In 1984, Van Halen had released an album of the same name and while this release brought their fans blockbuster hits such as “Jump”, “Panama”, “I’ll Wait and “Hot For Teacher”, the dramas going on behind the scenes were at an all-time high and creative dissonance was causing too many rifts when it came to both Eddie Van Halen and singer David Lee Roth. Roth would split from the lineup in 1985 and after some considerable searching a new voice was decided upon in Sammy Hagar and their first music together would come to us with “5150”. Today, the 7th album in the Van Halen catalog reaches its thirtieth anniversary and I’m here to share some personal reflections on this milestone.
Truthfully speaking when David Lee Roth left Van Halen I was one of those fans who had felt that the world was going to end and I didn’t like the news at all. How could the mighty VH continue on without their flamboyant ringmaster? I remember vowing to support anything that Roth would put out and I even liked the far from the left of center EP he had released with “Crazy From The Heat” (his monster solo album wouldn’t arrive for another four months from this anniversary). Now when VH announced that Sammy Hagar was going to be their new vocalist I had to say that I was actually impressed by this decision because I had loved his “Standing Hampton” album along with the “HSAS” work so I remained hopeful on their working together. Apparently Eddie Van Halen and Sammy met thanks to their mechanic. I first heard the single “Why Can’t This Be Love” over a Boombox that I owned and this was standard issue among music fans of the day. As it played I felt that this was a new and very different sounding Van Halen and like many fans I began referring to them as “Van Hagar”. The tune had heavy emphasis on a synthesized guitar sound with more keyboards to it and a very odd sounding toms and bass drums to my ears. The guitar work was on point for sure because well, its Eddie Van Halen and he was on top of his game for sure. That being said, once the lyrics began I had to say that I was liking it. It was different and a very unexpected style for sure but I wasn’t ready to give up on Van Halen just yet. Let’s do a quick glance at the full track listing below and speak a bit more on them later.
1. Good Enough
2. Why Can’t This Be Love
3. Get Up
5. Summer Nights
6. Best Of Both Worlds
7. Love Walks In
The album opened up with “Good Enough” and is led into with a Sammy intro of “Hello Baybay” which made me feel he was trying to be Roth in some quick sense to ease the transition but that was where it ended. I’ve already said my piece on “WCTBL” which brings us to the thundering “Get Up”. Wow did I love this track and as an aspiring musician back in this time I tried to do this one over and over again on the drums. Man did the house rattle thanks to that double-bass pattern as I hoped to mimic the great Alex Van Halen. “Dreams” was an immediate favorite and with this tune it was easy to realize that Van Halen was aiming for more radio friendly fare. This one was catchy and had a great melody. Songs like “Best Of Both Worlds” and “Love Walks In” were firming up the bands stance on getting this release all over the radio and trust me you couldn’t switch around the rock dials of the time and not hear a couple of these tunes. What were your favorites from this one? Hold the answer until we’re all finished here and leave it in the comments section.
Hagar was proving himself on tune after tune and let’s face it he was much more the pure singer than Roth was if you had to compare actual vocal ability. The question would be would the general public stand behind the new version of the band and the changed focus on being more radio accessible and the answer was a whopping “Yes”. The album reached the number “1” position on the Billboard charts. The album would be produced by Foreigner main man Mick Jones and the sleek LP cover featured a modern day Atlas holding the bands modified logo high above his head. As always I was listening to the album being discussed with today’s ears and I have to say that “5150” has withstood the tests of time as a very strong release. Readers can click on the official album Wiki link below for the deeper fine points about it all and the times around it. I aim at keeping these as close to my own real life interactions and thoughts about how a work hit me. Congratulations to Van Halen and Sammy Hagar on the anniversary of your first collaboration together. Four albums in total would come from this union and yes there were more radio hits to be enjoyed from Van Halen thanks to this.
I’ve been enjoying sharing the image of my original album in these milestones whenever possible but sadly I no longer have my LP of this release by Van Halen. I do however still possess the “45” single of “Why Can’t This Be Love” and its rather sharp photo sleeve. Not bad shape for something slightly over thirty years old. Remember the single would come out before the actual album so this is just a tad older 🙂