The Mighty Van Halen

A band who was told they had no future that became a defining example of American Hard Rock. Eddie Van Halen, thank you for your gifts. #vanhalen #hardrock #rockandroll #guitarrock #fuckcancer #NYE2021

Fair warning: There are no ballads in this program.

Van Halen rose to prominence during the late 1970’s wave of American Hard Rock bands that supplanted the dominance of the heavy and loud blues-based British Rock acts a decade earlier. Their strange beginnings and history goes something like this: Brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen, immigrants whose family moved from the Netherlands to Pasadena in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, were musically inclined, just like their father. Eddie was originally a drummer, paying for his first set with a paper route. Alex was a guitarist.

While Eddie was out of the house, Alex would sneak and play his drum set. Upon discovering this, Eddie reportedly said that he could have the set and he would play Alex’s guitar.

The back of Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat”, a truly D.I.Y. creation that would become iconic. Courtesy of the Smithsonian.

While still in their teens, they recruited a bass player, Mark Stone, and played neighborhood parties. The band alternately called themselves Genesis, Mammoth and the Trojan Rubber Company. Feeling they needed a lead singer, they auditioned many. David Lee Roth, the son of plastic surgeon, who was renting the band his sound system, eventually was chosen. He had auditioned previously and was rejected. The group simply didn’t wish to pay for the stage gear anymore.

Van Halen in their classic line-up, 1980. (l-r) David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony. Photo by Norman Seef.

Michael Anthony replaced Stone on bass and the band started playing around the Los Angeles club scene, primarily centered in and around the Sunset Strip: Gazzarri’s, Starwood, The Whiskey, etc. Gene Simmons of KISS, who were one of the biggest American hard rock bands of the era was invited to see the band by local music impresario Rodney Bingenheimer. Simmons recorded several demos with the band in 1976. He gave up on the band after being told by KISS’s management Van Halen had no future. 

The cover of the debut album by Van Halen, 1978. Clockwise from upper-left: Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony. Elliot Gilbert – photography, Jodi Cohen – typesetting, Dave Bhang – art direction and design. Courtesy of Warner Brothers.

Ted Templeman, a veteran staff producer at Warner Brothers who had produced million-selling albums for Van Morrison and The Doobie Brothers, saw them live at a local club. Even though the crowd in attendance was small, within a week the label offered them a recording contract, that, unsurprisingly, heavily favored Warners. Their debut would start a series of mega selling albums (two gold, one platinum, 11 multi-platinum and two diamond – sales of ten million- certifications in the U.S. alone) and catapult Van Halen into superstars.

Their live shows, with the solid rhythm section of Michael and Alex, David with his outrageous and energetic front man schtick replete with vocal gymnastics and Eddie’s seemingly absolute mastery of the six string guitar made him his generation’s most influential guitarist and Van Halen his generation’s most imitated band.

“To hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”

Eddie Van Halen

In a land of giants, Van Halen were truly leviathans of rock and roll.

And mind you, the guitar Eddie eventually ended up playing on Van Halen’s debut, which has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and spawned the last era of flash guitarists, was a do-it-yourself creation he dubbed “Frankenstrat” out of a factory reject body, a used fretboard and believe it or not, a vinyl album used to make a pick guard, masking tape, red bicycle paint and reflectors.

Van Halen, October 12, 1982, at the Capitol Centre, Landover, MD. (l-r) Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, Alex and Eddie Van Halen. Screen capture from live feed in the arena. Courtesy of Van Halen News Desk.

On their first U.S. tour, at the arena show for Texxas Jam in 1978, they came on with make-up, teased hair, spandex and an immediate, intense performance that saw them take command of the audience in moments. Promoter Louis Messina said, “It was my first introduction to hair bands…it was quite a shock…I hadn’t seen that before. We were all still rock and rollers in blue jeans.”

By 1984, tensions between Eddie and David would cause the latter to leave the band for years, being replaced successfully with Sammy Hagar and unsuccessfully with Gary Cherone. David eventually came back; once briefly for a greatest-hits set and again for the last Van Halen studio album. Eddie’s son Wolfgang played bass, replacing  Michael Anthony for that release, A Different Kind of Truth, in 2012.

Cover of 1984, Van Halen. Pete Angelus – art direction, Margo Nahas – cover art and Richard Seireeni – art direction. 1984, courtesy of Warner Brothers.

This show focuses on their glory years, 76-84, when they were simply untouchable. This program also features the loud, the fast and the heavy, so get ready to blow your speakers.

R.I.P. (Rock In Power), Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020), and fuck cancer.

Dedicating this program to Mama Lynnda Hale, whom I have not seen all year due to all the COVID crazy. 2021, my darling, plan for a home cooked dinner for you and yours.

First Part

  • Unchained, 1981, Fair Warning
  • Somebody Get Me A Doctor, 1979, Van Halen II
  • Eruption/You Really Got Me, 1978, Van Halen
  • Romeo Delight, 1980, Women and Children First
  • Outta Love Again, 1979, Van Halen II
  • Hang ‘Em High, 1982, Diver Down
  • She’s The Woman, 1976, original demo (bootleg) (re-recorded for A Different Kind of Truth)
  • The Full Bug, 1982, Diver Down
  • And The Cradle Will Rock…, 1980, Women and Children First

Second Part

  • Light Up the Sky, 1979, Van Halen II
  • Sinners Swing!, 1981, Fair Warning
  • Big Trouble, 1976, demo (bootleg)
  • Panama, 1984, 1984
  • Girl Gone Bad, 1984, 1984
  • Tora! Tora!/Loss of Control, 1980, Women and Children First
  • Ain’t Talking’ ‘Bout Love, 1978, Van Halen
  • Let’s Get Rockin’, 1976, demo (bootleg)


  • Hot For Teacher, 1984, 1984

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Video Promo Producer and Writer

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