During 2016 and 2017, a bootleg label, Mad Hatter Records, put out five Van Halen vinyl releases that featured previously uncirculated live material from the late 1970s. The LPs were only available in super-limited quantities. How limited were they, you ask? At the most, twelve copies were offered for sale, and as little as nine. Van Halen fans FREAKED OUT when digitized versions of these LPs were recently posted online.
The earliest show was recorded in 1978 during their first trek, when Van Halen was brand spanking new. There’s a 1979 rehearsal for the tour supporting their second record, and three stereo soundboards (!!!) from that outing. This is a young and hungry Van Halen, and they were never better on stage than during this period.
The 1978 recording was captured on April 3rd at a Wichita club called Pogo’s. The set is filled with songs from their first album and also includes a tune that can’t be found on any of their official albums—a cover of “Summertime Blues.” They open with the punk-metal number, “On Fire,” and it’s a burner, for sure; Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing is positively sick. When EVH plays his groundbreaking “Eruption” solo, you can tell the audience is stunned into silence.
While the 1979 soundboards all sound good-to-great, the best recording comes from a gig recorded at the Tucson Convention Center on October 2nd. Included are glimpses of some of the material that would be on album #3.
The 1979 rehearsal is lacking in sound quality, though if you’ve read this far, I bet you’ll still find it an interesting, fly-on-the-wall listening experience.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Nightmare Before Halloween: Insane early Van Halen set from 1977