Van Halen

Youtubin’: Van Halen – “Ripley” (1984 instrumental)

I’ve always liked the final Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth, and I have found it still stands up after a decade of digestion.  As you are probably aware, most of the album is reworked demos.  One such demo is “Ripley” from 1984, which later became “Blood and Fire” on the album.  The music made it into the score for a movie called The Wild Life which has never seen a proper audio release.  Eddie called the song “Ripley” because he played it on a Ripley guitar.

It’s impossible to listen to it without hearing David’s final lyrics and vocals in your head.  But is the instrumental version better than the final?  That’s a tough call.  It definitely would have been interesting to hear what Sammy Hagar could have done with “Ripley”, but if the idea to rework it with Hagar ever came up, it obviously didn’t bear fruit.

Enjoy “Ripley” by Edward Van Halen!

Youtubin’: Van Halen – “Without You” Live in Australia 1998

While I will admit that Van Halen 3 didn’t live up to the potential of the collaboration between Cherone and VH, it ain’t bad.  Many people said, “They should have changed their name and called it something else.”  That’s one perspective, but I don’t think Van Halen ever needed to go by any name other than Van Halen so long as Eddie and Alex were there.  Just my opinion.

“Without You” was arguably the best song (with the outtake “That’s Why I Love You” also a contender).  This live version from Australia helps illustrate what was working and what wasn’t.  The truth is, while Gary Cherone is a unique frontman, his gangly-geeky stretches and contortions didn’t suit Van Halen’s live show.  Vocally though?  No issues with Gary Cherone in Van Halen.  When they go into “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles at the end, I’m sold.

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!

#950: A Letter To S

Hey S,

I felt like writing again, I hope you don’t mind.  My emails are not the esteemed A Life in Letters by Isaac Asimov, but it’s more about the process of the writing for me.

I’ve been listening to Van Halen in the car a lot.  Long story short:  I’ve been having issues with my music hard drive in the car, with it repeating tracks.  I discovered I could fix it by formatting the drive and starting over.  Certain Van Halen albums used to give me issues in the car, with the repeating songs.  It’s been a pleasure to rock to King Edward this week.  It’s hard to believe but he died over a year ago now.

I remember coming home from work the day he died and I was just in a foul mood.  Not only was I grieving Edward Van Halen, but I felt stupid for grieving someone I never met and never hoped to meet.  It was a torrent of shitty feelings, plus I hadn’t eaten properly.  It was a Tuesday and I had to do laundry or something, and I snapped at Jen.  I felt like an asshole afterwards.  I also remember telling you this story, and you were the one who said it was OK to be grieving.  Until that moment I didn’t really consider that maybe you don’t have to be a psycho to be upset about Van Halen’s death.

Music aside — which was usually warm, fun with instrumental and occasional lyrical depth — Van Halen meant a lot to me.  I must have been 13 years old when I was sitting on the porch with my best friend Bob, hearing 1984 on the tape deck for the first time.  My dad came home from work, heard the noise and asked what we were listening to, as dads often did.  “Van Halen!?” he said.  “Sounds like some kind of tropical disease!”

My dad was always good with one liners!  When we watched music videos on Much, he would mock the singers shrieking their best operatic screams.  “What’s wrong with that man?  Should he go to the hospital?  He sounds like he’s in pain!”

Good memories, all.  I’m very attached to those childhood memories.  I’m trying to commit them all to writing before they’re gone.  Often, lost memories can be triggered by an old photograph.  But there are many things I wish I had video of!  If only there was a tape or photograph of that first time I heard Van Halen.  But film was a precious commodity until the last 15 years or so.  You didn’t just take pictures of you and your friends listening to music on the front porch.

I remember some of the tapes, and conversations.  Iron Maiden’s Maiden Japan was popular in our porch listening sessions.  George would come over from next door, and Bob would come over with his tapes.  My house was right in the middle!  I wonder how much of my happiest childhood memories are due to geographic concerns.  If my house wasn’t right there in the middle of everybody, maybe I never would have been there that day to hear Van Halen or Iron Maiden.

Sometimes I worry that I spend too much time living in the past and trying to recapture those moments.  But then I think about what you would say to that.  “Why are you worried about something that brings you happiness?” I think you might ask.  And you’d be right.  So bring on the Van Halen.  Bring on the Iron Maiden.  Let’s party like it’s 1985.  Might as well go for a soda — nobody hurts, nobody dies.

Mike

 

A Year to the Day: Rest in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

‘Twas only a year ago I wrote these words:

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

A year later, it’s only more certain that there will never been another Eddie.  You can read my full memorial here:  Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time.

The week Eddie passed, we did a tribute to him on the LeBrain Train.  You can watch that tribute below, starting at the 20 minute mark.

As if that wasn’t enough, we followed that with another Van Halen show: VH deep cuts!  One thing for sure, Eddie certainly inspired a lot of conversation on the LeBrain Train over the past year.  You can watch the deep cuts below, starting again at 20 minutes.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect, and play some Van Halen tonight.  Tonight, I’m going to go with “Dirty Movies” from Fair Warning to spotlight the greatest gee-tar picker of all time.  What song or album will you play for Eddie tonight?

What are the Top Debut Albums of All Time? Our panel decides!

Fascinating lists tonight, and a clear winner emerged!  This fantabulous list show was brought to you by:

This epic show included some surprises, including about 25% CanCon and none of them named “Rush”.  Even the picks that were only selected once included some pretty massive albums.  Check out the lists, and the graphs by Geoff, and let us know what you think about our picks!

 

#905: Growing Up With Video

“Live videos > fake live videos any day of the week.” Harrison the Mad Metal Man

RECORD STORE TALES #905:  Growing Up With Video

Music videos of the 80s could, in theory, be broken down into three major categories:

  1. Conceptual videos.  Sometimes with a storyline intercut.  Occasionally the musicians got to act.  Other examples have no musicians at all.  (Iron Maiden’s “Can I Play With Madness”.)  Conceptual were majority of music videos — usually combining the conceptual part with the band performing on some kind of stage.  Not to be confused with…
  2. Stage videos.  Or, as Harrison calls then, “fake live videos”. Lipsynching the hits, on a stage, sometimes in front of a crowd, with no conceptual content.  Sometimes these were simply live concert videos dubbed over with the album tracks.  “Thrills in the Night” by Kiss, for example.
  3. True live videos.  Many Van Halen videos we grew up with, from “Unchained” to “Best of Both Worlds”, were live in concert — audio and video both.  In some cases you could not buy these live tracks on any kind of release.

Of course there are more categories and sub-categories, just less significant.  Some videos are entirely animated, which is more common today.  We also have something new — the lyric video.

I can remember the sixth grade.  Mrs. Peterson’s class.  Van Halen’s 1984 was out and Quiet Riot were burning up the charts.  These were pretty much the only bands I heard of.  I hadn’t seen the music videos and I didn’t even know what Quiet Riot looked like.  The only pictures I had ever seen of Quiet Riot were the buttons that the masked guy is wearing on his vest on the front cover of the cassette version of Metal Health.  I squinted hard, but the Kevin DuBrow I imagined on that button looked nothing like the real deal.

The teacher was getting us started on simple surveys.  To make it fun, she took a survey of all the most popular music in the class.  Each kid got to name one favourite artist.  I named Quiet Riot, and Kevin Kirby named Van Halen.  Michael Jackson and Duran Duran were the top two.

As the discussion proceeded, many of the kids mentioned that they liked the music videos.  Michael Jackson was at his peak, and he was the pioneer of the modern music video.  Other artists like Culture Club made an impact with their image, which came across best on video.  The teacher was curious about all this, so the class explained what a music video was.  Something dawned on the teacher, and she exclaimed, “So to be a music star today, you not only have to be able to sing, but you also have to be able to act!

No, and yes.  You didn’t have to “act” per se, but you did have to be able to present yourself and play to a camera.  David Lee Roth was not an according-to-Hoyle actor.  Some would say he’s also not a singer, but he is a master at playing for the camera.  Staring deep into the lens, gazing with the come-hither look, just so.  Doing easily what other rock stars couldn’t, or didn’t want to.

So yes Mrs. Peterson, in a sense, to be a star in 1984, you had to be able to “act”.  Video didn’t kill the radio star but it sure took a bite out of them.

Kids used to catch the videos on various cable shows.  There was one called The Great Record Album Collection on WUTV that I sometimes caught before dinner.  The Canadian movie channels (Superchannel, First Choice) would run music videos in the dead minutes after the credits rolled, to the top off the hour.  Until MuchMusic came along, we Canadian kids didn’t have a one-stop-shop to watch all our music videos.  Fortunately, having MuchMusic coincided with getting our first VCR.

Once we became seasoned in the way of the music video, we developed clear favourites.  12 and 13 year olds didn’t have a lot of money.  We also had never attended a concert.  Therefore, live videos with music that wasn’t what we were getting on the album were rarely favourites.  We preferred the “fake live”, as Harrison the Mad Metal Man calls them.  Then our immature ears could hear the songs clearly, and that would help us decide if were going to spend our nickles on a new tape.

Best of all though were the conceptual videos.  Some were not good (just ask Billy Squier), but some really captured our imaginations.  In Record Store Tales Part 206:  Rock Video Night, we discussed some of my favourite clips to show to younger folks who weren’t there in the 80s.  They were all conceptual clips.  Many of them involved a band on a mission of some kind.  There were so many of that kind.  Thor had “Knock ‘Em Down”, Queensryche had “Queen of the Reich”, and Armored Saint had “Can U Deliver”.  These videos featured, at least partially, a band on a quest.  They also featured scantily clad women, and lots of “fake live” footage.

But the “fake live” footage often featured cool angles and close-ups.  That meant we could examine the finer details of the outfits and guitars.  You couldn’t just look up pictures of your favourite stars on the internet back in 1986.  “I want hair like that!” Bob said about Eric Brittingham from Cinderalla.  “That would look cool in red!”  Meanwhile, I wanted Rob Halford’s leather jacket from the “Turbo” video.  Of all these videos, we liked the Iron Maiden clip for “Wasted Years” best, which we watched in slow motion, pausing to identify every single Eddie.  There were many we had never seen before.

We just weren’t as interested in purely live videos back then.  For example, MuchMusic had two versions of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”:  the original and the live one from Priest! Live.  After the live video came out, that’s the one they primarily played.  It was disappointing because if I was going to only hear Priest on TV once that week, I preferred the original.  Frankly, we didn’t buy a lot of live albums as kids.  When we collected bands, we would try to get all the albums including the live ones.  But when we wanted to buy one tape from a band, we didn’t go for live ones.  Some live albums we heard scared us off from the format.  The Song Remains the Same wasn’t the kind of thing we had patience for.

That all changed for me in highschool.  I wanted to buy a Triumph album.  It would be my first.  On recommendation from a kid in my history class, I picked Stages.  And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  Virtually every song was awesome!  In fact the only track that wasn’t was a studio track!  And then I had the joy of making those live versions my first Triumph loves.  When I got the studio renditions, they seems thinner and colder by comparison.  I never had that experience before.

I wonder if any of this will be interesting to anyone at all.  Videos are irrelevant today as far as heavy metal goes.  Today, we are not interested in the same things we were in our youths.  We don’t care what the singer is wearing or what the drummer did to his hair.  We care more about how the band is sounding, and how the crowd is responding.  A new music video by a metal band is not as interesting as pro-shot live footage from Wacken.  We want to listen carefully for backing tapes, we want to see the band gel on stage, and we want to cheer along when it’s good.

It is incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the 80s, when videos were in their prime, and still be rocking today when all that stuff is available at our fingertips any time we need a blast of nostalgia.  Younger readers will never know the tense excitement of hitting “record-pause” on a VCR and waiting for the premier of the newest video by Maiden, Priest, or Def Leppard.  Seeing the carefully edited stage moves paired with salon-fresh hair.  It was a glorious time even if was completely ridiculous.

#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.

 

Marathon T-Bone Show – 5150 is Dissected and LeBrain is Pummelled

Hold onto your seats, folks, because T-Bone will blow you away with his 5150 knowledge and insight. In fact, all six panel members tonight brought it!

While it wasn’t fun being the lone dissenting voice when you’re up against heavyweights like Kevin and Meat, this was one of the best discussions on 5150 that you are likely to hear. And you need a dissenting voice, right?  I was happy to play the role of punching bag too!

The Van Halen talk begins at exactly 0:48:00 and runs through to the end.  Before that we unboxed some action figures, talked about the new Coney Hatch live album, and a little bit of current events.  Watch right from the start to catch all that.  We also played three music videos:  “Donna (Do Ya Wanna)” by Deadline, “Open Door Piss” by T-Bone, and “Victim of Changes” (Priest cover) by Clockwork Orange.

Enjoy!

May 7:  Paul Laine from Danger Danger and the Defiants with co-host John Snow.

May 14:  List show by Uncle Meat’s suggestion — Best Cover Tunes — with panel TBA.

May 21:  Sean Kelly (Coney Hatch, Crash Kelly, Helix, Lee Aaron, Trapper, Nelly Furtado) joins us with co-host Deke!

May 28:  Dave Lizmi of the Four Fuckin’ Horsemen!  Co-host will be T-Rev.

June 4:  One year anniversary of Harrison’s first appearance.  We re-hash the Top 11 Priest Albums and will have Geoff Stephen to graph it!  Co-host is TBA.

June 18:  Robert Lawson, author of Still Competition: The Listener’s Guide to Cheap Trick.  Hosted by Superdekes.

All aboard!

 

Trifecta of T-Bone…5150 Time!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 62 – 5150 Time &  a Trifecta of T-Bone

Tune in tonight for beer, some T-Bone (his 3rd appearance) and an in-depth discussion of an album that went to number one 35 years ago this week:  Van Halen’s 5150.  The complete panel will be as follows:

To quote Pearl Jam, it’s “Five, five, five against one.”  I’m the lone dissenting voice that will be highly critical of 5150, while the other five guys will probably take turns punching me in the balls.

Friday April 30 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.