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Van Halens’ Back Door Rock‘n’Roll
Phast Phreddie Patterson, Waxpaper, 1978


"We celebrate all the sex and violence of the television, all the rockin’ on the radio, the movies, the cars and everything about being young or semi-young or young at heart. That’s Van Halen."

Thus David Roth defines the attitude of the musical ensemble for which he is lead shouter. Experience? Right, the rock ’n’ roll experience.

Van Halen is a powerful rock ’n’ roll quintet made up of the Van Halen brothers — Edward on guitar and Alex on drums; Michael Anthony on thunderous bass guitar; and the very verbal David Roth on vocals. They hail from Pasadena, California, and they clearly support the great American Teen Dream — the Seven Day Weekend.

In high school, each member of Van Halen was in his own garage band playing parties and dances. But the other players in these bands eventually dropped from rock ‘n’ roll in order to pursue more ‘acceptable’ lifestyles. It was inevitable that this hard-core four should unite. They played more parties, more dances, working themselves up quite a respectable following. According to Dave, "We used to play in these huge backyards and drew about 1,200 people at a dollar a head."

Soon they became almost a house band at Gazzari’s Teen Dance Club in Hollywood, performing other people’s material. (Once again Dave proudly testifies, "We did ‘Cold Sweat’, ‘Get Down tonight’, ‘It’s Your Thing’ with just the bass, drums and guitar. No horns, no keyboards, no chicks singing...lots of chicks screaming, though.")

The Big ‘V’ Flock

Upon scoring a stint at the Golden West Ballroom in Norwalk they showcased their original songs. It was at this club that they were audited by one Rodney "The Killer B" Bingenheimer, who was, at the time, working for the Starwood Club in Hollywood. Impressed, Rod got the boys booked into the ‘wood where their following continued to grow. After a set on a particular Monday night at the Starwood, Warners representatives entered Van Halen’s dressing room with a version of the proverbial line, "Boys, how’d you like to become stars? Just sign here." Just like in the movies.

The teens flock whenever the big "V" appears for one good reason — Van Halen is a hard-working live band. I’ve witnessed the Vans perform Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin and Bad Company material at least as well as, and often better than, the original versions. No simple feat, that. Van Halen’s own songs can easily stand up next to most any heavy metal tune this side of the Blue Oyster Cult’s Tyranny & Mutation LP.

Individually, each Van Halen member is more than proficient enough on his respective instrument. Alex is an excellent rock drummer. When he goes into a solo, not only does the whole arena know it, but the parking lot knows it and the little church down the street knows it. Talk about power? Michael Anthony has got to be one of the strongest bass players in rock ‘n’ roll today — he’s a monster. Combined with Alex they form an ominous rhythm section that keeps the beat moving. No jive. Just Wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am!

Edward’s Toy

Boyishly grinning Edward wails his guitar like his life depended on it. The most respectable thing about Eddie’s guitarmanship is that when he steps out alone, he is not at all interested in any boring ‘tasteful’ licks. Instead, like a kid with a new toy, he tries to get as many noises out of his instrument as is electronically possible. The results are unbelievable.

But that’s not all. Since January of 1977, Van Halen has been steadily packing them in every six weeks at the world famous Whiskey A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. In their home turf at the Pasadena Civic auditorium they bring in 3,000 rock ‘n’ roll-starved kids once a month. Something is definitely happening.

How soon many people have forgotten that rock ‘n’ roll is synonymous with sex. Black leather panted David Roth is a quick reminder to all. When he sings 'I Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love', the girls all know what he means, as he cunningly teases them with his chrome chain belt ("C’mon, girls. Let’s see ya yank on my chain!"). The girls screech. The guys stand with Coors in hand and yell "Yeah!" Dave’s long blonde hair whips around his head, becoming a cat-o’-nine-tails, as he struts the stage like a lion looking for danger.

Well Disposed

Van Halen’s "We all like to party and have a good time" disposition is available in every song they do — 'You Really Got Me', 'Ice Cream Man', 'Feel Your Love Tonight' and the rompin’ 'Runnin’ With The Devil' with this song’s incredible THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD WHAM-DA-BAM-BAM DA-WHAM-WHAM! intro. This is the kind of stuff Warner Bros. has needed ever since Casablanca Records split from the roster taking Kiss with them.

Once signed, production of Van Halen was assigned, naturally, to the man who signed them, Ted Templeman — previously known for his wonderful work on all the Doobies’ albums, with Montrose and on Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot LP. Upon completion of Van Halen’s debut album, Edward and David both praised Ted’s technique. Sez Eddie: "He’s the best producer we could work with for a first album." David is a bit more exact: "We got a hot producer. Ted Templeman is the A-Plus best. He produced the hell out of the record. It sounds purely like Van Halen. It couldn’t have happened without Ted." Oh, yeah? "Yeah, anyone who has seen us live will not be disappointed by the album."

By this last statement, young Mr. Roth can only mean one thing — that their album is like an instant party... add teenagers and spin the disc.