#901: 5150 Time Again?

Distilling some stories from the 5150 live stream.

RECORD STORE TALES #901: 5150 Time Again?

Van Halen’s 5150 was their first #1.  It was their first with Sammy Hagar and their first truly divisive album.  As a young kid on a weekly allowance, I had to pick and choose what to buy.  Van Halen’s marketing campaign involved making no new music videos for 5150, only releasing live clips.  Since music videos were 99% of my new music exposure, 5150 didn’t make it high on my priority lists.  Van Halen didn’t want to compete with David Lee Roth, seen as the master of the music video.  Unfortunately this meant kids like me only had live versions to preview.

In particular, the live video for “Why Can’t This Be Love” turned off many of the kids in the neighbourhood.  Scott Peddle remembers not buying the album specifically because of that video.  It was a combination of Sammy’s new haircut and the off-key scatting.  This is all we had to judge the new album by!  I didn’t have any friends who owned 5150.

I ended up getting a second hand cassette off a kid in school named Todd Burnside.  I was sorely disappointed that after paying him five bucks; the front cover to the tape was all ripped.  I had to put it back together with Scotch tape.  I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t bother taking care of his tape.  Then again, Burnside’s nickname in school was “Burnout”.  At least it played well.

Maybe two years after 5150 came out, there were rumblings about Van Halen working on new music.  In the 80s, there was no internet but there was a rumour mill.  You’d read something in a magazine, or hear it on the TV.  For example, there were almost always rumours that Van Halen were on the verge of splitting.  This happened in 1987 when Sammy Hagar released his self-titled solo album (even though said solo album was made with Edward Van Halen himself).  At the same time, there were rumours that they were also working on a brand new Van Halen album.

It wasn’t inconceivable, with our naive little insular world view, that the forthcoming new Van Halen album could leak, and someone could get a hand on a tape.  It seemed possible.  Kids in my neighbourhood had all kinds of rare music on tape that we couldn’t trace back to a source.  Live tracks by Iron Maiden, or even the legendary “Rodeo Song”.   It was taped from one kid to another to another until you didn’t know what generation you had.  This story is about the time I thought the girl I liked got her pretty little hands on the new Van Halen.

The story goes like this.  Her boyfriend taped her a Van Halen cassette, with no titles written down.  Huge pet peave, right?  Such bad habits lead to misunderstandings like this story.  I was friends with her younger brother, and one day I was talking to her on the phone and she mentioned her favourite song by Van Halen.  “I love ‘Contact’,” she said.  “It’s on this tape my boyfriend made.”

“Contact”?  I never heard of that song.  I knew my Van Halen song titles and “Contact” was not one of them.  Not realizing that she had to be making up the title herself because no songs were written down, I concluded she might have her hands on a pirated tape of the new Van Halen.  I wanted to hear it next time I came over.

I told my friends about this possible lead into the next Van Halen album and promised to report back.

I went to visit one afternoon.  They had a pool.  But I wanted to get down to business first.  I brought a blank 60 minute tape with me in case I needed to dub what I was about to hear.  Let’s see this Van Halen tape!

She brought out the tape and I noticed there was nothing written on the cover, so there was absolutely no information available about any of the songs.  But I didn’t need information as soon as she hit “play”.

The familiar cascading keyboard melody echoed from the tinny speakers of her ghetto blaster.  What the hell?!  This song wasn’t called “Contact”!  It was called “Love Walks In”!  How could she not know that?

My disappointment was only assuaged by a dip in the pool, with extra splashing.  I came home empty handed.  No Van Halen, and worse than that…the girl I liked didn’t even know the proper name of “Love Walks In”!  How the hell?

My crush on her dissipated shortly thereafter and I moved on to other interests.  She wasn’t a real Van Halen fan after all.

 

51 comments

  1. “Van Halen’s marketing campaign involved making no new music videos for 5150, only releasing live clips”

    I am already in heaven. This sounds like an album I’d like. Plus it has “Get Up”.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. You are forgetting context. 14 year olds in 1986 did. Not. Want. Live. Videos.

          Period.

          We wanted to hear the new songs as they were, what we would be buying if we saved up enough for the album.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Silly 14 year olds. The live versions are the purer versions of the songs. And if a band can’t do their songs justice live then they’re probably not worth listening to anyway.

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        3. I don’t like overdubs on live albums. Once in a blue moon the album is awesome enough that I overlook it. So far only Unleashed in the East has this honour.

          But if you mean Right Here Right Now, I don’t like that they fixed it up. If it wasn’t fit to release then they shouldn’t have released it. But even the version of Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love I can overlook because it’s that good.

          But the bottom line comes down to whether they can do their songs justice live, and Van Halen can do that from what I’ve heard, so they don’t get the Harrison Seal of Disapproval for that.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Can you? From what I’ve heard it’s completely live. The DVD and CD are from different nights so that explains that discrepancy there. I know there’s some on Maiden Japan, but they’re minor.

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        5. Not hearing anything conclusive. I even listened to the Rock in Rio and Hammersmith 84 shows and the backing vocals there sound pretty much identical, just less clear.

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        6. No that would be Priest Live!. Not hearing enough of a difference between Live After Death and bootlegs from the tour to conclusively say it was overdubbed.

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        7. I’m not convinced yet. Besides what technical process is involved in this “sweetening” you speak of?

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        8. Like I said, live performances don’t sound different enough for me to believe that when it comes to the backing vocals. As for other stuff, it’s well known that the DVD and CD have different night’s performances on them, and that the DVD version is the slightly inferior performance. I don’t know what this so-called “second audio track” is but I’m not convinced, and I probably won’t be unless the band gives official confirmation.

          And as far as their statement goes, it’s completely live. And while I’m aware that there may be a conflict of interest, they are still the foremost and leading source of information on the topic. And they already admitted to it on Maiden Japan so I trust them even more.

          I already knew about Remember Tomorrow. That’s not a surprise.

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        9. I trust my ears too. They heard both the bootleg live and the official live and heard little to no difference. And how can Seb Bach claim to have such conclusive knowledge on all these bands?

          I guess we’ll just have to disagree and leave it at that.

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        10. Funny because I have been able to hear the sweetened vocals since the 80s.

          Just assume every official live release in the 80s by any major group has been overdubbed. It was common practice.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. Not really hearing a difference between Live After Death and that version. Not enough to convince me, as I said.

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        12. Well I guess I pity you a bit then. I’ll take ignorance is bliss for 200 please Lebrain.

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        13. By live videos do you mean concert videos or music videos featuring live footage? Because the latter is what I call fake-live videos. And I don’t like those.

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        14. At the risk of repeating myself, there are enough examples of pure live stuff going out, even back into the 70s, that when coupled with Maiden’s statement, make me not convinced.

          But anyway, you’ve wasted enough time on this. Go do something more fun. Oh, and the gall of putting Revenge of the Sith below all those other Star Wars movies. Unforgivable.

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        15. I think the point is this: we were sitting there wanting to hear new Van Halen. All we got is live videos that don’t represent what we would be buying. Eddie didn’t even play guitar in the live video for Love Walks In. Sammy did. The album was completely different. So it didn’t represent what we would be spending our $10 on. It took weeks to save $10. I wanted to know some of the actual music I’d be buying.

          Liked by 1 person

        16. I suppose I am spoiled in this era of Youtube. And I am an enigma. Your point is a valid one, even if it conflicts with my priorities.

          Liked by 1 person

        17. Like I said context matters. Maybe you would have been the one kid in the street who preferred a live music video instead of a produced one. But I didn’t know anyone like that. We wanted close ups, we wanted fancy camera work, and we wanted studio tracks. David Lee Roth’s Just Like Paradise is an example of a video that gave us exactly what we wanted.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. My takeaway from this story, if you want Mike to like you, get your Van Halen titles right. As soon as I read “Contact” I figured she meant “Loves Walks In.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The only thing that would make 5150 better is if it was produced by Beau Hill and he hired Mike Slamer to play all Eddie’s guitar parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The “Contract” story was hilarious when you brought it up on the show! I totally get it though, I’d be upset with a so-called Def Leppard fan, if they didn’t even know the proper names of the songs.

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