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Van Halen’s '1984' Turns 30: 7 Little-Known Facts About the Album

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Van Halen's 1984 — or MCMLXXXIV as it's written on the album's front cover — turns 30 on Thursday. The album, the band's sixth, marked a crucial turning point for Van Halen, spawning "Jump," its first chart-topping single ... yet it created a strain within the band that ultimately led to frontman David Lee Roth's departure.

Here are seven things you may not have known about 1984.

1. "Jump," the album's lead single, became Van Halen's first No. 1 hit, but in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Eddie Van Halen said that Roth and the band's long-time producer Ted Templeman disliked the song. Van Halen had recently built his own recording studio, a move that apparently upset Roth and Templeman. "The first thing I did [in that studio] was 'Jump' and they didn't like it," Van Halen said. Roth later claimed that he learned to like the song and wrote the lyrics after watching a man contemplate suicide on a tall building.

2. "Jump" topped the singles chart, but 1984 stalled at No. 2 for five weeks. It was kept from the top spot by Michael Jackson's Thriller — an album that famously featured Eddie Van Halen playing guitar on its hit "Beat It." Strangely, Van Halen has had five No. 1 albums, but all featured Roth's replacement Sammy Hagar on vocals.

 

3. The studio Eddie Van Halen built in his backyard was named "5150," which is police code for an "escaped mental patient." Van Halen liked the name so much, they also used it for the title of their next album (their first with Hagar), which topped the chart for three weeks in the spring of 1986.

4. Although Eddie Van Halen is primarily known for his guitar-playing prowess, 1984 features his prominent use of synthesizer on the album's first two hit singles, "Jump" and "I'll Wait." It's also the first sound heard on the album in the spacey 1:07 title track instrumental.

5. The song "Top Jimmy" was inspired by Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs, who shared stages in the early '80s L.A. club scene with punk upstarts X and rockabilly revivalists the Blasters. Jimmy, born James Paul Koncek, died in 2001 of liver failure. The band's guitarist was known as Carlos Guitarlos.

6. "Hot for Teacher," another hit from 1984, drew protests from the Parent Music Resource Center for its sexually suggestive lyrics and video, which featured a teacher character stripping. The song was released 13 years before one-time teacher Mary Kay Letourneau made national news after being convicted for raping her sixth-grade student. After she was released from jail, the pair married and now have two children.

 

7. The album's iconic cover art was created by artist Margo Nahas, but wasn't commissioned by Van Halen. They originally wanted her to create a painting of four dancing chrome women, but she balked at the proposal due to the "reflective intricacies" of creating such a painting. Nonetheless, her husband, Jay Vigon, took her portfolio over to the band, who fell in love with the painting of a young cherub smoking a cigarette. She based the painting on a photo of a friend's two-year-old son, Carter Helm, whom she captured with styled hair holding a candy cigarette. The cover was altered in the U.K. with a sticker placed over the offending cigarette.

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