Van HalenWith word that St. David Lee Roth will be joining up again with the Van Halen brothers to resuscitate what was once a fine and accomplished rock 'n' roll combo, I've decided to put together the Cheat Sheet where you can become instantly familiar with their best material. I've left off their many covers, though "You Really Got Me," "You're No Good," "Oh Pretty Woman," "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" and, of course, "Happy Trails" and "Dancing In the Street" are all simply wonderful and I've decided that "Hot for Teacher" is more like a great video. (Note how by mentioning these other songs, I'm cheating.)
There were only six albums featuring Diamond Dave, but they're all worth hearing, even Diver Down, which is like a half-hour long and hardly has any new originals on it.
Let's get started!
10) "Mean Street": Fair Warning is the sound of a band stepping on your little brother and making him beg you to let him up. Where other hard rock and heavy metal bands took themselves very seriously, DLR sounds like he's reading off a script and proud of it: "Turns hunted into hunter, Lord strike that poor boy DOWN."
9) "Sinner's Swing!": If you ever needed proof that this band wasn't a true heavy metal band, just listen to the rhythm section. They don't plod, they swing. Eddie plays like he's figuring out free jazz while wrestling with his guitar and winning. Bassist Michael Anthony is not in the current reunion line-up, which is a shame since it really takes four to rock VH-style. Does DLR even have a chance with three Van Halens in the band?
8) "Dance the Night Away": Van Halen II was always like a lightweight brother to the first album, but it proved that the band lived in Southern California. Where else would young men sound so damned happy? They didn't brood because women attended their concerts. Even if you don't like their music, you have to admit their concerts smelled great!
7) "Everybody Wants Some!!": Women and Children First is the band taking its sound and trashing it at every turn. You want form? Too bad. We're just going to crank the amps as loud as we can get them and see what happens. This song is best known to kids of the 1980s for its appearance in the cinematic masterpiece Better Off Dead.
6) Jamie's Cryin': For pure pop, you can't get better than this one. Yet, when it came out, it was too heavy for pop audiences who, let's face it, considered Rod Stewart hard rock. These days, this would be the mellowest thing on the radio. Unless you listen those stations that advertise Ben-Gay.
5) "D.O.A.": "They found a dirty-faced kid in a garbage can." Don't you hate when that happens?
4) "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love": All throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, garage bands the world over took a stab at this tune. It sounds easy enough. But when you can't tune your guitar right, it all ends up sounding like drunk monkeys begging for bananas. Leave it to the professionals.
3) "Unchained": Yes, one break coming up. Here's another tune that if you spent anytime in a local music shop you could hear blaring slightly out-of-tune all throughout the store on any given weekend. Also, newsflash, kids: Eddie was never cranking this stuff out on a cheap transistor amp. You want to know why your band sounded so bad? Same reason as mine. We couldn't play and our equipment wasn't worth the bargain price. Buy a decent amp and save your life.
2) "And The Cradle Will Rock...": There is no better aside in all of rock 'n' roll than "Have you seen junior's grades?" While the rest of Women and Children First sounds like someone took a blowtorch to the backsides of each and every member, "Cradle" sounds like they considered their audience for a few seconds and said, "let's give them something to hum." Because you're nobody until somebody hums you.
1) "Runnin' With The Devil": Several times a year the alarm clock wakes me up with this little ditty and I'm instantly reminded of why I love these guys so. DLR sounds so damn excited when he knows Eddie's about to rip a guitar solo and the sound and space of the entire first album can't be beat. That I can hear it all on a little cheap alarm clock radio is a dynamic that ain't around much anymore. Take this subwoofer and shove it, right?