The enormous Zeppelinfeld complex in Nuremberg, Germany, has a pretty amazing history. In August of 1909, Ferdinand von Zeppelin landed one his Zeppelin aircrafts on the field, giving it its name. Once the Nazi party took over Germany, the area was redesigned by Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, and it was used for enormous rallies. When the war ended in 1945, the Allies blew up an enormous swastika on the grounds in a moment of great symbolic importance.
Four decades later, on September 2nd, 1984, there was another explosion of sorts at the site when the Monsters of Rock festival touched down on the grounds with AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Dio, Gary Moore and Van Halen on the bill. Nobody knew it at the time, but it was David Lee Roth’s final time fronting the group until his return in 2007. By that time, bassist Michael Anthony had been replaced by guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang Van Halen, meaning the 1984 Nuremberg show was the last time the classic lineup ever played together in public.
The show came near the end of the biggest year of Van Halen’s career. Their album 1984 produced “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher” and “Panama,” all of which were in heavy rotation on MTV and radio. They hit the road hard, playing 109 shows across nine months. They should have been on top of the world, but long-simmering tensions between Roth and the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and drummer Alex, became too much and they parted ways months after the tour ended.
There’s no great document of the final show at Nuremberg, but here’s some footage of “Jump.” It focuses almost entirely on Roth and there’s barely even a hint of the other members, though a couple of German fans do speak to the camera. The show ended with a cover of the Roy Rogers song “Happy Trails,” a very appropriate choice. “Happy trails to you, until we meet again,” Roth sang. “Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.”
Van Halen are hitting the road this summer, but fans still crave a reunion of the complete classic lineup. Roth agreed with them when he spoke to Rolling Stone in 2013. “What we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever – that was in Michael Anthony,” he said. “In our tiny little corner of the universe, that voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire, as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys. Van Halen is an indelicate house blend of both – that’s intentionally. So I would always look forward to that reunion.”