Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Van Halen: My Guilty Pleasure

I will confess: I like Van Halen. Not like I like The Who or Pearl Jam, but I really enjoy their music. I feel like I am admitting a humiliating fact about myself, but I know the band has sold millions of records. I am a rock 'n' roll fan at heart. The sound of guitars and drums get me moving, and I use plenty of rock songs for my workout music or 'pump-me-up' music. Van Halen has always been on my list of bands that I will crank in the car. I remember when they came to Maine and you could hear the concert from miles away. I stayed up that night and listened as they played for 2.5 hours.

Who is the better lead singer, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? David Lee Roth had the better vocals, was a better performer, and had that little something extra that you cannot define. He would be remembered in a better light had he not left the band and his solo career not crashed. There was something hysterical in his antics in their videos. They were the perfect video band because they created unintentional comedy at will, had charisma (even the bassist), enjoyed making videos, and had songs under 4 minutes. Sammy Hagar had that real high range and rocking "scream tone" down solid. Hagar also was a little tougher than Roth, who seemed kind of femme despite always singing about banging chicks and putting the bustiest women in his videos. Hagar also used "Hey, Yeah, Oh, Woah" better than any other rock singer (Eddie Vedder is #2). Hagar seemed to do best singing about love, which isn't the most rocking. He really was the toughest sounding pansy of all time. Therein lies the key; he made love sound rocking. Roth is the better lead man, but I just enjoy Hagar more.

How would I break down the top 5 songs from each lead man? Here's a list of each singer's top 5 songs......(I would be stupid for not saying that the key to all of their songs was Eddie Van Halen; amazing work in every song and a goofy smile in every video.)

Roth era Van Halen

5. Dance the Night Away - Their first release, and something you never realize is sung by Van Halen. It's a good party song, and something I love to hear in the summer.
4. Hot for Teacher - While this seems like an adolescent rock song, there's something that rings true with every male. There is usually one teacher from your childhood you had a crush on (you might have fantasized about years later), and this song does a good job of conjuring up those images. The video was also hysterical, and the dancing by the band is terrible.
3. Panama - First off, I've heard dozens of people scream "Animal" when the chorus starts. This is a misheard lyric of the first degree. It also took me about 10 years before I figured out that the song was about a car. Supposedly, it is about a stripper Roth met in Arizona, but listen to the lyrics; it's about a joy ride in the car. It could be about a chick, but I'm voting for the car.
2. Runnin' With the Devil - Just a cool song. The guitar work, the beat, the lyrics. It's a loner-on-the-road-who-gives-a-sh*t song. There's a theme of freedom throughout the lyrics.
1. Jump - The synth, the guitar work, the lyrics. "Can't you see me standin' here I got my back against the rockin' machine". Classic.

Hagar era Van Halen

5. Right Now - There is a great message in this song, and it had an excellent video. It was a socially conscious effort at a time when that was needed (early 90s). The piano intro and outro were excellent, and carried with it a sense of urgency.
4. Love Walks In - This is their attempt at being artistic with the lyrics. It's about a guy finding a girl he loves for the first time rather than just banging chicks. No, it is not about interstellar travel and intergalactic love. This was one of their giant synth songs. You know what I mean... One of those songs you stop and go "wow, check out the synth" when it starts.
3. Why Can't This Be Love - That drum beat in the intro and the crazy synth crashing with the drums get you pumping. Sammy comes in yelling about the first rocking love he had that blows all his previous loves away. Who cannot enjoy a grown man growling about being totally in love?
2. When It's Love - The intro is all slow and sad. Then they kick it up a notch with the intro of the drums, and then you know it is hope, not sadness that they are expressing. Sammy sings about everybody's search for love, and how you really can't define it; you just know when it happens.
1. Dreams - Some casual fans know this as "Higher & Higher". This is one of the greatest cheese songs of all time. This is pure cheese. The intro is so long that most radio stations cut the synth solo part out of the intro. If you listen to this song, you will feel the abandonment of all your fears and reach a higher ground. Once again, this is a hidden love song as we find out that dreams are what love is made of. This might be Sammy's best use of "hey", "yeah", "ow", and "woo" in any song during his long, illustrious career. I think the pacing of the song is excellent. You start off a little slow and then it gets kicked up a notch. There are two extended instrumental parts, showcasing Eddie's talents, which of course are ended by a "yeah". They have occasional slow downs to suck you in and really focus on the lyrics because, baby, you better just spread your wings and get higher & higher.

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