Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hell in the Sell: Van Halen

As you listen to Tatoo, the latest single from the newly reunited Van Halen, I want you to remember one thing...

The DLR version of Van Halen were almost single handedly responsible for everything that went wrong in 80's hair metal. Ratt, Poisin, Twisted Sister, Warrent, Bullet Boys, Faster Pussy Cat, Mr Big, Quiet Riot,  and the list goes on. Sabbath gave us great new sound, KISS gave us the cartoon stage show, but it was Van Halen's original spin on all that, that really spawned the worst of a decade.

Not that I think those bands were all bad, but there are things about their own careers that I will bet have them cringing to this day. And they were all pioneered by DLR's Van Halen. The whammy bar yanking, fret board tapping, pitch harmonic wanking solos. The posing, posturing, kicking and spinning on stage. And the costumes, oh god the spandex. It was all so childish, so put on, and so very marketable.

But let's remember this, when Van Halen did it, it was new. They can lay claim to actually having their tongues in their cheeks. They were simply asking, why shouldn't rock and roll be fun? Why does it have to be serious, or dark, or angry? At the end of the day, heavy metal has always been the professional wrestling of the music industry, and Van Halen was Hulk Hogan, running wild on you!

But like a small child who will repeat any behavior ad naseum if it gets them a laugh once, the industry totally missed the fact that the best part of Van Halen was the fact that they were refreshing and different. And so they got ripped off, bastardized, imitated, caricatured, with a creative mudhole stomped in their musical asses and walked dry.

So now they want to get back together and revisit old glory. Why not? They do have lots to be proud of and nobody likes to pass up an opportunity to make a little cash. But every time they try to do something signature, old school, golden era Van Halenesque....it sounds derivative, tired and cliche. That has to suck. You can almost hear them in the studio listening to the play back and saying, "But I'm not a wannabe poser... I AM Eddie Van Fucking Halen".

The only time I ever met David Lee Roth was in 1988 and Poisin was on the TV doing Your Mama Don't Dance, and he looked at me with a look of genuine remorse and muttered "What did we do?".

It's okay Dave, I still love ya.

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