Van Halen

Van Halen were veterans of the Pasadena, California, bar circuit, but on their 1978 debut their sound was already large enough to fill football stadiums. Singer David Lee Roth yowled like a Vegas performer in heat, Michael Anthony played the bass lines that let Eddie Van Halen go wild on guitar, and Eddie crammed a whole season of soap-opera plot twists into every solo, making liberal use of the whammy bar but never losing the melody. The only element of the formula missing was a spoken Roth rap (the pinnacle of that art would come two years later, with the "I like the little way the line runs up the back of the stockings" bit on "Everybody Wants Some!!").

Multiple tracks from Van Halen crashed into heavy rotation on rock radio: "Runnin' With the Devil," "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and their version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me." The best was "Jamie's Cryin'." Discarding crass lyrics such as "You know you're semi-good-lookin'," Roth wrote a surprisingly empathetic song about a girl regretting a one-night stand, while Eddie delivered a guitar lick that would later do wonders for Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing." During the making of the song, Roth was monitoring his diet and exercise to preserve his voice — but found that he didn't sound right in the studio. So he sucked down a joint, a soda and a cheeseburger, and promptly nailed it. Rumor has it that Van Halen have continued in recent years with a new lead singer, but since their 1985 breakup, nobody involved has ever recaptured that spontaneous cheeseburger magic.

From The Archives Issue 274: September 21, 1978