Like you, I hated Van Halen in high school. They weren't, remember,
just another tetrad of clown faces on MTV back then -- they were THE
GREATEST BAND IN THE WORLD!!! Eddie Van Halen was the BEST GUITARIST
EVER!!! Alex Van Halen was so good he needed FOUR kick drums and
Michael Anthony had a bass shaped like a JACK DANIEL'S BOTTLE!!!
Eddie played solos with an ELECTRIC DRILL!!! Woo!
Like at your school, the bullies flicking Marlboro ashes onto the MHS
shop building steps would stiffen and bark, "VAN HALEN RULES!!!" at
random intervals, like spastics or Tourette's victims. Little, winged
"VH" logos were as ubiquitous as nitrogen -- pasted onto denim jackets,
carved on desks and set into wet cement; drawn on blackboards, walls,
windows and car bumpers with marker, spray paint, Liquid Paper and
probably blood or worse. Sheesh. What a relief it was when Sammy Hagar
joined the band -- 'cause all the hard-line Van Halenoids went out and
shot themselves, and a boy could have some peace and play Damned and U.K.
Subs tapes out on the cafeteria patio without getting pelted with rocks
But over the past couple years, I've been picking up copies of all
the pre-Hagar Van Halen albums in a furtive sort of way, just to kinda
have them around. There's a certain bombastic, seat-of-the-pants verve
to their best stuff that you just can't get anywhere else. I'd thought
it came from David Lee Roth, since it dried up pretty quickly after
Sammy Hagar took over, but, his vaunted personality aside, most of his solo work is actually rather
inconsequential. "The Best" features
Roth's vaudevillian MTV hits, like "Just a Gigolo" and "California
Girls," all of which are worth having; but the rest is faux-Halenite
olive loaf, pimentoed with the athletico-yodelings of guitar mechanic
Steve Vai. Bad! No!
The "Everybody Wants Some" collection drives home the point that it
wasn't personality alone, but chemistry and -- above all -- songs that
drove the Halen engine. Out of 17 (apparently Boston-based)
bands here, only the Gigolo Aunts are totally familiar -- and on the day
that half the unfamiliar bands on a compilation are in any way
remarkable, the devil will put on Gore-Tex and scrape his windshield.
But the styles here are so diverse and well-achieved, the treatments so
free of excess precocity and (most crucially) the material so fleet and
seaworthy that "Everybody Wants Some" bears up to a straight listen all
the way through. Highlights are Sam Black Church's master-crafted,
crunch-metal treatment of "Romeo Delight"; Tom Leach's great, thoroughly
credible Western swing take on "Dance the Night Away"; Fuzzy's
Spectorish "Feel Your Love"; and the Gigolo Aunts' Beatle-schtick on
"Why Can't This Be Love?" But practically every track is interesting in
some regard or another, no matter how weirdly conceived or calculatedly
silly some of them might appear on paper.
There are two versions, for instance, of "Eruption" (the putative
GREATEST GUITAR SOLO EVER!!!) -- one on a church organ and the other on banjo. The
first, by the Rev. Ed Broms, is fairly effective, in a grandiloquent,
mad organist kinda way. The banjo bit doesn't hold up, but Crick
Diefensdorf, the culprit, gets points for technique. Trona does "Could
This Be Magic" with an odd straw-boaters-and-cardigans, flapper-rock
slant, like a peppier Squirrel Nut Zippers without the horns; and the
Vic Firecracker Orchestra -- actually a chamber ensemble with a vocalist
-- turns "Little Guitars" into a gorgeous lo-fi doom anthem.
Is "Everybody Wants Some" a great album? Not hardly. But if all we
ever listened to were great albums, we'd be down to the Damned's
"Machine Gun Etiquette" and maybe one or two others. Still, it's a fun
thing to have around. Keep an eye out for Volume Two. As for the Dave,
it'd be better just to hunt down his first two records.