series, but its effect on viewers, its studio full of hyper-active kids, and the state of British TV since has been immense.

One of the highlights of Crackerjack was its mini-drama or featurette, where chart songs were re-interpreted by the show’s stars Peter Glaze, Ed Stewart, Jan Hunt, Leslie Crowther, The Krankies, Don Maclean and co. What usually happened was the tune of one hit had its lyrics changed to fit in with the drama’s narrative, one regular choice for this was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Mighty Mike’s mash-up of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ made me think of Crackerjack, as the mix of preposterous rock vocal with, what comedian Iain Lee once described as “a nursery song for hippies,” would have sat easily within Crackerjack‘s format. Mighty Mike has been making these kinds of mash-ups for a wee while, and his site has a varied selection including Michael Jackson and Queen, Free and Madonna, Alanis Morisette and B.O.B.. Now, if only the BBC would bring back Crackerjack...but then again, perhaps not.

Bonus Mighty Mike mash-up and clip of ‘Crackerjack’ after the jump…
With thanks to Alistair Mcmenemy

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment