Van Halen - Atomic Punks
The band was formed in 1974 and was originally called Mammoth. However, when they discovered that another local band was already using the name Mammoth, they decided on a new name. It was actually Roth who suggested Van Halen as the new name for the group. The Van Halen brothers initially didn't like the idea, but eventually warmed up to it. Roth stated in his autobiography, "I felt that the name Van Halen was like the name Santana, it had power to it.
With Ted Templeman at the helm, the band moved into the studio and quickly recorded their first album. Simply titled Van Halen, the album was released to immediate commercial success, reaching #19 on the Billboard pop music charts. All of the tracks were laid down very quickly (about three weeks), with little over-dubbing or double tracking. Minor mistakes were left on the record and a very simple musical set-up was used to give the record an almost-live feel. After adding vocals, the album was essentially ready to be mixed. Despite the simple studio set-up, Van Halen featured innovations in musical technique, production, and arrangement.
The first album, one of rock's most commercially successful debuts, is widely regarded as one of the most influential rock albums ever produced. While it included original songs by the band, such as "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," "Eruption," and "Runnin' With The Devil," the album also featured covers of the Kinks' song "You Really Got Me" and John Brim's "Ice Cream Man." The band toured for nearly a year on the basis of Van Halen, establishing their reputation as a talented and exciting live band. The early chemistry of the band was based upon the interplay of Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry and David Lee Roth's flamboyant antics (a contrast that would later erupt into full-blown conflict). They returned to the studio in 1979 for Van Halen II, similar in style to their debut. This album yielded the band's first hit single, the poppy "Dance The Night Away."
Over the next four years, the band alternated album releases and touring to increasing commercial and critical acclaim. By 1980, Van Halen was perhaps the world's most successful and influential hard rock band (a legacy the band sustained throughout their career; in 2000, VH1 cited Van Halen as #7 on their list, "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock"). Their party-loving spirit and hard rocking anthem-like sound made them extremely popular with teenagers and the worst nightmare for parents. Their third album Women and Children First was released in 1980, further cementing Van Halen's status as an elite rock group with such loud and popular songs as "And The Cradle Will Rock" and "Everybody Wants Some!!". In 1981, during the recording of their fourth album, Fair Warning, tensions began to rise within the band. Eddie Van Halen's desire to experiment with more serious songs and complex structures was at odds with Roth's pop instincts and increasingly cartoonish, irony-laden persona. Although Roth (and producer Templeman) acquiesced to Eddie's wishes, Fair Warning was a relative sales disappointment, yielding no hit singles. The following album, Diver Down, featured a hit cover of Roy Orbison's classic rock and roll song "Oh, Pretty Woman". After a successful tour to support Diver Down, Van Halen became the highest paid music group for a single appearance, earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for their inebriated, $1 million, 90-minute set at the US Festival in 1983. (This record was eventually eclipsed in the 1990s.)
Cover art for the hit single "Panama" (1984)Van Halen's next album, 1984 (released on January 9, 1984) was their commercial, and many claim, artistic pinnacle. Recorded at Eddie Van Halen's newly built 5150 Studios, the album was also a breaking point for the original line-up. Keyboards, previously heard only rarely, were now fully integrated into the band's sound. The album's lead single, "Jump", featured a bouncy synthesizer hook and anthemic lyrics by Roth. "Jump" became the band's first and only #1 pop hit and resulted in the band's first Grammy nomination. The other huge hits off the album were "Panama," "I'll Wait," and "Hot For Teacher." Many of the songs also became major music videos on MTV, especially "Hot For Teacher," which featured a skimpily dressed model playing the part of elementary-school teacher and also school-age boys portraying younger versions of the band members. The video appealed to numerous teenage and college-aged males. The album 1984 was praised by critics and fans alike, peaking at #2 on the Billboard charts behind Thriller by Michael Jackson (Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on the hit song "Beat It," on that album). In the midst of their greatest commercial success and tour, the artistic and personal tensions between the musicians reached a breaking point. Roth was upset about Eddie Van Halen playing with artists and bands outside of the band, and Eddie was upset at Roth for his continuous flamboyant behavior and cartoonish stage persona. Roth exited the band on April 1, 1985.
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