Oh Pretty Woman

REVIEW: Van Halen – Diver Down (1982)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 6: Intruder

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)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)

VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)

Of all the classic Van Halen discs in the canon, I find Diver Down hardest to review.  After the pugnaciously perfect Fair Warning, the band really started battling over direction.  Deciding to try for some hits rather than continue experimenting musically, Van Halen turned in the 31 minute Diver Down, a collection of covers, instrumentals and joke tunes with only a couple of serious rockers.  Yet every time I listen to it, don’t I absolutely enjoy Diver Down?

To my ears, Diver Down sounds like an intentional return to the party rock sounds that launched Van Halen in the first place.  It certainly does not sound like an album that should follow Fair Warning.  Now, we’re back into covers:  The Kinks’ “Where Have All the Good Times Gone!” opens the record.  Eddie pointed out that the song and album are loaded with errors.  He misses some harmonics in “Where Have All the Good Times Gone!”…and it’s fucking perfect.  There’s nothing wrong with Van Halen showing up to play a drunken party again in the old neighborhood, is there?  Even if they’re the big kids now?

“Hang ‘Em High” was an older song that the band exhumed for Diver Down.  It immediately evokes the heavier material from some of the earlier records.  Only now, Van Halen had learned to work in a recording studio and were taking advantage of some of the tricks they had picked up over the years.  Eddie’s extended solo sounds spontaneous and live.

“Cathedral” is a trick of guitar volume swells.  By physically manipulating the volume knob on his guitar, Eddie created a sound that reminded him of a church organ.  Tonally it resembles where Van Halen would go on the next album.  This is just an intro (a beautiful one at that) to “Secrets”, a laid-back original.  “Secrets” has vibe, and this is as good a time as any to point out the ace rhythm section of Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony.  These guys were a big part of the overall Van Halen sound.

By 1982, David Lee Roth was starting to become interested in the new medium that was music video.  He directed the concept video for “(Oh) Pretty Woman”, a Roy Orbison cover.  Dave’s classic ingredients were all there:  a cavalcade of characters, little people, and a joke-a-minute style of cool.  The video however ran too long once edited together.  The song was not even three minutes long, and Dave didn’t want to make further cuts.  Instead he played synthesizer, while Eddie made guitar noises with a beer can on the neck, and they called that “Intruder”.

“Pretty Woman” features the biggest mistake on the entire album (which is just loaded with ’em, just listen).  Where Roy Orbison sang this:

“‘Cause I need you, I’ll treat you right,”
Come with me baby, be mine tonight.”

Roth unwittingly sang just this:

“‘Cause I need you, need you tonight…”

VH DD_0002Side Two commenced with yet another cover.  David Lee Roth really wanted to do “Dancing in the Street”, but Eddie wasn’t into it.  Eddie already had a unique synthesizer part he was working on for his own song, and Roth suggested they use it for “Dancing in the Street”, which they did.  If there was one song I’d skip on Diver Down, it would be this one.  It does get a fair bit of radio play, though.

“Little Guitars” (and the intro that precedes it) is a bonafide Van Halen classic.  Eddie was intrigued by flamenco guitar but couldn’t get the fingerpicking.  Instead he used his own tricks (and a pick) to make it sound similar to what the flamenco players were doing.  The song itself is a sassy mid-tempo rocker with a shiny melody.  Once again the classic ‘Halen harmonies are to thank.

VH DD_0003There are two schools of thought on “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”.  One is that it’s a joke cover tune that shouldn’t have been on an album.  Another is that while the song is humorous, it is also very special.  This is a song from 1924 that Roth had discovered on the radio.  Then, Dave suggested that they invite Jan Van Halen, the father of Eddie and Alex, into the studio to play clarinet.  I get chills up my spine listening to Jan’s lyrical playing.  Alex is playing with brushes, the others are on acoustics, and Dave is absolutely at home.  This song is quintessential Dave Lee Roth, and conjures up that ol’ timey Al Jolson sound.

Dave plays the acoustic intro to “The Full Bug”, and then Eddie kicks in with that riff.  Alex and Michael create that classic Van Halen shuffle as the band careens to the end of the record.  Roth throws down a ballsy harmonica.  This track could also be considered a bonafide Van Halen keeper.

Concluding with “Happy Trails” is only logical.  The boys sound absolutely blitzed as they drunkenly sing acappella, before they all crack up at the end.  Diver Down, undoubtedly a party rock album, is over.

While Diver Down is still fun to listen to, it seems like a blip in the overall Van Halen trajectory.  It’s clear that it is not as innovative as some albums previous, nor does it rock as heavy.  Yet, it’s likable.  It still sounds great in the summertime.  As Craig Fee pointed out, “I still think DLR’s version of ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ is way better than the original.  For every shitty cover (‘(Oh) Pretty Woman’ comes to mind), you have original gems like ‘Little Guitars’ to make up for it.”

But how the hell do I rate it?

4/5 stars (?)

VH DD_0005

 

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WTF Search Terms: Iron Meiden edition

WTF Search Terms X:  Iron Meiden edition

It’s time for THE TENTH installment of WTF!  Like the others, this is a collection of strange/humorous/whatever search terms that somehow led people to mikeladano.com.  If you missed the last one, “Top ten edition”, click here!

  • who was the hunchback on the vban halen pretty woman video (It was David Lee Roth himself)
  • joe elliott kissing phil collen (No.)
  • iron meiden son so seven son yu tube 
  • mike patton quiet riot (I have no idea what these two things have in common.)
  • gene simmons rib removal (No.  Everybody knows that was Marilyn Manson)  :)
  • helix vedio tatoed guy (Snake the Tattoo Man)
  • beatles fan that send themselves in a box (?)
  • eddie “fingers” ojeda who odd is he in 2013
  • what did yall think of the movie machete (I liked it, how about you?)
  • why did steve hire blaze bayley (This is a question all Maiden fans still struggle with.)

See you next time!

Part 206: Rock Video Night!

MUCH

RECORD STORE TALES Part 206:  Rock Video Night!

Last time on Record Store Tales, we talked about Andy and Ashleigh and the discovery of great rock bands such as Rush, Max Webster, and Van Halen.  Andy was even more curious now about what great rock was out there.

Rock music is about so much more than just the songs.  There’s the concerts, the live experience.  There’s the history of the bands, the stories and the context.  And there were the music videos.  How could one possibly talk about a great band like Van Halen without mentioning groundbreaking, defining music videos that they made?  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I decided the best way to explain these things was to have a Rock Video Night at my place.

90% of my video collection was from the Pepsi Power Hour.  Back in the days before YouTube, a channel like MuchMusic would have an hour or two a week devoted to the heaviest videos in rock, and I tried to record the show every week.  I had amassed a large collection of VHS tapes, probably about 120 hours of music videos, interviews and concerts altogether.  That’s not including the hundred or so officially released video tapes that I bought over the years.  We had a lot to watch so I had to hone down the set list for the evening.

Since I am and always have been OCD about my music collection, I had a meticulously typed list of every track on every video that I made.  I carefully planned the evening’s entertainment.  There were some videos that I know these kids had to see.  They were all one musical generation younger than me.  They grew up on videos like “Jeremy” and “Fell on Black Days”, not “Jump” or “Go For Soda”.  I had to make them understand my time, when it was OK to have sword fights and dwarves and laser guns in your videos.

Ash and Andy arrived along with my other employees Braddy D and Chris P.  The set of videos that I chose to share with them that evening included:

SAVATAGE – “Hall of the Mountain King”.  Summary:  Dwarf seeks Mountain King’s gold.  Must try to steal it without waking him, while band is playing in the same caverns.  Not sure why the King doesn’t hear Jon Oliva singing.  (below)

VAN HALEN – “Oh Pretty Woman”.  Summary:  Lady in distress has been kidnapped by two dwarves.  A hunchback in a treehouse (David Lee Roth) telephones a samurai (Michael Anthony), Tarzan (Alex Van Halen),  a cowboy (Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon Bonaparte (David Lee Roth) to save her.  (below)

ARMORED SAINT – “Can U Deliver”. Summary:  Band driving a Buick with armor and an anti-aircraft cannon seek a glowy sword.  Band plays concert in front of rocker dudes and scantily clad babes while wearing leather armor.  (below)

GRIM REAPER – “Fear No Evil”.  Summary:  Band drive a DIY armored APC on a quest to free long-haired slaves from an evil half-man half-something with Wolverine claws. (below)

MIKE LADANO, BOB SCHIPPER and DAVE KIDD – “Nothing But A Good Time”.  Summary:  A highschool video I made, lip synching to “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison.  We had our English teacher do the schtick at the beginning where he plays the prick boss who gives the kid a hard time before the song comes on.  We made it in ’89 and it was our school’s selection to send to the annual regional Film Awards! (no video until I get a USB VCR!)

Rock Video Night was a great success in many regards.  The kids had a great time finally seeing David Lee Roth doing the splits in “Jump”.  Ash was still not won over by the rock, but that’s OK.  What wasn’t OK is that I had really sour stomach issues that night!  I tried so hard to be a good host, and I kept excusing myself, but…they tell me the smell was wafting down from the upstairs bathroom.

So, Rock Video Night ended on a rather stinky note.

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Make ’em say uhhh!