Van Halen’s “1984”: Big Brother’s Still Watching @ 30 Years (1984-2014)

January was a great month for Hard Rock and Metal bands releasing iconic albums as it was only the other day that Judas Priest celebrated thirty years of “Defenders Of The Faith” (which was toasted HERE) and now it was Van Halen’s turn to soak up the rays of praise as “1984” hit the record store shelves thirty years ago today. I have to admit that the money I was making as a Wall Street messenger back then was being put to good use and the record shop was a regular place to visit and walk out with something. Van Halen was one of those bands that I was listening to since the very first album and they were one of my top three bands of all time. The other two are KISS and Judas Priest and each has had works covered on the core PiercingMetal website in addition to these blogs. The anticipation was high about “1984” because friends and I had been hearing the single “Jump” for a few weeks and while the memory has faded on when we all first saw the video for the tune, I would like to think that this was not too long after the album hit the street if not before. One should realize that in this time in music the video drove added sales to the album.

So “1984” as an album was pretty much the first Van Halen record to have a prominent presence of keyboards around a number of tracks and they were all played by Eddie Van Halen. Some might argue that this would have started a downward spiral for the bands appeal but to be honest, Van Halen was pretty much the most popular Rock band in the world at this time and they were also one of the highest paid to boot. They got something like 1.5 million dollars for a short set at the US Festival that had happened the year before and I am still crossing my fingers that we fans get that footage released on something cool after all this time. After the keyboard intro of “1984” came “Jump” and this song exploded everywhere. You couldn’t flip the radio dial without hearing it somewhere and since many friends carried those big boom box radios back then you would hear it on the streets that you walked down as well. When I picked up my copy of the album I went through it from beginning to end and didn’t find a single track that made me go “eh, that is alright”. I guess the predisposed notion about their being one of my top three groups had something to do with it, or perhaps it was that the material on the album was so infectiously catchy. “Panama” was a crowd pleaser and even had a silly video on MTV but since many of my friends didn’t have this cable network yet we would eagerly await the premiere of such tunes on “Friday Night Videos”.

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Official Van Halen “1984” Tour Button

“Top Jimmy” had some power to it while “Drop Dead Legs” was a slowly trudging number that pumped the musical blood through your veins but the super excitement came when you flipped the album over to side two and head the ripping drum solo by Alex Van Halen leading us into “Hot For Teacher”. This song had a video as well and even a Young Van Halen for good measure. This song along with the stellar single and “Panama” were my own favorites across the release. “I’ll Wait” was a solid number as well and I remember it being a favorite among some of the friends and while “Girl Gone Bad” rocked with some thunder it was not my own favorite and I guess the same can be said for “House Of Pain”. Now that doesn’t mean I would skip the tunes because back then this required you to get up off the couch or stop conversation to raise the needle on the album and move it over or manually press stop on the tape deck and fast forward to the proper spot (and hope that you didn’t go too far). See how easy you music fans have it today?

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Eddie’s playing was perfection and while his technique always impressed me, there was more of a focus on using these guitar acrobatics for the sake of the songs structure and it worked. Alex Van Halen was also one of my favorite drummers and I was antsy at the thoughts of what his drum set would look like for the tour when it came around. Dave Lee Roth was the Dave that you wanted him to be. The consummate front man and Rock Star, the life of the party on every single tune and after the album finished there was almost a gasp of exhaustion in the listener. Half of the being out of breath feeling would also come from trying to emulate the vocal register of Michael Anthony and believe me that is not easy to do. Trust me I tried. We all did. I should let you know that as I write these words down so many years after the album came out, I found myself typing it into Spotify to enjoy it as I got nostalgic and yep, it was just as I thought. The album is still so damned good but I expected as much. The recording was produced by Ted Templeman with all music written by Eddie Van Halen and all lyrics by Dave Lee Roth. Van Halen’s tour would stop in the NYC region with a few shows at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum along with a show over at the Brendan Byrne Arena (that you might know as the Izod Center nowadays). I found my ticket for one of the BBA shows but am pretty sure that I saw them twice. I remembered that they had Autograph opening up who were horrendous and treated as such by the Van Halen hungry fans. I admit this now because when that same band got their stuff together their debut became a fast favorite of mine.

The downside was that after this tour, David Lee Roth would leave the band to be replaced by Sammy Hagar and hence the “Sam Halen” references would begin. That said this would be the final full original lineup full album because the latest Van Halen release “A Different Kind Of Truth” finds young Wolfgang Van Halen playing bass instead of Michael Anthony. Oh well, the only constant is change my Dad always said and this is always the case with bands. Thanks for listening to me ramble a little on this one, it really is one of my favorite recordings from the band and beyond. If this particular album brings out some reflections for you as well, I ask that you leave them in the comments to help this be of larger impact. I’ll be getting to a lot more of these kinds of posts since they bring me back as well.

Track Listing:
1. 1984
2. Jump
3. Panama
4. Top Jimmy
5. Drop Dead Legs
6. Hot For Teacher
7. I’ll Wait
8. Girl Gone Bad
9. House Of Pain

Official Website: www.vanhalen.com
Official Album Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_%28Van_Halen_album%29

The Van Halen original catalog was remastered back in 2000 so a link to that purchase point is presented for you below in case you don’t have the recording yet. The downside is that these remasters included NOTHING extra and only have a bare minimum of liner notes. Perhaps sometime soon we will see a better batch of remasters come out.

There was no way that I could close this milestone reflection without the bands video for “Jump”. It was done on a shoestring budget in a large empty space and the band looks like they’re having a blast doing it. It was good to be Van Halen back then. It was good to love Van Halen back then as well.

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