Fair Warning

Sunday Screening: Thursday Night Record Club – Fair Warning, Diver Down, 1984

Brent Jensen and Alex Huard have been, for several weeks now, discussing classic rock albums from the perspective of the veteran and the newcomer. It has been a fascinating series to follow and listen to albums with. This week they tackled an unprecedented three: Van Halen’s Fair Warning, Diver Down, and 1984. Have a look!


#395: Dutch Boy

#395: Dutch Boy

As kids in the 1980s growing up in Kitchener, we would buy our music anywhere we could find it.  A lot of mine came from the mall: stores like Zellers and A&A Records.  Other places to find music included Hi-Way Market on Weber Street.  That store was incredible!  They had the largest toy section I’d ever seen, and every Christmas a professional Lego builder would put together a giant display.  None of these places exist anymore.

Another place that carried a small section of music was actually Dutch Boy Food Markets, just down the street from Hi-Way Market.  It too is long gone, but I have many memories.  It had a modest dedicated music area, but they also sold food, toys and clothing.  It was considered a supermarket but it had a little bit of everything.  My dad remembers buying many of my beloved G.I. Joe figures at that store.  He also says that we bought our Atari 2600 there.  That Atari still works today.  I think we got it in 1982.  My aunt actually used to work at a Dutch Boy location (not the same one) in Waterloo.

My friend Bob used to go there frequently.  I used to think it was because he was Dutch, but it probably had more to do with the fact that one of the Kitchener stores was within biking distance.

One afternoon in early ’88, we hopped on our bikes and hit Dutch Boy to check out the music section.  This “new” band called Whitesnake had been in our ears lately, but we only knew two albums:  Slide It In and Whitesnake/1987.  I didn’t even know they had any albums out before Slide It In at that point.  You can imagine our surprise when we found numerous other Whitesnake titles at Dutch Boy:  Snakebite, Trouble, Lovehunter, Come An’ Get It, Saints & Sinners, and Live…in the Heart of the City.  All reissued by Geffen, all on cassette.


“Woah!” Bob exclaimed.  “Whitesnake!  Is this the same band?”

“No it can’t be.” I said.  “They’re only supposed to have two albums!”

Each of us grabbed a mitt full of Whitesnake cassettes and began examining them for more details.

This Whitesnake and our Whitesnake were both on Geffen.  This Whitesnake shared the same logo that was found on Slide It In.  It had to be the same band after all.  I explained this to Bob.

“This is the same Whitesnake,” I said.  “Look…they are using the same logo.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but have you ever seen that guy before?”  He pointed to Mickey Moody on the cover of the live album.  He sure didn’t look like anybody I knew from Whitesnake, but it was impossible to ignore the evidence.


“I think,” concluded Bob, “that Whitesnake are another band that had albums out before we heard of them.”  That happened from time to time.  We would discover a “new” band like White Lion or Europe, only to find that they had some little-known earlier albums.  It made it both frustrating and exciting to try and collect albums.

We both started collecting the earlier Whitesnake music.  Bob was first, picking up Saints & Sinners at Dutch Boy.  He brought the tape over one afternoon for me to copy. We loved the original version of “Here I Go Again”, as well as “Crying in the Rain”.  Later on, I added Snakebite and Come An’ Get It to my collection.  I enjoyed the earlier, more rock & roll sounds of these previously unknown Whitesnake tapes.

I’m not sure exactly when Dutch Boy closed, but I do remember the last album I bought there.  It was now spring 1990, and I had a CD player by then.  Once again Dutch Boy did not disappoint.  I found a Van Halen disc there that I had never seen before on any format other than vinyl.  The album was Fair Warning.   Since it was the most “rare” Van Halen I had found so far, I chose to buy it.  It came to about $24 with tax, a lot of money for an album that was barely half an hour long.  It should go without saying that Fair Warning was one of the best purchases that my young self ever made.

Too bad Dutch Boy had to shut its doors.  It was a good store and I hear a lot of fond memories of it from others.  Do you remember?


#342: All in a Day’s Drive

#342: All in a Day’s Drive

Friday November 21, 2014 was a pretty nice day weather wise. There was no precipitation and the skies were clear. If you’re going to pick a day to make a drive down the 401, you couldn’t have picked a better one. Jen needed to see a doctor at the hospital in Mississauga, so off we went. [Note: don’t worry, she’s fine. This is regarding her epilepsy.]  I brought music and reading materials, and kept a log of the rock:

9 am: Depart Kitchener for Brampton. Playing in the car: Deep Purple – Smoke on my Mega-Mixa bootleg compilation CD of remixes and live tracks.

10 am: Pick up Jen’s mom in Brampton [she spent the weekend with us]. Depart for Mississauga. Playing on car stereo: Van Halen – 5150.  As a “bonus track”, I tacked on the live version of “Why Can’t This Be Love” (from the music video) to the end of the playlist.  Jen’s comment: “The singing on this is… (pause)…really not as good as the regular version.”  She’s right.

11 am: Arrive at hospital. Playing on mp3 player: Kiss – Love Gun (deluxe). Reading material: Martin Popoff – Live Magnetic Air: The Unlikely Saga of the Superlative Max Webster

4 pm: Depart hospital with mission accomplished.

6:30 pm: Finally arrive home after 2 1/2 hour crawl along Highway 401!  The whole way was brake light city. Just a tedious, slow drive. There was no reason for it.  From what I could tell, it was all caused by commuters that didn’t know how to properly merge.  When somebody leaves you 5 or 6 car lengths space to merge in, take it.  Don’t race further ahead to see if you can get in front of that transport truck and that guy in the Hyundai.  Car music: Van Halen – Fair Warning, Diver Down, and A Different Kind of Truth. Yes, that means Jen and her mom heard a LOT of Van Halen today. And that’s fucking cool.

For more information on epilepsy, please visit epilepsyontario.org.

REVIEW: Van Halen – Fair Warning (1981)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 5: Push Comes to Shove

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!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977)
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)

VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)

If Women and Children First was the point where the party got dark and a little ugly, then Fair Warning is the hangover.  It was also the point where, according to Edward Van Halen, the band started butting heads.  Eddie was interested in pushing his guitar, and himself, to new limits.  Other influences were more interested in the band continuing to create hits.  The conflict seeps through the grooves of what might be called an angry hard rock album.

A year prior, the band had planned on opening album #4 with “Growth”, a riff that was to continue on from the outro to Women and Children First.  That concept was abandoned in favor of a bold move: inaugurating the album with a funky guitar solo piece.  Edward tried slapping the strings like a bass player would for the unique intro to “Mean Street”; then this changes to his patented tapping technique.  There is only one guitar player who naturally sounds like this, and that’s Eddie.  Then it’s off to “Mean Street”, a chugging rocker with Roth offering us an ominous warning:

See, a gun is real easy on this desperate side of town,
Turns you from hunted into hunter, Go and hunt somebody down.
Wait a minute, somebody said “Fair Warning, Lord!”
Lord, strike that poor boy down!

What a killer opener to a killer album.  Now you know what you’re up against.  Van Halen, as heavy as ever, give no quarter on Fair Warning.  Maybe that’s why it is such a fan favourite today.

“‘Dirty Movies'” turns in some more stunningly original fretwork.  This dark rocker has a catchy chorus and more wickedly cool Roth lyrics.  Mike and Alex lay back and let the song breathe.  Another classic, “Sinner’s Swing!” doesn’t let up.  The Van Halen harmonies are intact, and this is the first upbeat track of the album.  Saving the best for last, “Hear About It Later” closes Side One.  This is one of my all-time favourite Van Halen tracks.  It captures all the classic ingredients:  innovative guitar, a smokin’ riff, a great chorus with the VH harmonies, and a whole lot of that Roth attitude.

VH FW_0004


It’s hard to follow a track like that, unless it’s “Unchained” doing the following.  Side Two’s classic opener kicks your ass, my ass, and any asses left in the room.  Edward puts the flanger on overdrive for that killer riff.  Roth throws down one of his classic spoken word breaks in the middle:  “Hey hey hey hey!  One break, comin’ up…”

“Unchained” is one of the most important Van Halen tracks in the canon.  Some would consider it a peak for this band, and I think that theory holds water.  It’s definitely a high water mark, a flawless combination of all the crucial components.  “Unchained” is a memorable classic on an album that, at times, can be more difficult to penetrate on first listen.

One of Fair Warning‘s hidden gems is “Push Comes To Shove”.  It features a slow disco beat and a funky, slippery bass intro.  Eddie’s innovative guitar work is a highlight, but the song is soaked with a cool whiskey-stained vibe.  Roth would later explore similar territory on his solo track “Ladies Night in Buffalo?”

“So This Is Love?” was, like “Unchained”, chosen as a single.  It has a cool walking bass line by Michael Anthony, something I associate with early Van Halen quite a lot.  The track is upbeat and irresistible.   It’s a mere reprieve though before “Sunday Afternoon in the Park”.  This forboding experimental synthesizer piece acts as an intro to the final song, “One Foot Out the Door”, but the two parts are actually equal in length (just under two minutes each).  You can hear the foreshadowing of what would come later on the 1984 album.  The synthesizer merges with the whole band on “One Foot Out the Door” which is as heavy as synth-based rock can get.  It’s a smoking track regardless of what instruments are playing it.  Fear not, Eddie throws in an amazing extended guitar solo with which he closes the song, and album.

Of note is the cover art, a painting called The Maze by William Kurelek.  It depicts childhood bullying, and reflects the some of the darker tones inside.  Van Halen were changing, and their album artwork alluded to this.

Fair Warning did not sell as well as Women and Chidren First, though it is equal to and arguably superior in quality.  The downturn in sales influenced the direction of the next album, which would appear one year later.

5/5 stars