VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!!
My latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com is an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth. Dig in!
Three albums in, Van Halen started to stretch their wings.
The band were selling millions of records and touring was strong. Eddie’s desire to grow as an artist began to stir, slightly. The signs were beginning to show on Women And Children First, Van Halen’s first album of the 1980’s. With producer Ted Templeman still in tow, Van Halen went heavier, and darker.
Eddie’s flanged guitar opens the record with “And the Cradle Will Rock…”, a song which should make virtually any Van Halen road tape. For the first time, you can discern keyboards, accompanying Eddie’s guitar. For the first time, there are multi-tracked guitars used to great effect. Eddie coaxes different tones for different sections from his instrument, and experiments with the stereo field. Not to be outshone is frontman David Lee Roth, with his menacing howls and hip lyrics.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” is just as adventurous. It opens with over a minute of drums and guitars, with Roth making jungle sounds and welcoming us inside. Again, Van Halen uses multiple tracks and his guitar in innovative ways to paint an aural picture. Once the song kicks in, it’s off to the races. Roth’s as sassy as ever, the best party frontman in any rock band in the country. His squeals and shrieks are as important (if not more) than the lyrics he’s singing. It’s more about the sounds and the images they evoke, but everyone’s invited:
Everybody wants some!
I want some too, whoa
Everybody wants some!
Baby how ’bout you? Yeah
Some bluesy bends intro the 6-minute “Fools”, a rare long bomber for this band. Much of it is intro, a treat of Van Halen’s fingers on the fretboard, before the main riff kicks in at 1:20. The band lock into a heavy groove, and Roth turns in another cool lyric: “Why behave in public if you’re livin’ on a playground?” The harmony vocals of Michael Anthony and Edward himself seal the deal, as they take center stage on the chorus. Roth’s scat outro reveals influences far deeper than rock and roll.
“Romeo Delight” concludes Side One with a racing guitar riff and a cool vibe. It takes a frontman like Roth to hold his own in a song like this against a player like Edward, and he does. He’s the ringleader of this party and he makes sure you don’t forget it. Each “yeeah!” and “hey!” is placed with precision.
You just gotta take a breath after a song like that. It’s a good time to flip the record, and Side Two opens with a guitar intro called “Tora! Tora!”. God knows how he’s tormenting that instrument to make the sounds he does. Roth’s shrieks introduce “Loss of Control”, Van Halen’s fastest boogie. I wouldn’t advise trying to dance to this one, and headbanging could induce damage to the neck. Eddie’s solo is another stunner, but equally impressive are all the fills, licks and sounds through the whole song.
Acoustic picking introduces “Take Your Whiskey Home”, as Van Halen get swampy. Roth nails that bluesy vibe, but it’s just a fake-out. Van Halen really seem to like to switch gears, and when this sucker goes electric, hang on. The riff is menacing and Dave’s lyrics are some of his best. He’s always had a way with words and this is a great early example of Dave’s type of poetry:
Some goes to women, some goes to Jesus,
though I’m absolutely certain both’s all right.
But it takes me at least halfway to the label
‘fore I can even make it through the night.
The acoustic guitars are back out for “Could This Be Magic?” Yes, it certainly is magic. Van Halen capture an earlier era, one of simpler scratchy recordings. You can even hear the rain, which was recorded and added to the track. Nicolette Larson sings backing vocals on the chorus, but this sounds like a drunken party. It’s the best singalong you’ve never been invited to, and the vibe is killer.
“In A Simple Rhyme” is an upbeat closer. Women and Children First is a varied ride; it is the point in the party when people start getting a bit drunk and crazy and things look like they could get out of control. “In A Simple Rhyme” is melodic like Van Halen hits past, with a singable chorus and classic ‘Halen harmonies. But wait…this is not the end! Utilizing the concept of the hidden track, an unlisted instrumental is the coda. The doomy riff, called “Growth” was one that Van Halen had played around with, and planned to use again to open their fourth album. Perhaps the name “Growth” indicated where Eddie planned to take the band in the future.
Women And Children First represents growth and…”maturity” is not the word. Perhaps the start of a new world-weary wisdom is evident here. Whatever the case, the success of this album assured Van Halen that they would be able to carry out the sonic experiments they desired.