I was hanging out late-night with the Cheyntara band, and the host put on Van Halen 1984. Sure, it was rockin'. "Hot For Teacher" was a gas and we swapped stories about and imitations of the video. But then, midway through the side, "I'll Wait" came on, and after a minute of it we all got quiet, having a simultaneous epiphany as to its extremely new wave pulse. Is it still synth-pop if Eddie Van Halen is playing keyboards through a Marshall? David Lee Roth is synth-pop all the way, right down to the pout, putting some glam in his rock. "I've got your picture/I know what it means . . . such good photography!" Or something like that.
The next song, the even more amazing "Girl Gone Bad," takes the same new-wave vibe (courtesy the rhythm section's disco pulse and Roth's pop singing) to wild extremes of subtle prog-rock bombast. Eddie Van Halen taps on his guitar neck, creating drawn-out atmospheres that are sustained song-wise for nearly two minutes by superbly calm pulsing underneath by Alex Van Halen (drums) and Michael Anthony (bass). Then Edward goes into some jazzy Mahavishnu-ish chords that give way to some sort of early Rush/Sabbath-on-78 stop-and-start prog-riff that the band uses to launch into a heavy-ass prog-disco groove that finally eases - after two or three minutes of this glorious instrumentalism - into one of David Lee Roth's greatest pop vocal performances. ("Lazy eyes in the summertime . . ." You know the rest, right?) Ending up the side is "House of Pain," another killer tune that was also dismissed upon the LP's release as 'filler.' It isn't quite the rollercoaster ride that "Girl Gone Bad" is, but does go from a striking crooning vocal-and-stomping-Sabbath-riff thing into an unforgettable funky-ass rideout, with Roth scatting "ah-ahh . . . ah-ahh . . . ah-ahh, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah" along with Eddie's flanged-out hard-blues riff.I still listen to Roth-era Van Halen all the time. They're pretty easy to make fun of, but I'd sure as hell rather listen to their sixth album than the sixth album by the Jesus Lizard, or the sixth by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or, if you wanna talk peers, Ratt or Night Ranger, etc. Unfortunately, by the band's seventh album, Roth had been fired because the Van Halens couldn't stand working with him. In what is probably one of the ten worst aesthetic moves ever by a world-famous artist, Sammy Hagar was hired to be the band's new lead singer. This led to a string of albums that make even Ted Nugent seem subtle: 5150? OU812??? Oh God . . . For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge??????????? Sure, they all went double platinum, but even by the increasingly low standards of rock and roll music, this stuff is extremely lame. When viewed against the quality of the Roth years, it's an atrocity. And it's not all Sammy's fault - Eddie's best alternative to Sammy's lunkheaded fratboy boogie was to fill a good third of each album with songs created from almost parodically sappy keyboard parts. What happened??? Never else has a band so embodied those tiresome mantras of the music skeptic: "the sell-out," "the dinosaur," "Judas," "the lost-it." The songs were limp bar-rock, suitable for the soundtrack to a cable TV movie about sand volleyball. When Roth was in the band, they were still atomic punks from working-class Pasadena, no matter how much money they had made. Roth, showing immensely good taste, did not like to work on Eddie's keyboard songs, but at least when one got band-approved the keyboard was plugged into the Marshall stack. Dave was not a bar rocker in the slightest. He was a man of the world. Where one of Dave's favorite hobbies was going on safaris into various wild tropical jungles, I could easily picture Sammy Hagar doing the Cabo Wabo with the parrotheads at a goddamn Jimmy Buffett concert. I don't even want to talk about the Van Halens' recent decision to hire the ex-singer of Exfuckingtreme. Let's just say that ever since Roth left, the band has been living more and more up to its name. And in this case, 'chops aside,' that is not a good thing.
© 1999 Bubby Brister
From the desk of Brad Sonder, publsher emeritus, NOUGAT, to all computer users:
In this era when billions and billions of bytes of encoded and translatable information are theoretically hovering in the atmosphere between us, it's easy to feel like we're discovering the universe all over again, except now each one of us can actually control every one of the stars and moons and planets that we can see. Of course, control always has its downsides, and every new universe, no matter how exciting it is upon discovery, always turns up its fair share of black holes. The 80s Metal List is just that, a black hole of bytes that add up to circular, repetetious, and artless communication about that rare strain of celebrity, the 1980s national-profile metal musician. Only occasionally do elements of humanity that aren't redundant pledges of faith to this or that at best neglibly important rock idol emerge out of this soul-negating singularity. One such occasion appears below, an update to the above Van Halen piece that appeared on the 80s Metal List on February 15, 2000. The Van Halen saga has become a showbiz story worthy of Douglas Sirk or at least prime-time television.
The only other time I can recall when the 80s metal content didn't have the typical black hole effects of paralysis and negation was in a plug by a woman in Canada for people in the area to go to 'metal night' at a local bar, and also to check out the best cover band in the area. I don't remember the name of the band, the bar, or even the city, but I still felt like I was making a connection to an actual human, an actual galaxy made up of stars/bytes in the information universe and not a black hole. These rare occasions, and the fact that deleting the digest form from my inbox is really easy, are the only reasons why I stay subscribed to such otherwise draining collections of data.
FEBRUARY 15:2000 (Australian web site)
This exclusive report comes to me from directly within the Van Halen camp.
In this exclusive Van Halen report:
Van Halen with David Lee Roth
Greatest Hits Volume 2
The Summer Tour
Why Sammy Said No
Truth Behind The Coverdale Tapes
The Next Van Halen Vocalist?
The DLR Band
VAN HALEN WITH DAVID LEE ROTH: David Lee Roth is to reunite with Van Halen under the moniker Van Halen with David Lee Roth but don't expect this to be permanent, this will be very much on a trial basis. The band is still looking for a permanent singer but has finally given in to label and fan pressure to reunite with their original lead singer.
No contracts have been signed and no agreements reached but the following has happened. The band has been meeting with Roth and they have jammed together. They have also been working on song ideas. However, contrary to other reports nothing has been recorded yet. The title Van Halen with David Lee Roth is one the band is reluctant to adopt but feel it best fits the situation. They are not welcoming David back permanently but as a transitory member only.
THE GRAMMY'S: Official confirmation and their first public appearance together are likely to be at the Grammy Awards February 23. A slot for the band to appear is being worked on at the moment. By appearing, the band is hoping it could recapture some of the spirit of the 1996 MTV Music Awards appearance.
It seems the idea of recording a full album of new material with Roth is not want the band want to do. They feel any material with Roth may not be strong enough and would rather move on than go backwards. Their first choice for vocalist was to have Sammy Hagar rejoin. They feel his songwriting ability is a major strength. The band felt they could have picked up where they left off with Hagar but unfortunately Warner Bros. were firmly in favor of a reunion with Roth.
There is major pressure from the label for an album and tour with Roth. The guys love touring and know that a big tour would be very successful. I have been told from another source that Warners will put up big bucks if this tour was to get off the ground.
Eddie Van Halen is on record as saying that Van Halen is not a nostalgia band and wouldn't want to do a nostalgia trip. But to most it does seem inevitable this tour will happen.
Sammy Hagar was interested in rejoining but would rather see the fans and the label get over the whole Dave reunion thing before he could even contemplate further talks. He is also extremely happy with what he is doing now. Warner Bros proposed a dual Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth tour but Hagar rejected this immediately.
GREATEST HITS VOLUME 2: Current plans for Van Halen with David Lee Roth do not include a full new studio album. Instead what is being prepared for release is Greatest Hits Volume 2, which will once again include 2 newly recorded tracks with Roth.
These 2 new songs will come from work the band had already started with Gary Cherone before his departure. Roth is contributing song ideas. No recordings have taken place and a producer has not even been selected. Danny Korchmar who was working with the band most recently and prior to Gary's departure will not be involved. A possible producer is Glenn Ballard who last worked with the band on the 2 new tracks that were added to Greatest Hits Volume 1.
THE SUMMER TOUR: The planned tour will be to support Greatest Hits Volume 2. The tour will go under the before mentioned name Van Halen with David Lee Roth. I have been informed it is at this point the band intends to let David Lee Roth go.
There are also contingency plans in place should the relationship with Roth deteriorate mid tour.
Van Halen's future from this point is so far undecided but several ideas are being discussed. In order to explain the options we need to take a step back to Gary Cherone's departure.
WHY SAMMY SAID NO: After Cherone left the band, Sammy Hagar was approached but due to label pressure and their dual tour idea, Sammy declined. The band then began their search for a new vocalist. The band talked with several singers before giving into label pressure for the current David Lee Roth reunion. Talks took place between the band and Billy Squier, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and even Sass Jordan. The band was looking for a vocalist with a solid reputation and past history yet who were not involved in anything at present. Other singers talked about but never contacted include Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Patty Smyth, Mitch Malloy, Johnny Gioeli (Hardline), Louie Merlino (Beggars & Thieves) and Danny Bowes of Thunder. The rumored Sebastian Bach link was false.
There is only one singer the band have met with and written and recorded any songs. That is David Coverdale.
THE COVERDALE TAPES: Coverdale's involvement with the band is all true. Everything rumored several months ago actually happened. The news was initially linked to the press to gauge fan reaction. After initial reaction wasn't entirely favorable stories were run to cover up the project.
An interview with David Coverdale rumored to be false and attacked was in fact true. Sessions took place and a demo tape was recorded.
This tape contains 3 new songs written by the band with Coverdale and were produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin. These new tracks are said to be amazing and along the lines of Coverdale/Page with a For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge feel.
It is also said these tracks blow VH3 out of the water. The remainder of the tape contains 20 songs, some in medley form with Coverdale jamming with the band on various Van Halen tunes. Both Roth and Hagar eras, plus some Whitesnake tunes, were covered.
Coverdale's drummer Denny Carmassi guests on the sessions. Mr. Big bass player Billy Sheehan also guests as his band were recording in the studio next door at the time.
The sessions with Coverdale went extremely well to the point where Eddie Van Halen wants Coverdale as the next lead singer. Contact continues with Coverdale and an arrangement exists if David Lee Roth leaves the band mid tour Coverdale will step in.
THE NEXT VOCALIST: That brings us now to the bands current options. With the tour to support Greatest Hits 2 over there are two thoughts. One is to record an all new studio album with a new lead singer, preferably Coverdale, or the return of Sammy Hagar. The second option is to record an album with multiple vocalists.
This is something that was previously touted, as this would allow the band to feature several vocalists at once and gauge fan reaction to each. The feeling is should one of these vocalists make a specific impact with the fans then they would be the frontrunner for the permanent vocalist position.
This album, should it happen, will include at least 2 of the already recorded Coverdale songs. Other possible vocalists for the project include the already mentioned Billy Squier, Sass Jordan and Sammy Hagar.
If the band chooses Coverdale for lead singer and then find themselves without a label then there is apparently a guaranteed contract for the band to record and tour for Portrait Records/Sony. John Kalodner has lent his full support to the band.
The band is in no way contemplating retirement and would like to settle the vocalist position. The fans and the label are all currently backing David Lee Roth but the band feel it would all be for show and are not totally comfortable with the idea of touring with him.
I have it on good authority that the band has been monitoring various sites for fan reaction. [This list, possibly? Who knows.]
Things change of course but it is my understanding that when there are any further developments I will be notified.
THE DLR BAND: Meanwhile, a source within the DLR Band camp confirmed they are still booked to play some live dates in April/May and are scheduled to record a new studio album later this year. Van Halen are aware of these arrangements.
ROTH - 80s Metal List Owner & Moderator
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