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?”
A flier for a show headlined by Van Halen in Pasadena, February 18th, 1976.
While listening to this I honestly felt like Van Halen was kicking it right in my living room the sound is that fucking good. The recording of the legendary (and often misdated) show includes eleven songs plus the audio recordings of the rehearsals that led up to this sonic assault coined in this case “The Nightmare Before Halloween.” The show was of course bootlegged many times over the years and released with fitting titles like Last Pasadena Eruption or Pasadena on Fire so if you don’t already have a copy of it have no fear as they are pretty easy to come by on auction sites like eBay and musically inclined commerce sites. I can’t recommend enough that this be listened to at the highest possible volume.
Fuck your neighbors—stay calm and listen to Van Halen!
High quality audio of Van Halen’s last show at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, October 15th, 1977.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Van Halen cover Bowie and KC & The Sunshine Band (while judging a dance contest!) in the 70s